Judges 3:31, 12:8-15; Luke 7:24-28
November 1, 2020
— All Saints Day
Before your wondering goes too far down the road, or should I say the Yellow Brick Road, my sermon today has nothing to do with Munchkins of Wizard of Oz fame. Although, fun fact: the munchkin actors were very difficult to deal with and had to have people hired to watch them: they got rowdy at bars, came to work drunk, and got too fresh with Miss Dorothy, Judy Garland, herself. I doubt this was the reason they got paid so much less than others, however. Even Toto made more than twice their pay each week.
No, I am not dwelling in the land over the rainbow this week, but I am talking about some little people – specifically people that we don’t tend to consider or think about so much. And there are more than a few of them in the Bible. You have heard of Moses and Jesus and Mary and Elizabeth and Paul and Eve and David and Jezebel, but I am pretty confident that Shamgar does not ring any bells other than my just having read the ONE verse he has in the whole Bible. The same goes for judges Ibzan (whose claim to fame is he married his sons and daughters to foreigners), Elon, and Abdon (whose 70 sons and grandsons rode 70 donkeys). Maybe they did parades. These judges do not stand out, they are going to be gone from your memories 30 mins after the sermon, and no one is going to put them in a movie.
I find this pretty remarkable because you would think you have to be pretty special to even make it into the Bible. Someone felt these persons were important enough to include in the biblical narrative. Just to be recorded was a very big deal back then, much bigger than being in a book today. On top of that, they are in the most important book ever written. We are still reading about these persons thousands of years after their lives, if we happen to find their verses. They are in there but we don’t really know why. Other than Shamgar killing a bunch of Philistines with a livestock tool, we don’t really know what they did that made them worth recording. They made it into recorded history, but they just don’t seem that important to things. Maybe they were at the time, but the author wanted the generations to come to also know of these persons and their strange details. What’s going on?
I am going to argue that the Bible has a fondness for the little people – the people who are just getting by but are not regarded as all that important to the world. I think God has a soft spot for the regular people like you and me who are here and do our part to make the world a better place but may not have the kind of impact that would make one famous or especially notable. We are not even judges in the biblical sense. I don’t think I will ever be recorded in anyone’s book unless this congregation happens to commission another history.
But God, on the other hand, is very sympathetic to the regular, ordinary people who fill our histories and the world. Just think about the people with whom Jesus spent so much time. Some of them even are named in the Gospels. Some of them are even women who are named in the Gospels. It was revolutionary in that day to bother to name women. In the lineage of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel, four women are named. We should never neglect the importance of this issue that did not really change much until pretty recently, as a matter of fact, but women with problems, men who are undesirable, women and men who are sick with disease and sin are welcome to come to Jesus and be named and included and valued and healed.
To emphasize God’s heart for the people we might consider the least important, the least notable, the least valuable in the passage in Luke about John the Baptizer. Luke’s Gospel has a clear and consistent message about the importance of the people who live on the edges of society. Maybe it should not surprise us to see this passage is also in Luke’s Gospel. John was huge in that day. He is recorded in all the Gospels, and plenty of people thought he was the Messiah. He was at least the person announcing the coming of the Messiah. The King then knew about John personally and even had him killed for insult. John was a monumental figure in Jesus’ day. He even baptized Jesus. Jesus himself says no one was ever born who was actually greater than John. But true greatness does not come from the same place as the world defines greatness.
Even the least person in the Kingdom of God is greater than John.
It is hard to not read that and think about humility. A nobody in the Kingdom of God is greater than John the Baptizer who paved the way for our Savior. It really sounds like there is something there for us, for all of God’s children. It really sounds like there is a beautiful value for you and me in God’s Kingdom and God’s heart.
On All Saints’ Day, we are tempted to just move on and do our thing. No one really pays that much attention to this day. In fact, we were more focused, I’m sure, on the change in daylight savings than on today’s religious holy day. All Saints’ Day, however, is kind of like a specifically Christian Memorial Day when we call to mind those who have gone before us in the good fight of faith. Certainly, most of us will never be martyred or will die for our faith. We are not having to face down dictators or stand in the path of war for the sake of the ones in need, so as I hinted earlier, I doubt I am ever going to make a list of Who’s Who in the soldiers of the cross, but if we take Jesus seriously, then you and I and those who came before us and those who will come after really have a place, a significant place in God’s Kingdom.
I cannot help but marvel at the love of a God who values people that the world could not care less about. I cannot help but wonder about a love that appreciates the very same people we could dismiss without a second thought. I cannot help but be forced to stop to consider how God’s heart can be so wide-embracing and so uplifting and so perceptive as to see past the facades of this world and our lives and see us as the invaluable treasures we really are.
Still, it is a struggle for us. According to a significant UN report, up to 100,000 children are going to die due to hunger in the ongoing war in Yemen. How many of them are significant in the Kingdom of God? This virus claims more and more of the saints every day. Each week, thousands of Americans die because of the effects of the virus. How many of them are significant in the Kingdom of God? It is estimated that 1 in 7 runaway children ends up being exploited in sex trafficking. That’s up to a 1,000 every year. That does not even scratch the surface of what is happening to immigrant women and children. How many of them are significant in the Kingdom of God?
As we claim to have a place around the Table of our Lord, it is right to remember all of those who have come before us to pave the way for us to be here today. Every single one of them was important. All of our mothers and fathers in faith were valuable in God’s Kingdom and in our shared history. It is also appropriate to continue to hold in our hearts those who are too easily forgotten today but who are precious in the sight of God. As we eat this Communion, we invite their lives to be more a part of our own lives. We seek a oneness with all of God’s children, especially those who are most valued, those who are at greatest risk.
We cannot simply share in this Communion, however, and act as if nothing has changed. Every day, our Lord is building his Kingdom more and more, and he invites us to help. One of the most important ways we can be a part is to honor the lives that reflect Jesus’ words. With our living, with our working, with our giving, with our voting, with our worship, with our service, we all should do whatever we can to celebrate the worth of the little people. We can live to their memory today and honor their place in God’s heart. To God be the glory. Amen.