"The Beatitudes: A Pattern for Saint-Making"

Uploaded by centexmcc on 06.11.2011

Well, I hope everyone had a happy and safe Halloween last Monday.
But there is another holiday that followed fast on the tail of Halloween called All Saints Day.
And depending upon your faith background, you may or may not be familiar with it.
It's a holiday observed primarily by the Catholic and Anglican denominations to honor all the saints, both those who are known, as well as the unknown saints.
In Christian circles, a "saint" refers to any believer who is "holy" and in whom Christ dwells, whether in heaven or on earth.
In Orthodox and Catholic teachings, all Christians in heaven are considered to be saints,
although some are considered to be worthy of higher honor or veneration.
The story is told of a minister who was talking with the children of a congregation, and he asked them what a saint was.
One of the children looked up at the beautiful stained glass windows of the church, each featuring a different apostle,
with bright rainbow light streaming through the panes, and said, "A saint is a person the light shines through."
And that's probably as good a definition as any. Saints are those people in whose lives you can clearly see the light of God’s love.
They allow the light to shine through.
In my preparation for this morning’s sermon I found a couple more statements that provided commentary about saints.
One source said that "saints look beyond their own little selves and see all of humanity."
In other words, a saint is not confined by the bubble of her or his existence.
She understands that there are needs in the world that are greater than hers.
And he focuses more of his energy on those needs than on his own.
By that definition, Mother Teresa was a saint because she founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India
and, for 45 years, ministered to the poor, the sick, the orphaned, and the dying.
By that definition Martin Luther King, Jr. was a saint. Using the nonviolent methods that followed the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi,
he became a leader in the United States of the African American civil rights movement.
By that definition, Harvey Milk was a saint. His political career centered on making government responsive to individuals,
gay liberation, and the importance of neighborhoods to the city. In 2002, he was called "the most famous and most significantly open LGBT official ever elected in the United States."
Each of these people had the gift of seeing the big picture, and each of them dedicated their lives to serving that big picture.
It has also been said that a saint is "called to move to a different rhythm, a different beat in life."
Status quo means very little to saints. Their approach to life is different than what we may be accustomed to.
For example, Troy Perry, founder of Metropolitan Community Churches, might be considered a saint because he had the audacity
to imagine that LGBT people are as much a part of God's family as is anyone else.
And Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Desmond Tutu, the first black South African Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa,
might be considered a saint because of his defense of human rights and his ongoing campaign to fight AIDS, tuberculosis,
homophobia, transphobia, poverty, and racism.
One wonders what shapes the lives of these amazing, inspirational people. Is their upbringing or environment different than other people?
Are they particularly sensitive to suffering or more aware than their peers of the needs of others?
Is there a saint-making instruction book that they may have access to that we aren’t aware of?
Well, this morning's Gospel text, known to most of us as the Beatitudes, is just that. Jesus provided for his audience what might be considered a pattern or guide for saint-making.
The words gently point toward something bigger than our own world, they envision a topsy-turvy existence, in which those who are least are made to be greatest,
a world in which we love our enemy and offer no resistance to the violence that may be aimed in our direction.
It's definitely a world in which we are called to march to a different beat, a different rhythm than the world in which we live.
I want to tell you about another person who fits all the descriptions of a saint that I've mentioned so far.
He allowed the light of God's love to shine through his life. He saw the big picture of the needs of humanity.
And he marched to a different beat than the people around him.
Clarence Jordan lived from 1912-1969 and was a widely admired Bible scholar, speaker, writer and farmer.
He was a Baptist minister with a Doctorate in New Testament Greek and a B.S. in agriculture.
From an early age Clarence was troubled by the racial and economic injustice that he saw in his community.
Hoping to improve the lot of sharecroppers through scientific farming techniques, he enrolled in the University of Georgia, earning a degree in agriculture in 1933.
But during his college years, Jordan became convinced that the roots of poverty were spiritual as well as economic.
And this conviction led him to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary from which he earned a Ph.D. in Greek.
But it was in 1942 that he found a unique way to combine his interest in scientific agriculture with his passion for the gospel of Jesus.
He and his wife founded Koinonia Farm – named after the Greek word for "fellowship" and based on the early Christian community.
The Farm was an interracial Christian community in Americus, Georgia, deep in the heart of the South.
Koinonia members envisioned an interracial community where blacks and whites could live and work together in a spirit of partnership and they were committed to the following precepts:
(1.) Treat all human beings with dignity and justice; (2.) Choose love over violence;
(3.) share all possessions and live simply; and (4.) be stewards of the land and its natural resources.
The practices were a break from the Jim Crow Era and were challenged by many citizens of Sumter County, Georgia, in which the farm was located.
Fences were cut, crops stolen from the fields, and garbage dumped on the property. A truck's engine was ruined by sugar placed in its gas tank,
and nearly 300 fruit trees were chopped to the ground. The farm's roadside market was bombed several times and eventually destroyed.
Nightriders sprayed machine-gun bullets at the houses. Fires were set on the property, and crosses were burned on the lawns of black friends.
But Jordan never gave in. He conquered the fear that paralyzed others of his time,
speaking of that fear as "the polio of the soul which prevents our walking by faith."
One of the legacies of Clarence Jordan is the Cotton Patch Gospels and Epistles.
Using original Greek manuscripts for his translation, he translated them into a contemporary southern idiom
and set the events in the towns, roads, and farms of twentieth century southern Georgia.
The Cotton Patch version tells of a Jesus who was wrapped in a blanket and laid in an apple box at his birth. He was killed by lynching.
When he came out of the burial vault on Easter morning, he appeared to his disciples and said, "Howdy."
In the book of Acts (which Jordan calls "The Happenings"), Paul and Barney travel to New Orleans and beyond telling the story of Jesus.
Paul addresses his epistles to the churches in Atlanta, Memphis, and New Orleans.
You have in your worship bulletins the Cotton Patch version of this morning's Gospel Text. Jordan's version of Jesus' pattern for saint-making:
The spiritually humble are God's people, for they are citizens of God's new order.
They who are deeply concerned are God's people, for they will see their ideas become reality.
They who are gentle are God's people, for they will be God's partners across the land.
They who have an unsatisfied appetite for the right are God's people, for they will be given plenty to chew on.
The generous are God's people, for they will be treated generously. Those whose motives are pure are God's people, for they will have spiritual insight.
People of peace and good will are God's people, for they will be known throughout the land as God's children.
Those who have endured much for what's right are God’s people; they are citizens of God's new order.
You all are God's people when others call you names, and harass you and tell all kinds of false tales on you just because you follow me.
Be cheerful and good-humored, because your spiritual advantage is great. For that's the way they treated people of conscience in the past."
Clarence Jordan died at the age of 57 on October 29, 1969.
But his reputation was such that the local coroner refused to come to the farm to pronounce him dead.
Saints usually pay a price for their beliefs and sense of world vision: usually the scorn of their peers and often the loss of their own lives.
Jesus calls us to sainthood in this morning’s Gospel text. He calls us to envision a new world order that is much bigger than the one in which we live.
If we call ourselves Christians, if we call ourselves followers of the Christ, then this morning's text in whatever translation we read it is our pattern for living.
May we read it and read it over again. May we chew on its words and put them into action.
And may it be so in your life and in mine. Amen.