Old Testament: 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.”
The Response: Psalm 149
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.
The Epistle: 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 Gospel: Luke (6:20-31)
(Jesus) 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. Michael Kreutzer
Just a little over a week ago, I completed another year as chaplain for military reunions and memorial dedications at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Since the summer of 2008, St. Mark’s has extended this ministry through me to hundreds, maybe even thousands, of veterans and their families.
The script that we follow on these occasions is almost always the same. As much as the groups who are honored differ from one another, much of the service is practically identical from one dedication to another; but every once in a while, there is a variation.
Many of the services include a segment during which someone reads the names of those in the unit who died either during their time on active duty or since the unit’s last reunion. It is normally a solemn and moving time, when everyone stands or sits in respectful silence. But a couple of weeks ago, there was a unit that had a different custom. As each name was read, instead of remaining silent, everyone in the group shouted out, “Here!” It was their way of affirming that those who had died were still part of the unit with them, and that they wanted to acknowledge their presence with them on that solemn occasion.
Today, as we celebrate All Saints Day, we include within our Eucharistic Prayer the names of the many parishioners, family members, and friends who have died during the past year. For that solemn moment, I suggest that we do so while standing quietly and respectfully, just as we usually do, rather than shouting out anything. But our custom in remembering them by name on this occasion does serve as a reminder that they are still here with us and that they and we are all part of what the Apostles Creed calls “the communion of saints.”
The Book of Common Prayer (page 862) describes the communion of saints as “the whole family of God, the living and the dead…, bound together in Christ by sacrament, prayer, and praise.” It is an affirmation that the people of God and the life that we share transcend the boundary of death, joining us inseparably with those who have gone before us and have already entered into God’s nearer presence. While we no longer see or hear them, they are still here among us; and we, among them. We are separated from them only for a time, by, as some Christian mystics have put it “a thin veil.”
But the profession of our belief in a communion of saints carries with it important implications, not only for those who have died, but for us as well. Not only are those who have died “the saints of God,” but we are “the saints of God” as well. We are the ones who, as our reading from Ephesians puts it (1:13), have heard the word of God, have believed in it, and have been sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism in order to be a people commissioned to do God’s work in the world. We are to be, as one of our Eucharistic Prayers (2) puts it, the body of Christ given for the world that God has made.
That role, conferred on all of us by God, carries with it multiple dimensions. It includes speaking the word of God, challenging those values that contradict the values taught both by Jesus and by the scriptures and our religious heritage as a whole. It involves going out and serving those who are in need in our community and world in God’s name. And it involves the ministry of prayer, exercised as part of the priesthood of all believers.
On multiple occasions, Bishop Tom Breidenthal has spoken about the critical role that Christians play in exercising that shared priesthood. When we baptize new members into the church, all of us conclude the rite by declaring together: “We receive you into the household of God. Confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with us in his eternal priesthood.” (The Book of Common Prayer, page 308)
All of us who share in Christ’s eternal priesthood have a responsibility to lift up in prayer to God the needs and concerns of all people, to intercede on behalf of the world. The Bishop has often added that he would love to see everyone in our churches standing for the Prayers of the People in recognition that they are, in fact, exercising their God-given priesthood. In prayer and in action, we are called to join the world to God and God to the world.
Today as we “sing a song of the saints of God” and declare that “I want to be one, too,” we do so, not asking only that we might one day be reunited with those who have gone before us in sharing the fullness of God’s life. We do so asking that, here in this life, we might live as the people that God has called us to be: “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that [we] may proclaim the mighty acts of [the one] who called [us] out of darkness into [God’s] marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9); or, put succinctly, that we might live here and now as the saints of God.