All Saints Sunday
November 01, 2020 | Bryan Simmons
Passage: Matthew 23:1-12
Well, here we are on this All Saints Sunday. And we celebrate and remember those that we have lost this year. Knowing that we have not lost them forever. But that we place our trust in Christ now more than ever and lift them up in the hope of what Jesus has called us to hope for. That death is not the end. That this way of life that we live is not the end. We are truly able to die to sin and rise to new life. Fully realized saints living eternally in heaven.
It's a strange text to read on a day like today.
For it seems to be very concerned with what we do here on this Earth. And how we act and treat one another. And there is one truth that we can say about those who have gone before us. Is that they do not have to worry about any of this anymore.
Election coming up Tuesday? Not for those that have passed on, they don't have to worry about who the next president is going to be. They don't have to worry about this ongoing pandemic. For the dead, they can truly rest in peace.
And so that leaves you and me. To live together here. To work together here. Until that time when we, too, realize our true hope in Christ. And it is revealed to us that we too are forever in God's care.
Jesus was walking in the crowds, and so he said to the crowds and to the disciples, this idea about the scribes and the Pharisees, and how they do have an authority in scripture, they're very well versed in scripture. They're the ones that proclaim the scriptures in the temples.
And, you know, probably take it for granted that we have multiple Bibles in our homes, multiple translations, maybe even multiple languages, but at the time of Jesus, this was at a time when things were still handwritten on to scrolls and it was very, very difficult to come across a copy. Hardly anybody had a home version of the Scriptures. And most people took to memorizing the Torah instead of just having access to read one, because that way you knew it was inside.
And so Jesus says that the scribes in the Pharisees sit on Moses seat, therefore do whatever it is that they teach, you follow that. Because the words that they say come from Torah. But do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.
Jesus talks about this idea throughout scripture and throughout the book of Matthew as well. And talks about hypocrites and talks about how the Pharisees are hypocrites. And for us, you know, we hear that and we hear that you say one thing and do another, and it's not exactly what a hypocrite was. And so for me to do this, I'm going to enlist some help from Pastor Ryan at this time. And Pastor Ryan is going to help teach us about what hypocrites in the Greek world really were. And to be fair to Pastor Ryan, he gave me permission ahead of time to do this. So thank you, Pastor Ryan.
Hypocrites were Greek actors that had a way of speaking. They tried to mimic who they were trying to be. And it's so fun, it's very fun to be somebody else from time to time, and they would wear these masks. It was actually celebrated to be a hypocrite.
All right, enough of that.
That was my best Pastor Ryan impression. I don't know if it was any good or not, but the hypocrites were actually stage actors, they wore masks and the masks signified which character they were playing and they would often switch which characters they played from show to show. But the mask would signify who was who, and they would do their best to mimic speech patterns, thought patterns of these characters and who they were trying to portray. In fact, taking a hypocritical stance was actually something that was done to try to see the other side of things as well. So you say you have a stance on arguments, you know, elections coming up, so you've got a stance on a bunch of policies, right? But you take the hypocritical stance. Sometimes we call it a devil's advocate and you step in and you take the other side and try to bend your mind around the thought process of the people that take those other side so that you can become more well-rounded. It was actually something that was rather celebrated at the time.
But Jesus is pointing out hypocrisy that is detrimental in that they're putting the mask on of these perfectors of the faith, the Pharisees and the scribes, they're putting the mask on. But they cannot fulfill the role. They cannot become the perfector of the faith. They can know a lot about it. But they certainly can't look down on others who aren't doing it as well as them or others who don't know it as well as because we're all in the same boat together.
We have a lot to learn from one another. We have a lot to share with one another. But as soon as we take a stance that we know more than another, and use it in a way that lifts ourselves up at the expense of others. Jesus is saying that's when we go wrong, that's when we become a hypocrite and we play the part, but we can't be the role.
And so the scribes and the Pharisees, they they love the seats of honor and they love all this respect that they get, but the respect that they get is really just from knowing stuff. It's not actually from doing what they're saying or being who they're talking about.
Don't we all like that? We all like recognition, we all like to be seen as important and special. And to a degree, there's nothing wrong with that. It's when we have that feeling, that desire that we're somehow more important and special to the detriment of others. That works against the kingdom.
And so we try to teach.
Well, still remaining a student, we tried to be that instructor, yet still learning. Jesus says we cannot be the teacher because we have one teacher. We're not really anyone's father or mother because we have one father.
What we try to do is we try to be a reflection of who God is to others in this world. And if we can do that, if we can just be this reflection, this way of being -- that allows the love of God to shine through into others, and enrich their lives. We will have accomplished what God is working for in the kingdom.
For it is exactly in those moments when we get self-righteous, we get self-important. We get those moments where we realize we have the upper hand and we seize on it. That would truly disappoint our father in heaven.
So we live. Humbled. By what Jesus has done for us. We live humbled by the incarnation itself that God bothered to become flesh for you and me. Live the life that we live. Suffer the way we suffer. It is humbling to know the ultimate love our creator has for us.
And it is humbling to know that those that have gone before us get to experience the fullness of that love. Now. That they receive the joy of heaven and that they live eternally in the love of God. It can't be anything but humbling. Because it is beyond anything that we can truly know.
And so on this All Saints Sunday. As you were thinking about those, that have died in your family and friends. Those that you miss dearly. Remember the promise. Remember that Christ has lived and died for you. So that you are welcome into the eternal feast.
As we walk this life, let us live in that humility of that promise, let us live in the humility of that love. So that we may indeed be a reflection of God's love to others.
Let us not get in the way with our own hypocrisy, wearing the mask of someone who is perfect and does everything right and can shame others from a higher position. We can't. None of us can. All they can do is point to Christ. The perfector of our faith. Who calls us home. As we gather together for all the Saints. Amen.