Sermon For Sunday, November 3, 2013 ~ All Saints Sunday

Matthew 5:1-12 ~ “They Are Blessed Who…”

Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Cleveland, Ohio ~ http://www.FranklinCircleChurch.org

Rev. Allen V. Harris, Pastor & Preacher

Twitter: @FranklinCircle – Blog: https://nearwestclevepastor.wordpress.com

To see a video of this sermon, go online to: http://youtu.be/KDPXpsXg9IM

Ryan Reynolds as The Green Lantern

Ryan Reynolds as The Green Lantern

I’m marveling at the recent resurgence of interest in superheroes and comic book characters (pun intended).  Mostly, I am intrigued by their powers.  Some of their abilities are highly developed skills and techniques already available to humans.  Other powers superheroes exhibit are clearly beyond human capacity.  These really fascinate me!  Cleveland’s own Superman has the superhuman power of technopathy: the ability to manipulate technology and have a psychic/physical ability to interact with machines.  Spiderman has the superhuman power to cling to walls and shoot webs from his wrist.  Wonderwoman has the superhuman power of Omni-linguism, or the ability to understand any form of language.  My favorite superhero, Aquaman has the superhuman power of

Linda Carter as Wonder Woman

Linda Carter as Wonder Woman

waterbreathing.  Green Lantern’s power ring gives him the superhuman power of deriving powers from other objects, such as armor, jewelry, and wands.  The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have the power of mutation.  Elektra has the ability to mesmerize others, and as such make them see illusions or other phenomena.  Nick Fury’s natural aging process has been slowed greatly by the Infinity Formula and thus

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury

he’s superhumanly athletic for his age.  Hmmm…  Wolverine has the superhuman power of healing from any injury.

Okay, enough now.  I’ve enjoyed myself too perhaps a bit too much.  You must be asking yourself “What on earth is Pastor Allen doing on a day we are remembering the saints of the Church!”  Nobody we have mentioned in our prayer time was superhuman!  And you would be correct.  But as the pastor at all-too-many a funeral and memorial service, I can tell you when folks get started talking about their loved one, sometimes even the most crusty of characters comes out looking mighty spotless and, well, superhuman.  It’s a completely natural thing for us human beings to do.  I suspect the hieroglyphics etched into stone deep in the pyramids give the most glowing tales of the dead Pharoah’s also.  And we know they were not perfect, and certainly not superhuman.  But, it’s what we do at the time of the death of a loved one: we remember the very best they had to offer.

And I am not one to pop that bubble.  Not really, because it is a typical and expected thing to do.  But I also have found deep healing in my pastoral work when I also help families and friends to find a bit of honest perspective at the time of death.  I have a friend who tells the story of going to the funeral of a parent and becoming enraged as the pastor extolled all the virtues of the dead relative – and then some.  Nowhere was there even a hint of the horrible abuse that this person had inflicted on the spouse and the children in the family.  My friend didn’t want an all-out-flogging of the parent, but simply an acknowledgement of the person’s humanity and imperfections, alongside the accomplishments and praise.

That is why I am so intentional at (most?) of the funerals and memorial services at which I officiate to find some language to acknowledge the humanity of the deceased and the authenticity of the wide-ranging emotions of those who mourn.  In the United Church of Christ Book Of Worship the prayer at the bedside of one who is dying reads, “Release her from all fear and from the constraints of life’s faults that she may breathe her last in peace…”  For a funeral or memorial service, the same book’s opening prayer intones, “We are free to pour out our grief, release our anger, face our emptiness, and know that God cares.”   Do you hear that?  Being released from the constraint’s of life’s faults” acknowledges we all have some faults which bind us even unto death.  Asking mourners to “release our anger” recognizes there might be something from the deceased life we might just be angry about!  Other worship resources have begun more and more to do the same.

Sermon On The Mount, by Fra. Angelica

Sermon On The Mount, by Fra. Angelica

And what a relief this should provide all of us, especially the living!  We don’t have to be superheroes to be decent people!  And this is why I chose for today’s lesson the Beatitudes in Matthew 5.  Jesus chose to teach us how to be good people, not by demanding that we follow a list of laws that would require superhuman efforts, but by listing things that are quintessentially human tasks that, done with faith and patience, seem almost superhuman.  +We are blessed if we are poor in spirit.  Who among us has not had that quiet honest moment in our home or our hearts when we felt poor in spirit?  +Blessed are we when we mourn.  For the love of God who hasn’t mourned in this world?  +Blessed are those among us who are meek?  We worry so much for those who are quiet, reserved, seemingly weak, when Jesus lifts them up so as to inherit eternal life!  +Blessed are we when we hunger and thirst for righteousness, a calling so many of us have to make this world just a little bit better place – where helping one stray dog or cat find a home, one lonely nursing home resident get a visitor, one released felon find a job, one developmentally disabled young adult enter a safe and welcoming home.  +Blessed are we when we are merciful, and we can offer mercy almost every hour of our lives.  +Blessed are we when we are pure in heart, and while this may challenge most of us – myself included – it does not take superhuman powers to leap tall buildings, melt steel walls with my stare, nor transport telepathically across the earth, it simply takes honesty, forgiveness, and compassion.  +Blessed are we when we are working for peace, whether it be peace between nations and tribes, peace between the red and the blue, peace in the hood or peace in our hearts – we all can seek peace.  +Blessed are we when we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.  And we are all called to and can be there when the racial slur is hurled, the fag card is played, the cat call is made, or the testosterone-induced innuendo is inserted.  Each and every one of us, without any heroic effort, can stop the spiral of ridicule, shame, and violence, even if it means putting ourselves at risk.  +And finally, we are blessed when people revile us and persecute us on account of our faith.  At school, at work, at the grocery store, in our building, at home, at church, we can stand firm on the principles of Jesus knowing that in the end, “it’s all right.”

Ada Smith, Saint

Ada Smith, Saint

So, since I began with a list of the superheroes of the comic book world, let me end with some – just some – of the superheroes of Franklin Circle Christian Church and their seemingly superhuman powers:  I remember Ada Smith, and her powers of enchanting people with her poingnant letters and packets of oddly-appropriate-newspaper clippings.  I remember Jim Barringer, and his powers of witty observation about life and the

Dick Elwell, Saint

Dick Elwell, Saint

ability to wear shorts and short sleeves in the coldest weather.  I remember Dorothy Sims and her powers of transforming rooms

Gustina Micholas, Saint (not mentioned in sermon)

Gustina Micholas, Saint (not mentioned in sermon)

of people through her deep smile, soft laughter, and her gentle grace.  I remember Phillip Vipperman and his powers of making older women blush with delight, drawing neighborhoods with markers and making them look like heaven, and making “cantankerous” a most beautiful adjective.  I remember Frances Bessner Bryant and her powers of caring for people of all walks of life, being a friend to the neighborhood, and super mother to a fantastic clan of kids, her own and others.  And, of course, I remember Dick Elwell, whose powers of booming laughter and sorta-funny stories would tickle a room of people, his compassion as a gentle giant would sooth the fears and tears of families in grief, and his eye for beauty in God’s world gave him and others a new lease on life.  Blessed are they who… are not superhuman, just super humans.

Amen.

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