Matthew 23:1-12

“What Do They See?”

November 5, 2017

            I am sure that sure most of you were aware that this past Tuesday was Halloween, a day we usually associate with ghosts and goblins, trick or treaters and witches and vampires.  Some churches might have carnivals or festivals or parties , but we usually associate Halloween with things that are not “churchy”. 

            So if Tuesday was Halloween – what was Wednesday?

            The day after Halloween?

Certainly.  

November 1?

Yes.  Correct again.

3 days before the Yard Sale?

Yesi t was.

But it was really a special day in the Church year.

            Tuesday night may have been the night for ghosts, goblins, trick or treaters, witches and vampires, but Wednesday was  the day for saints.

That’s right — saints. Wednesday – November 1 – was All Saints Day, and without All Saints Day there would be no Halloween.

            You see,  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 and possibly put flowers on their graves. Well, people being like they are, some decided that if Godly people could have their day then 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. Thus the tradition began of making the night before November 1, All Saints Day Eve . or  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 soon became more important than the All Saints Day focus. 

Maybe we need to recapture that All Saints Day focus. 

            When you think of a Saint,  what do you think of? Someone who is so good that no one can ever be as good as they are? Someone we all want to be like but can’t ever do it? Someone who prays for hours every day?

            What do you think of when you hear the word “Saint”? Someone that you are not? The pianist at a Church I used to serve and I were discussing plans for the Church music around this time of year when I mentioned that the first Sunday in November was All Saints Sunday. She laughed and said: “That’s not a day for me – I’m no saint!” Is that what you think of when you think of “saint” and All Saints Day?  

            I want to offer you a thought about sainthood and being a saint.  A Saint is a person who tries to serve God in the very best way they can. They are not perfect. They are not constantly praying. They are just doing the best they can.

            And maybe that’s something we all can strive to be.

            I told the young disciples about a young girl visiting a church one Sunday and was impressed with the stained glass windows of the Saints that were along the walls of the church.  The windows were particularly beautiful that day as the sun shone brightly through them — making their colors brilliant.  She asked about who these people were in these beautiful windows — and was told these were some of the Saints of the church. That morning in Sunday School she was asked if she knew what a Saint was.  Thinking back on the bright, colorful windows that had impressed her so and the fact that she was told these were of the Saints she replied: “A Saint is someone who lets the light shine through.”  Maybe not a dictionary definition of a saint, but a good one none the less.  Someone who lets God’s light shine through them.

Do you do that? Do you let the light of God shine through you? Do people see the light of God shining through you when they look at you, or is it something else they see, something not very Godly, something that seems to shine through when you least expect it or when you are trying to hide it?

            You may be familiar with the story of the Emperors New Clothes by Hans Christian Anderson.  The emperor thought that he was important, and ordered that a special suit of clothes be made for him that would match his importance.  The tailor, however, saw through the emperor’s self-importance and made it possible for everyone to see the emperor as he really was!  He presented the “new clothes” to the emperor but actually there were no clothes at all.  The emperor was too proud to ask the tailor why there were no clothes and he paraded around town thinking that he was so grand in his new clothes — not stopping to think that people were seeing that he actually had no clothes at all and that what they were seeing was him as he really was, naked, and not as important as he thought he was or wanted others to think he was,

            That’s the thing about self-importance, isn’t it?  It usually leads to the revealing of no importance at all. It is a truth that, sooner or later, people will be able to see through what you do to see why it is that you do it.  Many times you are like a window .People can see through you to see your true motives and why you do what you do.

            When people look through your window and look past what you do to why you do it what do they see? When they look past your actions and see your true motives, what do they see? Do they see a false self-importance and pride,  like the emperor, or are they able to see God’s love and compassion that gives your life meaning and that inspires you to live as you do?  Do they see your true self   like the emperor or do they see the light of God, – like the stain glass windows that impressed the girl on her first visit to the church?

People can see what motivates us to do what we do.  What do they see when they look through your “window”?   

            In Matthew 23 Jesus has just been in a heated debate with some of the Scribes and the Pharisees.  Now He wants to warn His disciples against becoming like some of them were.  He says that they loved to force people into obeying the minutest parts of the law — but when it came to their own obedience to them — well, that was a different story all together.  They loved to be considered pious and religious and showed off how pious they were with their large phylacteries, or pouches that devout Jews used to strap parts of scripture to their bodies so they could carry it with them.  Thy also wore long fringes on their prayer shawls so people could see just how pious and holy they were to have such large phylacteries and long prayer shawls.  But actually it was usually for show.  And they loved to be treated with honor, but again it was all for show. 

