We have been living in tense and uncivilized times, of late, and as we approach next Tuesday’s presidential election, many people are experiencing a sort of free-floating anxiety that can drain the joy from living. It is vitally important, therefore, to disconnect from electronic media and connect with the people you love. Go outside, breathe, laugh, share a glass and something good to eat—and enjoy being in a safe, nonanxious place.
I know that it is sometimes said that we enjoy “giving parties for ourselves” at Christ Church. I won’t deny that one of our gifts is throwing a great party, even when it’s not for us! But I want to be clear about WHY we celebrate this way on occasions such as All Saints’ Sunday: we do this because the essence of our existence is BEING TOGETHER IN THE BODY, loving each other and growing in connection among one another. This is how we grow the strength and courage we need to take the love of Christ out into a broken world, where the problems of poverty, racism, intolerance, and neglect grow greater daily.
On All Saints’ Sunday, we remember that the “we” of the Body is comprised not only of those of us present on that day but also of the “great cloud of witnesses” who are the saints who have come before us and whom we see no longer. From them we also draw strength, and we can feel their presence among us when we gather at Christ Church. Our collect for this Sunday asks God to grant us the grace to follow these saints in virtuous and godly living, “that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you.”
The readings for our worship this Sunday emphasize the political, economic, and social conditions of the world, rather than spiritual states. They do so in order to hold up the hope of the divine justice that will ultimately prevail over our messy reality. Daniel had a vision of four kingdoms arising on earth and of the troubles that would ensue—and of the kingdom of the Most High that will prevail forever and ever. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians explains the inheritance in this divine kingdom that we have gained through Christ. We have set out hope in him, and through him we have become “the saints” who comprise the household of God, the church, “which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”
This Sunday’s gospel lesson is one you know well: it is Luke’s version of the Beatitudes. These verses are statements of blessing and woe, followed by an admonition. Their focus is on economic and social conditions, not spiritual states. When Jesus says “you who are poor” and “you who are hungry” that is what he means. When he says “woe to the rich” and “woe to the full,” he means that, too. Everywhere, the gospel message is about lifting up the lowly and bringing down the mighty, and we cannot turn our faces away from that truth. Jesus offers his direction for how we should respond to that truth in our lessons concluding lines: “I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Let your cheek be struck without reciprocating; let someone who needs your coat take it. Give to everyone who begs from you. And finally, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” This will be a Sunday of basic lessons.