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  • The Rev. Arianne Rice

See Like a Saint!

The Feast of All Saints! When we remember we are knit together in one community, past and present. We remember that we are all called to be saints - called to live into a new way of seeing the world and ourselves. Seeing the way God sees us all the time!

The Sermon on the Plain is filled with blessings, but I worry all that we hear is "woe is me."

We hear Jesus' description as judgement, instead of invitation. We hear condemnation instead of support for our struggles. We hear the ways in which we are not good enough, will never measure up to these challenging benchmarks. Idealistic behaviors that only a saint could live into.

Thomas Merton wrote about an immediate and personal experience when he "saw" as if for the first time the hope to which we are all called,

"In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world. . . .This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud. . . . I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun" (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander)

Merton experienced the wisdom and revelation that Paul so eloquently writes about, the rich variety made known when the eyes of our heart are opened.

Do you remember the book by Shel Silverstein – The Giving Tree? You can go to YouTube and watch a version animated and read by the author (who is now with the heavenly communion of saints).

It’s a story (a parable) of a tree and a boy. When the boy is little he plays with the tree. He runs around the tree. The tree loves shaking all her branches so that the leaves fall and the boy can make crowns. The tree loves when the boy climbs up to grab an apple and just be.

The boy gets older – doesn’t spend so much time with tree. He comes back and the tree is so happy – yay, let’s play. But the boy says I don’t want to play – I want money – I have to get stuff – I want to have some fun – can you give me money tree?

No apologizes the tree – but I can give you more apples and you can sell them in town. So the tree gives all her apples away – and off the boy goes.

More time goes by and the boy comes back – Yay, let’s play, says the tree! I don’t want to play says the boy who is now a man. I need a house can you give me a house? I don’t have a house says the tree – but I have branches – you can take all my branches – and build yourself a house – and off the boy goes.

More time goes by and the boy – the much older man comes back – yay rejoices the tree – let’s play! I don’t want to play – I’m tired – I’m unhappy – life is hard and I want to run away from it all. I want a boat – can you give me a boat so I can go far away?

I don’t have a boat, says the tree – but I have a trunk. You can cut down my trunk and make a boat and sail away to where you need to go. And the boy does – and off the boy goes.

More time goes by and the boy – who is now a very old man – comes back. The tree pulls up it’s stump as much as the tree can – that tree is so very happy to see the boy – hi, says the tree – I’m so glad to see you – but I have nothing left to give. No leaves, no apples, no branches, not even my trunk – I’m just a stump of a tree.

I’m much too old and tired and worn for leaves or apples or climbing says the boy – all I need is a place to sit and be.

Then please just sit and be with me – says the tree – and that’s what they did.

The tree never ignores the returning boy. The boy who always wants more – the boy who is never happy with what he has – but always bemoaning what he doesn’t.

The tree never curses or gets angry and drops apples on the ungrateful boy’s head. Even though the boy just takes and takes ant takes. The tree never sees the boy as an enemy. The tree doesn’t do math equations that are all about deserving.

The tree only sees blessing – only sees what is good. There is no sense of sacrifice – there is only joy in giving. The joy is always in the giving. And then joy comes together when there is acceptance of what is.

I’m not a tree – and you’re not a tree. I know this – and trust me, I am no Polyanna when it comes to these teachings – bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, love your enemies.

We don’t promise to do those things at our baptism – we promise to break bread, share in the teachings and the prayers. We promise to respect the dignity of every human being, we promise to seek and serve Christ in all persons, we promise to love our neighbors as ourselves.

And commit to those promises by saying – I will with God’s help. And we say – as a community – we will support one another in living into these promises.

Because the community of saints – knows that just trying with God’s help – to live into those promises – will change your operating system – will open wider and wider the eyes of your heart.

It has to start with trusting with all of your heart that you are loved beyond measure by God. That Jesus is not warning us with those woes – but is saying – Yikes, watch out if you think happiness comes from that other stuff! (Yikes is actually a closer translation of the Greek)

Once I was sitting with a dear old woman, you don’t know her, but if you could picture an ideal grandmother type – that’s who I mean. We were talking about people, in particular, people we didn’t like. And she said, “Well you can’t love everybody.” And I said – But aren’t we supposed to try, isn’t that what Jesus told us to do.” And she said – “That’s ridiculous. I’m not Jesus.”

God doesn’t want us to be Jesus – God wants us to participate in making known the wisdom and revelation in its rich variety – of traditions and teachings – and stories – and experiences – so that we run with wild abandon towards the hope to which each one of us has been called.

So that we see – right now – the glorious inheritance among the saints – right now – God’s immeasurable working that is happening – right now!

Blessings are not things – Blessing is the awareness of God (Love, Divine, Holiness, Universe) it doesn’t matter what word of the rich variety you call it – it is the awareness of good in all things. That is the operating system of a saint.

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