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Patient, Brave & True

Luke 6:20-26

The Rev. Jon Roberts

1 November

2009

Good Shepherd Episcopal Church

Venice, FL

20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 “Blessed are you that hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. “Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh. 22 “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. 24 “But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation. 25 “Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger.
“Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26 “Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

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The Rt. Rev. John Henry Hopkins of Vermont, photograph, 1832

Today is the day when, "We sing a song of the saints of God; Patient and brave and true. Who lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew."[1]

In many Episcopal churches today this song will be sung. Its tune name is called the Grand Isle, named by priest and hymn writer, John Henry Hopkins, for the love of his heritage; his home away from home, in Ireland. It would be through his life’s journey, taking him from Dublin to Boston and from Boston to Vermont that shaped his relationship with God and with man. He was never listed as a saint in The Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts, but his devotion to God was patient, brave and true, nonetheless. He and his wife Melusina, raised thirteen children. All of which grew up and continued the proud legacy of academia and creativity. They went on to become teachers, pioneers, scientists, medical doctors, artists, musicians, men and women of holy orders. They watched their father, teach, preach and shepherd. They watched him become the first bishop of Vermont, the eighth presiding bishop, of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States.

They heard him deliver the eulogy for Ulysses S. Grant but this is not what we remember most about him today. It is his music that resonates within us. “I sing a song of the saints of God, patient and brave and true, who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew.” A saint toils and fights. They live and die for Jesus Christ. There is something beyond the life of a Christian that makes him or her be known in a saintly way. There is something within them that makes them patient, brave and true. The added ingredient is a blessed ingredient. It is Christ. The saint is the dessert whose richness comes from God’s sweet and blessed Son. Their life is mixed and blended in such ways that when combined with the life of Christ, they are given full flavor.

The Gospel of Luke this morning speaks of how the batter is combined.[2] Poor is mixed with richness. Hunger is mixed with fullness. Weeping is mixed with laughing. Hate is mixed with affection. Woe is mixed with blessing. Jesus speaks directly to us, just as he did with the disciples. It was not a sermon on the mount according to Luke, but rather a sermon on the plain. Jesus looks across the wide open expanse of our life. He takes it all in, and he tells us plainly what to expect. On this plain, where thought and emotion are combined, he tells us we will run free and we trip and fall. Do you think the life of the saint is no different? For they were poor in spirit too. They were hungry for righteousness also. That is precisely the approach that God wishes us to take before making our ascent to the altar. Our woe comes when we put our trust in those things that keep us away from his loving kindness. If we are rich in materials do, we no longer need God? If we are full after a big feast do, we no longer need God? If we bear nothing but good news and laughter do, we no longer need God? If we are accepted and loved by all those around us do, we no longer need God?

Without God, without His Incarnate Son in the mix of our life, we will fall flat every time. We will miss the meaning of our song. “One was a doctor, one was a queen, one was a shepherdess on the green. Let the song of Jesus resonate in your legacy. Be patient. Be brave. Be true. No matter where you are in life, always put your trust in God. Always lift up your eyes to Jesus. Be like those blessed saints, who lived and died. They were all of them saints of God, and I mean, God helping, for you to be one too.”

[1] John Henry Hopkins, “I Sing a song of the saints of God,” 1982 Hymnal #293.
[2] Luke 6:20-26

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