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Busted Halos, October 29, 2017

Busted Halos

Good morning, all you saints of God!

Yep. That’s who we are. Today we celebrate our deepest identity—we are saints of God.

St. Yme—it has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? And so does St. Deb. St. Clay. St. Sharon. St. Ed. St. Jim. St. Louise. St. June. St. Bill. Turn to the person next to you and let them know they are saints.

Now let’s be clear—we’re not saints because we are such spectacularly good people. We are saints because we belong to a holy, loving, and compassionate God. Our second reading says it well—“See how deeply God loves us—we are called children of God. That’s who we really are.”

Today, we affirm our deepest identity.

We do something else as well today. We remember those saints who were part of our lives, who have died, who live now in glory. We remember Verne Gottinger, Ron McFarland, and Kay Doig. We give thanks for their lives and their hope. They enriched Christ Church; they enriched our lives and everyone who knew them. They are part of the rich fabric of saints in this place.

Today we remember them, and we celebrate our identity. All of us saints! You. Me. All of us.

Yesterday was the feast day of St. Simon and St. Jude. In a commentary on that day, Stephen Reynolds reminds us that the only thing the Bible says about St. Jude is that he was “the other Judas, not Iscariot. For this reason, St Jude is the patron saint of lost causes and hopeless cases.”

Now that seems like a good reminder for us. On All Saints’ Day, we celebrate our identity as saints. That may strike you as a lost cause and a hopeless case. If it were up to us, absolutely, it would be. If it were about our virtue and our goodness, none of us would qualify.

But it’s not up to us. It is God’s doing. We are saints by association. God loves us. God holds us close. God works in us and through us. God’s love embraces us.

It strikes me that Jesus is made known in our world most often in those little deeds which are never recorded, but are known in the eternal remembrance of the heart of God.

As saints of God, we are held in the eternal remembrance of the heart of God.

So let me ask you—do you believe it? Deep in your soul do you believe that God loves you that deeply? Do you revel in your identity as a beloved child of God?

I suspect most of us aren’t quite sure about that. We’ve grown up with a legacy of guilt (Anglicans are so good at guilt, aren’t we?). We think we’re not good enough.

We’re pretty good at beating ourselves up. Most days, we don’t feel like God’s beloved children. Maybe we don’t believe that we should be, could be, or really are. After all, too often we speak and act in ways that don’t reflect God’s love for us and the world. Too often, we fail to live up to our highest ideals.

But it’s not about us. We are God’s saints because God loves us as only an incredibly adoring parent can love. Whatever else we may say about ourselves, God loves us and all of creation with an undying passion. That’s the heart of the gospel: “See how deeply God loves us—we are called children of God. That’s who we really are.”

Yes we are! And today we celebrate our God–given identity.

Not because of what we’ve done, or what we may do. Just because of who we are. Rather, it’s because of who God is. And hear this—God doesn’t love the person we might be; God doesn’t love the person we’ve promised to be; God doesn’t love the person we’re trying to be. God loves us — the real us: warts, scars, and all. It’s an amazing thing to say. But it’s true!

A few years ago, I came across a memoir by Jana Riess called “Flunking Sainthood”. I love the title! She chronicles her attempt to become more saintly. She decides to tackle 12 different spiritual practices over the course of a year, one per month. “Really, how hard could that be?” she asks blithely at the start of her saint–making year.

Well she finds out how hard it can be. She finds to her growing humiliation that she fails, not just at some of the practices, but at every single one. She doesn’t pray as regularly as she thought she would, or fast, or do her spiritual reading, or any other practice.

But she learns that spiritual growth is a process. You can’t master a spiritual practice in thirty days. It takes time and effort. God is at work in our lives, but it is a gentle working through all our experiences. Jana Riess doesn’t master the practices, but she gains some spiritual insights and growth. She might be a failed saint—but she remains a saint.

This is what God is doing in our lives. We may be flunking sainthood, but God keeps working in our lives. We are saints who are growing in grace.

Leonard Cohen says, “Forget your perfect offering, There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in.”

We are not perfect. But the light of God is shining through the cracks in our lives. That works two ways. The cracks in us allow God’s light to shine into our lives. Those same cracks also allow God’s light to shine out of us into the world.

Danish theologian Soren Kierkegaard said a similar thing 200 years ago: “A saint is someone whose life manages to be a cranny through which the infinite peeps.” That’s what I’m talking about. The mystery shines through the cracks in our lives, the cracks in the world.

We are growing in grace. We know that we are not as God would have us be. We are a work in progress. It’s a process. We are growing in grace, and in the midst of our broken saintly lives, God is shining through the cracks in our lives.

We belong to the holy God who dwells among us, who loves us with a deep passion and delight. We live in God’s embrace.

With absolute certainty and confidence, I tell you that you can call me St. Yme. With equal certainty and confidence, I will call you saints. God is at work here. God is at work in my life. God is at work in your lives. God is at work in the life of creation, renewing it, transforming it, making everything new.

In a moment, we will renew our baptismal vows. God’s love washes over us again. And we make a new commitment to living as “crannies through which the infinite peeps.” We become more intentional about letting God’s light shine through the cracks in our broken lives.

Busted halos, maybe, but halos nonetheless.

Thanks be to God.

Rev. Yme Woensdregt

October 29, 2017 (All Saints Sunday)

1 John 3: 1–3

Revelation 7: 9–17

Matthew 5: 1–12