Theme: Saints treat people with love
Let us pray.
Most holy, Lord God, we gather on this All Saint’s Sunday to celebrate all the saints in the world, including ourselves; may we live our lives as you would have us do, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
An Italian legend tells about a man who had a servant who was rather stupid. One day the master became exasperated and told the servant, “You’re the stupidest fellow I’ve ever known. I want you to take this staff and carry it with you. If you ever meet a man who is more stupid than you are, give him the staff.”
The servant took the staff. He met some pretty dumb people, but he wasn’t sure if they were dumber than he was, so he never gave away the staff. Then one day he was called back to the castle.
He was ushered into the master’s bedroom, where the master was on his deathbed. He told the servant, “I’m going on a long journey.”
The servant asked, “When will you be back?” The master replied that he would not return.
The servant asked, “Well, sir, have you got everything prepared for your journey?” The master said, “No, I’ve not really made much preparation for it.” The servant asked, “Could you have made preparation? Could you have sent something on?” The master said, “Yes, I guess I had a lifetime to do that, but I was just busy about other things.” The servant went on, “Then you won’t be back to the castle, to the lands, to the animals?” The master said he wouldn’t be back.
The legend says that the servant took the staff which he had carried for all those years and said to the master, “Here, you take the staff. I finally met a man who was more stupid than myself.”
What we do and what we do not do matters. And how we decide what we do and don’t do is how we prioritize our lives. The master failed to do that. He had a sense that he would meet Jesus face to face and come up short. Maybe he could have started by treating his servant better. But it’s too late for that. Even though the servant wasn’t bright, the servant knew the basic part of life is treating others well.
Today we celebrate All Saints. We popularly think of a saint as someone is particularly “holy.” But that is not quite right. A saint is one who is baptized into the Christian church. As you look around the room, you may think I’m crazy to make such a statement. But we are all saints here. As saints, we have a special relationship with Jesus. We also have a great responsibility.
Jesus gives us signposts in today’s gospel reading.
In Luke, Jesus calls the twelve apostles and then goes to what Luke calls a level place. Jesus is in the Galilee region. While he is on this “level place” a great crowd gathers from seemingly everywhere: from Jerusalem, Judea, and the gentile areas of Phoenicia.
Jesus then teaches the people gathered there. What Jesus says in Luke here is a much smaller version of what is in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. So, many people call this the Sermon on the Plain. These are Luke’s beatitudes.
Jesus begins by telling them that God blesses those who are poor, those who have little or nothing to eat, and those who weep. This was likely most of the people gathered there. Jesus offers them hope of feasting and joy. This blessed state, though is not something they will experience in their lifetimes.
What Jesus promises is a great life in the future, called the kingdom of God. What did Jesus mean when he talks about the kingdom of God? Well . . ., scholars debate this question. But I’ll tell you what I think it means. I think we need to think of the kingdom of God as a two-state object. In other words, the kingdom of God occupies two different states of being, one in our reality and one in the next.
Jesus talks a lot about the kingdom of God. In many instances, he uses parables to describe it because a travel brochure type of explanation is inadequate. In one sense, the kingdom of God is a place with God that we often call heaven. In heaven, we need not worry about money, or food, or sadness. It is place of no want. It is a place where total and perfect love exists for everyone in communion with God.
Now that you have that vision in your heads, what if that exact kind of place existed here on earth? That is what Jesus wants for us. No one is hungry. No one is poor. No one need lack for anything. Everyone respects and treats everyone else kindly and lovingly. Practically the exact opposite of the last election! This is what Jesus wants for us here on earth. Now the bad news. Jesus expects every Christian to bring this about. This is our charge. This is our work. Jesus delegated this task to us. There will be a time when Jesus will give us our performance review. That is next week’s gospel reading and sermon.
Jesus goes on to give the church a message before there even is a church. When you are persecuted and treated unkindly because of your faith, you can rejoice for you will be rewarded greatly in heaven.
The best way to translate “blessed” is to say “favored by God.” It is these kinds of people who are favored by God. God looks with favor on the poor and oppressed. Now Jesus turns the tables on those who are not poor or oppressed. Instead of blessings, he issues woes and troubles.
If your bellies are full, if you are rich, if you are happy, well, you are doomed. If people speak well of you, your self-worth is a delusion.
But Jesus will not leave people with curses. He offers advice on how to avoid the curses he just named. Love everyone, especially your enemies. Never offer violence for violence. Give freely. Treat others as you expect to be treated.
So why was this gospel reading chosen for All Saints’? I have asked myself the same question. I believe that answer lies in something we will do shortly. We will reaffirm our baptismal vows. The promises we make are what makes us saints.
Parts of those vows include just what Jesus is asking us to do. We promise to worship in assembly. We promise to resist evil. We promise to proclaim God’s word. We promise to respect all people and see Christ in everyone. We promise to love our enemies. We promise to promote justice and peace. If we do these things and convert the world to do likewise, the kingdom of God will be here on earth.
If we work for this, we won’t get stuck with someone’s staff.
We now pray: Gracious God and giver of all good gifts, thank you for the gift of sainthood, through which we enjoy a special relationship with you; may we have the courage and will to follow the good examples of your son, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we pray. Amen.
Text: Luke 6:20–31 (NRSV)
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 youd 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.