November 1, 2018 Abbey Church Abraham
God does not call us to be more than ourselves. Being more than ourselves would not make us more than human, it would simply make us not human. Being a Christian means acknowledging that being human is good enough for God, because God chose to become human. And as all humans, Jesus grew. So we must grow. We must become mature and complete in Christ – and that means becoming more truly our unique selves. We often hear, in this church building, the call to present ourselves as a living sacrifice. We can all too easily dwell on the “sacrifice” part of that call while forgetting about the “living” part of that call. We are called to full life as God’s children.
We are called many other things in scripture: the saints of God, a nation of priests, a city on a hill, the light of the world, the temple of God, the salt of the earth, the Rose of Sharon, a new creation, the body of Christ (the fullness of him who fills all things), joint heirs with Christ (and therefore his family). We are also called sinners, and that makes it even more wonderful that God calls us his children. We are not yet perfect, but we are called to perfection – not a perfection based on rules and regulations, but a perfection based on fullness. There is a Chinese proverb which says: “A mature and integrated human is like jade: Its flaws not concealing its beauty, nor its beauty concealing its flaws.” We are called to that kind of perfection, and yet how rarely we live up to it.
We are not there yet; we still have a lot of growing to do, and we always will. We need to admit it to ourselves and also realize that everyone around us has a lot of growing to do. We do not like to be called evil and stupid just because we do wrong things, and so we should never use those words on others. Other people’s sins might be visible to the whole world, but ours are more likely hidden because they are deeper and far worse. If we want mercy and grace to grow then we must give it to others. That does not mean that we excuse wrongdoing, but it does mean that we always respect the wrongdoer as much a child of God as we are. It also does not mean that since we are to grow into our unique selves that we can be so eccentric that it makes life difficult for others.
So, here we are, surrounded by saints: living ones sitting next to us and dead ones sitting in little boxes in a corner of the church and in big boxes in the cemetery. We are also surrounded by the saints in heaven (which I guess means that heaven is surrounding us). We now a lot about some, a little about others, and nothing about most. All we know is they are being brought to perfection by God in ways that God calls perfect, not in ways that we call perfect. They are a great cloud of witnesses. They show us how to live, they watch us, and in ways we can’t understand, they help us to grow. May we do the same for others, and as we gather up here around the altar, let us remember them and each other, and be thankful. AMEN