All Saints Sunday
Luke 6:20 – 31
My Papa was a pharmacist who hung out his shingle, opening his store, Sole the Druggist, in the midst of the depression. He had a particular philosophy of business – if you were sick you got your medicine. Even if you couldn’t afford to pay for them. Long before the days of home delivery, my Papa would drive your prescriptions to your home if you couldn’t go downtown to pick them up.
He died when I was only 12 years old, but you know, for decades after his death I would meet people who knew my Papa. People who’d been the recipient of his compassion and his love. And when people found out that I was Albert Sole’s granddaughter, I would be told a story about how he met them where they were and made sure that they got what they needed to get them healthy again.
Today we celebrate the Feast of All Saints. It’s a day when we remember the saints in our lives and the saints of the church who’ve helped to form us in our faith. Today my Papa is one of the saints in my life that I give thanks for. His compassion and his care for all people are traits that I believe he learned from Jesus.
The scene is set and everything is ready. The crowds are present. The Gospel of Luke calls them disciples. Loyal followers, even this early in Jesus’s ministry. They’d witnessed him healing and teaching and challenging the status quo.
As the sun peaked up over the horizon, Jesus’s night of prayer on the mountain ended and he called the disciples all together choosing 12 of them to be apostles. Sort of his inner circle.
The drama continues as Jesus descends the mountain, standing on a level place. The crowds gathering around him were huge. The sounds of the languages drifting through the masses were evidence of the vast diversity represented here. They hailed from Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon. Jews and Gentiles, they came to hear Jesus speak. They came to have their diseases cured. They came to have unclean spirits removed.
There, standing right in the midst of all of this diversity is Jesus, the hands of those who’d gathered clamoring to touch him, yearning to be healed. In the midst of all of that confusion Jesus looks up to the disciples still gathered up on the mountain.
And he began to speak.
“Blessed are you…….”
“Wow to you……”
We already know in Luke’s Gospel, that Jesus has a special place in his heart for those who live on the margins. Those who are poor. Those who are hungry. Those who are hated and excluded. Those who weep. They’re special to Jesus and in Luke’s blessings all of those who are addressed can find hope.
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Yours IS the kingdom of God. Now. Right in this very place. Can you see the commotion as those who were experiencing poverty wound their way closer to Jesus, anxious to hear more of what he had to say?
They’d always believed that the must have done something wrong to land themselves in such an economic hardship. They believed that they were cursed. The Book of Deuteronomy made it clear. Failure to keep God’s commandments resulted in being cursed. Bad things happen to bad people. Luke’s blessings and curses turn that belief upside down. No longer are blessings and woes tied to behavior. That’s a really important shift. One that I believe we continue to struggle with.
How often have you heard someone in the midst of what Jesus describes as woes asking themselves, or maybe even speaking the words out loud. “What have I done to deserve this?” Deuteronomy 11:26 – 28 says this: “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse.: the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God.”
That’s the belief system that formed many of those who gathered around Jesus on the plain that day so very long ago. Jesus words reframed everything that they knew to be true.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now for you will laugh.” Jesus doesn’t say anything about being blessed when we obey the commandments. No. Blessings aren’t tied to behavior. In God’s Kingdom hungry bellies will be filled and tears will be wiped away.
And that change is already beginning. Jesus has and is bringing the Kingdom of God into the present time. That Kingdom was already present in the person of Jesus and that Kingdom continues to be revealed in our midst today.
Yesterday’s food truck was one of those times when the Kingdom of God was very present in our midst as hungry people were able to fill their fridges with fresh produce shared from the abundance of God’s harvest.
The Kingdom of God was present as my Papa ensured that all people, whether you could afford to pay for your medicine or not, had what they needed to help them to be healthy.
The Kingdom of God is present in the lives of all of the saints of our lives and of the church that we remember and give thanks for today. The Kingdom of God was present in the life of St. Jude, the saint after which this church is named. Jude was one of the 12 and his name has been shortened to Jude from Judas, likely to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot. Today St. Jude is known as the Patron Saint of lost causes.
St. Jude may have preached the Gospel in many places including Judea, Samaria, and perhaps as far away as Mesopotamia and Persia. Jude was a person who interceded for people in the midst of desperate situations. He was well travelled and his words and actions changed lives wherever he went as he shared the love of Jesus. The Kingdom of God was present.
Recognizing that we’re experiencing the Kingdom of God is powerful and it’s life-changing. It makes it possible to do what we might consider impossible.
She had lived for years hearing how inadequate she was. Nothing she did was ever good enough. The more she heard it, the more she believed it to be true. The abuse that had been heaped on her day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year had shaped how she saw herself.
Eventually, she began to hear a different narrative. One that helped her to see that she was a beloved child of God. A valuable human being with gifts and skills that were treasured. As she began to accept that this was true, her sense of identity began to shift. And with that shift came an understanding of how her abuser had been lying to her all those many years. She began to see that abuser as the enemy, and, if she was honest with herself, she hated that person.
One day she met someone who’d been in a similar place. As they shared the stories of their experiences, she began to see that there was something different in her new friend’s story. There wasn’t any hate. That intrigued her enough to ask her friend to explain. As she listened to the response, she knew she was experiencing the presence of the Kingdom of God.
Her friend explained that one day she realized that it was time to let those feelings go. She, too, used to hate her abuser. But then she realized that those feelings were shaping her identity in a way that was just as much a lie as the abuse that had been showered down on her had been. She began to do the work of letting those feelings go. She began to pray for her abuser. She began to ask God to bless that person. She began to let the identity of being a victim fall away. It was then that she could see and live into a new future.
Jesus understood that seeing ourselves as a victim holds us back from experiencing the Kingdom of God. I think that’s why he challenges us in today’s scripture to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us, to bless those who curse us and pray for those who abuse us. Jesus wants us to be able to experience the reality that is the Kingdom of God in the here and the now. Jesus understood how freeing it is to let those feelings of being the victim go. And he knew how difficult that can be.
Throughout our lives we meet people whose stories help us to see the Kingdom of God. Today, on this All Saints’ Sunday, we remember and we give thanks. Not just for the saints of the church, like St. Jude, whose stories help us to remember that all things are possible with God. Today we also remember and give thanks for the saints who’ve touched our lives, whose experiences and love have helped us to see the reality of the Kingdom of God.
May the saints in our lives and the saints of the Church continue to guide us as we discover God’s Kingdom today and all our days.