All Saints:Easter 2.0
A sermon preached by the Reverend Michael Anderson Bullock
on 6 November 2022: All Saints Sunday [Year C]:
Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18; Ephesians 1:11-23; Luke 6:20-31
All Saints: Easter 2.0
Over our time together, I have both spoken to you and written about my sense of how important it is for us to reclaim our heritage as followers of Jesus and to be willing and able to speak more publicly and clearly about what we know. Of course, the pivot point of our faith heritage is Christ’s resurrection. In rising from the dead, Christ embodies what life with God is like: namely, that fear and death are real, but they are not the defining end. With God, in Communion with the Maker of heaven and earth, there is always more life for us and for the world than we can ask or imagine.
As I say, resurrection and its reality demonstrated by Christ are the pivot points of our faith and our hope. Easter, therefore, must never be diluted to be about “going to heaven when we die”; nor is resurrection about “life after death”. The reality of Easter, revealed through the resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead, proclaims what is really real. This truth lies at the heart of the Jesus Movement, of which you and I are a vital part and what you and I strive to be as the church; as the Body of Christ; as God’s own beloved.
Again, the point is that resurrection is the foundation of our life of faith and the heritage of our hope; and we need to reclaim this faith and hope as our own so that we may live in its abundant, life-giving legacy.
Now I speak of Easter and Jesus’ resurrection because without a clear and present understanding of this pivotal, life-changing event, we cannot grasp what we specifically and joyfully celebrate today: The Festival of All Saints. And here is what I want you to remember about All Saints: All Saints is what happens when resurrection’s rubber hits the road on which you and I “live and move and have our being”. Or to put this in a more digital form, All Saints is “Easter 2 [point] 0”. In this sermon, I want to explain a bit of what I mean by this.
In a nutshell, when we pay attention to All Saints, what we are dealing with are the transforming consequences of resurrection in our midst and in our lives. And the consequence of Easter is not only that Jesus has overcome fear and death to reveal life on God’s terms; but Christ’s rising is also the profound sign of what the Creator of all life desires for each of us. This is to say that what we see in the Risen One is what God calls us to receive and be. This is most definitely to say that being made in God’s image, we are now called to “put on” Christ (as St. Paul is so fond of saying) – to put on what we see in Jesus – to be like-Christ.
This is what I mean by saying that All Saint is the divine and holy consequence of Easter. Easter is not just about Jesus; it is also about the life that God intends for each of us to have. The biblical tradition calls this gift of new identity and life as being a “saint” -- not a “goody-two-shoes,” but someone who reflects the love of God, with the emerging likeness of Jesus.
The question is: How do we go about the faithful work of being Christ-like? he answer is practice, practice, practice. And the nature of our practice can be discovered in the words of what we call “The Beatitudes” – Jesus’ “Blessed are’s”. (In St. Luke’s rendering, the “blessings” are also coupled with a corresponding list of “troubles”.) These listings were read as part of today’s gospel and describe the transformed – and surprising, even upending -- life of God. The “blessings” and the consequences of ignoring the God-life have been described as the “job description” for the Jesus Movement. Listen to an expanded expression of today’s gospel to discern the extent to which folks like us willingly (perhaps even joyfully) apply for this “job”.
Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
While there is nothing automatically blessed about being poor and lacking what one needs, nonetheless, you are in the midst of the God-life, when you fight your fear of poverty and its associated sense of failure, and instead know that with less in your life, you are in an advantaged place of having room to receive the abundance that only God gives.
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.
You are in the midst of the God-life, when you recognize that your deepest hunger is for Communion with God, with your neighbor, and (therefore) with your truest self. This soul food puts you in right relationship with a truly nourishing and sustainable life.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
You are in the midst of the God-life when you face the reality of your broken heart. In doing so, the painful loss of what you hold so dear will still hurt, but you will also be more and more grateful for having loved the way God loves you.
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.
Ironically, you are in the midst of the God-life when people dismiss you or speak lies about you or get rid of you because you insist on being God-centered. At this point, you’ll know that you are embodying the truth that is too close to the bone for a self-centered, self-satisfied perspective. Cheers for you! The world doesn’t like it, but the Maker of heaven and earth does. Moreover, you’re in good and saintly company with those who are determined to keep track of God’s will in their own times.
But woe to you for those who are rich. There is trouble ahead for you who are full now, you who laugh now ,and you who garner fame and celebrity now. You will unavoidably realize that life is much more than we can provide for ourselves and that living as if we are the center is a fatal and damning distortion of all that is real and hopeful.
And so it is. All Saints: Easter coming home to us and cracking open the fearful shell that so often imprisons and terrifies our lives. All Saints: God calling us, guiding us, fortifying us with the life of Jesus. All Saints: We have purpose, and we have a living hope. We have a life that no one or anything can take away. And yet, this can sound so impractical to our worldly ears. Tomorrow at the nine o’clock office meeting, where will the “Beatitudes” be on our agenda? Or will we be more “practical” in our faith orientation?
Don’t be sucker-punched by such thinking. The key to the reality of what Jesus’ teaches us lies in the lesson’s last line: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Putting this reminder into play starts a transforming process that makes us different, and through us, can and does make the world different. And it is all so very practical and realistic.
Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people – to God’s saints in the making. Thanks be to God. Amen.