To Be a Saint

This past April, a man from Tennessee named Ben Stucki was reading his Facebook news feed. I wasn’t there, so I can’t know for sure, but if Ben is anything like me, he was in a marginally comatose state while doing so, scrolling halfheartedly past videos on how to make boeuf bourguignon in under 3 minutes in your microwave, advertisements for the world’s most comfortable yoga pants, and photos of friends-you-can-barely-remember’s kids/pets/dinners/vacations/new haircuts. But suddenly, like a beacon of light in the middle of the world’s most boring storm, there it was – the thing that Ben had been looking for, the thing that made his internet trolling worth it for the day.

The thing was a meme, which is, according to Google, “a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc. that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.” This particular meme looked like an ordinary political campaign sticker – you know, I’m With Her, or Make America Great Again – but the words on this sticker were anything but ordinary. Giant Meteor 2016, it read, and then under it in smaller, sadder print: Just end it already.

I’m guessing that many of you have seen this slogan around town, but you may not know that you have Ben Stucki to thank for it. Ben was the person who took that meme and turned it into a real bumper sticker. He made only a few at first. He really only wanted one for himself, but the printer he used sold only in blocks of 50, so Ben put the rest up for sale on Amazon. And someone bought it, and then someone else saw it, and someone famous tweeted it, and by June of this year he had sold over 1500 Giant Meteor bumper stickers. I can’t even imagine how many he’s sold by now.

You can see the appeal of the Giant Meteor campaign. No matter which candidate you’re planning on voting for by this time next week, this year’s presidential campaign has been an uglier version of the ugly campaigns we’re used to. The hyperbole is more hyper, the scare tactics scarier, the scandals wilder, the bruises bigger. No matter who we’re hoping will win, many of us are already feeling pretty defeated, so much so that a joke about the total annihilation of the world makes us shake our heads and chuckle a bit. Giant Meteor 2016 is funny, in a tired kind of way. It’s also a sign that over the past months we’ve lost something – something that was itself the theme of a rather significant campaign sticker from 8 years ago: hope.

What’s interesting is that the question this bumper sticker raises isn’t if we’ve lost hope or why – the question this bumper sticker raises is whether or not it really matters. So we’ve lost hope, so what? After all, it doesn’t seem like there’s much to be very hopeful about. Is it so unreasonable to feel anxiety, or anger, or apathy instead – I mean, look where we’ve ended up, and look what’s headed this way. Maybe it’s better to be brutally realistic, to prepare ourselves for a disappointing future so that we don’t find ourselves disappointed and surprised. Maybe the gallows humor of Giant Meteor 2016 is better for us in the end. Laugh, eat, and drink, for tomorrow we die.

We could have a long and complex discussion about the place of hope versus pragmatism in American politics, or about how we as American citizens can have a healthy emotional engagement with the political process – when to turn the other cheek, when to turn away, where to draw the line, when to click off the computer. But I’m going to suggest a different discussion tonight. Because tonight, we sit in this place not first and foremost as Americans, but as Christians, and as Christians, we can and should have an entirely different conversation about hope.

The conversation begins here: “In Christ, we have also obtained an inheritance…so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.” “I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.” Notice that for the author of the letter to the Ephesians, hope is a given. You who were the first to set your hope on Christ, you who claim a hope to which you have been called. Not you who might sometimes feel hopeful, or you who imagine what hope might be like. For this community of early Christians, hope was a fact of their discipleship. It is just how they lived in the world.

And remember, this letter wasn’t written for a perfect world. This wasn’t some golden age when city states were free from tyranny, ego, corruption, and ignorance. This wasn’t some idyllic moment when everyone told the truth, gave generously, and loved perfectly. This time was as marked by as much hope-killing absurdity as ours is. And yet, for these Christians, there was no cynicism there. There was no weariness there. And there certainly was no Giant Meteor LXII bumper sticker there. Because this community of disciples did not find their hope in the future that the world dictated. This community of disciples did not ground their hope in the actions of women and men, even good women and men. This community of disciples knew that their hope was not a flittery, fluttery thing – not so much a thing with feathers* as a thing of iron that anchored them to a more profound reality. Because their hope was in the one seated at God’s right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. Their hope was in the one who fills all in all. Their hope was in the power and presence and persistence of Jesus Christ. And that hope does not fail.

This is the hope to which Christ called that community of disciples, and this is the hope to which Christ calls this community of disciples. Not hope in Donald Trump. Not hope in Hillary Clinton. Not even hope in the wisdom of the founders and the fail safes of our political process. Not hope that it’ll all just go away, but hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. Hope in his power. Hope in his generosity. Hope in his tenacity. Hope that his life, death, and resurrection is making all things new, even this mess. Hope that in him, we are made one. Hope that we can be one whole body, not just the left arm and the right arm. Hope that our inheritance of light and life and mercy and justice can flood the world with grace. Hope that our hope can bring hope to all the hopeless.

This is what it means to be a saint. Saints are all of those Christians who have lived – and died – in the hope of Christ. Saints are people who claim hope as their birthright, who choose hope, day after day, no matter what storms rage around them. Saints are those who know themselves to be called by Christ to hope, even when the world seems dark and full of fear. 

Yes, the world seems hopeless to us right now. That’s okay. God does not see it that way. And God is giving us this gift, this inheritance of hope, free of charge, so that we don’t have to see it that way either. We have a chance to see the bigger picture tonight, God’s picture. This moment is a blessed opportunity to strip the sticky sourness and sad cynicism from our lives and to claim our inheritance as saints of God – to claim hope. This is our opportunity to set our hope on Christ and then to live like it, tonight, and tomorrow, and next Tuesday, and next Wednesday, to love our enemies, to do good to those who use us poorly, to give generously and freely, to do unto everyone we meet what we would have done to us. This is our chance to choose to hope that God is working in the world, that we have a part to play in that work, and that God will not quit until the work is finished.  

This is the work we have to do, you and I: to follow the saints who have come before in all virtuous and godly living and to hope in Christ. If you are starting to lose your hope, reach down into the darkness and grab it with both hands. Bear it into the light and set your hope on Christ. Be his. Be hopeful. Be a saint of God. Hope 2016. And forever and ever. Amen.

*from Emily Dickinson


Preached by Mother Erika Takacs

All Saints Day, 2016

Saint Mark's Church, Philadelphia

Posted on November 2, 2016 .