All Saints Sunday 11.3.19

Who do you admire? If we’re church people, we admire the saints. We admire those people who DO give the shirt off their back for someone. It’s an amazing spectacle to see that. We admire people who put others first. The question is, do we want to BE those people? OR do we just want to stand back and admire, and not have to put thought or effort in being not just a follower of Christ.

Perhaps we think saints have some mysterious X-factor going on that we don’t have.

What could it be? What is that mysterious X-factor? There is even a definition for the term, X-FACTOR. It means “a quality that you cannot describe that makes someone very special.”[1] I’m sure we’d agree that saints have that X-factor.

Today we honor the saints who have gone before us and those saints who are among us. The word, ‘saint’ comes from the Greek, meaning “holy one.’ It points to people who have been set apart for the Lord’s use.[2] And we are indeed set apart by our baptism, and we gather on Sundays to be inspired by the Word and fed by Christ’s Body and Blood, and then we are SENT out, so that we can minister to the people around us. Like mini-saints.

I’ve written in the bulletin about some New York saints, who’ve done heroic work, such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, yet I believe a lot of the work of the saints goes unnoticed and unsung.

When I visit the homebound of this church, I am very touched and impress-ed by the many adult children of our members who take care of their elderly parent or sometimes TWO parents! That is not easy as you know. These adult children are among the saints. They don’t just give of their time, but they give and give and give. That is the daily wear and tear of the caregivers. Caregiving is not easy. And I’ve SEEN so much LOVE. LOVE is an X-factor. I’m honored to have seen so much LOVE in these homes.

Recently, I’ve visited with Tina who has been overwhelmed with taking care of her mother-in-law, along with a myriad of other responsibilities that have fallen to her. It is not glamorous work as we know. Taking care of an aging parent is a big job. And we need to keep praying for these saints among us. They are not made of plaster or wood! They need our support.

My friend, Chris, took care of her mother and thought she could lift her, but instead Chris blew her knee caps from the lifting. That is a typical story of the daily challenges of taking care of an aged parent. Chris is among the saints whose days were formed around loving and caring for her aging mother.

I also wrote a little in the bulletin about Fr. Mychal Judge who was the first identified victim of the Trade Tower disaster. There’s a story about his generosity that every day he and his fellow friars would walk to the local diner for breakfast, and every day he would be accosted by one or more people begging for money. Every day, he would give them whatever he had. And every day, he would get to the diner and have no money for breakfast, so every day his friends would have to buy him his breakfast. It was their daily routine.

The city, our lives, are enriched by acts of generosity like these, by the people who have this mysterious X-Factor. We are all a little poorer when Fr. Mychal left this earth. Acts of generosity enrich and shape all of us, and tip the scales making the city a more livable place.

We know how this city has been shaped by violence, but we will never KNOW how this city has been shaped by generosity, or gratitude. The many small acts of kindness that go unnoticed. The many people who grit their teeth and DECIDE to do the right thing, rather than the wrong. We benefit from these small acts of kindness that nonetheless SHAPE our city.

There was the Kurd from Turkey, 39-year old, Hakki Akdeniz, who I preached on about two weeks ago, who now owns about seven small Champion pizza shops, and whose gratitude for becoming a successful pizza shop owner spilled out into feeding the hungry, getting them haircuts and showers. He, this Kurd from Turkey, is a saint of New York. He has the mysterious X-factor of sainthood.

Blessed, Jesus says. Blessed are you when . . .  and then he tells the disciples they will get their reward at a later time. For now, he says, bear up with the suffering of the present age, especially the suffering that comes from being one of his disciples. Then Jesus says “Woe!” Woe to you if you have all your material comforts NOW. Watch out! Some translators say woe is more like YIKES! Yikes if you get your comforts NOW. Maybe it’s also like, Uh oh – Uh oh if you are comforted and comfortable now.

We all fall on the more wealthy half of these Beatitudes. What are we to do? ARE we saying, yikes! ARE we saying uh oh? I’m getting my material comforts now. What should I do, Lord?

Our material blessings may, in fact, weigh us down. Good people, we may be attached to things that don’t bless us, and God waits in the wings ready to bless us with blessings that are far more REAL. God waits for us to recognize that though we have many material blessings, clinging to them makes us poor. Our material blessings can wall us off from people who are suffering through no fault of their own. We have blessings we take for granted, such as being born at the right time when the economy was supercharged, and we take for granted being born in a location that could support our aspirations. Sure, there were struggles, but our country is a good place to have those struggles.

A few parables ago, Jesus even counseled us to use our ‘wicked wealth’ yes, that’s how he phrased it, to good use, just like the dishonest manager did, who forgave debts and came out ahead because people were GRATEFUL to him. And the manager was wily enough to USE their gratitude for his own gain.

I’ve shared before how when I was a full-time designer, I had a death grip on my design career. I may have outgrown it, and I may have felt stifled by it, I may have had nothing in common with my fellow designers, and I may have complained every day, but by golly, it was my design career, and MY Plan A. The Lord had to pry my hands from it, so that I could take a path that was more life-giving.

Carrying the cross, though devastating and full of anguish, opened a new path. Once I stopped wailing, I looked around and saw that I was on a more creative path, a path more attuned to Christ that the good shepherd opened for me. I was doing a closer walk with him. Thank you, Lord!

We are blessed when we let the LORD lead us into a different plan for our lives that we could never imagine for ourselves. The Lord invites us to pick up the cross, just as he did. He invites us to allow him, the Lord of life, the good shepherd, to lead and guide us into a DEEPER life with him.

That mysterious X-factor is Christ’s life inside us. The mysterious X-factor are Jesus’ words that we allow into our hearts, letting them take ROOT inside us, and making them REAL in the lives we lead.

But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Christ’s words are a recipe for sainthood. They are the crucial X-factor. We struggle with these words: Love your ENEMIES. Bless those who curse you. Give to everyone who begs. Do unto others.




DO unto others. Jesus’s words are counter to what the world teaches: to TAKE, to GRAB, to CURSE, to elbow others aside. Take REVENGE.  IGNORE the

vulnerable and the lonely. Think only of ourselves. Christ offers us a BETTER way to live our one precious life.

I thank you, Lord for your words that give us LIFE. Help these words take root inside us by the power of your Holy Spirit. Ignite them into a blaze in our lives, so that sinners though we be, we know you also call us to sainthood.

In Jesus name we pray.



[2] David Lose.