Saturday, November 4, 2023

Heroes and Saints

From a sermon preached on All Saints' in 2019 by Ben Dueholm:
People naturally get defensive and indignant when their heroes are shown to have had feet of clay. This can take the form of saying that we judge people in the past by an unfair standard. But there’s really only one standard where cruelty and viciousness are concerned, whether it’s in the 1970s, the 1860’s, or the first century A.D. ....

It’s hard to look at the full picture of a prominent, influential person because we want them to represent something for us. The mixture of good and evil, insight and foolishness, courage and villainy that can be found in almost every human life needs to be boiled down to something simpler in order to be useful, in order to be worthy of an admiration we need to feel toward someone. ....

In the end, that’s the difference between a hero and a saint: The saint does not need to be defended because the saint is the person who will take God’s side against him or herself. The saint does not need to be justified because the saint relies entirely on God’s righteousness. The saint does not validate us. The saint validates God. The saint does not need our admiration, because the saint is exactly the person who would rather be cursed or slandered or forgotten by all the world than to lose God. The saint does not need our pedestals, because the saint has been fully rewarded already. No one can give them anything or take anything away from them.

The hope of our faith, here in the readings today, is that in the end God will be all in all. Just as God was in the beginning, but with company. And in that company will be many we do not expect to see. There will be many lost and forgotten by the world who were held and treasured by God. There will be the veterans of struggles that looked final and hopeless. There will be the world of our own failures, our own inadequacies, our own inconstant following, made good only for the sake of Jesus Christ and his love for those who set out to hear him. And those who led us there, with their words and deeds, with their presence and love, with their continual prayers, will be overjoyed to be just part of the great cloud. (more)

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