1. Back in high school I am sure most of us had to read novels.
2. I always looked for the short books,
a. when I stumbled upon one by George Orwell.
3. I had already read his better-known work, 1984.
a. Great book, but what a downer!
4. So, I was inclined to avoid his books, but the title caught me: Animal Farm.
5. ‘A book about animals,’ I thought; ‘What could be so bad about that?’
6. And so I was introduced to the famous story of Snowflake the pig,
a. who along with a pig named Napoleon,
b. lead a revolt against farmer Jones
c. and set up their own farm government,
d. dedicated to the principles of animalism.
7. At first all is well, as Animalism’s basic principle was that “All Animals are Equal”.
8. But over time, the animal leadership begins to claim privileges for themselves,
a. because, while “all animals are equal, some animals are more equal than others.”
9. Animal Farm was one of those watershed books for me.
a. Intended by Orwell as a criticism of Soviet-style socialism,
b. it is really a criticism of far more.
10. It is a criticism of monarchy,
a. which views people as being better
b. because of their breeding and family connections.
11. It is a criticism of all forms of ideologies and pseudo-sciences
a. which divide our world into “pure bloods” and “half-breeds”,
i. seeing in the color of our skin or hair,
ii. of our gender or culture
1. an indication of who is superior
2. and far more ominously, who is inferior.
12. It is a criticism of any system which makes people more equal than others
a. because of who they are,
b. the power they wield,
c. the money they have.
13. And I saw even as a teenager
a. that those systems did not just exist on the pages of a novel
b. or behind the Iron Curtain
c. but everywhere.
14. Because while there have always been winners and losers.
15. It is our tendency
a. to exalt the winners and make them our leaders,
b. and ignore the losers and make them the scapegoats,
i. that makes sure that some people remain more equal than others.
16. This happens today; and it happened in Jesus’ day.
17. In Jesus’ day there was not even the pretension that all people were equal.
a. You could see this
b. in the economy with its Roman landowners and its dispossessed Jewish farmers and day laborers.
c. In politics with its powerful Romans occupiers and powerless Jewish subjects.
d. And in religion,
i. because whatever official doctrine might have taught about all people being children of God,
ii. people came to see the rich and powerful
1. as in some way being favored by God;
2. as more equal than others,
3. or as they might have said, blessed.
18. And in this, we see WHY they saw the world in this way;
19. For in a world where most people had to struggle just to find enough food to live,
a. Who wouldn’t want the wealth to afford whatever we want to eat?
20. In a world riven by violence and war
a. Who would not want the power to protect ourselves?
21. In a world where so many seemed cursed to live lives of suffering;
a. Who would not want to be blessed?
22. This desire was why many followed Jesus. For let’s face it Jesus was different;
a. In a world where people were hungry, he was able to feed them
b. In a world where people suffered, he was able to heal them
c. In a world where chaos and danger ruled, he was strong;
i. I mean even the wind and the seas obeyed him!
23. The crowds which grew around Jesus may not have known exactly who Jesus was;
a. but who cared? they knew what he was; he was blessed.
i. And they wanted to be blessed too.
24. It must have been electrifying that day Jesus gathered his followers around him on the Mount to deliver his most famous sermon.
25. Like a new Moses summoning a new people of God,
a. he was going to reveal the source of his blessedness
i. not only what it meant for him;
ii. but how we could be blessed too.
26. But if they thought he was going to reveal how,
a. of all the children of God
b. they could be the ones “more equal than the others”
c. they were in for a surprise.
27. How do we become blessed?
a. Be poor rather than rich
b. mourn your losses rather than ignore them
c. be meek rather than arrogant
d. Hunger and thirst for righteousness rather than self-righteousness
e. Show mercy rather than wreak revenge
f. Be clean of heart rather than have lives full of dirty laundry
g. Work for peace rather than vote for war
h. Suffer some persecution yourselves rather than persecute others
i. Be willing to die to self in order to live for others and for God.
28. Do THESE things Jesus says, and the kingdom of heaven will be yours;
29. you will be blessed.
30. When Jesus was done you could probably have heard crickets.
a. For everyone knew blessedness was about riches and wealth
b. It was about power and control
c. But Jesus was advocating exactly the opposite!
31. Exactly. Because Jesus knew
a. what we in our fascination with power and wealth
b. are blind to
32. and that is that
a. One day all those riches
i. will have to be spent
b. And all those beautiful things we buy, collect and even hoard
i. will have to be sold
1. Or they are worthless.
c. One day all the influence we exercise in our careers,
i. the control we have over our own bodies,
ii. the power we wield over people,
1. Will be taken from us, by retirement,
2. By illness and age
3. By revolution and war or by that great sign of a functioning democracy, the ballot box.
33. Jesus knew that these things we see as blessings
a. are precisely the things that fail.
34. And thus, Jesus knew that it was only when they are taken from us,
a. or we let go of them willingly, as he did, when he hung on the cross
35. that there is finally room in our lives for things like humility, forgiveness, peacemaking and a concern for justice.
a. All these things force us to look at others, rather than just at ourselves;
b. they create relationships of respect rather than of power;
36. They might not make us more equal that others,
a. but they cause us to treat all people equally;
b. to love our neighbor as we love ourselves;
37. and in that, according to Jesus we glimpse HIS kingdom;
a. where all truly are children of God, and in that ALL are blessed.
38. Those of us who have read Animal Farm, know how it ends;
a. The animal leadership begins to walk on two feet and wear human clothes.
i. In short, they become what they originally fought against.
39. But then we are not surprised.
40. Because we all know that we become the things we value.
41. If we value power, if we value control, if we value wealth above anything
42. Then we will do anything to be rich, powerful, controlling people;
43. That is true for us as individuals, and as a nation.
44. That is a kingdom of sorts; one that many of us wish to live in,
45. One that many of us will vote to live in,
46. especially if in that kingdom we think we can be more equal than others.
47. But it bears little resemblance to the kingdom Jesus came to bring.
48. Which is why this day our Church holds up for us
a. the example of countless women and men
i. who did NOT live by the values of power, control and wealth;
ii. And even if they enjoyed the use of these things
iii. did not use them for their own good but for others
b. People like St. Elizabeth,
i. who used her husband’s wealth
ii. to feed the poor and heal the sick.
1. Just like Jesus did.
c. People like St. Stephen of Hungary,
i. who used his power as king
ii. not to benefit himself but to protect and shepherd his people.
1. Just like Jesus did
d. People like St. Monica,
i. who gave up control over her son,
ii. and instead used patience, support and love to encourage him to change his life.
iii. Just like Jesus still does for us all.
49. ON this feast of all saints we remember and honor these blessed men and women not because they are better, holier, or more equal than us in the eyes of God
50. But because they offer us a glimpse of the way God sees us ALL.
51. And an example of how we can become the people God knows us all to be.
52. IN a time where so many people choose to live in that other kingdom
53. We can still choose to LIVE Jesus’ kingdom.
54. For make no mistake about it; every choice we make, including the choice we make this Tuesday is a choice for or against the kingdom Jesus spoke of that day in the Sermon on the Mount,
55. in which he revealed who the blessed were, and how we could be too.
a. As individuals, as families, as a Church and as a nation.