All Saints Sunday; Year A (11/5/2017)

Lessons:
Revelation 7:9-17
Psalm 34:1-10, 22
1st John 3:1-3
Saint Matthew 5:1-12

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.

Lesson:

5:1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

St. Matthew 5:1-12, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Blessed Are You! Holy Are You!
Rejoice and Be Glad! Yours Is the Kingdom of God!

Whenever I consider the Beatitudes — these beautiful and powerful words with which Jesus begins his well-known “Sermon on the Mount” — I can’t help but hear David Haas’ moving 1986 worship song: “Blessed Are They.”

Make no mistake, these are hard words from Jesus: blest are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who huger for what they don’t have, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted… And finally: blessed are you when you are reviled and persecuted and spoken about falsely. Not a collection of realities on anyone’s wish list these days! How is it that Jesus considers these as the blest ones in his world?  He certainly isn’t working with the metrics of blessing that seem operative in our culture.

These days we might imagine the opposite: blest are the vibrant, the joyful, the bold, those who go out and get what they need, the just, the shrewd, the victorious warriors, those who are honored… How is it that Jesus’ list is so different from the one we and our neighbors might create? Do we see life that much differently than he does?

The key to this puzzle is found in the second half of each stanza. Who is blessed? Those who receive the kingdom of God. Those who are comforted by God. Those to whom God will give the earth. Those whose hunger and thirst are filled by God… Blessing, in Jesus’ way of considering these matters, isn’t dependent on the particulars of our lives. Instead, blessing has to do with receiving the gifts of God in the midst of difficulty and challenge. It is what allows David Haas to proclaim:

Rejoice, and be glad! Blessed are you, holy are you!
Rejoice and be glad! Yours is the kingdom of God!

This Sunday we celebrate All Saints Sunday. We’ll recall those notable Saints whose life and faith have inspired believers for centuries. St. Paul, who shared his faith in Christ at his own peril. St. Francis, who possessed a love for all animals, and a vision for what Christian community is at its best. St. Nicholas, whose compassion for the poor moved him to extraordinary generosity. These Saints lived large, and their faithfulness gives us a vision for what God can accomplish through us.

We also recall, this weekend, those less-known Saints. Simple human beings like you and me. Those whose sins are forgiven through the death resurrection of Christ. Those who find God to be a source of hope and peace in the midst of life’s difficulties. Those who inspire us in a completely different way, and allow us to sing: “Rejoice and be glad! Yours is the kingdom of God!”

Come join us this weekend as we celebrate the Saints. All the Saints.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why does Jesus seem to share these particular words only with his disciples?
  2. In what future circumstances will the disciples remember this and be comforted?
  3. How did a future hope hold up the early church in a difficult time?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Which historic Saints inspire my faithfulness today?
  2. Which contemporary Saints have encouraged and comforted me?
  3. How has my life reflected the faith and strength and beauty I have witnessed in others?

The author would love to hear what you think about this post.