All Saints Sunday, November 3, 2019
Text: Daniel 7:1-3,15-18; Psalm 149; Ephesians 1:11-23; Luke 6:20-31
Calvary Episcopal Church and Christ and Trinity Lutheran Church, Sedalia, Missouri
The Rev. Anne Meredith Kyle
From the collect for All Saints’ Day: Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer, Amen.
All Saints’ Day is one of the great feasts of the Church. It is a day when we put anamnesis to work. That is, remembering the past so powerfully that it becomes a part of the here and now. Today we do this as we recall the names of the saints in light, those whom we love but see no more. The framework set for this feast today includes impressive Biblical imagery.
The short passage which we read from the book of Daniel tells of one of Daniel’s dreams and that dream troubled Daniel. He looked for help to understand it and heard of both the kings of earth and the Kingdom of Heaven. We moved from those images and into Psalm 149 – a victory song which was sung in a communal celebration, perhaps not unlike our celebration today. It responds to the dream in Daniel which concludes as God and the Kingdom of Heaven prevail.
The letter to the Ephesians is a prayer that opens with a traditional Jewish blessing blessed be God. The portion of the letter that we read began with a reminder of the abundance we have in Christ. This thanksgiving becomes a prayer that we who are believers will make good use of the gifts that God has given us and that God will give us the wisdom to see the hope he calls us to. Listen to this beautiful language: that with the eyes of your heart enlightened… you may know the hope to which he calls you. Just imagine what the world would be like if everyone looked and saw with the eyes of their hearts! The passage includes a stunning image of what the Kingdom of Heaven is like where Christ is above all and fills all in all…
In the Gospel passage from Luke we learn the weight of responsibility that we are called into as members of the body of Christ. This passage is called The Sermon on the Plain and its exhortation mirrors Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew. In Luke, though we hear both of blessings and woes. Luke was preaching to a gentile audience who lived well and did not necessarily notice those who were less fortunate. He preaches both the blessings and the woes to make a point, but not as a threat to those who have enough, or even more than enough.
Most of us have had the experience of hearing someone tell us something like this: You look really nice today, but… or I can tell you worked really hard on this sermon, but… Experts in the fields of communications and counseling would tell us that saying but in a conversation like this usually ends up canceling out any compliment or positive statement and the hearer is left to focus on what was lacking. I find that in this passage. The woes become my point of focus and after I read them, I have to really work to see the blessings and to hear Jesus’ point. A first glance at the passage from Luke can leave us with just a yes/but downer and to be honest, part of me would prefer that Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount was assigned for All Saints’ Day every year! In Matthew Jesus speaks only of the blessings and leaves the woes out of it. Theologian Richard Rohr tells us that the Kingdom of God is designed for life where both blessings and woes are acknowledged and valued.
So, is this passage really telling us that, if we are experiencing blessing then we are doomed to some future life in great woe? No! And, as I reflect on this passage, what I find is that it’s about relationship. This passage is telling us that, in order to experience the Kingdom fully, we need to know both sides of the story. It is calling us to engage with people. All people. To see the face of Christ in those we meet along the way. To look at one another with the eyes of our hearts to see more clearly who God has created each one of us to be.
The heart of the passage is that we are to do God’s will, here and now, to relieve suffering and oppression. The woes in this passage are not threats. They are marching orders, and the final portion of the passage tells us what that looks like. Jesus says: Love your enemies, do good… bless… pray… and share. These words sound like what our Episcopal siblings across town have heard from their Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry’s Way of Love. In it we are invited to Turn – Learn – Pray – Worship – Bless – Go – and Rest. We are to turn our lives toward God’s love; learn from scripture; pray every day; worship where we hear the Word and break the bread; and bless those around us. We are blessed so that we can be a blessing and, again, Luke is not casting a threat with the woes, but helping us see the needs of others.
Equipped with Jesus’ Sermon on the Plain, we go to into the world, to do intentionally all that we are called to do; remembering the Golden Rule that tells us to do to others as we would have them do to us.
We do all of this as persons who are knit together in communion and fellowship and on this special day, the Feast of All Saints, we remember and celebrate those who have gone before. The saints in light who have helped form us into the persons and community we are today.
Let us remember and confess now the statement of our faith by saying together the Nicene Creed…