All Saints Sunday (November 7, 2010)
For All the Saints
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 he 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.”
Who are the saints? The classic definitions, of course, are easy. There are two. The first holds that saints are those Christians, famous and familiar, whose lives have graced the church, and whose faithfulness continues to inspire us today. Biblical heroes, church leaders throughout the years, musicians, teachers, missionaries, witnesses – all those whose memory the church cherishes, and who help us understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
The second definition (based on the biblical understanding of saint displayed in Paul’s letters and elsewhere) holds that the saints are all those who know the hope to which God has called us, who know the riches of the inheritance we receive in Christ, and who know the immeasurable greatness of Christ’s power for those who believe (Ephesians 1:18-19). Put in a different way (in the words of Luther and the reformers), a Christian is simil justis et peccator – “at the same time, saint and sinner.” We are all saints: those of us whose lives have been graced, and whose hearts have been touched, and those whose sins have been forgiven, by the good news of Jesus Christ.
Those classic definitions are easy, of course. The definition proposed by Jesus in this week’s Gospel is much harder. He teaches that there are those in this world who are blessed, and there are those in this world who are warned. Among the blessed are included people who are poor and hungry and weeping and hated and cursed and struck and robbed. Among the warned are included people who are rich and full and laughing and respected. It appears that those who have everything – who are the envy of this world – who want for almost nothing – will end up abandoned and alone. It appears that those who have nothing – who live in the midst of great need – who have to lean on others for survival – will learn to lean on God, and will never be alone.
Jesus offers a stern warning to those who are well off. When life is so full of good things, there is hardly room for anything else. A great reversal is in order. As the popular bumper sticker has it: “You can’t take it with you.” These temporal riches are just that: transitory, short-lived, enduring only for a time. Like the full barns of the rich man who will die tomorrow, they eventually fail us. Only one hope endures: and that is Jesus Christ.
Jesus offers a bold promise to those who struggle in this world. Suffering in this life leads one to the God who lifts up the lowly, and who cares for the needy. Once in the presence of God’s grace and love, no matter how bleak one’s circumstances are, life is experienced as blessing. That one hope, based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, always endures.
On this All Saints’ Sunday, may we strive for the hope that endures. And may we live with deep gratitude for the grace of God which never leaves us on our own — but which encourages us and sustains us through everything that life throws our way.
David J. Risendal, Pastor
Exploring This Week’s Gospel:
- What blessings does Jesus claim are received by those who are poor, hungry, weeping, hated, cursed, struck, and robbed?
- What woes does Jesus claim are received by those who rich, full, laughing, and respected?
- How does this “great reversal” relate to God’s intentions, as described in the Magnificat (Mary’s song of joy, recorded in St. Luke 1:46-55)?
Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:
- What do I perceive, in my life, that leads to blessing?
- What do I perceive, in my life, that leads to warning?
- How are my perceptions different from those of people who don’t share my faith?