Saints With Tilted Halos, Scrappy Faith, And Scuffed-up Bibles

Text: Matthew 5:1-12

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Today we celebrate All Saints’ Day. Today is the day that we think about heaven and remember the blessed Saints who have died and are with Jesus right now. 

We must keep in mind, though, that when we say the word “Saint,” we are not referring to only super religious holy dead people – those in the Christian Hall of Fame. That is to say, we are not referring to people who have accumulated holiness by doing a bunch of holy things, but instead, when we use the term ‘Saint,’ we are using it to describe Christians in general. Yes, the term ‘Saint’ is a term used to describe Christians who have been baptized into Christ, including those who have died in Jesus and those who are still living in Jesus. 

Now, even though all Christians are called Saints because of what Christ Jesus did for them in baptism, there are some people who still imagine that Saints are those individuals who are extraordinary, strong, and successful. Yes, some people imagine that Saints are super Christians that are resilient, cheerful, brave, and secure. It is believed that these Saints walk through life on some higher level, with a shiny halo over their head, while speaking with religious overtones.  

Jesus, though, describes what these Saints are like in our reading from the Gospel of Matthew. With their tilted halos, scrappy faith, and scuffed-up Bibles, we hear that these Saints are poor in spirit, mournful over sin, humble, and hungry for righteousness. And to our surprise, these Saints are not resilient. They are not cheerful or brave. And they have no self-security. In fact, these Saints are not extraordinary, strong, or successful at all, but they are quite the opposite. 

Now, I don’t know about you, but this description certainly does not sound like a great description of a Saint. It sounds more like the description of a loser – someone who amounts to nothing in this life, a weakling.    

And yet, contrary to what we might think, Jesus is describing what it looks like to be a Saint; He is describing the Christian life.  

Unfortunately, though, there are way too many churches and religious gurus in America that do not describe the Christian faith in the way that Jesus did. In fact, they often describe the Christian faith exactly the opposite. And you and I, well… we are often tempted to believe them.  

Dear friends, please listen! Being a Saint is not about pretending that we do not sin – pretending that we are good people. Only fools pretend to be good and brag about it. Only fools go around with a proud spirit saying, 

“I am doing very well in this Christian life. Look at me; I have not sinned in two days! Follow these easy religious principles, and live the good life like me!”

And so, to the point; if you cannot live up to the religious superstars – with all of their prideful and foolish claims of superiority – good! They are not blessed but damned fools. You, though, are blessed when you are poor in spirit. You are blessed when you confess your sins and are helpless and beggarly before God – knowing that you cannot do anything in your own strength to obtain eternal life.  

Being a Saint is also not about always being happy. Sure there is joy in this Christian life, but dear friends, a Christian does not go around with a fake plastic smile on their face all the time, condemning other people who are not as happy as they are.  

And so, if you find yourself full of sorrow when you look at the world’s sin, and your own sin – good. You are blessed. You are blessed not when you fake happiness to rise above the world's problems, but you are blessed when you recognize things as they really are in this life and then mourn.  

Furthermore, being a Saint is not about being quickly triggered or offended by struggles and problems. A Saint does not scream out when they are victimized or offended. A Saint does not have a knee-jerk reaction to protest every single little problem in their life. But instead, a Saint does not take themselves too seriously, and when offended, they have learned from Jesus not to get too worked up.

Finally, being a Saint is not about having a full belly – being self-satisfied. You know what I am talking about. All sorts of people in this world have elevated themselves to Sainthood – acting like they are perfectly content and fulfilled. According to them, their faith has led them to have the good life – the perfect house, the perfect spouse, the perfect kids, the perfect schools, the perfect car, the perfect job, and the perfect friends. They need nothing because they have it all – or so it seems.  

And so, if you do not have it all – in fact, if you find yourself hungry and empty, saying, “Lord have mercy – God help me” – good! You are blessed. You see, a Saint is never satisfied but always hungry. A Saint does not have an apathetic stomach comfortably full of sin but is always hungry for righteousness – seeking out God’s Word and Sacraments. A Saint is typically not hungry for temporal things, for a Saint knows that the temporal things of life fade. 

And so, to the point, according to Jesus, Saints in this life under the sun are a poor company of beggars, filled with tears, because of the sufferings of this life. Yes, this is what a Saint looks like. They are distressed by sin and failing over and over and over again. These Saints hunger, and thirst for righteousness, knowing that they have nothing to offer God except their sin.

So, considering all that we’ve heard thus far, I ask you today, are you among the Saints as described by Jesus?  Are you poor in spirit, mourning over sin, humble, and hungry for righteousness? Or, have you gone the way of pride, buying into a false view of a Saint according to the world’s standards?  

Baptized Saints, an ancient Christian named St. Augustine once said, “God gives where He finds empty hands.”  And so, what this means is that a Saint is not a person who has his hands full of all sorts of spiritual trophies, but a Saint is someone who has empty hands. A Saint is not someone who pumps his hands in the air in victory but beats his chest, confessing, “Have mercy on the sinner.”  A Saint is not someone who is popular in the eyes of the world but is one who knows that Christianity has never been popular and never will be popular in the eyes of the world. A Saint knows that the Gospel is for sinners only – sinners like you and me too.  

Dear friends, drop everything! You neither have the power nor the ability to be a Saint by your own reason or strength. Yes, drop everything; you do not have enough faith or goodness to become a Saint. But instead, know this. Jesus Christ made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men so that He could live that perfect life for you and die that death for sin in your place. Yes, Jesus humbled Himself, and in meekness and sorrow for our sin, endured poverty, contempt, and persecution for you and me. He suffered, died, and was buried in a tomb to redeem lost, prideful, and condemned persons. Yes, He takes sinners and clothes them with His robe of righteousness and pronounces you and me to be Saints as a sheer and total gift.   

And so, what the world sees here at St. Paul’s is a bunch of poor, meek, humble, and hungry people who are supposedly cursed with low self-esteem. However, what the world cannot see is that even though we are all muddling through this life with our tilted halos, scrappy faith, and scuffed-up Bibles, Jesus nonetheless pronounces us blessed - yes, blessed! We are blessed because He opens our hands to receive continually; blessed: because we are continually given the gift of sorrow for our sins; blessed: because we are given a hunger for the Lord and His gifts. Yes, we are blessed because just like those Saints who have passed away and are with Jesus, we too are clothed in the same righteousness of Jesus.  

Baptized Saints, yes, you are Saints in Christ! You are Saints who wait for the day when we will join the Saints who have departed this life under the sun and are resting with Christ. And on that day, all of us Saints together will have true joy, for all of our tears, sorrows, and pain will be wiped away – gone - forever.  

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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