All Saints Revelation 7:2–4, 9–14; 1 John 3:1–3; Matthew 5:1–12
Dooley’s Beatitudes The Beatitudes extend not only to the poor but also to those who reach out to the poor. Dr. Tom Dooley excited the imagination of the world in the 1950s. He was a young navy doctor, fresh out of medical school.
One afternoon Tom’s ship picked up a thousand refugees adrift off the coast of Vietnam. Tom was the only doctor on board; so he plunged into the backbreaking job of helping these people. Soon an excitement grew inside him. He saw how a simple cast soothed a broken arm. He saw how a simple lancing relieved a swollen hand. He saw how the simplest medical treatment brought smiles to pain-filled faces. But Tom saw something else, too. He saw that helping these people made him happier than he had ever been in his whole life. When Tom’s hitch in the navy was over, he went back to Asia to work among the poor. Immediately, volunteers flocked to help him. One day Tom confided to a colleague that he had always loved the Sermon on the Mount, especially the Beatitudes. One reason why he loved the Beatitudes was because they promised happiness. “ ‘Blessed’ means ‘happy,’ ’’ Tom said, “and that’s what I want to be.’’ Dooley then shared his own personal vision of the Beatitudes. He used one of them to illustrate. Let me read his own words: “ ‘Blessed are they that mourn’ . . . means something special to me. . . . ‘Mourn,’ as used in the Bible, doesn’t mean to be unhappy. It simply means . . . to be more aware of the sorrow in the world than of the pleasure. . . . “If you’re extrasensitive to sorrow . . . and do something . . . to make it lighter— you can’t help but be happy. That’s just the way it is.’’ Guideposts Dooley’s vision of the Beatitudes is both different and refreshing. It’s different because we usually think of the Beatitudes as being addressed only to the sorrowing: the poor, the hungry, the homeless. Dooley sees them as also being addressed to those who help these people. And this is what makes his vision so different. Dooley’s vision of the Beatitudes is also refreshing. We don’t just read the Beatitudes and rejoice that God will someday make sorrowing people happy. On the contrary, we are motivated to want to do something to help these people, just as Dooley did. And there’s not one of us who can’t do that. There’s not one of us who is so poor that we can’t reach out to a needy brother or sister. An example will illustrate. During the Great Depression a government agency had the job of traveling the Tennessee mountain country to give small grants to poor farmers so that they could buy seed or make needed repairs on their homes. One day he came upon a woman living in a shack. It had no floor. Several windows were broken and covered with tar paper. The woman was barely scratching out a living on a tiny plot of land. The agent said to her, “If the government gave you $200, what would you do with it?’’ The woman thought a minute and said, “I reckon I’d give it to the poor.’’ That woman is a living example of the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount. It was of people like her that Jesus said, “Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor, the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!” It was of people like her that saints are made, the saints we honor today. It is people like her who inspire us to become better Christians. Let’s close with a prayer: Lord, help us not only read your word but also follow it. Help us not only admire your teachings but also obey them. Help us not only profess our faith in you but also practice it. Help us not only love your Gospel but also live it.
All Saints Revelation 7:2–4, 9–14; 1 John 3:1–3; Matthew 5:1–12 Dry Leaf and Mud Pie Without Jesus we can do nothing; with Jesus we can do all things. There’s an ancient Hindu parable about Mud Pie and Dry Leaf. They were very good friends. As they approached old age together, they decided to make a religious pilgrimage to Banaras, the Hindu holy city on the banks of the Ganges River. They believed that if they washed in that sacred river, all the sins of their lifetime would be erased. They were well aware of the distance and the danger of the trip. They knew that heavy rains and strong winds were the two greatest hazards they would face. So they decided on a clever strategy. When the heavy rains poured down, Dry Leaf would shield Mud Pie until the rainstorm was over. And when the heavy winds blew, Mud Pie would sit on Dry Leaf until the windstorm was over. And so one bright sunny morning, Dry Leaf and Mud Pie set out on the long, difficult pilgrimage to the holy city of Banaras. They had traveled just a short distance when the sky clouded over and the rain began to pour down. Dry Leaf shielded Mud Pie until the rain was over. Their strategy worked perfectly, and they were very happy. Then they set out again. This time they went a little farther before the sky clouded over and the wind began to blow violently. Mud Pie sat on Dry Leaf until the wind died down. Again their strategy worked perfectly, and they were very happy. Then the two friends set out again. This time they had gotten almost to the holy city before the sky clouded over. Then something terrible happened. The rain poured down and the wind blew at the same time. Although the two friends tried their best to help each other, it was of no use. Dry Leaf blew away and was never seen again. And Mud Pie was washed away and was never seen again. Ilike that parable because it illustrates a very important point. The point is this: There comes a time in life when no matter how much we are loved and helped by another, it is not enough. Even the love and the help