Stranger Things—sermon for 5 November 2017, Feast of All Saints
Draft text of the homily, it may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please pardon any typos, and do not cite without permission.
I’m going to tell you a secret.
“We are God’s children now.”
Let that really sink in.
We are God’s children.
Right here. Right now. Without having to do anything. Without having to prove anything. Without having to accomplish anything or even understand anything. We are God’s children.
And yet—that mystic seer, John, goes on—and yet, what we will be has not yet been revealed.
We are God’s children, and there is something more, something hidden within us, waiting to be revealed.
Waiting to be uncovered…waiting to be brought into life and light.
We live in a time when a lot of things are being uncovered. Everyday there are new revelations…new scientific discoveries…new technologies…new scandals…and new horrors…a lot of things being uncovered.
A few months ago, I quoted author and activist Adrienne Marie Brown who reminded us that, ““Things are not getting worse, things are getting uncovered”—especially systemic forms of oppression like racism and sexism. And what we must do, in times like this she says, is, “hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil.”
Continue uncovering…continue revealing all of the stuff that lies underneath…
We are living in a time of revelation.
And another word for that is apocalypse. Now the way we use that word, it means an earth-ending cataclysmic event, but the original meaning of apocalypse, simply means “revelation.” To reveal or uncover what has been secret or hidden up to now. We are living in apocalyptic times.
We heard a reading from the Book of Revelation this morning , it’s also known as the Apocalypse of John. And called that not specifically because it describes the final culmination of all things, but because it reveals the secret, divine reality that exists underneath and alongside of our darker reality—it reveals that hidden, Godly realm that is always just about to break through…and sometimes we can glimpse it.
Here’s another revelation. This really shouldn’t be much of a surprise to many of you—I’m a big fan of the Netflix show Stranger Things.
For those who don’t know this show (I promise to do this with as few spoilers as possible)…Stranger Things is set in the town of Hawkins, Indiana in 1983 and 84. And it primarily centers around a group of teenagers and their discovery of (among other things) a sort of parallel universe/alternate dimension that they call “the upside down.” The “upside down” is a world exactly like ours except it is always dark, filled with menacing, creepy things, and always seems to be pulsating with ominous droning 80s electronic music.
The upside down is actually a really helpful way of thinking about the reign of God and this idea of apocalypse as revelation. Like the “upside down” God’s realm exists parallel with our world but just beyond our comprehension. It looks just like our world, except instead of darkness and menace and danger, God’s realm is filled with light and life and health. Maybe we could call it “the right side up.”
And just like the “upside down,” in Stranger Things, God’s “right-side-up” realm is always trying to find a way into our world. Always trying to break through…and establish a foot-hold here.
A few characters in the show are able to see and hear and feel and even cross over to and move around in the “upside down.” There are people in our world who can see and hear and cross over and move around in the realm of God—those are people we would call saints.
These are people—no different from you and me really—except that they have had some life-changing, transformative experiences that make it possible for them to see and know the reality of the realm of God here, in this world.
These are people who are able to see and hear and know that what Jesus says today in this well-known opening to the sermon on the mount is not wishful thinking—these are people who hear the Beatitudes but don’t hear them as aspirational or only in the future. These are people who hear the Beatitudes and know that what they are describing is the deep and very present reality of God’s realm operating here and now. Maybe there are some among us today who hear the Beatitudes in this way. Not as a promise of the future, but as a description of reality.
In God’s realm—“the right side up” those who mourn are comforted. Those who hunger and thirst are filled. Those who are merciful receive mercy. The pure in heart see God. And the peacemakers are called children of God.
And guess what?…that’s what we are…remember? We are God’s children now.
Saints are those who are able to see and know…who are able to live their lives every day as if they already lived in the “right side up”…as if the reign of God was already fully and completely realized in our upside down world.
But you don’t have to be a saint in order to see that or live that way. Baptism is one of those experiences that opens us up to being able to see the world this way…to experience the “right side up.” And holding onto and really trying to live up to and into the promises that we’ll all make (again) in just a few moments—our Baptismal Covenant—those are ways that we help one another gain the ability to see and know and live that “right-side-up” reality in this world. Those are ways we spread the reality of God’s light into the darkness of our world.
And that’s the secret. You don’t have to be a saint in order to do this. You’re already children of God, and you have the ability to see, and hear, and taste, and feel, and know…the reality of God’s love…you have the capacity to share that goodness and love with others…and as you do that…you will be changed, and what you are to become will be revealed. “What we will be has not yet been revealed,” says John, but “What we do know is this, when he is revealed”—when Christ is revealed—, “we will be like him.”
So again…really let that sink in…we are children of God…right here, right now…without doing anything…and yet…there is more—much more—to be revealed in this world and to be revealed in you. God’s realm is here, now, ready to be shared…can you see it?