St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church

Vancouver, B.C.

Phone: 604-877-1789

E-mail: office@stmarymags.ca

Office hours: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 10:30 am - 1 pm

The Anglican Parish of St. Mary Magdalene

2950 Laurel Street at West 14th Avenue

Vancouver, BC, V5Z  3T3

Home Who We Are UAM What Is On Sermons Contact Us
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Worship Times

Sunday Eucharist

10:30 am


Contemplative

Eucharist

Wednesday 7:00 pm


Diocese of New Westminster Anglican Church of Canada

Home Who We Are UAM What Is On Sermons Contact Us

November 3rd All Saints Day,  2019      John Marsh


Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18; Psalm 149; Ephesians 1:11-23; Luke 6:20-31


The Hasidic rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk said:

People are accustomed to look at the heavens and to wonder what happens there. It would be better if they would look around and within themselves...


While I would most certainly agree with the rabbi, such is not so easy a task. We like to think that being human is a given, a rather straight forward affair. We like to say, ‘I am what I am’ but such is a smokescreen if by it we understand that we are static rather obvious and self-contained individuals. The truth of the matter is somewhat more slippery.


As odd as it may sound, becoming human is our vocation as human beings; and, in this regard, we are incapable of becoming human by ourselves – we scarcely know what humanness is; we have only inklings, intuitions and general guidelines. Jesus, to be sure, has revealed something of what it means to live an authentic human life:

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.¹


But, Jesus is also very different, his life is different, so different from ours: he never married, had children, lived beyond his early thirties or faced the problems of 21st century life;  and so, while we are inspired, informed or intrigued by Jesus, we still have to figure life out, we must pay attention to life, our life and other lives...


If you will - dare I say it - Jesus is an expression of an authentic human life but not the only expression which is to say we still need to find our own expressions of authenticity...


Jesus is an emergent possibility of humanness, a standard by which our humanness may be known, discerned or glimpsed. Against this standard, with this glimpse, there emerge questions of urgency:


‘What have I done with my life?’


‘What am I doing, right now, with my life?’


Such questions are clues to which we must attend...


As the cartoonist Charles Schulz quipped,


Sometimes I lie awake at night, and ask, “Where have I gone wrong?” Then a voice says to me, “This is going to take more than one night.”


There are other clues which tantalizingly unfold in prayer, in sacred story, in worship, in preaching and silence and dreams and meditation; clues embedded in our culture; clues carried in our relationships with parents, friends, peers and colleagues and most especially in our relationships with the ‘other’: enemies, neighbours, those different...


Within these clues, the ‘Imago Dei’ beckons, nudges, drawing out insights which, perhaps, initiate, shape or encourage the journey in which spirit’s transformative/transcending power perhaps births humanity anew...


Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when the ‘Humanchild’ is revealed, we will be like it, for we will see it as it is. (1 John 3:2)


This suggests that the humanness we seek, long for, and dream of, is perhaps divinity in our midst, not

divinity demanding perfection, the achievement of a flawless, unblemished state but divinity as ‘fully realized humanity’ inviting us ‘to be like it’…

The Christian existentialist philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev puts it this way:


God reveals [Godself] as Humanity. Humanity is indeed the chief property of God, not almightiness, not omniscience and the rest, but humanity...God is humane and demands humanity. Humanity is the image of God in [human beings].²


God is, as it were, ‘human’, humanity fully alive, fully realized...


Let’s let that sink in...


God is, humanity fully alive/realized which suggests that the goal of life is not to become something we are not (expressions of detached dispassionate divinity) but to become what we truly are – human…


However, becoming human is not expressed in striving for some perfect state or even to be found in achieving some elusive state of wholeness…


Becoming human means quite simply accepting (loving) oneself as we are which, paradoxically, allows us to change, to accept an invitation...


We are invited to become human which means: growing through our mistakes, learning by trial and error, becoming ourselves scars and all...


This means embracing, opening to those elements in us that we find unacceptable; this means giving up pretending to be good and becoming real; this means opening to a paradox, that the deepest reaches of our humanity are often borne of our wounds...


Of this we have inklings, not the least of which is the life and teaching of Jesus and, in Jesus, we are invited, not to the imitation of Jesus but to the acceptance of Jesus’ call to live into humanness as he did...


And so, may I suggest that the meaning of ‘saint’ is most simply expressed by becoming more fully human...


The call to be a ‘Saint’ is nothing more and certainly nothing less than becoming more fully human…


So, it may be that a realization is starting to dawn on us:


‘All Saints’ is not the celebration of ‘plastic perfectionism’ valorized as the criterion of humanness…


‘All Saints’ is the daring, disturbing invitation of grace which upsets the ‘apple cart ‘of convenient self

definition and/or cultural convention; the invitation to embrace a new anthropology that is paradoxically at once fully human and fully divine; an invitation to a way of living in which humanity is deepened to the point of divinity and divinity is made visible to the point of humanity…


‘All Saints’ is the not the festival of the preciously pious worshipping Jesus as ‘God Incarnate’ but the telling of a story, our stories, in memory of Jesus, who by incarnating god invites us to incarnate god which is, in fact, what it means to be  fully human – a saint...


The fullness of our humanity may still be unclear and uncertain but when it is revealed...’ we do know... this...we will be like it, for we will see it as it is’…


This is our faith, our hope of our humanity realized...  


In the fullness of our humanity we express divinity.


(So why are we afraid of ourselves?)



 ¹ These are the beatitudes are from Matthew.

 ² Quoted in Walter Wink, The Human Being: Jesus and the Enigma of The Son of the Man, (Fortress Press, 2002) p.48


Sermon