Peace and grace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus the
On All Saints' Day a Sunday School teacher at St. Paul's
Lutheran Church was explaining to her second grade class about
various Saints. "And why do you suppose," she asked, "we have such
a special place in our hearts for St. Paul?" One of her students
answered, "Because he's named after our church."
Even though we have special days in the church year where we
commemorate particular saints, the Lutheran church doesn't pay
much attention to saints, though we use the appellation 'saint'
with many people from the New Testament, such as St. Paul, St.
Mark, St. Matthew, St. Luke, St. John etc. And when we speak of
saints, we tend to think of them as very holy, having had some
sort of conversion in their life that led them to lead very humble
and self-sacrificing lives for the sake of Christ; and we think of
saints as being dead.
When we call someone living a 'saint,' it's because we see them
as leading a good and selfless life dedicated to Christ and the
Gospel. Saints, however, are both living and dead, and are saints
not because of their selfless actions, but because they are
believers in Jesus as the Christ, the son of God, one person in
St. Paul in his writings refers to members of the various
communities of Christ as saints. So, we gathered here today in the
name of Christ, and those gathered in other places around the
world, and those not gathered, but who believe, are all saints. We
saints are the church on earth, and the deceased saints are the
church in heaven.
Today's Gospel lesson from Luke is a wonderful piece of
Scripture which begins with what we call "The Beatitudes." In
Matthew, "The Beatitudes" are the beginning of Jesus Sermon on the
Mount. Matthew has nine and they're addressed to people in
general. Here, Luke has four and they are in the second person,
speaking to those who are gathered to hear his words.
I am focusing on two parts of today's Gospel. The part right
after the four Beatitudes that says, "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 leaf for joy,
for surely your reward is great in heaven…" and the last part of
the reading that says, "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.…Give to everyone who begs from
you"….and ends with what we know as the "Golden Rule": Do to
others as you would have them do to you. Jesus directs his words
to the saints of every time and place. Jesus doesn't suggest, he
doesn't ask, he commands us to DO. Even if what he says seems
paradoxical, he says, do it anyway.
A 'paradox' is an idea that is contrary to popular opinion,
something that seems to contradict common sense and yet is true.
Many things Jesus said to his followers back then, and to us, his
followers now, and those that are to come, are paradoxical. When I
read the lesson for today I immediately thought of a wonderful
little book entitled, Anyway, The Paradoxical Commandments, by
Kent M. Keith. I'll read them all but make comment on only two
because of time.
We tend to see the Scripture quoted today as an ideal,
something that we should strive for but not something we can
actually achieve. I think the Paradoxical Commandments that Mr.
Keith puts forth in his book, Anyway, say that we CAN achieve what
Christ is commanding us to do in today's Gospel lesson.
In the "Introduction" to his book Mr. Keith says, "I laid down
the Paradoxical Commandments [to my students] as a challenge. The
challenge is to always do what is right and good and true, even if
others don't appreciate it. Making the world a better place can't
depend on applause. You have to keep striving, no matter what,
because if you don't, many of the things that need to be done in
our world will never get done.
"I had heard lots of excuses, and I wasn't buying them.
OK-maybe people are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. So
what? You have to love them anyway. And maybe the good you do
today will be forgotten tomorrow. So what? You have to do good
anyway….I know that if I do what is right and good and true, my
actions will have their own intrinsic value. I can feel good about
who I have helped. I don't need any rewards. In the doing, I have
already been rewarded. I am liberated and at peace. In the doing I
am rewarded. I already have a sense of meaning and satisfaction
that comes from doing a good job. The meaning and satisfaction
were mine, whether or not anybody gave me recognition…. I am
convinced that no matter how crazy the world is, people can find
personal meaning. I am also convinced that the world would make
more sense if people lived paradoxical lives, focused on personal
meaning instead of recognition and applause. While finding meaning
in our own lives, each of us can make the world a better place for
all of us." [end of quote] Don't you think that pretty much
catches the meaning of the Gospel lesson today? Jesus commands us
to DO certain things regardless of how others interpret our acts;
regardless that it goes against what is termed, 'reasonable
So, now, here are Mr. Keith's ten Paradoxical Commandments:
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.