All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day have happened this week. And because All Saints is a major (Easter type) Festival and its also the anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood, I move it and celebrate it on the Sunday after. It is usually a good celebration and there are some times baptisms to do with it, like there will be this Sunday.
The Gospel this week (Luke 6.20-31) notes that people are coming to Jesus. They come for at least one of two and maybe more reasons. First, people come because they are seeing deeds of power being done: the blind are seeing, the deaf are hearing, the lame are walking and the poor are becoming rich. Plus, people are hearing what God is saying through Jesus – they are hearing words of power (dynamos) and they explode just like dynamite. Second people, because they are experiencing God, come to Jesus to be cured – made whole. People are coming to and find Jesus because they want to be whole and free like they have never been before. They finding that being with Jesus is making them whole and setting them free. It is in this context (Isaiah 61.1-3) that Jesus ministers to people healing every person that comes to him, without reservation, without caveat. And in some real ways the Church grows.
Jesus and the Twelve have come down from a spiritual mountain top into the places and spaces where most people dwell. Jesus sits down and talks to them about what is important and what the nature and work of the Church should look like. Looking directly at his chosen leaders, he begins to talk about blessedness or righteousness: “Righteous are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Now, it is important to keep in mind that righteousness, from a Christian point of view is not something we do to become, but rather it is something that we are given by God and because we have it we need to act in a righteous manner. That is, we need to live as people who are in relationship with God – because we are. So if we look at this, those who are economically disadvantaged, who are hungry because they have no food, who are weeping because they see and understand the state of the people and the Land – these are blessed and are righteous, because they are in the presence of God.
It is the inversion of what the world says and thinks blessedness is about. If you have lots of stuff – wealth, position, power you must be blessed. If you have lots to eat and drink and are able to eat five times a day, you must be blessed. If you have lots of friends and are able to party, laugh and carry on, you must be blessed. But that is not how Jesus and therefore God sees it. In fact he takes the time to warn people thusly by saying to them “Woe to you is coming if you have these things and do not bless” Woes were used by the OT prophets to warn the nation and individuals about their impending disaster if they did not changes their ways and live a righteous life towards God and neighbour. These warnings were given because people had become arrogant and were ignoring the visitation of God for the purposes of redeeming them and shaping them into his priesthood, his holy nation.
God calls us to love our neighbours, ourselves, each other and even our enemies. We are commanded to act well towards others who we believe hate us. We are to do good to those who persecute us and to bless them. We are to move away from the idea of retribution, the eye for an eye mentality – no wonder we live in a world of sightless people. We are too busy taking out each other’s eyes and we live in a world that is blinded by fear and hate, by mistrust and self righteousness. We are too quick to try and take out the speck in our neighbour’s eye.
We are to offer whatever it is that our neighbour demands of us and we are to bless them by giving and not withholding. We are to hold an attitude of love so that when we speak to them or about them we don’t offer insult and cause ourselves to sin. We are to pray for them and ask God to bless them even in spite of (or maybe because of) what they have done to us or our lives. We can do this because God will “save us from the hands of all that hate us” (Zach 1.71)
What do we do when we discover that we are in the presence of God, that we are indeed being visited and redeemed? We must give and we must dance! We need to give to God and to others until it pinches our lives, The amount is somewhat immaterial – it is how you give and therefore how you chose to dance that matters. What matters is whether or not your heart, your life and your home are open and ready to offer self and hospitality to those who will come. We are to give without thought of reward or return.
As Saints of the living God, as Christian souls, if we work at that, then the Son can shine through us and that means an awful lot to a world that is lost in sin, fear and the growing darkness.