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“Paul reminds us that as an offering to God, we are holy and we are enough. Let those words rest on your heart for a moment, because we are not used to thinking of ourselves that way.”

Sermon preached at All Saints Church on Sunday, August 27, 2017, by Mike Kinman.

Por tanto, hermanas y hermanos mios, !es ruego por la Misericordia de Dias que se presenten ustedes mismos coma ofrenda viva, santa y agradab/e a Dias. Este es el verdadero cu/to que deben ofrecer.

 Sisters and brothers, I beg  you through  the  mercy of  God to offer  your bodies as a living  sacrifice, holy and acceptable  to God this is your spiritual  act  of worship.

 Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.

At the end of the movie Schindler’s List, Oskar Schindler’s accountant, ltzhak Stern, gives Schindler a ring with that verse from the Talmud inscribed in Hebrew on it as a huge crowd of Jewish workers that Schindler  rescued from going to  Auschwitz look on.

Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.

Only this moment  of gratitude  is, for  Schindler,  a moment of devastating grief. Despite the wisdom of the Talmud, despite the faces he saved gazing on him, he can see only those whom he did not save.

“I could have got more out. I could have got more. I don’t know. If I’d  just … I could have got more.”

Stern pleads with him. “Oskar, there are eleven hundred people who are alive because of you. Look at them.”

But Schindler will not be comforted. “If I’d made more money … I threw away so much money. You have no idea. If I’d just.”

Stern interrupts: “There will be generations because of· what you did.”

“I didn’t do enough!” “You did so much.”

“This car … Why did I keep the car? Ten people right there. Ten people. Ten more people.”

“This pin. Two people. This is gold. Two more people. He would have given me two for it, at least one. One more person. A person, Stern. For this.”

He begins to collapse in sobs: “I could have gotten one more person … and I didn’t. And I … I didn’t!”

All the survivors embrace him … and he keeps on crying.

The evil in the world seems overwhelming. There are so many whose lives are in danger, so many who are suffering, so much evil to resist and so many battles to fight. And no matter how much we do, it seems like there is always more. More evil to resist. More suffering to alleviate. More wrongs to right. More injustice to dismantle. More hatred to meet with love.

We can accomplish great things, amazing things, things that save lives and as much as the Talmud speaks truth, as much as a single life is worth the world entire, the world entire still has not been saved. And no matter how much we try or do or how many people we save, at the end of a day, a year, a life, we so often still have Oskar Schindler’s words on our lips:

I could have gotten one more person … and I didn’t! And I … I didn’t.

And we collapse in exhaustion and in tears.

And, of course, both Stern and Schindler were right. More than 1,100 people were saved. There are entire generations because of what he did. And … he could have done more.

That’s the truth of life. There is always more that can be done. We could have always helped, we could have always saved … one more. It is at once a truth that leads us into hope — we can always save one more — and a truth that leads us into despair, no matter how much we do — we could have always saved one more.

This morning we hear an excerpt from Paul’s letter to the infant church in Rome. And one of the struggles these first followers of Jesus were having was how are we justified. How are we right in the eyes of God?

Is it through works or is it through faith?

Are we justified by doing good deeds … if we just resist enough evil, write enough wrongs, save enough people? Paul knows both the truth of Stern and the truth of Schindler. Paul knew the truth of the Talmud: “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.” And he also knew that no matter how many lives you saved, no matter how much good you did there was still more. More that could be done. More that could have been saved. Jesus, God in flesh, had given his life to state execution  on the  cross and still there was death. Still there was oppression. Still there was suffering.

And so Paul writes to the church in Rome. And he doesn’t say: “Do more.” He doesn’t say, “Try harder.” Nor does he say “Do nothing”  or “Why bother.”

Paul says:

Par tanto, hermanas y hermanos mios, Jes ruego par la Misericordia de Dias que se presenten ustedes mismos coma ofrenda viva, santa y agradable a Dias. Este es el verdadero cu/to  que  deben ofrecer.

Sisters and  brothers,  I beg  you through  the  mercy of  God to  offer your bodies as a living  sacrifice, holy and acceptable  to God this is  your spiritual  act of worship.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because Paul’s words are what I use to invite us to the Eucharist each Sunday. It is an invitation to offer our entire selves to God on this table with Christ, trusting that God will take all of us and Christ and transform us into something extraordinary, something that we will then become as we receive it and be sent out into the world to love and serve the Christ we meet there. To live in the world generously, boldly and with great love.

It is an extraordinary invitation, and yet it is so much more than that. Paul’s words are also an extraordinary affirmation that cuts right to the heart of this question of faith and works. Of how much is enough. Of how do we follow Jesus in the world.

Paul reminds us that as an offering to God, we are holy and we are enough.

