A Reading from the Book of Daniel (7:1-3, 15-18)
In 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: I, Daniel, saw in my vision by night the four winds of heaven stirring up the great sea, and four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. As for me, Daniel, my spirit was troubled within me, and the visions of my head terrified me. I 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: “As for these four great beasts, four kings shall arise out of the earth. But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever—forever and ever.”
1 Hallelujah! Sing to the Lord a new song; *
sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.
2 Let Israel rejoice in his Maker; *
let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.
3 Let them praise his Name in the dance; *
let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.
4 For the Lord takes pleasure in his people *
and adorns the poor with victory.
5 Let the faithful rejoice in triumph; *
let them be joyful on their beds.
6 Let the praises of God be in their throat *
and a two-edged sword in their hand;
7 To wreak vengeance on the nations *
and punishment on the peoples;
8 To bind their kings in chains *
and their nobles with links of iron;
9 To inflict on them the judgment decreed; *
this is glory for all his faithful people.
A Reading from the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians(1:11-23)
In 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, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In 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; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory. 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. I 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, so 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, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God 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, far 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. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
The Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke (6:20-31)
Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 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. “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. “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. “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets. “But 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. 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. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
by the Rev. Deacon George Snyder
MAY THE WORDS OF MY MOUTH AND THE MEDITATION IN ALL OF OUR HEARTS, BE ALWAYS ACCEPTABLE IN YOUR SIGHT, O LORD! YOU ARE OUR STRENGTH; YOU ARE OUR REDEEMER.
Since the earliest days of Christianity, the faithful have gathered to give thanks for the life and ministry of the saints—for the men and women whose witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ has been a blessing to their generation and the generations that followed. The lives of these saints—whether they are well known saints, or saints who are known only to a few—have richly blessed the church and have served as a guide to others to become a saint of God.
Today we celebrate All Saints’ Day, which actually occurred two days ago—the day after Halloween. The day celebrates and lifts up all the saints. Those Christian denominations that celebrate All Saints’ Day do so with the basic belief that there is a prayer-linked spiritual bond between those who are already in heaven—that is members of the Church Triumphant—and those of us still here on earth. It is that link that prayer gives us that connects the current church with the church that existed in the past—the church that has guided us thus far. That same link connects us to future generations of the saints of God.
We all know the names of many saints. There is a list of about 10000 people that the Catholic Church has raised to the level of sainthood—saints who are ancient, and saints who have recently died. Some of those saints you have heard about: St. Mark, St. Luke, St. Peter, St. Theresa, St. Francis. Other names you have never heard; some you can’t even pronounce. Today, as part of our liturgy, we remember and honor those saints who have spread the world of God’s love and of his boundless compassion. Their work has glorified God’s holy name. We also use this day as a means to use the inspiration of these saints in our own spiritual growth.
The Episcopal Church recognizes those saints named by the Catholic Church, but we have also added saints from the Anglican tradition. John Henry Hobart, bishop of New York who expanded the faithful by huge numbers; Absalom Jones, 18th century former slave and first African-American priest in the Episcopal Church. Thomas Cramner, 16th century English reformist and author of our Book of Common Prayer; Philander Chase, a 19th century New Hampshire priest who insisted on being a priest on the frontiers of Ohio, Michigan and Illinois, who later became the Bishop of Ohio.
But there are more saints than those on these two lists; for the Bible teaches us that those saints who have been elevated by the church are not the only saints. Everyone of God’s children has the capacity to become one of the saints of God. Each of us has had many people who have aided us on our journey through the path of life that leads us to the Almighty.
We remember today those saints that we have encountered in our own lives—saints that have helped to awaken God’s message of hope for us. We Christians need to be aware that we are continually in the presence of at least one of God’s select saints. Just imagine how we would treat one another if we would remember that we were in the presence of saints! Then, too, we Christians need to see ourselves as one of those saints. Imagine, if you can, how we would treat ourselves, and, consequently, how we would behave if we truly believed that we were one of God’s saints!
Look around you; you can see some of those saints here today: St. Donna, St. Carmen, St. William, St. Helen, St. Joanne, St. Carly, St. Judy, St. Donald, St, Justin, St, Janet. Oh, what a different world we would live in if we realized every day that we are one of God’s saints dealing with another one of God’s chosen one! How would you treat that man who cut you off in traffic, if you realized that he were a saint? How would you treat that homeless man on the street corner if you realized that he were a saint? How would conservative Republicans in Congress interact with their liberal Democratic brothers if they knew that each other was a saint? Maybe some work would get done! Maybe they could work out a compromise now and then. The world would be a totally different place if we truly believed in our own sainthood.
Later in today’s service, we will hear the names of some of those saints who are known personally to us—the people in our lives who have nurtured us and who have walked that pathway to God that all of us are still on. We take time today to remember both the famous saints and the ones known to us alone, in order to reconnect to them and to acknowledge what they have done for us to get us where we want to be—that is, part of the Church Triumphant. We name them to remind ourselves that we are on that path to sainthood because that is God’s will for us. We will hear those names of the saints in our lives who have become part of the Church Triumphant this year. At the end of the reading of the names in this year’s necrology, if you feel so inclined, say aloud the names of those saints who have been part of your lives—the names of those saints who have assisted you on your journey toward God. If you speak those names aloud, say them with both affection and with the assurance that Jesus will give us and them what we long for, to be raised to eternal joy at the end of time.
Today’s Gospel lesson lays out the characteristics of the blessed—the saints. Blessed are you who are poor…blessed are you who are hungry—blessed are you who weep now…blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. We each have been the poor, the hungry, the weeping, and the reviled. And, we see the poor, the hungry, the weeping and the reviled around us every week. Jesus calls us blessed because we have endured that on our journey to Him.
Those who follow Jesus have to expect to suffer along with others in this world who suffer. Jesus was poor. He was hungry. He wept. Jesus was reviled. If we are followers of Christ, we have to expect to experience the poverty, the hunger, the tears and the being reviled for who we are. That is the nature of being Jesus’s disciples—experiencing what He experienced. But also as his disciples, we know that that is not the end of the story. The end of the story comes when Christ enters his glory at the end of time; the story ends there for us because we will be there with him to be in oneness with him for all eternity.
The gospel lesson today also tells us the characteristics of the lost, over whom the cry of “woe” rings out. “But woe to the rich, woe to you who are full now…woe to you who are laughing…woe to you when people speak well of you.
Jesus immediately tells us that we need to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, pray for those who abuse us. Jesus tells us to give to those who are in such dire need that they beg. If we are rich, use that wealth to provide houses and clothing to those without. If we are full, give food to those who are not. If we are laughing, put some joy into another person’s life to make him laugh. It is hard to laugh on an empty stomach; it is hard to laugh when you are standing amid filth. It is hard to laugh when your child is dying because you don’t have medicine to make her well. Finally Jesus tells us to treat others as we ourselves want to be treated. Doing these things can be very difficult for most people; they go against our human nature—our need to accumulate things for ourselves, saving for a rainy day. Why, then, does Jesus ask us to do these things? He asks us to do them because that is the work of a saint. If we are the saints of God, we need to live like the saints of God.
In a few minutes we will be singing “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God.” The hymn begins with:
I sing a song of the saints of God,
Patient and brave and true,
Who toiled and fought and lived and died
For the Lord they loved and knew.
That is how it begins. Do you remember how that verse ends? The last two lines of the first stanza is the all-important message for today?
“they were all of them saints of God, and I mean,
God helping, to be one too.
Have a blessed week, you saints of the Lord!