Worship Service, November 1, 2020 “Blessings and Halos”

Worship Service, November 1, 2020 "Blessings and Halos"

Join Holy Trinity church members and Pastor Erik

Sunday morning via YouTube


The message for November 1, 2020 by Pastor Erik,

“Blessings and Halos” 

can be heard during HTLC Virtual Worship Service on Sunday.



All Saints Day Sermon Matthew 5:1-12 Beatitudes

What is a saint? Some religious traditions distinguish between saints, who obey God’s will, and sinners, who disobey. Others set apart saints as super-holy people. Regular Christians like you and me aren’t particularly bad, they would say, but we haven’t done anything extraordinary enough to be called saints either.

For Lutherans, however, being a saint isn’t about what we do or don’t do but about who we are in relationship with God. Martin Luther described Christians as “simultaneously saint and sinner.” This both/and approach is a distinctly Lutheran understanding of who we are in God’s eyes.

Luther calls Christians “simultaneously saint and sinner” because he redefines “saint” as a forgiven sinner. We are called saints not because we change into something different but because our relationship with God changes as a result of God’s grace. Luther said: “The saints are sinners, too, but they are forgiven and absolved.”

This can be a hard concept to understand. I think most of us can get the “how we are all sinners” because most of us realize that nobody’s perfect. But the idea that we might be saints? That can be a harder one to comprehend.

When most of us think about “saint” we might have an image like this come to mind.
This is an icon of Mary holding Jesus. Or we may think of something like this ancient icon of the apostle Peter. What is a big thing that both these paintings have in common despite their overall all style? Both images have a circle around their heads filled in with what looks gold or dark yellow paint. Those circles represent a halo, and because we see those halos are around their heads in the painting, we might think to ourselves, that person must have been a saint.

A halo is radiant circle or disk surrounding the head of a holy person, and in art it came to be a representation of spiritual character through the symbolism of light. The symbol first shows up in Greek and Roman art where the sun-god Helios and Roman emperors often appear with a crown of sun-rays. Because of its pagan origin, the image was avoided in Early Christian art, but in the middle of the 4th century, Christ was also shown with this imperial attribute, as was his symbol, the Lamb of God. It is interesting to see how Christians co-opted this image that was originally used to show the power and divinity of the Roman Emperors to now show the divinity and power of Christ —a power, that unlike, Rome says that those who meek, or merciful, or peacemakers are the ones who are blessed by God.

It was not until the 6th century that the halo became customary to be used for artistic depictions of the Virgin Mary and other saints.
Over the years the halo has been used to lift up spiritual figures who have lived out their faith in radical commitment to God in a way that influence others.

It was not until the 6th century that the halo became customary to be used for artistic depictions of the Virgin Mary and other saints. Over the years the halo has been used to lift up spiritual figures who have lived out their faith in radical commitment to God in a way that influence others.

Here is an icon of Oscar Romero. He lived during the war in El Salvador and spoke up on behalf of the poor. Because of his strong advocacy for civilians and those who were most vulnerable he spoke out against both sides in the war and was eventually assassinated in 1980. In 2015 the Catholic church recognized his work and beatified him as a saint.

This is an icon of someone who is not a saint in the Catholic church, but who is a saint in the eyes of many children and parents who watched his television show over the years. Fred Rogers was actually a Presbyterian pastor who earned the respect of millions due to his gentle approach to teaching values to children and adults alike and how he touched the hearts of many. In the summers, Mr. Rogers would spend time in a cottage in Nantucket and attend the Episcopal church there. To honor Mr. Rogers after he died, the church had a painting of him in the ancient icon style with the words written on it, Kind, Gentle and True.

In each picture that simple image of the halo around the person’s head gives new meaning to the importance of who that person was. You might say it elevates that person in the eyes of the viewer and accentuates the way they were blessed by saint-like qualities.
Remember how Luther said we are all made saints when we are forgiven and blessed by Christ? Can you imagine yourself in an icon-style painting? What would it feel like to picture that halo around your head?

