Sermon for All Saints’ Sunday: “Jerk Kings & Accidental Saints”

Text: 1 Kings 12:1-19; 25-29

I hate today’s text.

It doesn’t fit for what’s going on today.  Today is All Saints’ Day, and we celebrate this long and beautiful tradition of the church, honoring and remembering those saints who have departed from this world and our lives and all they meant to us and to so many.  It is a day to celebrate their memory. It is a day to celebrate their faithfulness to God.

Instead, we get this story about two kings who just plain suck.  Rehoboam and Jeroboam are kings, rulers self-absorbed with their power and their status.  Two kings, one who ignores wise counsel and decides to treat those he rules like crap, and another who might seem a little better, but builds idols for people to worship.  We get this story of two kings who seem completely out of touch with the people and the worlds they rule over, and later on it produces disastrous results.  And what stinks even more is that the writers of the Bible decided to canonize these two.  It’s the names of Rehoboam and Jeroboam that will echo throughout all of eternity…..not all the good people who probably existed during that time.  It is these two jerks who were given the title of sainthood.  And I hate that.  I wonder if maybe God made a mistake making these two kings saints. But then I think of all the other characters in the Bible we’ve talked about so far this year – Adam & Eve; Abraham (a coward); Jacob (a cheater and swindler); Ruth (who uses Boaz’s drunkenness to her advantage); and David (adulterer, murderer, and liar) – and maybe it isn’t a mistake.  And we’ve just scratched the surface – we’re only about halfway through the Old Testament and we’ve got the whole New Testament to go though. It’s almost like God made these people saints by accident. And I hate that because what does it say about all of our loved ones we remember this morning, and what does that say about us?  

Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran Pastor in Denver, CO and author, just recently published a new book titled, “Accidental Saints.”  In her book she writes about all the saints she’s encountered in her life – drunks, drug addicts, drag queens; the stubborn, lazy, and prideful.  She talks about people who for the most part are jerks and screwups.  And she writes, “I have come to realize that all the saints I’ve known have been accidental ones — people who inadvertently stumbled into redemption like they were looking for something else at the time, people who have just a wee bit of a drinking problem and manage to get sober and help others to do the same, people who are as kind as they are hostile.” 

Our celebration of All Saints’ Day – our celebration of our loved ones – isn’t so much a day to celebrate their goodness, or even to honor their memory. What we celebrate is that despite the fact that while we and our loved ones were still sinners, Christ died for us and in God’s infinite love and grace we are made saints.  Nadia Bolz-Weber writes, “Never once did Jesus scan the room for the best example of  holy living and send that person out to tell others about him. He always sent stumblers and sinners. I find that comforting.” 

On this All Saints’ Day, this story makes a little more sense.  This day is about accidental saints – jerk kings and sinners like you and me who by no accident were made saints of God in Jesus Christ.  And just like Nadia….I find that comforting……and on this holy day in the life of the Church, it certainly is cause to light a candle, ring a bell, remember our loved ones, and even baptize babies. It’s a cause to celebrate.  Amen.
FYI, we did a baptism at one of the services today. Made it a pretty awesome day! 


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