November 5, 2006

21st Sunday after Pentecost

"Being A View Master"

(Romans 2:9-21)

Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn


There's an old Peanuts comic, Charlie Brown is busy with a woodworking project one day when Lucy comes by and asks: "How's the birdhouse coming along, Charlie Brown?" He replies, "Well, I'm a lousy carpenter. I can't nail straight. I can't saw straight and I always split the wood. I'm nervous, I lack confidence, I'm stupid, I have poor taste and absolutely no sense of design."

And then in the last frame he concludes, "So, all things considered, it's coming along OKAY!" (1)

Nobody would ever claim that Charlie Brown was perfect. But the one thing we notice about Charlie Brown, besides the room for improvement, is that he never gives up. He always tries his best.

Today is All Saints Sunday in the life of many churches. A day to celebrate those people whose life and faith have touched us. These role models have been an inspiration for our lives. That inspiration has helped us on our own faith journeys. These are the folks who like Charlie Brown, have never given up and always tried their best. These are the saints we celebrate today.

When we think of Saints, we usually think of people like Mary Poppins, people who are "practically perfect in every way" like Mother Teresa, Francis of Assisi, one of the disciples. We think Saints are perfect. And when they died they may very have been perfect. But they sure didn't start that way.

So what is a Saint? Who is a Saint? The best definition I've ever heard came from a little boy who attended a church that had beautiful stained glass windows all around it. These windows depicted all the Gospel writers, the Disciples and Paul. The boy was told that the windows contained pictures of Saint Matthew, Saint Mark, Saint Luke, Saint John, Saint Paul, and other saints.

One day in Sunday School he was asked, "What's a saint?" He thought about it a minute and the he remembered all the stained glass and replied, "A saint is a person who the light shines through."

Believe it or not, that's what made me think of the View Master. You see, you have to hold it up to the light in order to see the marvels of the pictures inside. Unless you had one of the expensive ones with it's own light source, you couldn't use it in the dark. You had to hold it up to the light.

So, what does that have to do with being a saint? Jesus said He was the Light of the world. You and I are called to let others View the Master, the Son of God, through how we live our lives of faith. In other words, we're called to let the Light of Christ shine through us. And when we do that, we become the saints of God the New Testament talks about.

So how do we get there? How do we live a life that lets the Light of Christ shine through?

In the passage from Romans this morning, Paul describes some of what that life is like. Let's look at the passage and see what Paul has to say. Romans 12:9-21 (NRSV)

[9] Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good;

[10] love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.

[11] Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.

[12] Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.

[13] Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

[14] Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.

[15] Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

[16] Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.

[17] Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.

[18] If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

[19] Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."

[20] No, "if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads."

[21] Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

That sounds like a pretty tall order doesn't it. If we were using Starbuck's language, this would be the Venti size list of what it means to live like Christ. Some people might read this passage and act like the man who walked into a bookstore to return a purchase. "It's a Bible," he said as he handed it back to the cashier.

The cashier asked, "Was it a gift?"

The man said, "No, I bought it for myself and I made a mistake."

"Didn't you like the translation? Or the format?"

"Oh no," the man said, "the format was clear and the translation was fine. I made a mistake."

The clerk said, "Well, I need to write down a reason for the return."

"In that case," said the man, "write down that there's a lot in that book which is too tough to handle."

There are some passages in the Bible that do seem too tough to handle. This is one of them. But the Good News for those of us who accept Christ is that we don't have to do it on our own. We have the help of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit helps us live the life Christ has called us to live.


A. A lot of people have a false impression about Christians. Even Christians themselves. A lot of people think you have to be perfect to be a Christian. Well, if that were the case I sure wouldn't be standing here today. I'm about the farthest thing from being perfect that there is.

So, who qualifies? On our own merit, no one. On what Jesus did for us, everyone. The Biblical witness is that none of us are qualified for perfection. At some point in our lives, even though we may not be aware of it, we've said "No" to God and chosen to live for ourselves. Just like in the story of Adam and Eve in the garden. They chose to bite the apple, so to speak, and disobey God. We've all done that. We've all become what the Bible calls sinners.

But that didn't stop God from loving us. When our kids misbehave, when their brains descend to their backside, we don't give up on them or quit loving them. Sure it disappoints us and hurts us and maybe even alienates us. But we don't quit loving them. They're our kids. And there's more than a bond of flesh and blood. It's a bond of love and spirit.

It's the same with God. We are the children of God. God loves us. The Son of God came to prove that love. In his first letter, John reminds us, "We love because God first loved us." (1 John 4:19)

God's love enables us to love because we found out just how much God loves us. God loves us so much that God sent Jesus, His only Son to die on the cross so we could experience forgiveness and receive life eternal. So you see, it's not what we have done but what has been done for us.

B. So, saints are really just sinners whose lives have been slowly transformed by the presence of God and the work of the Holy Spirit as they try to live and become more like Christ. A true Saint would never claim perfection. You see, if you're already perfect, God can't do anything with you.

We know folks who think they're perfect. They may be Saints in their own minds but everyone around them knows that they were canonized by the Wringling Brothers Barnam and Bailey Circus.

Saints have discovered that God doesn't want perfect Christians. God wants Christians who can be perfected.