Let those words rest on your heart for a moment because we are not used to thinking of ourselves that way.

We are holy.
We are enough.

In fact, church, let’s just say that. Say it with me.

I am holy.
I am enough.

Now turn to a neighbor, turn to a neighbor right now and say,

You are holy.
You are enough.

Now stand up as you are able and say

We are holy.
We are enough.

We are holy.
We are enough.

We are holy.
We are enough.

OK, you can sit down.

We are holy. We are enough. Trusting that is the beginning of the answer to this eternal struggle.

We are holy. We are enough. And Paul says to take ourselves, holy and enough. And not fix everything. Not save every life. Not dismantle every evil. But take ourselves, holy and enough, and offer ourselves to God.

That is what true worship is, Paul says. That is what it means to follow Jesus. That’s what it means to  be justified  and right in the eyes of God. It’s not doing enough good deeds and it’s not mouthing some creedal statement of belief. It  is trusting that we are holy and that  we are enough and then taking our  whole selves, holy and enough, and not  doing with them what the  world says to do — not conforming ourselves to this age – but giving ourselves to God, letting God transform us by the renewal of our minds so we can discern what God’s will is – what is good, pleasing and perfect. And then letting God use us generously, boldly, and with great  love. Knowing that we are holy. Knowing that we are enough.

We are holy. We are enough.
Give ourselves to God so that God can use us generously, boldly and lovingly.

By the way, this isn’t something that Paul thought up in the shower or even something distinctly Christian. The divine woos the  people of Israel through Torah longing for them to believe they are holy and enough and to give themselves to God so that she might use them generously, boldly and lovingly.

The very word Islam means surrender to God so that God might bring salam, so that God might bring peace. Paul and Jesus are just adding to the chorus. This is wisdom that God has revealed  and is revealing throughout history in many times, places and forms. And we need to hear it today.

Because we look around, and it’s just too much.

People we love have cancer. Children in our community don’t even have the basic supplies they need for school. Our sisters and brothers are snatched off the streets by ICE. North Korea is firing off missiles, a hurricane is battering Houston and mudslides are killing hundreds in Sierra Leone. Our president is using a pardon literally to put the presidential seal of approval on white supremacy and police brutality and all the while the ecological death clock of this planet is steadily ticking toward zero.

And we are All Saints Church. We are people of faith in action and sacred resistance personified. It’s in our DNA to be engaged in what our Jewish siblings call tikkun olam, the repair of the world. And the huge variety of ministries we have here is testimony to the breadth of our passion. And we cannot do it all. No matter how much we do, there is always more. No matter how much we know “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire,” still we cry “I could have gotten one more person … and I didn’t. And I … I didn’t!”

And so this morning, Paul reminds us that the question we must ask when we are faced with all the evil and the sickness and the trauma is not  how  do I fix it. Not how do I fight it. But what does faithfulness look like? God, what would you have me, what would you have us do?

Not how do I fix it.  Not how do I fight it.  But saying,

I am holy. I am enough.
God I give myself to you.
Use me generously, boldly and lovingly.

Church, let’s say that.

I am holy. I am enough.
God I give myself to you.
Use me generously, boldly, and lovingly.

Now, turn to a neighbor, look them deep in the eyes and say,

You are holy. You are enough.
Give yourself to God.
May God use you generously, boldly and lovingly.

Now stand as you are able and let’s say it together.

We are holy. We are enough.
God, we give ourselves to you.
Use us generously, boldly and lovingly.

OK, you can sit back down again. Giving you some aerobic exercise this morning!

Now here’s the thing. We all better be ready — because as soon as we start offering ourselves to God, as soon as we start looking not to be conformed to this world God’s going to start doing some pretty funky things with us. The faithfulness may look like some pretty scary stuff. The faithfulness might look like some pretty weird stuff.

Remember, this is not about fitting into the world’s concepts of how we should act. It is not about being conformed to the world but about being transformed by the renewing of our minds. And that means discarding lots of conventional wisdom. Most of all, it means discarding the great lie that the world is always whispering in our ear – that success or failure is up to us. Because it’s truly not. What is up to us is every day to offer ourselves to God, to do it together, and to ask God to use us generously, boldly and lovingly.

So, I want to invite us to do that. When we feel the world is getting too much. When we feel that there is just too much evil to resist, too much suffering to alleviate, too much injustice to fight.

To stop and remember that yes it’s true that whoever saves one life saves the world entire.

To remember, yes it’s true, that we can always save one more.

But most of all to remember it is true that we are holy. That we are enough. And that what God longs from us is not success but faithfulness. Simply to give ourselves to God, to ask God, what would you have me, what would you have us do. And pray that God might use me, that God might you, that God might use us generously, boldly and lovingly. Amen.

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