Dorothy Day was a woman who became well-known for her writing and for starting the Catholic Worker movement that lived among and provided assistance for the poor in the inner cities of the United States. Many would have considered her to have saint-like qualities, but she might not have said that about herself. Artist Kelly Latimore portrays this feeling in a painting she titles, “Don’t call me a saint.”

In the painting you will notice that the halo is not around the head of Dorothy Day, but rather around the head of the homeless man to whom she has given a cup of coffee.
The artist is showing that she believes for Dorothy Day her work was not about lifting up her own saintly qualities. It was about bestowing the blessing of God upon others.

Gabriel Garcia Roman is a modern-day artist who also hopes to elevate those who are vulnerable and often persecuted through his artwork. For Garcia Roman, the halo is a particularly mesmerizing aspect of spirituality. Born in Zacatecas, Mexico, he immigrated to Chicago at the age of two. There he grew up in a Mexican household heavily influenced by Catholicism and religious imagery. As a kid, Garcia Roman recalls being transfixed by halos in fresco paintings, which, to him, combined suffering and strength on the dark walls of his church. “I saw the halo as a badge of nobility and selflessness,” he explains “So I try and bring that feeling into my work. I want the viewer to be mesmerized, like I was as a kid and still am.”

His work, “Queer Icons,” consists of wildly vibrant portraits that mimic the splendor of religious iconography, with one very important caveat. His subjects are not centuries-old saints. His subjects are very real individuals who identify as queer and trans people of color.

His portraits focus specifically on activists, community organizers and artists whose work directly empowers the LGBTQ community. They are leaders who are working with the undocumented population, addressing health issues facing trans individuals, eradicating HIV stigma or helping the broken prison system.

Garcia Roman says he views them as “modern-day saints.”

The artist shares that the lack of representation of queer people of color in the art world and media was the inspiration for this series.

He wanted to create a body of work that centered on a community that rarely is represented or acknowledged. He wanted to create a body of work that showed the defiant, and noble character of his community. He wanted to shine light on the disenfranchised, which is why he created these pieces with positive images of people of color within the queer community. Through his artwork, you might say that Gabriel Garcia Roman is enacting a kind of modern-day beatitudes, bestowing blessing upon those who might not think of themselves as blessed.

In her book Accidental Saints, Nadia Bolz-Weber writes that since the Beatitudes are the gospel reading for All Saints Sunday, it can make the people who are called “saints” seem unattainably good and the people who aren’t as good, like us perhaps, feel unworthy, as if we could never reach the same level. But what if the Beatitudes are not about a list of conditions we should try and meet to be blessed? What if they are not virtues we should aspire to? What if when Jesus says, “blessed are the meek” it is not instructive, but performative? In other words, what if the pronouncement of blessing is actually what confers the blessing itself?

Maybe the Sermon on Mount is not about certain people being better than others. Maybe it is about the blessing of Jesus being bestowed lavishly upon all the people on the hillside that day. What if what it was really all about was Jesus blessing all the accidental saints in this world, especially those who the world doesn’t seem to have much time for: The people in pain, the people who work for peace instead of profit, people who exercise mercy instead of vengeance?

It could be that Jesus was simply blessing the ones around him that day who otherwise didn’t receive blessings, those who had come to believe that, for them, blessing would never be in the cards. (p. 184, Accidental Saints, by Nadia Bolz-Weber)

So whether you think you could ever deserve to be called a saint or not, know that you are blessed. Know that you have been halo-ed, you have been hallowed, you have been made holy through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Know that the light of Christ now wants to shine through you. Know that your life has been illuminated by God’s love so that others may be illuminated by the grace of God as well. Amen.

-Pastor Erik Goehner


You may view any previous worship services by visiting the

Holy Trinity Lutheran Church Thousand Oaks YouTube channel.