top of page
St. Matthew.jpg

Dear God

Matthew 5:1-12

The Rev. Jon Roberts

5 November


Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them. He said:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Dear God

All Saints Day, Johann Koenig 1599

Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.{1]

Pauline Phillips the “pioneer of giving salty advice,” would give wise one-liners to anyone who sent a question to her newspaper column, “Dear Abby.” She always judged problems with common sense without judging her readers too harshly. It all began one day when she barged into the San Francisco Chronicle with this big idea about being an opinion advice editor. That was 1956. Her twin sister, Ann Landers, did the same thing at the Chicago Tribune and they both became syndicated. They were the Friedman sisters from Sioux City, Iowa and for the rest of their careers they would become rivals, on a national scale.
Her column always began with the salutation, “Dear Abby”, and then would proceed to a question. One person asked, “Dear Abby, can you get pregnant under water?” She responded, “Not without a man.” Another, “Dear Abby, I would like to find a man with no bad habits.” Her response, “So, would I.” There were also religious questions asked, stemming from those who struggled with sin and following the beatitudes heard in today’s Gospel would be handy. As a Jewish woman, she admired the insights and teachings of the Catholic bishop Fulton Sheen, from Peoria, Illinois who often quoted from the earlier church fathers. On a few occasions, noticing the sincerity and feeling of judgment in the person asking tough questions, feeling they could never measure up, she would quote the Christian, St. Augustine as well, by saying, “Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints.”

Have you ever wondered that yourself? If you visit a museum, like the Uffizi in Florence, the Vatican in Rome, with countless rooms covered with religious art of kings, martyrs, and theologians, have you wondered why these people were so revered? When exiting, take a turn up the street, go to any of the nearby basilicas and churches, where a similar collection can be found above numerous altars, along the hallways, and inner rooms, where you may wonder the same. Are these places hospitals for sinners, or museums for saints?

If we could turn, “Dear Abby” into, “Dear God”, what question would we ask? “Dear God, where are you today in this world that seems to be torn apart?” “Dear God, who will speak out of your truth and have wisdom to lead?” “Dear God, who is a saint and what makes them a saint?” What do you think He would write back? Maybe something practical like this.

“Saints do not treat people based on social status, so when you see a person, don’t judge a book by its cover.”

“Saints do not judge harshly and gossip about someone’s sins. Be careful, what goes around, comes around.”

“Saints are not hypocrites, so don’t be like, ‘Do as I say but not as I do.’”

“Saints are generous with their giving but avoid making it public or of personal benefit. Relax, God has great accountants in heaven.”

When we sing that song, “For All the Saints”, remember they were those “who from their labors rest, who thee by faith before the world confessed, thy name Jesus, be forever blessed.” The sinner draws near to self. The saint draws near to God. There is no such song in our hymnal titled, “For all the Sinners.” For the saint, he, or she, should have lots of questions for God. God, in turn, gives them good advice all the time. God wants you to move through the hospital, receiving care and giving care. It is a place where sinfulness turns to righteousness, and righteousness turns to holiness. It is a journey from being justified to being sanctified and it takes a lifetime to practice being a saint.

“Dear God, how can I, a sinner, be your saint? The answer He gives is from another hymn, that goes, you are to be, “patient, brave and true”. The church is a hospital to help you be patient, brave and true. It is a place to help you put your sin in the past, even perhaps, in a museum. Become that living memorial, another page in human history where others will be reminded to ask God for help and take His Son, Jesus into their hearts. The saints of today are certainly not the first and they will not be the last ones to call upon His name. You are His church, his place of holy tabernacle, much like what we have seen in others, like the one who was a doctor, and one was a queen, and one who was a shepherdess on the green. They were all saints because they knew the importance of asking God questions, all the time, and they were “Blessed.”
When you see and hear about those saints of old, wondering where your place in life is, start as they did with, “Dear God.” His response is not salty. His answer is not judgmental. The secret of becoming a saint can be found in the advice He gives today and taken all together give new meaning and wisdom.

This is his advice column today:
Dear Blessed, if you are poor in spirit, yours is the kingdom of heaven.
Dear Blessed, if you mourn, you will be comforted.
Dear Blessed, if you are meek, you will inherit the earth.
Dear Blessed, if you thirst for righteousness, you will be filled.
Dear Blessed, if you are merciful, you will receive mercy.
Dear Blessed, if you are pure in heart, you will see me.
Dear Blessed, if you are a peacemaker, you are my child.
Dear Blessed, if you are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, yours is the kingdom of heaven.
Dear Blessed, when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account, rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.

The life of a saint, as you can see is hard and Jesus knows, because Jesus lived it himself. When we follow Him, it is truly our one way to God. There is no alias or anonymous pen name. All truth is from Him, and He tells us we will be made righteous by Him. All wisdom is from Him, and He tells us we will be made holy through Him. This morning, when you call out to Jesus, you are calling out to the Father and to the Holy Spirit, at the same time. Let him hear your question.
Dear God, will you please help me to be like all the saints? Will you help me to be one too?

[1] St. Augustine of Hippo
[2] ABC News,
[3] Matthew 5:1-12
[4] Chad Hensley, Seeing God for who He really is; online blog
[5] William Wahsham How, “For all the saints”, 1982 Hymnal #287
[6] Lesbia Scott, “I sing a song of the saints of God”, 1982 Hymnal #293

Join the Discussion
The category is members only, sign up to join in
bottom of page