All Saints Day; Year C (Nov. 6, 2016)

Lessons:
Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18
Psalm 149 (1)
Ephesians 1:11-23
St. Luke 6:20-31

Prayer of the Day:
Almighty God, you have knit your people together in one communion in the mystical body of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Grant us grace to follow your blessed saints in lives of faith and commitment, and to know the inexpressible joys you have prepared for those who love you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

6.20 Then [Jesus] looked up at his disciples and said:

“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.

21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.

“Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.

22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

24 “But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.

25 “Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.

“Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.

26 “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

St. Luke 6:20-31. New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Saints Among Us

November 1st is All Saints Day in the church, and has been since the eighth century; perhaps as early as the seventh century. When November 1st doesn’t fall on a Sunday, we honor the first Sunday in November as All Saints Sunday. So this weekend we will be remembering and honoring the saints during our worship.

For Lutherans, this has two distinct meanings. On the one hand, the saints are those who have lived exemplary lives, many of whose life stories are told on the pages of the New Testament (or in the chronicles of the early church). We remember them, and honor them, and give thanks for the ways their lives give witness to the difference Christian faith can make.

On the other hand, we remember that the Apostle Paul, when writing to the Corinthians (with whom he was very angry because of their un-Christlike behavior), addressed them as “those who are sanctified [made holy] in Christ Jesus” (1st Corinthians 1:2), and that Luther, along with his reforming colleagues, described Christians as “simil justice et peccator” — simultaneously saint and sinner. Saints are also understood to be those who are made clean by the forgiveness they receive from Jesus Christ.

Our Gospel lesson is St. Luke’s version of the Beatitudes. It differs from Matthew’s better-known version in that it includes statements of blessing and statements of woe. It ends with this extraordinary description of the Christ life:

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. (St. Luke 6:27-31)

This may not be how the rich and famous aspire to live in our society. It may not be a description of the typical national politician. It may not even be the life we imagine for ourselves. But it is the life to which Jesus calls us. It is the life of one who has been forgiven, redeemed, and washed clean by Christ. It is the life of one who is deeply grateful to God. It is the life of a Christian saint — the most memorable of which are recorded in the history of the church; the most subtle of which are lived out among us, sometimes noticed only by a very few.

So this weekend we remember the saints: people who are loved profoundly by God, and who respond with lives that love, bless, pray and give. May we always be thankful for the glimpses these others have given us of the sacred life. And may we always aspire to live as they do. This is our opportunity to show gratitude to the God who has given us so very much. We pray for the help of the Holy Spirit, that we might make the most of it.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What does this list of blessing and woe teach us about the kingdom of God?
  2. What is surprising about these descriptions from Jesus?
  3. How must his followers have first responded to these words?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When have I experienced these blessings or woes that Jesus describes?
  2. Who have I know who quietly lives the life of a saint?
  3. How do I seek to live a saintly life, as a way of thanking God for what I have received?