Pastor Bradley E. Schmeling picture
November 6, 2022

All Saints’ Sunday, Pastor Bradley E. Schmeling

Luke 6:20-31

My maternal grandmother’s name was Charlotte Adams.  Her birth certificate said that she was born in Austria, so I always imagined that we were from Vienna and somehow part of the Hapsburg dynasty.  I found out later that it was still Austria Hungary then, and she was probably born in Poland.  The good news was that grandma married Earl Adams, of English heritage, no doubt a descendant of John Adams.

My family tree, in my adolescent mind, was bursting with notable people.  Which, of course, made an insecure, sometimes bullied kid, feel like he must matter.

Sometimes All Saints Day feels like that, a communion of sainted and notable people, flowering brightly in our family tree, a great cloud of witnesses who built the foundation that we stumble to uphold.

Yet, here’s the thing about my grandma that most shaped me.  It wasn’t her imaginary pedigree.  She did the grandma thing.  She delighted in me.  And I suspect she had that same delight for my siblings. I talked about the things I was thinking about.  We watched Lawrence Welk together.  I teased her about the show.  She laughed.  I never felt shame around her.  I knew my parents loved me.  Yet grandma never had the final responsibility to shape a stubborn, willful child into a productive adult.   She was free simply to be present.

I should also tell you that she lived with daily pain, rheumatoid arthritis gnarling her hands.  Grandpa Adams died when I was still a baby.  I don’t think she had much money.  The cottage on the lake where she lived was torn down after she died, deemed unsalvageable by a new owner.  The world would not list her as a notable.  She won’t be in any history books, perhaps even forgotten when my siblings and I depart this world.

The reason there’s a Christian faith in this generation is probably because of all the grandmas.

Perhaps that’s the better definition of the communion of saints. Not towering moral examples for us to follow, but a community of witness that decides to be present, a community that is a conduit for love that is grander and wider than the love we manufacture for one another.  Love that cherishes.  Love that equalizes.  Love that is in wonder at strange, complicated, difficult human beings.

I don’t think the world gets much experience with unconditional love.  Mostly, we’re appreciated for what we accomplish, or who is truly in our family tree, or what perks society gives us for qualities that we really don’t have much to do with.

This is the power of the beatitudes.  To surprise.  To make us look again at where God is focused.  God draws close and blesses—is present to and delights in–the poor, the hungry, the ones who can’t stop crying on this All Saints’ Sunday, the ones that can’t get here today, the ones that mourn what the world is becoming, the ones that are hated and persecuted by discrimination and prejudice, the ones on the “other sides” of borders or issues, or abilities, or styles of learning.

I always appreciate Luke because he adds the section on “Woe to you…”  He lists all the things that get in the way of loving fully and vulnerably:  stuffed bodies and bank accounts, laughter at the expense of others, laughter that denies wounds and pain.  It’s ironic that what gets in the way of love is the polished images we create for the people around us, the compliments that we desperately need to feel okay, the sense of being right while everyone else must be stupid or just a little shady.

Love your enemies, even.  Do good to those who are out to get you, or who plan to vote differently than you on Tuesday.  Say a prayer for those who run Twitter.  Be free with your money and your possessions.  Do to others as you would have them do to you.  Or its platinum iteration:  Do to others as they would want done to them.

Will Guidara ran a restaurant in New York City, called Eleven Madison Park.  It was rated the Number One restaurant in the world, serving people incredibly beautiful and technically perfect food.  One afternoon, he heard four foodies discussing their trip to New York.  One said, “The only thing we didn’t get to try was a New York hot dog.”   A light bulb went on. Guidara quietly went back to the kitchen, then raced out the back door and ran down the block to the hot dog stand.  The chef cut it up into four precise pieces, put a swish of ketchup and mustard on the plate, and between courses, he served what New Yorkers call a “dirty water dog” to the table.

The guys freaked out.  Guidara said that no one in the history of his restaurant had more of a reaction to a meal than they did for that hot dog.  Guidara said that they would become more known for that hot dog than any dish they ever made.  And those guys will likely tell that story for the rest of their lives.

Eventually, the whole restaurant was guided by the principle of unreasonable hospitality, the belief that the experience of being seen, of being welcomed, of belonging is the true recipe for human connection.  They turned a corner of the restaurant into a beach for a family that missed their flight to the Caribbean.  They arranged for a Spanish family to play in the snow in Central Park.  They turned the wine cart into a Budweiser Cart for a guest’s father.

Being unreasonably hospitable, which we might call living the Beatitude life, required three things:  be present, don’t take yourself too seriously, and don’t treat people like a commodity but as unique, one size fits one.[1]

Guidara asks at the end of his Ted Talk, “What if we all decided to live our lives with unreasonable hospitality?”  Looking for opportunities to do wonderful things for another.

This is the wisdom of our own table, the church invited into this great mystery of unreasonable hospitality, where self-giving and generosity, listening with all our heart, and then building an experience of compassion and justice is truly a surprise and a gift for the world we live in.  A tangible, taste experience of resurrection.

The church, this great communion of saints, channeling the love of Jesus.

What if, together, we loved like Jesus loved.

It takes a communion to do this, all of us, all those who have gone before and those who are yet to come, to channel love, each of us adding our own ingredient, our own gift, our own good days when someone else is having a bad one, receiving the gift on our worst days.

There’s a part of me that wishes we could have hot dogs for the Eucharist, but we’ll stick with bread, wine, and one another, a holy communion.