Grace (All Saints)
This is a great day! All Saints. Baptisms. It doesn’t get much better than this. There is nothing better than being here with all you saints! Yes you. Don’t be looking over your shoulder, I’m talking about you. We are the saints, we are the holy ones, we are the people who have been made holy by God and set apart by God as sacred. You will never encounter anything more sacred than the person sitting right beside you. Today we will celebrate the gift of baptism, God’s gift to us that is a sacrament of our being made sacred and holy. And I can’t think of three better candidates for sainthood than Miracle, Success and Samuel who will receive the gift of baptism this morning.
There is a theme that threads its way through our readings today, and put quite simply it is this: God gives. In Daniel we are told that the holy ones, the saints, shall receive the kingdom of God. Psalm 24 tells us that we shall receive a blessing from the Lord, and in Ephesians, Paul refers to the great inheritance that we have been given, and he prays that God will give us a spirit of wisdom and enlightenment as we come to know God. That is also our prayer for Miracle, Success and Samuel this morning, that they too will be given the gift of enlightenment, that they too will come to know God in a spirit of wisdom.
God gives. Not out of obligation, not as a strategy, not as a quid pro quo. God loves us and gives to us freely, without condition, with abundance, without expectation of return, love given for the sake of love and even more so for the sake of the beloved. This is what we call grace.
Have you ever experienced grace?
A few years ago Guylaine and I were in Spain, walking the Camino de Santiago. We made it to Santiago, and the next day we decided to continue on to the coast, to Finisterra, which means literally “the end of the world”. We had a late start that day, we slept in and had a leisurely breakfast. Eventually we set out on the path to Finisterra by mid-morning, and we stopped at a little corner store on the way to buy some food for a picnic lunch. The shop had lots of good stuff – fresh bread, chorizo sausage, tomatoes, fruit, cheese, chocolate. When we brought our basket of food to the cash, the young Galician woman behind the counter refused to accept payment.
We tried to insist but there was no way she was going to let us pay. “Para los pelegrinos,” she said with a smile. For the pilgrims. We tried to argue with her. I even tried to sneak over to the far side of the shop to buy some sausage from the butcher, who turned out to be her brother. But she caught me with a smile, said something in Galician to her brother and shook her head at my offered payment as her brother added the sausage to our basket. “Para los pelegrinos. Buen camino.”
Guylaine and I walked out of that shop and looked at each other, a bit stunned. The hospitality, the generosity, was overwhelming. Surprising. Delightful. It didn’t really make any sense.
Have you ever experienced grace?
That moment for me was an experience of grace. It really didn’t make any sense. There was no reason for it. It was simply a moment of pure, unearned, undeserved gift. Grace.
In our gospel reading today, Jesus teaches us about grace. But that’s not where he begins. He starts with blessings and warnings.
Blessed are you who are poor, who are hungry, who weep, who are excluded.
But woe to you are rich, who are full now, who are laughing, who are spoken well of. Watch out!
How are we to understand this passage? There is so much to unpack. It’s another of these great reversals that we find throughout the gospel of Luke. How should we understand what Jesus is saying?
For me it helps to think of a teacup. Henri Nouwen in his book Spiritual Formation tells this Zen story about an empty teacup.
“There is a story about a university professor who came to a Zen master to ask him about Zen. Nan-in, the Zen master, served him tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he could no longer restrain himself. “It is over-full. No more will go in!”
“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I teach you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
When your teacup is full, it can receive no more.
Jesus says, “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry.” Your cup is full. You have no room, no need, for what God wants to give you.
It is God’s nature to give. Our God is a God of grace. But how can we receive what God has to give us if we are already full, if we have already received all that we need, if we’re doing just fine on our own, if we have no room in our lives and no need of God’s gift.
But blessed are those who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Your cup still has room. Your hands are open. You will receive what God has to give you, and in that very experience of grace received, you will be blessed. You will have experienced grace.
God gives, freely, abundantly, without condition, pure gift.
We receive God’s many gifts, and in so doing, we experience grace. And grace is something we need to know, not just as an abstract definition but as a powerful, life-changing experience.
Once we have experienced grace, how then shall we live? As people who were created by a gracious God in God’s image, something that we affirm and make visible in baptism, how then shall we live?
Jesus says to those who listen, “Love your enemies. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who oppress you.
That is, be like God. Be like God who gives, who loves without condition and for the sake of the beloved, with no expectation of reward or compensation, just as we are. Grace is the way of life we have been called to as saints. As those who have received God’s grace.
So live with grace.
If you love those who love you, well and good, but what grace is there in that?
If you do good to those who do good, ok, fine, but what grace is there in that?
If you lend to those from whom you expect to get something back, well, that might be good business, but what grace is there in that?
No, says Jesus, love your enemies, do good and lend, expecting nothing in return.
Live lives of grace. With love that is freely given, above and beyond, surprising and delightful, given without condition, for the sake of the beloved, even the one who is an enemy. This is the way of life to which we have been called. This is the way of life that Miracle, Success and Samuel are being called to in baptism today. As the baptized. As those created in the image of God. As God’s children. As the saints.
And so I say to all you saints on this day that we celebrate and remember the saints, live lives that are filled with grace. God gives with grace. Be like God. Be loving, be gracious, be merciful just as your Father is loving, gracious and merciful.
Because grace changes everything.
Homily. Yr C All Saints. Oct 30 2022. Trinity
Readings: Daniel 7.1-3, 15-18; Psalm 24; Ephesians 1.11-23; Luke 6.20-31
Image by Soumia Photography