This is the holy Gospel according to St Matthew the FIFTH chapter:
Glory to you, O Lord.
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter
all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and
be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’
- The Gospel of the Lord! Praise to you, O Christ.
So, it’s All Saints’ Sunday. The one Sunday catch-all festival for those saints who for one reason or another were left off the list. We used to say in the Marines, when we forgot something on a list it was ‘inadvertently omitted.’ It didn’t usually save us from getting into trouble, but it looked more professional that way. So the saints who don’t merit their own feast day, St Schmatz of Putzville, I suppose, get gathered up near the end of the year and celebrated. One well intentioned soul’s suggestion I suppose, who, not content with that, offered up the idea of All SOULS’ Day to follow on November 2, so as to make everyone happy, sainthood status or not.
Over the years we’ve more or less squashed the two feast days back together to celebrate the Communion of the Saints, all of them, all of us, whether we have halos or hats, blessed status or just ordinary folks. It’s about US!
And it should be. We follow Jesus, and we’re right to focus on Jesus in worship as in daily life. What he did, what he said, everything we can discern about him from the bible and life.
But we live in 2020, two thousand years later. There have been generation upon generation of followers of Jesus since his time. Some did it better than others, as you can imagine. But there they are. In history, in tradition, in the knowledge all around us that we are not alone, we’re not the first to suffer, not the last to sacrifice: we’re not alone.
So, All Saints’ Sunday is our day to celebrate who we are, together with countless brothers and sisters of every tribe and nation, of every clime and place, of every time and space.
It’s about US. We celebrate the TRUTH of who we are, because there are so many lies that we have to listen to otherwise.
We think we are alone, when we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, as the bible says.
We think we are small, when we are united with a vast conspiracy of faith, hope and love, together with all who call on the name of the Lord.
We think we are weak, but when we are gathered with so many others, we are an unstoppable force of kingdom power.
This is the truth of who we are. It has always been true, but we forget, we let ourselves be convinced otherwise, and we lose hope. We lose faith. And ultimately we fail to love and be loved.
On this day we listen to another voice, who tells us the truth.
And on this day, it is about THEM.
We celebrate the truth that we follow a well-trodden path of victory and faith. So many others have gone before us, suffered, sacrificed, and denied themselves to follow Christ.
We benefit from their faithful lives. We benefit from their sacrifice, and their suffering for a better world. They looked to Jesus, and the future, and we benefit.
Those who come after us will benefit as well if we remain faithful.
They left us examples and legacies of faith, hope, and love. We will leave behind similar examples and legacies, if we remain fixed on Jesus,
They left us this grand tradition that shapes our lives in so many ways. A living tradition that sustained them through hard times and good. This tradition is ours now, not a dead tradition filled with powerless ghosts and sentimental nostalgia, but a focus and a hope and a power that leads confidently into the future.
All Saints’ Sunday is about THEM. All Saints’ is about US. It’s about Jesus who calls us forward, It’s about all of this. It’s worth celebrating.
So take heart, even in the midst of pandemic, in the midst of this miserable election season, in this divided nation, because we are not alone. We’re not weak, we’re not small. We are part of something bigger than any other claim- bigger than our community, bigger than our nation, bigger than anything. We are followers of Jesus. We are the saints of God. The future is ours. And Jesus is standing there beckoning us forward. Let’s celebrate that wonderful truth today, and set out confidently again tomorrow.