            Not all Scribes and Pharisees were like this, but some were.  They did what they did  for show ,not out of a real commitment to God.  And many, including Jesus, saw through their actions to their attitudes.  Their piety was something like the emperor’s new clothes.  There was nothing to it at all.  Their “window” showed false purpose.

But before we are too quick to condemn these folks I suggest that we can’t afford to say: “How terrible these people were!”  without looking at ourselves. You know the problem with pointing fingers at others is that when you do it you have several fingers pointing back at you!  So what do others see in you when you do all the “good” and “right” things that you do?  You are like a window and you reflect what is in you to the world.  Are you a window of love for self and bringing attention to yourself or a window that lets God’s love and compassion shines through you? 

            This is a hard question but we all need to consider it. Do you do what you do to truly be a servant of God, and to bring glory to God and to bring God’s love into the world or to bring glory to yourself? 

            For example when you come to Church do you come to truly worship God or to be seen by others? Or why do you reach out to others?  Do you do it to show God’s love and compassion or to bring credit to yourself       These are hard questions but questions that need to be answered.  You can be a window of self-service, reflecting your own will to the world,  or you can be a window of God’s love and compassion, reflecting God and God’s will to the world. 

            The attitude you have when you do things is important. 

            Jesus calls you to be a window of God’s love and compassion and to reflect God’s love that is in you to the world.  Jesus calls you to show His love to the world because you are committed to Him, not because you want others to see how “good” or “holy” you are. 

Jesus wants you to be a window of God’s compassion and love. Jesus wants you to reflect God’s love and compassion to the world.

            Let it be God’s love and compassion others see when they look at you. 

When others look at you and what you do – – what do they see?

Let it be God’s love and compassion and not your own pious self-importance and pride.

            But here’s another question.

How can you reflect God’s love and compassion and not your own self-importance and pride to the world? 

            It takes developing your relationship with God through worship, prayer, fellowship and service — and letting that relationship change your life.  It takes letting God change you to such an extent that God’s compassion shines through you — and you are truly a “window” of God’s compassion to the world.  Let God guide you into true service to God and others.  Let God develop such a relationship with you that God can truly be seen through what you do — and God’s compassion can truly shine through you.  Let it be God’s love and compassion others see when they look at you — not your own will or your own self-importance. 

            Ask yourself – every day –

            “How are Jesus and I doing – right now?”

            “What is my relationship with Christ like?”

            “Am I showing Christ to others?”

            “Is Christ shining though me?”

            Be a window of God’s compassion.

            During World War II the town of Coventry, England was leveled by German bombers.  The centuries-old Cathedral was destroyed.  Some years later, a new Cathedral was built around the ruins of the old.  A remarkable statement is made in the hallway that leads to the courtyard where the ruins of the old Cathedral now lie.  On one end of the hallway is a giant tapestry the size of a Tennis Court of Christ ruling the universe.  On the other end of the hallway the entire wall is clear glass — with pictures of the Saints etched into the glass.  On the other side of this glass wall is the courtyard with the ruins of the bombed Cathedral.  The Tapestry of Christ shines through the Saints etched into the glass into the bombed-out ruins of the original Coventry Cathedral. 

            What a powerful statement indeed.

            When others see your true motives hat do they see?

            As Christians, we are to let Christ shine through us to the world  so others can see Christ — just as the tapestry of Christ in Coventry Cathedral shines through the Saints etched into the glass wall to the ruins of what the world has done to the old Cathedral.

            You can be so formed in Christ that, — like the Saints etched into that glass wall – you reflect Christ to those in need and hurting in the Church and the community. You can be a “window” of the compassion of Christ – letting the love of Christ shine through what you say and what you do. 

            Let others see God shining in what you say and what you do — like the stain glass windows of the Saints that impressed the young girl as the light shone through them — or the glass wall at Coventry, and not your own sense of self importance or false piety like some of the Pharisees or the Emperor with the new clothes.  If you truly let God work in your life, we can reflect His love and compassion to the world so that is what others see when they see what we do. 

Let’s all strive to be saints. Let’s strove to be folks who let God’s light shine through us. We may not be perfect but we can strive to show God to the world in the best way they can.

I believe that is what it means to be a saint. Amen.