All Saints Sunday – Nov. 6, 2022

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.

Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18

1In the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head as he lay in bed. Then he wrote down the dream: 2I, Daniel, saw in my vision by night the four winds of heaven stirring up the great sea, 3and four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another.

15As for me, Daniel, my spirit was troubled within me, and the visions of my head terrified me. 16I approached one of the attendants to ask him the truth concerning all this. So he said that he would disclose to me the interpretation of the matter: 17“As for these four great beasts, four kings shall arise out of the earth. 18But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever—forever and ever.”

Psalm 149

1Hallelujah! Sing to the Lord| a new song,
  God’s praise in the assembly | of the faithful.
2Let Israel rejoice | in their maker;
  let the children of Zion be joyful | in their ruler.
3Let them praise their maker’s | name with dancing;
  let them sing praise with tambou- | rine and harp.
4For the Lord takes pleasure | in the people
  and adorns the | poor with victory. R
5Let the faithful re- | joice in triumph;
  let them sing for joy | on their beds.
6Let the praises of God be | in their throat
  and a two-edged sword | in their hand,
7to wreak vengeance | on the nations
  and punishment | on the peoples,
8to bind their | kings in chains
  and their nobles with | links of iron,
9to inflict on them the judg- | ment decreed;
  this is glory for all God’s faithful ones. | Hallelujah! 

Ephesians 1:11-23

11In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

15I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. 20God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. 22And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Luke 6:20-31

20Then [Jesus] 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. 23Rejoice 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, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

This is the first All Saints Sunday that I really paid attention to this beautiful passage from Ephesians, particularly the verses often titled as the author’s prayer. “I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.” The sentence made me think of the saints in my own life and to give thanks for their lives and what they have given me. 

I have remembered with deep gratitude week people like Jane Olsen, who was my fifth-grade teacher as well as a beloved member of the congregation I grew up in. Mrs. Olsen was that upper elementary teacher who was born to work with children and made so many of us life-long learners. But because she sat in the pews with us at church, because she knelt at the same Communion rail, we knew that her life was shaped by being a follower of Jesus. 

I had never thought about that connection so clearly until this week, but I think Mrs. Olsen taught me that an inquisitive mind and a love of learning were part of what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus. She never said this in words that I remember. But her very life displayed that a love for learning, far from being antithetical to the gospel, was totally consistent with the gospel and following Jesus.  So, I give thanks for those gifts from this saint.

I also thought about Don and Dorothy Delicate, a couple in my congregation that my parents and everyone else’s parents deeply respected and admired. If my parents looked up to them, then they were people I was also meant to give respect to and learn from. They were loving, salt of the earth people, who epitomized the word generosity. They were generous with their time and skills and love and resources. 

When I was in high school, they welcomed a college student from Uganda into their home. Simon became part of their family and part of the church family. Dorothy traveled with him back to Uganda twice. Don and Dorothy Delicate modeled the boundary crossing that Jesus himself modeled and taught. And they showed the whole community what it means to truly accompany someone. Simon was in their lives not just for a few weeks, not just for a good phot, but for the rest of their lives, messy as I am sure it sometimes was, and they learned as much from Simon as he learned from them. Don and Dorothy modeled love and real relationships throughout the entire community.

Who are the saints in your lives and what inheritance have you received from them? Take a moment and bring to mind one or two saints from your own lives.

Pause.

To remember the people who were saints in our lives is a gift. This is part of why funerals are one of the things I treasure doing as a pastor. Yes, we should of course honor and thank people while they are alive and not wait for their deaths. It’s a both/and. Thank people in life but also pause and give thanks to God after their death. 

A Christian funeral is a holy pause. It makes us slow down and recognize the life that was lived and God’s working through that person’s life. We might even be encouraged to face our own mortality—perhaps uncomfortable but a good exercise. 

To give thanks to God for the life that was lived, even if imperfect, to reflect on the gifts that life bestowed, to entrust the person to God’s keeping, to remember that this person remains part of the communion of saints, that is such a helpful practice for the living. We who are left behind need to pause and remember. We also need the ritual to help us begin moving through our grief. We need the holy pause to ponder, in the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda, “who lives, who dies, who tells our stories.” 

A saint is one who we look to for how to live, how to bring in God’s reign. A saint is also one who is blessed by God. Jesus’ teaching in our gospel lesson underscores the peculiar, even radical understanding of blessing that animates the Christian tradition. According to Jesus, blessing is not about material abundance. Blessing is to enjoy the regard and favor of God. And the God of Israel to whom Jesus bears witness reserves special regard for the poor, the maligned, the downtrodden. This God shows particular favor to those in need. 

