The Rev. Josephine Robertson
All Saints Episcopal Church, Bellevue
Feast of All Saints (transferred)
Nov 3 2019
There once was a kingdom whose king lived at the top of a mountain. The mountain was so high, and so large it shaded all the land below it so the crops grew poorly and the people lived in semi-darkness. Only the king, his family, and his chosen advisors lived at the top of the mountain where the sun shown, and fruit trees grew, and there was plenty and abundance.
Then one day a peasant, living in the shadow of the mountain looked up at the sun shining on the top of that huge hunk of rock and wondered: what would it be like if we all could live in the sunshine. But the people scoffed: the mountain only had enough room for a few people on its peak. That was where the king lived, thus had it always been, thus it would always be.
But a few people began to wonder too.
And down through the generations now and then someone would look up and say: “but why must it be that way?” And little seeds were planted in the hearts of the people living in the gloom below the mountain, and some of them (mostly children and those other people called dreamers, or simple) would now and then go and take a rock from the mountain and carry it away. But no one took much notice because nothing much seemed to change.
But day by day, and year by year, the mountain shrank. As little hands took one rock after another and broke it down into sand to make glass for their homes, or carved it into little toys for children, or made it into jewelry to light up their darkness. And slowly, the mountain shrank, and its shadow shrank too. The king on the top of the mountain began to grumble that his castle wasn’t as high as his father’s had been, and his views not so grand. And weren’t the fields below a little greener than they used to be? And the peasants a little better fed and a little less obedient?
The peasants said nothing, but they grew stronger and more hopeful and they began to believe the children, and the wild eyed dreamers. And one by one they took away the rocks that made up that mountain until there was only a great wide plain, and the sun shone on the fields of all, and into the windows of every home. And the king cried at how it was not fair, and tore his hair, and no one paid him any mind.
There are two versions of Jesus’ sermon today recorded in scripture. Today’s version, Luke’s “sermon on the plain” has never had the popularity of Matthew’s sermon on the mount. The sermon on the mount is easily spiritualized, and thus far, far safer. But good luck dismissing Jesus’ blessings and woes today as spiritual and not very, very political.
Jesus has clearly been listening to his Mom. The poor will be lifted up and filled with good things, and the rich will be cast down from their thrones and sent away empty. It doesn’t bode well for our socio-economic system. It doesn’t look good for Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Bezos. Luke wants the message to be perfectly clear, Jesus joins his disciples on a level plain. It is there he gives the apostles their instructions.
It is there he adds his own seed to those the prophets have been sewing into the fertile soil of human hearts for generations.
And for generations after that sermon, people in whom the seeds have sprouted have done the slow deliberate work of building a different kind of Kingdom. Many of us have been lucky enough to have some of these rock carriers in our own lives. People who quietly picked up a stone, even if it were only a pebble and carried it away to become something new, something better, something life giving.
Jesus comes to water the seeds of hope. To remind us what God has been trying to get through our thick monkey skulls for so long: the way things are is not Divinely ordained, or inevitable, or how it must be forever.
The idea of saints is complicated and fraught. Christianity has sainted kings, and shepherdesses. We have killed our own saints, and ignored others. And all too often we have spiritualized the work of the saints. In your life there has been a dreamer, a fool, someone who didn’t listen to the “can’ts” or “shouldn’ts” or “not worth it.”
Someone who kept picking up pebbles and turning them into diamonds, who hauled rocks the size of bricks and built houses. Who made their favorite Mac & Cheese for homeless men, or saved fancy candies for youth without families.
All Saints celebrates the saints all around us, a cloud of witnesses on this wide flat playing field of God’s kingdom. All Saints reminds us that we are not in this alone, there is a long unbroken bucket brigade stretching backward and forward throughout time, God’s holy mischief makers, dreamers, pebble haulers, slowly dismantling what some think is eternal. Slowly tearing down the high places, and filling up the valleys.
Today we celebrate the ordinary, extraordinary saints who have made our lives possible, better, holier, more joyful.
And today we plant seeds of hope for the future.
May the God who shines on all our heads make us troublemakers, boulder movers, sowers of hope and joy for future generations.