Saturday, October 31, 2020

All Saints 2020

Matthew 5:1-12

1When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

3"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7"Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. 8"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11"Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Praise Prayer from Psalm 34

I bless God every chance I get; my lungs expand with God's praise.
I live and breathe God; if things aren't going well, hear this and be happy:
Join me in spreading the news; together let's get the word out.

God met me more than halfway, and freed me from my anxious fears.
When I was desperate, I called out, and God got me out of a tight spot.
Worship God if you want the best; worship opens doors to all his goodness.
Can't wait zeach day to come upon beauty?

Turn your back on sin; do something good. Embrace peace—don’t let it get away!
Is anyone crying for help? God is listening, ready to rescue you.
If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there;
if you’re kicked in the gut, God will help you catch your breath.

Keep blessing God every chance you get! Let your voices circle the earth!

The Message (MSG) Copyright 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson

All Saints Sunday is All Saints Day this year!

Halloween is All Hallows Eve. A hallowed person, place, or event is a holy one. The traditional version of the Lord's Prayer in English asks that God's name be hallowed or made holy. All Hallows Eve anticipates the holy persons the church remembers and celebrates on the following day, All Saints.

Saints or holy ones we've known could be neighbors, parents, friends, relatives still on earth or in heaven. Saints could be people in scripture or famous saints like Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Kolkata, Francis and Claire of Assisi, Augustine, Susanna, John, and Charles Wesley. Although historically this day has focused on the church triumphant, the remembrance includes those of us still in the visible church that's sometimes called the church militant. "All of us" because in baptism we receive the Holy Spirit (Spiritus Sanctus in Latin) and become hallowed or sanctified; we become saints.

The sanc prefix to a word also means holy, just as in the Sanctus–"Holy, Holy, Holy" we sing during the liturgy. Western churches often use the term sanctification to refer to the Holy Spirit-inspired process of people more consistently acting with justice, love, mercy, and righteousness, of becoming more holy, just as God is holy. Hallowed be each of our names?

Legend says Martin Luther posted his 95 theses or ideas about needed church reform on the church door because: (1) the church building was the town's cultural center, so people got their important news from the door of the church—similar to our narthex bulletin board; and (2) All Saints Day was a holy day of obligation with people required to attend mass, so chances were high that everyone would read Luther's ideas. Therefore… the church celebrates Reformation Day on 31 October, but with All Saints coming up the following day, Reformation Sunday gets scheduled for the previous Sunday.

Matthew's Gospel and the Beatitudes

Three more Sundays, and then a new year of grace begins with the first Sunday of Advent, so this lectionary year A with gospel readings mostly from Matthew is almost over.

Matthew's gospel portrays Jesus as the New Moses, Jesus as the new King David. Matthew has a strong emphasis on God's righteousness and justice we find throughout the Hebrew Bible. You probably remember God spoke the Ten Commandments – words in the Hebrew text – through Moses on Mount Sinai or Horeb? In Matthew, Jesus' IPO – Initial Public Offering – after his baptism and call of his first disciples is the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew parallels Moses receiving the Ten Words of the Sinai Covenant by having Jesus preach on a hill. We can consider Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in Matthew (Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6:17-26) interpretations of the Ten Commandments. The commandments and the sermon on the mount are paths to wholeness for all creation.

As he begins his homily or talk, Jesus describes attributes or characteristics of his followers with blessings they receive as a result. In turn they (that's us) use those blessings to bless others. Beatitude comes from the Latin beatus or happy. These qualities are gifts of grace rather than "be-attitudes" as some suggest, yet having them demands our response—what we do because of who we are. In that sense, the beatitudes are about how we are supposed to be.

In real life, Jesus probably gave this or a very similar talk many times to different audiences that could have been his twelve main followers, a mixed group of a few hundred women, men, and young people, a spontaneous gathering of ten or so curious people… flash mob! We can speculate on anything scripture doesn't clearly state, and often need to be imaginative to contextualize scripture for our own place and time.

COVID-19 and the Beatitudes

The saints we've been seeing during this pandemic! Countless people worldwide have risked their lives, comfort, and safety to help others and keep the planet running. We've seen healing, protection, rescuing, praying, hoping, governing, sustaining, waiting, loss and grief. We've observed heroes on television and elsewhere; we know scientists on several continents have been developing vaccines behind the scenes (among many other less visible contributors). No one can count or celebrate sufficiently those COVID-19 saints who embody and rock the beatitudes every day. God works through everyone; God doesn't mind being anonymous. Many essential workers and other pandemic heroes intentionally follow one of the Abrahamic religions or another spiritual-ethical way of life that acknowledges the divine in creation, but many don't. On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit filled the world…

The commandments and the sermon on the mount are paths to wholeness for all creation.

• Is there any group you especially appreciate during this time of lockdown, pandemic, uncertainty, and opportunity?
• Is there some way we can thank the first responders?
• How can we pay forward their amazing service?

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