While this may at first seem threatening to those of us who enjoy so much of the world’s bounty, it also clarifies our calling to identify and help those in need. And it promises that God stands also with us in our moments of loss, distress, and poverty. The heart of the God we hear described in these verses is full of mercy and compassion, abounding in steadfast love.

In today’s gospel, Jesus identifies the blessed in stunning particularity.  Jesus’ words stand at the beginning of his “Sermon on the Plain.” This is Jesus’ second major policy statement of his reign. His direct speech compels the listener to ask, “Who me?” Jesus focuses first on his disciples within a great crowd. With the crowds, we overhear his words, wondering if he means it only for the twelve disciples. 

Then we find ourselves specifically included in verse 27 among “you that listen.” Jesus is not delivering an abstract definition of discipleship or sainthood. He is not listing the qualifications to “get into heaven.” He is calling all who hear to become faithful and effective agents of God’s reign here and now.

The problem is not that Jesus’ words are hard to understand. The problem is that their clear meaning is so challenging. The “rules of engagement” of Jesus’ reign stand in sharp contrast to the presumed rights of the prosperous to wealth and good times, “because I earned it!” In their practice of non-violence, Tolstoy, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. enacted Jesus’ words as a social critique and strategy for change. Gandhi admired Jesus, but when asked his opinion of Christianity, he reportedly said, “Oh, it would be wonderful!” In hearing Jesus’ words, rich and poor alike glimpse a realm at odds with the way things are.

What do we make of the “woe” statements? One scholar [Skinner] says a better translation might be, “Yikes! … Jesus urges his hearers to reassess their lives in light of God’s unfolding reign. It seems to me that Jesus’ woe statements are revealing something—that the things we assume are advantages are actually illusory. What if money, comfort, self-won security, respectability, and the like are things that kill our souls—not just in some far-off afterlife but right here, right now? What a tragedy to mistake them for benefits given by God, then. As the passage continues, we get a better sense of how to keep our souls alive and not be tricked by counterfeit blessings.”

All Saints Day is a witness to God’s way of blessing the world. It is not simply reinforcing the entitlement of the privileged to the way things are. It reveals God’s justice fulfilled in mercy—right here and now. The Saints we recognize as the church and those we remembered today in our mind’s eye likely blessed the world with their very lives. We say, thanks be to God.

In 1864, William Walsham How, a bishop in West Yorkshire, England, pointed to the blessing and benefits of remembering the departed saints triumphant. His words were our opening hymn. He points to the communion of saints, living and dead, “Oh bless communion, fellowship divine! We feebly struggle, they in glory shine; Yes all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.” 

He also provides the crucial reminder that resurrection is real and certain, a promise affirmed by the bodily resurrection of Christ. “But lo! There breaks a yet more glorious day; The saints triumphant rise in bright array; The King of glory passes on His way.”

We cannot replace the saints who have gone before us. But we can remember those lives who blessed others, some who blessed our own lives. We can imitate their most virtuous and heroic qualities. As one pastor wrote, “We can fan into flame the small spark in the saints-in-the-making who come after us.” (Jane Lyon)

Prayers of Intercession

The prayers are prepared locally for each occasion. The following examples may be adapted or used as appropriate.

United with your saints across time and place, we pray for our shared world.

A brief silence.

Holy One, your church rests on the faithful who came before us. Give bishops, pastors, deacons, and lay leaders the will to carry the church forward and discern your will for the future. Lord, in your mercy,

receive our prayer.

Holy One, the earth is yours and all that dwells within it. Care for places ravaged by natural disasters (especially). Quell raging fires and halt destruction caused by flooding. Lord, in your mercy,

receive our prayer.

Holy One, you raise up leaders to guide your people. Kindle in them a passion to care for others, a desire to seek the common good, and the courage to love their enemies. Lord, in your mercy,

receive our prayer.

Holy One, you bless those who are poor, hungry, and reviled. Provide food, housing, and security to all who are vulnerable or in crisis. May those who have more than enough give generously. Lord, in your mercy,

receive our prayer.

Holy One, hold us in community with one another. Nurture a spirit of abundant hospitality and intentional inclusion among us, welcoming the gifts of adults and children. Inspire creative visions for our life together. Lord, in your mercy,

receive our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

Holy One, we remember in thanksgiving all those who have died. (Here the names of those who have died in the previous year may be read.) Wipe away our tears and comfort us with the promise of everlasting life in you. Lord, in your mercy,

receive our prayer.

Accept these prayers, gracious God, and those known only to you; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Amen.

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