November 3, 2019
All Saints Sunday, Pastor Bradley E. Schmeling
Brene’ Brown, who calls herself a researcher and storyteller, wondered about people who seemed to live with joy and depth. She calls them “whole-hearted.” They are the people that already trust that they are loved and that they belong.
There are three primary qualities that they exhibit.
- They are courageous. “Cor” is the Latin word for heart. To be courageous is to live from the heart; to let people know who you are from the heart, which can be complicated and difficult and just a little messy.
- They are compassionate. They are kind to themselves and others.
- They are connected because they feel free to be who they are: fully, honestly, warts and all. They’ve let go of who they should be.
- Mostly, they are vulnerable. They risk to say “I love you first.” They invest in someone or something important before knowing how it will turn out. They recognize that being vulnerable, allowing people to see you for who you are, certainly isn’t comfortable, but it’s necessary. Vulnerability is the only thing that genuinely brings connection, love, belonging.
Most of us are terrified of being vulnerable so keep ourselves from feeling it. She goes on to make a list of things things numb us; that keep us from experiencing whole-heartedness, joy, creativity.
- We take areas that are ambiguous, uncertain, unclear, we make them look like there is clearly a right way and a wrong way.
- We perfect. She says, “We take fat from our butts and put it in our cheeks.” We create an image for what we want people to see. And then we perfect our children. Our job isn’t to say, “Look at her. She’s perfect.” She wonders if it would be better to say, “ Oh, my child. You’re imperfect. But you’re wired for the struggle. You are worthy of love, no matter what.”
- We pretend what we do doesn’t have an effect on people. We pretend that our words toward or about others don’t really matter. We pretend that the way we use one another or the resources of the planet don’t really matter.
She says, “There’s another way: to let ourselves be seen.” Deeply seen. To love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee. To practice gratitude and joy. To be fierce. To believe that we belong; that we are lovable, despite our messiness.
Brown gives us a beautiful example of what Jesus is trying to say in the Beatitudes, these lists of blessing. Jesus isn’t giving us a strategy for getting in. He’s giving us a strategy for coming alive; for living with depth; living from God.
Luke remembers Jesus being very direct. Blessed are the poor. No sugar coating. Those who have less have a better chance of the spiritual life than the rich. THAT goes against everything we’ve ever learned; that having just a little more would make me feel okay, more secure, more stable. Caveat: Jesus is NOT saying that being poor is good or that we should alleviate poverty. He’s saying that poor people have a better shot at the spiritual life than rich people.
Blessed are those who mourn. Those who are willing to acknowledge that life is broken. You can’t have everything you want if you just try hard enough. Life is imperfect. We are imperfect. Saints aren’t those who are perfect. They’re those who know they’re not.
Blessed are those who are hungry. For they know, from that gnawing place in their own bodies, that they are dependent on something or someone else to be fed.
Luke gives us the other side, too. “Woe to you” which might be better translated, “Look out.” Look out rich people. You’ll start to believe that the stuff in your living room or the money in your bank or the right college can protect you from deprivation, loss, and vulnerability. You’ll start to believe that you’re self-sufficient, that you’re not needy as hell. Watch out, those of you who use laughter to avoid discomfort, who make jokes in the face of tension and conflict; who joke about other’s idiosyncrasies or failures. Look out if everybody things well of you. You’re probably most likely to fall off that pedestal for everyone to see.
And if that’s not challenging enough, he goes on to the Masters level class. Love your enemies. Pray for those who tweet against you. Don’t meet violence with revenge or more violence. Meet hatred with mercy. Don’t’ stop by just giving your shirt off your back, or the clothes that are too small, or the canned good that you don’t really like anyway. Keep going. Give until you feel a little naked and vulnerable. Give until you are free of money’s power.
In the end, Jesus models all of this. He is lifted up, stripped of everything, his failure for all to see, the screen pulled back so that everyone sees him for who he truly is. Undivided from God. The first born of creation, the sign of who we all are. What irony that his vulnerability saves our lives.
In the cross, we see God, not demanding, not wagging the divine finger at our imperfection, but risking to love with the whole heart of the universe. Yearning for us to know how we belong to heaven; how we have been crafted to survive even death. We’re saved. Already. When we say, “Christ is risen,” we’re saying it’s done. It’s over. We’ve been won. Sure, we are imperfect, but we are also saints, already part of this great communion that gathers around the table with courage, compassion, vulnerability, and hope.
Who are these saints? Simply those who trust this great communion is “for you.”