All Saints - Nov 1

With Election Day upon us, I thought this text about hypocrisy was appropriate. I am reminded of a story about Theodore Roosevelt. During one of his political campaigns, a delegation called on him at his home in Oyster Bay, Long Island. The President met them with his coat off and his sleeves rolled up.
"Ah, gentlemen," he said, "come down to the barn and we will talk while I do some work."

At the barn, Roosevelt picked up a pitchfork and looked around for the hay. Then he called out, "John, where's all the hay?"

"Sorry, sir," John called down from the hayloft. "I ain't had time to toss it back down again after you pitched it up while the Iowa folks were here."
 As we go to the polls this Tuesday I know whom I am going to vote for. Let me tell you who: I am going to vote hypocrisy out of office and humility in. I am going to
 vote greatness out and servanthood in. I am going to vote honor out and duty in. That's whom I am going to vote for and I wish it were that simple. Truth is, leadership, the way Jesus described it, is hard to find, even among the religious.

So what is it exactly that Jesus wants out of leaders and how do they get there. We will look at that in a moment. .
Halloween is the ultimate holiday of "pretending."
On Halloween we dress up and "pretend" to be someone or something other than ourselves.
On Halloween we "pretend" to believe that the people jumping out at us and scaring us in the "haunted houses" we paid $25 to get into are monsters and zombies.
On Halloween we happily "pretend" that the scariest stuff in life are those things that "go bump in the night."
On Halloween we revel in "pretend" bumps instead of bumping into the terrifying realities of evil and cruelty that appear on any street, in any office, at any school, in broad daylight, on any given day - and that's just a rundown of the terrors of the last two weeks.
Yesterday, the day after "All Hallows Eve," is known in the liturgical calendar as "All Saints Day." "All Saints" is a celebration and commemoration of those who were never about pretense, but who devoted their lives to expressing true faithfulness and genuine piety. The church lives, not by the majesty of its beliefs but by the manifestation of its manifold witness through the magnificence of its "communion of saints."
Who are these "all saints?" The "all saints" are all the everyday, ordinary men and women who live lives of humility and service in Jesus' name and for his sake. They never "dressed up" or "dressed down" in order to exhibit some "pretend" piety. They never paraded their piety in peacock plumage. Generation after generation of these "all saints" make up the great "Cloud of Witnesses" (the church had "The Cloud" before Microsoft) who make it possible for the historic Jesus of the first century to become the living Christ of the twenty-first century.
The community of "all saints" didn't need to play "pretend." Their lives witnessed to the living presence of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit, who made them all into "transformers," transformers of lives, transformers of hopes, transformers of dreams, transformers of the world they lived in.. 
Humility in Action
One of the best stories of humility I know is that of a man who arrived in 1953 at the Chicago railroad station to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. He stepped off the train, a tall man with bushy hair and a big mustache. As the cameras flashed and city officials approached with hands outstretched to meet him, he thanked them politely. Then he asked to be excused for a minute. He walked through the crowd to the side of an elderly black woman struggling with two large suitcases. He picked them up, smiled, and escorted her to the bus, helped her get on, and wished her a safe journey. Then Albert Schweitzer turned to the crowd and apologized for keeping them waiting. It is reported that one member of the reception committee told a reporter, "That's the first time I ever saw a sermon walking."

We've been given a great task - to live in harmony, to weep with the mournful, to laugh with the joyful, to not be conceited. Especially, we are called to be righteous, but not self-righteous. We are to be humble. 
Roy T. Lloyd, Charades and Reality
Admired the Peacock, but Loved the Duck

Carlton Van Ornum tells this story. A large crowd of people gathered near an enclosure in the Franklin Park Zoo in Boston as a peacock slowly spread his great tail and displayed its stunning plumage. The great bird stood erect and noble and strutted regally. Just then an old, dun-colored duck waddled slowly from the pond and passed between the proud peacock and the admiring crowd. Enraged, the peacock drove the duck back to the water. In a moment, the beautiful bird had become ugly with fierce anger. The plain and awkward duck, having returned to its natural habitat, was no longer unbecoming. In the water it swam and dived gracefully, unaware that many eyes were watching. The people who had admired the peacock loved the duck. Each of us was reminded of the dangers of pride, and that happiness comes from just being ourselves.

