November 3, 2019

All Saints C

Heirs of the Kingdom of God


Jesus looked up at his disciples and said:

“Blessed are you who are poor,

for yours is the kingdom of God.

“Blessed are you who are hungry now,

for you will be filled.

“Blessed are you who weep now,

for you will laugh.

“Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

“But woe to you who are rich,

for you have received your consolation.

“Woe to you who are full now,

for you will be hungry.

“Woe to you who are laughing now,

for you will mourn and weep.

“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets

“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 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. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”           Luke 6:20-31

In that neighborhood in Brooklyn in which I grew up, there was always a parade of peddlers and vendors making their way down the street selling their wares.  Some announced their arrival like town criers. There was the fishmonger who shouted, “Pesce, Pesce” (it was, after, all an Italian neighborhood).  And then there was the junk man, who cried out, “Junk man, junk man, any ole junk.” Others like the fruit and vegetable vendor or the grinder who sharpened knives struck triangular chimes.  The Good Humor man rang his bells to call children to ice cream.  

The milkman travelled door to door, collecting the empty bottles and reading the noted that specified the day’s order. When I was still a baby, because we did not have a car, my mother had arranged with Jimmy the milkman to drive us once a month to the public health station, for the regular weigh in and check up..  Those jokes about being the milkman’s baby always strike a special cord within me.  

Not only the milkman but also other salesman would regularly ring the door bell and come into the house, either to sell something, or to collect for a purchase made on one lay away plan or another.  

There was Mister Toto the jeweler.  Mr. Toto met the family’s needs for engagement or wedding rings for many years.  There was also Sam Levine who sold dry goods, and lastly there was the man from Met Life who came once a month to collect a $2.00 premium for my parent’s life insurance. This death benefit was their only savings and its intention was spare their three children any funeral related expenses. 

An inheritance can make a real difference in giving us a leg up on life.  Other than this death benefit, an inheritance from my parents was not to be a part of my life.  But the inheritance we have all obtained in Christ, as Paul reminds us in today’s epistle, certainly is.  

And what an inheritance it is.  For to the saints, that is, to you and me, God has given us nothing less than the Kingdom as our inheritance.   

The kingdom of God was given to us in our baptism and we will posses it forever.  The Kingdom is that awesome, intimate relationship we have with God, in His Son Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  

It is that joy that the world cannot give and that peace that the world cannot take away.   It is that safe home, warmed by a love beyond all telling, in which we live and move and have our being.  

In baptism we were marked and sealed with the Holy Spirit and we become, as the liturgy reminds us, Christ’s own forever. This marking and sealing is the pledge of that inheritance. 

Like that street in Brooklyn, our lives are a thoroughfare for, oh, so many peddlers, vendors and salesmen – some meeting basic and legitimate needs, but, many, far too many, creating or staking their claim to hollow spaces within us that they would then presume to fill for us.  

Their insistent and persistent voices vie for our attention.  They pound on the doors of our minds and hearts. They peddle wares to meet contrived rather than real needs.   And so even when they fill these needs we remain so very empty.  

When I thought that I have heard it all, when it comes to advertising creating a need for a new product that one wouldn’t want to go on living without, this came to my attention a few years ago. 

A company called Chronicle Cremation Design, offers people the chance to keep their loved ones close by having their ashes incorporated into everyday items like coffee cups, bowls or dinner ware.   I guess it is a whole new take on bone china – ashes to ashes and dust to delft. Can you believe it? 

But our minds and hearts are not meant to be sheds, shacks and storage bins that we fill up with the world’s junk.  Rather our minds and hearts are cathedral-like temples – great spaces – that will only ever be filled with God and his Kingdom.  The Kingdom is that which Paul refers to as, “The fullness of Him who fills all in all”.

And again in Paul’s words,  “God would indeed enlighten the eyes of our heart, that we may know the hope to which he has called us and that we might possess the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints and the immeasurable greatness of his power”. 

The Kingdom is ours to claim as our inheritance.  If we seek it, then we are indeed the saints, the holy women and men, that God has called us to be.   If we settle for perishable junk then we are fools to be pitied – no matter how impressed we may be with ourselves or our stuff or how impressed others might be with us or our stuff.   

In those saints with a capital “S”, the church recognizes men and women who have lived larger-than-life lives. By taking possession of their inheritance, the space within was filled with the Kingdom of God. So filled that it poured out and still pours out on so many others.  

In those saints with a small “s”, we remember others known only to a relatively few.  In these saints we experienced the power of God, made manifest in love. For they shared with us Kingdom-charged lives – lives lived to the beat of a different drummer and to the lilt of the Beatitudes. 

For the saints who worship here today, you and I, the invitation and the challenge is to claim again the Kingdom of God as our first love and to take possession of the inheritance given us at baptism by living our lives to the beat of that different drummer and to the lilt of those Beatitudes.  

How do you want to play it out?  Will it be “Blessed are you” or “Woe to you”?  

“Junk man, junk man, any ole junk”.  Bring it out.  For a junk man named Jesus is ready and willing to take it all off our hands and minds and hearts: your fears, your regrets, your resentments, your unforgiveness, your anger, your hurts, your failures, your doubts and your skepticism.  

He willing to pay a premium, yes, even His life, for all this junk.   Bring it all out and free that space, that great space, that temple and cathedral that you are, to receive, the gift of the Kingdom of God.

The Rev. Frank J. Alagna

November 3, 2019