All Saints day, 2023
I forget each year that when we come together to celebrate All Saints day, that we have the beatitudes to study on that day. Part of me thinks it’s counter intuitive for that to be the gospel reading, but then I come to my senses and realize why it is a most perfect reading.
Saints in the kingdom of God are very different from the superheroes and successful people we look up to in our society. When we look to the people whom society lifts up, it rarely feels like the sainthood we know in our own lives and in the lives of the church throughout history. Sure, there are some royal people and super successful people who make it into the church calendar but that happens despite their wealth and success, not because of it.
The beatitudes are a good reminder for us that earthly and heavenly expectations are very different. And, I suspect that the people whom we have tried to remember here today, also have lived lives more in line with kingdom ideals than societal ideals.
Blessing the poor, the meek, peacemakers… all of those whom Jesus blesses today are those whose lives were not and are not easy. Some, if not all are probably to be found on the margins of society at least in some fashion. Any time we fight against success of the empire, that can lead to more trouble than we want to engage in, but yet, those who try to live their lives closer to God seem to know how to “do the next right thing” in living a kingdom life.
And isn’t that how it is for our own beloved whom we remember today? They probably aren’t flashy people for the most part, or people of great wealth, but I suppose it might depend on how you measure these things. When our measuring stick is love, well, then we know that we are rich indeed for having these people in our lives. We have here mothers, fathers, siblings, spouses, friends… all manner of people who have touched our lives in some way that makes us aware of just how much we miss them and their influence on us.
The good news is that their influence in us lives on if we let it. Even with the “big S” saints of scripture and our church calendar we continue to be shaped and influenced by the witness of these amazing people.
Sainthood is one of those things that, if you strive to accomplish it, you’ve missed it. It isn’t something that we can really think of ourselves, is it. Yet, living a life that is shaped by Jesus, a life that is a kingdom life rather than an empire life, is exactly what we are called to. If we aren’t on Jesus’ blessing list in some form, maybe we aren’t doing it right. While most of us probably aren’t on the margins of society most days, perhaps we need to start hanging out there a little more… we all need to find those neighbors that God has given to us and meet them where they are so that perhaps they might be closer to God. We can show and ask people to pray with us all day long, but if they are hungry or grieving or trying to bring peace into a situation where there IS no peace… then we have some work to do; we cannot just say, “God bless you, have a nice day”. We have to embody the very blessing that God in Jesus is asking us to provide. It is our prayers that hopefully propel us into the world so that others might know Jesus through us. Not simply because we talk about Jesus, but because we show people what it’s like to be loved by him.
Jesus is God incarnate, in the flesh. When we believe that, we act in the world in ways that continue his work and his blessings to the world. Because he is God incarnate, God in the flesh, his blessings are often embodied in us. Because his Spirit rests on each of us, we are able to work in concrete ways to make his kingdom manifest on earth as it is in heaven.
So we thank these amazing saints in our lives that have gone before us. When we celebrate communion together, we are raised up to heaven and heaven is brought down so that we all might be together for this taste of the banquet that we partake in. We only know it as a “sip and a taste” of what is to come; our beloved saints know it fully. One day, we will be gathered around the great banquet table with them so that we might know it fully as well. Until then, we are to live kingdom lives close to those on the margins so that eventually, there will be no margins, no boundaries that separate us. We will all be one with him who has risen from the dead as we await his coming again. Come Lord Jesus.