A customs officer at the U.S. Canada border tells about a man who came through the border crossing one day with his four or five-year-old son. The customs officer asked the man if he had anything to declare. The man said no, but he looked suspicious, so the officer pressed on. "Are you carrying cigarettes?" The man answered no. "Are you carrying any kind of booze?" Again, the man answered no. "Do you have any type of cameras, or film?" The man answered no. At that point, the little boy looked up at his father and said, "But he's getting warmer, isn't he, Daddy?" (2)

Being a Saint isn't about doing miracles, being a saint is about a life that keeps getting warmer and warmer as it becomes more and more like Christ.

That's what Paul understood when he wrote this portion of the letter to the church in Rome. That's what this passage is all about, those actions and attitudes which let the Light of Christ shine through our lives. Those actions and attitudes which help us become more Christ like. Those actions and attitudes which perfect us.

Becoming a Saint is simply allowing yourself to be perfected by God, through the work of the Holy Spirit, so the Light of Christ will shine through you more fully.

Preacher, teacher and theologian William Barclay said: "A saint is someone whose life makes it easier to believe in God." (3) In other words, Saints are people who are "Being A View Master."


A. A few weeks ago I talked about Mr. Dick, that's what everybody called him. He was a member of my church and owned the local Exxon station. His was one of the biggest funerals I've ever done. Mr. Dick was more than just a Christian. Mr. Dick was a follower of Jesus. His faith and discipleship flavored everything he did. It was probably most evident in his work.

At his funeral service, person after person stood and attested to the lifestyle and faith of this man. Many of them talked about how his faith had affected the quality of his daily work. If customers wanted quick and cheap work, Mr. Dick took his time to do the job well and asked for a fair wage. He always refused to take shortcuts in doing what was right. He never made a lot of money or became famous. He didn't own a whole string of Gas Stations, just the one. But his life touched thousands of people.

His truly was "Being A View Master" and letting the Light of Christ shine through all he did.

Mr. Dick taught me that we need saints in the world today. Saints whose very lives reflect and live the Good News of Jesus Christ. We need saints because their lives and their presence assure us of how active and alive God is among us.

Saints inspire us to a closer walk with God. They remind us that as we believe, so should we live, as ministers of God's love to all.

And they remind us that we can all be saints by "Being A View Master" and letting the Light of Christ shine through all we do.


In the movie Pleasantville, David doesn't fit in at his high school. He is thought of as a "geek," and he is obsessed with a 1950s era television show called Pleasantville. After a surprise visit from a supernatural TV repairman, David and his popular sister, Jennifer, find themselves physically transported into the television town of Pleasantville, where their modern attitudes threaten the stability of this black and white sitcom world.

At Pleasantville High School, David who has assumed the character Bud, is on the basketball team. As the team practices, Bud notices that every player makes a perfect shot every time. Bud tries several crazy shots, even kicking the ball off the ceiling and sinks every one of the shots.

A popular myth about the Church is that accepting Christ makes you and your life perfect. But that's just not true. If it is, some of us have gotten a raw deal. Because in my experience, bad things still happen to people, whether they are good or bad or indifferent.

Faith in Christ Jesus brings meaning, purpose, joy, hope and forgiveness, just to mention a few. And maybe most important of all, Faith in Christ or accepting Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives, opens us to the perfecting power of God's Holy Spirit so we can go about "Being A View Master" and letting the Light of Christ shine through us for the world to see.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.



1. Parables, Etc. (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), July 1986

2. Successful Meetings, April 2004. Cited in PreachingNow, Vol. 3, No. 16.

3. William Barclay. Leadership-Vol. 8, #2


Other References Consulted

Barclay, William: Daily Study Bible of the New Testament (WordSearch Bible Software Version)

Homiletics, (Communications Resources, Inc., Canton, OH)

Lectionary Homiletics, (Lectionary Homiletics, Inc. Midlothian, VA)

Dynamic Preaching, (Seven Worlds Publishing, Knoxville, TN)

The Clergy Journal, (Logos Productions, Inc., Inver Grove Heights, MN)

Preaching Magazine (Preaching Resources, Jackson, TN)

Circuit Rider, (The United Methodist Publishing House, Nashville, TN)

The Interpreter's Bible, (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1953)

The New Interpreter's Bible, (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1995)

Lights, Camera...Faith by Peter Malone with Rose Pacatte (Daughters of St. Paul, 2002)

Praying the Movies by Edward McNulty, (Geneva Press, Lousville, KY, 2001)

Movie Clips for Kids (Group Publishing, Inc., Loveland, CO, 2002)

Bore No More, Vols 1 & 2 (Group Publishing, Inc., Loveland, CO, 1995 & 1999)

Group's Blockbuster Movie Illustrations, Vols 1 & 2 (Group Publishing, Inc., Loveland, CO, 2001 & 2003)

Movie Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, by Craig Brain Larson and Andrew Zahn(Zondervan Publishing, Inc., Grand Rapids, MI, 2003)

Videos That Teach: Vols 1-3 by Doug Fields & Eddie James (Zondervan Publishing, Inc., Grand Rapids, MI, 1999, 2002, 2004)

SermonWriter by Dick Donovan (Copyright, Richard Niell Donovan, 2000

The Sermon Mall

Deacon Sil's Homiletic Resources

Richard Fairchild Lectionary Resources

Ministry and Media

Internet Movie Database's Movie Ministry

The Text This Week Movie Theme Index

The Source For Youth Ministry Movie Clips