Jerry L. Schmalenberger, When Christians Quarrel, CSS Publishing Company
Jesus' Criticisms
Here is a list of Jesus' criticisms about religious leadership in his day:
They did not practice what they taught (hypocrisy).
They put heavy burdens on others but not themselves (legalism).
They sought and loved public recognition (pride).
Status, respect and titles were important to them (arrogance).
They locked people out of the kingdom (judgmental).
They established laws to benefit themselves (greed).
They neglected to emphasize justice and mercy (bias).
They were accomplices to silencing the prophets (oppressive).
George Johnson, Critical Decisions in Following Jesus, CSS Publishing Company.
The Young Seminarian
A young seminary graduate came up to the lectern, very self-confident and immaculately dressed. He began to deliver his first sermon in his first church and the words simply would not come out. Finally he burst into tears and ended up leaving the platform obviously humbled.
There were two older ladies sitting in the front row and one remarked to the other, "If he'd come in like he went out, he would have gone out like he came in."
Jesus calls us to a real trust in God and to humble service in his church and world. The temptation is ever before us to exalt ourselves - to impress others, to make a name for ourselves. That was not how Jesus came, nor was it why he came.
Peter J. Blackburn, Humble Before God
All Perfume, No Flowers
The brilliant behavioral scientist Gordon Allport spoke at Appleton Chapel at Harvard University about how a code of ethics, however highly approved, can be a hollow thing without something to back it up. Following the RULES of faith-as if that was all that was required-was likened by Dr. Allport to living on the perfume of an empty vase. It's possible to live, perhaps for a long time, on the perfume of an empty vase, but sooner or later one is thrust into a situation where there had better be some real flowers, not just the aroma, or one is lost.

In our Gospel we see the tragedy of being religious without being the real deal, of placing primary emphasis on outer conduct rather than on inner character. Those to whom Jesus speaks did not recognize their need to be changed. These people may talk a good fight of faith, but when they are forced to fall back upon their inner resources of faith, they discover that the tank is empty. Jesus says, "Don't imitate them for they don't practice what they teach." All perfume, no flowers.

Roy T. Lloyd, Charades and Reality
Hospitality Outdoes Erudition
One pastor tells of his excitement of bringing into parish membership a university professor. The pastor endeavored to prepare and to deliver better sermons from the pulpit, as this prospective member continued to attend worship. Later, while reflecting with the professor after he joined the parish, the pastor found that the professor's joining had less to do with the sermons he heard and more to do with an elderly woman who consistently made him feel so welcomed and valued. That was what moved him into Christian community. Imagine that: the Christian spirit of hospitality outdid erudition. Servanthood over showmanship wins hearts in many, many places.
Joseph M. Freeman, Where Gratitude Abounds, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.
The danger of pride is that it feeds on goodness.
I Am the Path
The church in the world is a lot like the story that E. Stanley Jones tells of the missionary in the jungle. He got lost with nothing around him but bush and a few cleared places. He finally found a small village and asked one of the natives if he could lead him out of the jungle. The native said he could. "All right," the missionary said, "Show me the way." They walked for hours through dense brush hacking their way through unmarked jungle. The missionary began to worry and said, "Are you quite sure this is the way? Where is the path?" The native said. "Bwana, in this place there is no path. I am the path."
Our path out of the jungle of this world is God in Christ. We may have some Rabbis, Masters, Father's, Teachers, and Reverends, but we are all like the missionary. We rely not upon men but Christ who is our path.
Brett Blair,
Exaltation of the Humble - Service

During the dark days of World War II, England had a great deal of difficulty keeping men in the coal mines. It was a thankless kind of job, totally lacking in any glory. Most chose to join the various military services. They desired something that could give them more social acceptance and recognition. Something was needed to motivate these men in the work that they were doing so that they would remain in the mines.
With this in mind, Winston Churchill delivered a speech one day to thousands of coal miners, stressing to them the importance of their role in the war effort. He did this by painting for them a mental picture. He told them to picture the grand parade that would take place when VE Day came. First, he said, would come the sailors of the British Navy, the ones who had upheld the grand tradition of Trafalgar and the defeat of the Armada. Next in the parade, he said, would come the pilots of the Royal Air Force. They were the ones who, more than any other, had saved England from the dreaded German Lufwaffa. Next in the parade would come the Army, the ones that had stood tall at the crises of Dunkirk.
Last of all, he said, would come a long line of sweat-stained, soot-streaked men in minor's caps..