of our best friend are of no avail. There comes a time in life when we need God’s help. There comes a time in life when God alone can provide us with the kind of help that we need. And that brings us back to the first beatitude of the Sermon on the Mount in today’s gospel reading: “Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!” To be “spiritually poor’’ means to realize the point that the Hindu parable makes in such a graphic way. It means to realize that without God in our lives, we are nothing. In other words, to be “spiritually poor’’ means to understand in a deeply personal way these memorable words of Jesus: “I am the vine, and you are the branches. . . . [Y]ou can do nothing without me. Those who do not remain in me are thrown out like a branch and dry up.” John 15:5–6 It was this great truth that the saints understood well. It was this great truth that was the secret of their holiness. They knew that without Jesus, they were spiritually poor. They were spiritually bankrupt. And so the saints made it the “number one’’ priority in their lives to stay united with Jesus. And they did this, especially, through the sacraments and prayer. For Jesus also said that those who remain united to him will bear much fruit— and at the end of this earthly life, they will enter into eternal life. This is the good news that is contained in the first beatitude of the Sermon on the Mount: “Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor.” This is the good news that we take to heart on today’s feast. This is the good news that we celebrate together in this liturgy on the feast of All Saints. This is the good news that Jesus wants us to carry forth into our world when we leave this church today.
All Saints Revelation 7:2–4, 9–14; 1 John 3:1–3; Matthew 5:1–12a Commitment Commitment is the courage and readiness to do what needs to be done. Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires.” Matthew 5:6 John Washington appeared to be just your ordinary teenager from Newark, New Jersey. Beneath the surface, however, he was not so ordinary. Even before he entered high school, he had pretty much made up his mind to become a priest. John was ordained at age 25. When World War II broke out eight years after his ordination, he volunteered as an army chaplain. Within months, he was boarding a freighter that had been quickly converted into a troop ship called the Dorchester. The crew’s destination was Greenland and then Europe. Boarding the ship with Washington was George Fox, a Methodist chaplain who had served as a teenager in World War I. After the war, he felt the call to ministry. When World War II broke out, he was quick to enlist again, this time as a chaplain. They were joined by Rabbi Alexander Goode from York, Pennsylvania. Rabbi Goode was convinced that it would be the United States who would have to stop the Nazis from conquering all of Europe. And he wanted to do his part. His working relations with Christian priests and ministers was well known. So Washington and Fox looked forward to serving with him. The final chaplain to round out the chaplaincy staff was Clark Poling, a Dutch Reform minister. His father had been a chaplain during World War I and was now a nationally known preacher and pastor in New York City. Poling arrived from Mississippi to sail as the final member of the chaplaincy staff of the Dorchester. In the early morning hours of February 3, 1943, the Dorchester was plodding cautiously through the dark, ice-cold waters of the North Atlantic. Suddenly a German submarine picked it up and locked on to it with the crosshairs of its periscope. Seconds later, a torpedo went speeding toward the thin belly of the Dorchester. It scored a direct hit, exploding in the engine room. Twenty-seven minutes later, the Dorchester was sinking. Chaos was everywhere. Newly trained, inexperienced troops had to hurry to the ship’s deck in their life jackets and essential gear. According to reports by survivors, one of the few scenes of order was that of the four chaplains, working together as a team, doing their best to calm the frightened young troops and get control of the situation. In the process they stripped off their own life jackets and gave them to panic-strickened troops who could not return to get their own and who could not swim. Only 230 troops survived the Dorchester disaster, making it the third largest loss of life at sea in World War II. From these survivors was pieced together the story of the heroism of the four chaplains ministering to the wounded and frightened during the final minutes as the Dorchester was rapidly sinking beneath the waters of the North Atlantic. The four chaplains were posthumously awarded special Medals of Heroism by the United States Congress. A stamp was issued in their honor, and the Chapel of the Four Chaplains was dedicated by President Truman at Temple University. Among other things, the chapel had a revolving altar so that services could be conducted from it in all three faiths. The Chapel of the Four Chaplains is now located at Valley Forge. The story of the four chaplains helps us focus on the inner meaning of the feast we celebrate today. It teaches us that, in many ways, a saint is an ordinary person who gave extraordinary witness to their faith— and heroic service to others. Indeed, on that cold, dark morning, the four chaplains were a light shining in the darkness, and the darkness has never been put out. In the words of Bishop Brooke Westcott: Great occasions do not make heroes or cowards; they simply unveil them to the eyes. Silently and imperceptively, as we wake or sleep, we grow strong or we grow weak, and at last some crisis shows us what we have become.