Sunday, November 6, 2011

The McRib & the Saints of God

Sermon from November 6, 2011
(All Saints’ Sunday – Year A)
Matthew 5: 1-12
St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Waco, Texas

During this past week, several news stories have caused me to question a very important part of American life.
During this past week, I have been led to explore the identity and makeup of a mystery.
During this past week, I have been compelled to ask:
What is in a McRib?

The McRib is the pork sandwich at McDonald’s that first debuted in 1982.
The McRib has a devout following of disciples.
From TV commercials, it looks as if the McRib is a slab of pork ribs, smothered in BBQ sauce, garnished with pickles and onions and served on a hoagie roll.
The meat on the McRib is shaped so that you can actually see the indentation of ribs.

In 2005, however, McDonald’s discontinued the McRib from its regular menu.
Now the McRib comes out only for a season, only for a limited time of a few weeks.

However, the McRib is not at all what it seems.
The McRib does not actually have any ribs in it at all.
In fact, what looks like a slab of pork encasing several ribs, is actually pressed together animal parts such as pig organs and lips and other unmentionables.
There is not a single bone in a McRib.
Instead the “meat” is pressed together to give it a shape that just looks like ribs are present.

On October 24th of this year, the McRib returned again for its elusive appearance on McDonald’s menu.
And during this past week, I have been compelled to ask:
What is in a McRib?
And I have discovered that the McRib is not at all what it seems.

And in this season of All Saints, I have been compelled to ask:
What is in a saint?
And I have discovered that a saint is not at all what it seems.

When we ask:
What is in a saint?
We immediately think of the perfection of the saints, a perception of perfection that is fed by TV and movies and popular culture.

When exploring what is in a saint, we might come to the conclusion that saints are perfect people, people who are nice and sweet and destined to be angels in heaven.
Saints, we think, are the goody two shoes who never backtalk in the classroom and who are models of good manners.
Saints, we think, are smothered in a sweet and savory BBQ sauce, a delight to everyone.

In this last week, I have asked the question:
What is in a McRib?
And I have also asked the question:
What is in a saint?
And I have discovered that the McRib – and the saints of God - are not what they might seem.

If we want to know who the saints of God are, we can listen to Jesus’ careful description in his Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus climbs up a mountain, sits down and teaches us:

Blessed are you who are poor in spirit, who know you need God - for you are a saint.
Blessed are you who mourn, who are acquainted with grief - for you are a saint.
Blessed are you who are gentle in spirit, who do not answer your problems with violence - for you are a saint.
Blessed are you who hunger and thirst, who are starving for the intangibles of life - for you are a saint.
Blessed are you peacemakers, who keep the peace by forgiveness - for you are a saint.
Blessed are all of you when you live counter-culturally, when you protest against injustice and get made fun of because you are different and get bullied for standing up for the weird kid in your class - for you are saints.
Rejoice and be glad, for you are not perfect.
Rejoice and be glad, because you are already a saint of God, today.

What is in a saint?
Inside a saint are some messy ingredients that we might not expect.
A saint is not someone who is perfect, who flies around with the angels up in heaven.
A saint is a human being who is poor in spirit, sad, hungry, thirsty, persecuted and forgiving.
A saint is someone who can be a pain in the neck to the unjust establishment.
A saint is someone whose feet are firmly planted on this earth, bringing the kingdom of God among us.
A saint is someone whose head is not up in the clouds, but whose heart is bent toward the people who now live on this earth.

Maybe it is just about where I am right now spiritually.
But I have grown weary of a Christianity that is so preoccupied about what heaven will be like or about what will happen to us when we die or about when “the second coming” will be (which, by the way, the phrase ‘second coming’ is not even in the Bible).

Instead, just as I want to know the messy details of what is inside a McRib,
I yearn to truly know the messy, gross and earthy details of what is inside the saints of God who are on this earth.

For Christianity is not about the pristine and the perfect.
Christianity is about the messy and unpredictable people who live on this earth.
Christianity is not about us flying away to escape our humanity.
Christianity is about a God who comes among us, on this earth.
Christianity is about a God who makes us saints, saints who bring God’s kingdom to this earth.

And so we fervently pray to our Father:
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done.
On earth, as it is in heaven.

Last Thursday, the Waco Tribune-Herald wrote an unexpected article about a football player at McGregor High School.
When we picture a high school football player, we expect a guy who is big and tall and strong.
Yet, Isaac Villafana, who is a wide receiver, is only 3 feet 9 inches tall.
For several years, Isaac had been the team manager,
But for his senior year this year, he wanted to suit up.
So the coach allowed Isaac to be an active part of the team.

On the outside, it would seem that Isaac could never play football.
Yet even with his disabilities, Isaac completes all the drills and two-a-days with his teammates, not asking for any special treatment.
Isaac does not ask to be taken away from this cruel earth, with all its disabilities and messiness.
Instead, Isaac has brought the kingdom of God to this earth, as his presence among his teammates has transformed the hearts of the players on the McGregor football team.

Isaac Villafana is Jesus among us.
Isaac is a short, disabled wide receiver who brings God’s kingdom of love and forgiveness and acceptance and transformation down to this earth.
Isaac is an unexpected saint.

What is in a McRib?
What is in a saint?
It is certainly not what it seems.

For the saints of God are not perfect.
The saints of God are imperfect and disabled and messy people like you and me and the hundreds of people whose names are on the walls of St. Alban’s today.
The saints of God are the poor in spirit, the hungry, the sad, the persecuted, the troublemakers who bring God’s kingdom to this earth.

So rejoice and be glad that you are not perfect.
Rejoice and be glad that today - on this earth - you are a saint.

AMEN.

1 comment:

  1. Amen, amen, and AMEN!
    And please pass the grey poupon.

    ReplyDelete