All Saints Sunday, Year C
November 6, 2016
Then [Jesus] looked up at his disciples and said . . . Luke 6:20a
Jesus starts out nicely enough in this week’s gospel lesson. He proclaims encouragement, comfort, and blessing for those who are poor, hungry, and the weeping. Blessings are in order, too, for followers who are reviled, excluded, and defamed for following the Son of Man. Yes, when the going gets tough just keep your eye on the prize and your hope on your great reward in heaven. This is, after all, nothing new. Remember how the prophets were treated.
But wait; Jesus has woes aplenty to go around. Woe to the rich, those whose bellies are full, those who laugh, those who receive praise and flattery. Remember how the false prophets were treated!
So which is it? Blessings or woes? Yes or no? Hope or despair?
It would seem a few countercultural instructions are in order for would be saints who also happen to simultaneously be sinners. And there doesn’t seem to be any spoonful of sugar to help this medicine go down either. These are tough and demanding instructions, certainly not palatable for the faint of heart or shallow of faith.
Jesus wants us not only to love our enemies but also to do good to the folks who hate us. We are to be about the business of blessing those who curse us and praying for those who would abuse us. We are instructed to not strike back with violence but to respond in peace. We are to give—sacrificially, even to those who would take from us what does not belong to them. We are to give to those who beg and forget when folks don’t return our belongings. Finally, to tie it all up with a neat and tidy bow, we are to do to others as we would like for them to do to us.
This is a tall order, one that is not as simple as left or right and black or white. In fact, Jesus’ instructions are nigh on to impossible IF we look to our own power and means to get it right. This gospel lesson is all about knowing that everything good is of God and our forever life depends only on Jesus. Or, to take a cue from the Lutheran World Federation’s Assembly theme for 2017: We are liberated by God’s grace. Salvation is not for sale. Human beings are not for sale. Creation is not for sale.
Thankfully, dear friends, we are not in control. We are merely the present expression of God’s beloved people woven into a timeless narrative that has been lived before us and will continue after us. We are part of something much bigger than we can see or fully envision. This liberating grace is for ALL the saints—every single one of God’s ragtag, beautiful, broken, mended, and beloved sinner/saints.
This All Saints Sunday take this challenging lesson from Jesus with its absolutely daunting set of instructions, its beautiful blessings, and its condemning woes, and remind the faithful that they are indeed in the company of all the saints. They worship on the faith-full foundation built by those who have come and gone before. They lay their own presence down for those who are yet to come. And we are all united in the bread and wine, the Body and Blood, of our precious Lord Jesus Christ—in whom we live and breathe. Best of all? We are stewards of this mystery and bearers of this amazing news. We are empowered to carry it out into the world in the company of the saints for the sake of the world. Thanks be to God!
Weave a three-fold cord of witness today to help worshipers make a visual connection that they are part of something bigger than themselves. Cut yarn of three different colors into equal lengths (6-12 inches each depending on the number of worshipers you have). Place the cut lengths into baskets. Tie a longer piece of each color yarn to the communion rail (or other object like a chair or small table). When worshipers come forward for communion, invite them to take a piece of yarn and tie it to one of the longer strands. Once everyone has had the opportunity to tie strands together, weave them into a three-fold cord. Not only does this act invoke imagery of the Triune God and saints past/present/future, it also reminds us that in community as the Body of Christ we are strengthened. With all the saints we gather. With all the saints we go. With all the saints we live as Christ’s body on this earth to bring his love, his message, and his hope to all the world.
Explore the epistle lesson from Ephesians (1:11-23) with your youth today, particularly verses 15 -19. Invite them to identify an “everyday” saint who has had an impact on their faith formation. Remind them that we are works in progress, saint/sinner. Invite them to write a short note of thanks to the everyday saint they identify. Remind them that they will be “saints” to others. If you have time, take a look at the gospel lesson, too (Luke 6:20-31). It’s a tough lesson, but a good reminder that we are “saints” only by the grace of God, and that in Jesus we grow and are being perfected–works in progress but already equipped to share the good news. Discuss and honor their difficulties and struggles with this week’s gospel and epistle lessons, AND, be sure to pray for them by name every day.
Searching for Saints
You’ll need a mirror, name tags, pictures of saints, and pictures of “everyday” saints. Ask the children what a “saint” is. Do they know any saints? Show them pictures of people we consider saints (those whose commemorations we celebrate throughout the year). Tell them that we call these people “saints” because of their faithful witness to Jesus. Some of them died for their faith. Some of them gave up a LOT for their faith. All of them loved Jesus very much and cared about God’s people. Ask them if they know any saints? Embrace all answers. Show them photos of “everyday” saints who have been pillars in the local Body of Christ. Tell them that these people are saints, too. They helped pass on the faith, worked to strengthen the congregation, and helped equip others to be faithful. Tell the children that saints are “perfect” but rather people who rely on God. Ask them again if they know any other saints? Hold up the mirror so that they can see their reflection. Tell them that they are saints of God, too, and that all of God’s people are saints. Give them a nametag to wear that has their first name: “Saint Jacob” or “Saint Summer” or whatever their names are. Tell them that they join the big parade of saints of every time and place as God’s beloved people. Finish with a simple prayer that they will faithfully proclaim God’s love and show God’s love in all that they do.
Photos: fady habib and Schipulites, Creative Commons. Thanks!