Luke 19:1-10

“Strange Saints”

October 30 2016  

            I am sure that most of you know that tomorrow is October 31 – Halloween.  It’s a day we usually associate with ghosts and goblins, with trick or treaters and witches and vampires, and maybe churches might have carnivals or festivals but we usually associate Halloween with things that are not “churchy”. 

            So if tomorrow – Monday – is Halloween – what does that make Tuesday of next week? The day after Halloween for sure – but it is really a special day in the Church year. Tomorrow night, October 31, is the night for ghosts and goblins, trick or treaters and witches and vampires, but Tuesday, November 1, is the day for saints. 

            Yea, that’s right, saints.

            November 1, this Tuesday, the day after Halloween, is All Saints Day. And without All Saints Day there would be no Halloween. It all began when the church instituted the day of November 1 as the Feast Day Of All Saints.  This was a day to honor all the saints who did not have their own Feast Days, and it became a day to remember and lift up prayers for friends and family who had died.  In keeping with the tradition of remembering departed friends and loved ones, people used November 1 as a good day to visit their graves and possibly put flowers on graves.

Well,  people being like they are, some decided that if saints, or Godly people, could have their day, then not so saintly or not so Godly things should have theirs, also.  And if All Saints Day was going to be a time to visit the graves of loved ones, then the other graves needed some attention also. The tradition began of making the night before November 1, All Saints Day Eve, All Hallowed’s Eve, a night for the opposite of All Saints Day, with mischievous things in cemeteries instead of Godly things. And people being as they are, the All Hallowed’s Eve, or Halloween, focus became more important than the All Saints Day focus. 

Maybe we need to recapture that All Saints Day focus.

That’s the focus for our worship today, to refocus on all Saint’s Day. 

            One October day when Sally and I were  at the first Church that I served I was sharing with several of the members of the Church that All Saints Day was approaching and that I was planning a special service for it.  Someone made the comment: “All Saints Day? Well – that day can’t be for me!  I am certainly not a saint!”  Well, everyone laughed and nodded in agreement!  They may have been agreeing   because they agreed this person was not a saint, but maybe also because they did not believe they were saints either! 

            You know, most of us don’t think of ourselves as saints!  

            What images come to your mind when you hear the word “saint”?

            Maybe someone who is so good that you don’t think you will ever be as good as they are?

            Maybe someone you would like to be like but don’t think you ever will be?

            Maybe someone who prays for hours every day?

            What do you think of when you hear the word “saint”?

            I want to offer a thought for you to consider today, a definition of a saint for your consideration, and that is that a saint is a person who sees their need for God and tries to serve God in the very best way they can.

            I believe that a saint is someone who sees their need for God – and tries to serve God in the very best way they can.  

            This does not mean that they are perfect or that they are constantly praying,  but it simply means that they see their need for God and do the best they can.

            Maybe that’s a definition we can all strive to live up to.

            As I told the Young Disciples a few minutes ago, a saint is someone who lets the light shine through – someone who lets the light of God shine through them.   

             Yea, a saint is someone who lets the light shine through.    

            This may not a dictionary definition of a saint, but it’s a good one none the less! A saint is someone who lets God’s light shine through them, and that is indeed something we all can do and someone we can all strive to be.

We can all can be saints. It may sound strange to hear that, but the truth is, we all can be saints. Maybe not in our normal way of thinking about saints, but saints nonetheless. We can all be saints.  We can all be people who realize our need for God, people who do our best to serve God, and people who let the light of God shine through our lives.

            We can all be saints. Strange Saints, maybe, but Saints nonetheless. 

            Like Saint Zacchaeus.

            You may be thinking: I’ve never heard of Saint Zacchaeus! You mean that short man, that “wee little man” we learned about in children’s Sunday School songs, who was up a tree when Jesus came by? Him? Saint Zacchaeus? Yea, him.  Saint Zacchaeus. Maybe not a saint in the normal way of thinking about who a saint is, but a saint as far as someone who realized his need for God and then did what he could to serve God.   A Saint, who may have not lived a lot of his life as a person who wanted to show God to others or let God’s light shine through him but who was touched and changed by God and lived the rest of his life doing what he could to let the light of God shine through him.

            When the story in our Gospel passage from Luke 19 begins the people of Jericho would have never classified Zaccheus as a saint or as a holy person, or even someone who saw his need for God and did what he could to share God’s love with others. As the story begins he is not someone who let God’s light shine through him. His name means “Pure”, but old Zacchaeus was anything but that. The people of Jericho hated Zacchaeus and with fairly good reason.  He was the Chief Tax Collector, a Jew who worked for the Romans collecting taxes the hated Roman government placed on the people and even collecting more than the Romans demanded.  He kept the excess and became very rich doing so.  In other words, he got rich off his own peoples misfortune.

            It doesn’t sound very much like a “Pure” or righteous person or saintly person does it? It doesn’t sound much like a saint, however you describe what a saint is!

            But something happened.

            Zacchaeus, as sinful and imperfect and impure and unsaintly as he was, found himself up a tree one day, and that’s where Jesus found him. Jesus called, accepted, and loved Zacchaeus and Zacchaeus responded to Jesus. He became a different person. He repented of his wrongs. He gave half his wealth, and that  was a lot, to the poor. Then with the other half of his money he gave back 4 times what he had cheated people out of by charging them more tax than the Romans charged , and we can only imagine that was a lot, also.

            Jesus called Zacchaeus and he responded. He changed. He saw his need for Jesus, his need for God, and repented of what he had done wrong. He realized his need for God and then did what he could to serve God.  From what he says in this passage we can imagine that he became someone who let God’s light shine through him.

            So, you see, it is possible to talk about Saint Zacchaeus. 

            Friends, we can all be saints. We can all be people who realize our need for Jesus, who realize our need for God, but also realize the forgiveness God offers us and try to show God’s love to others in the best way we can. We can all be people who let God’s light and God’s love shine through us. We can all be people who are filled with a sense of God’s love and are committed to sharing God’s love with others. We can all let God’s love and light shine through us in every way we can.        

            Someone once gave me a card that read:   

            You may not be an angel

            And you’re surely not a saint

            But I like you for what you are

            And not for what you ain’t.

            The grammar may not be the best, but you get the point.

Jesus loves you for who you are and Jesus can change you and help you be who you can be for Him. With Jesus’ help you can be a saint. You can be a person who realizes your need for Jesus but also realizes the forgiveness God offers you and you can try to show God’s love to others in the very best way you can. You can be a person who lets God’s light and God’s love shine through you.

            You may be a strange saint, but you can be a saint.  Amen.