By Chaplain Mike
Gospel for All Saints’ Day
â€¢ Luke 6:20-31
“All Saints Day is a witness to God’s way of blessing the world…” (David Thiede)
Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasnâ€™t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Arenâ€™t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? (James 2:5)
Imagine a school playgound. A group of children gathers to play some game, let’s say kickball. Two are elected captains, and now it’s time for them to choose up teams.
Everyone knows who the best players are. They are the boys and girls with strong bodies and exceptional coordination for their age. They are smart enough to know where to kick the ball to get the most for their effort. They can run fast around the bases. In the field, they are the ones most likely to position themselves well and catch the ball. If you need a strong throw, one of them can be counted on to make it.
There are other children who dread this time of dividing up teams. They know they are not gifted athletes. Perhaps they haven’t had their growth spurt yet, and they are smaller and weaker than the other children. Maybe they just prefer other kinds of activitiesâ€”reading, music, or indoor pastimes. Some are shy. Some lack confidence. Some have made mistakes in previous games and were laughed at by their mates, and they are not eager to be embarrassed again. They wait and wait while the captains make their choices. They know they are at the bottom of the heap, and some of them will only be taken when there are no other players left.
You are one of the captains. Who will you take for your team?
Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. (Luke 6:12-16)
By any measure, this was an unlikely group of people for a Coach to choose for team. But he doesn’t stop there. Following his appointment of the twelve disciples, Luke tells us the first thing Jesus did with his team was to reach out to a crowd of even more unlikely people so that he might also include them in the game:
He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them. (Luke 6:17-19, NRSV)
In the words that follow, our Lord gives his rationale for the draft choices he made for his team. “God’s plan is to turn the world upside down,” he said. “In order to show you that there is no one outside the scope of God’s grace and blessing, I will choose the most unlikely, the most looked-down-upon, the ones with the least to offer from the world’s point of view. And I will shower heaven’s favor upon them. I will put them on my team. I will bless them.”
So Jesus chose the undersized guy with thick glasses. The shy girl who hides behind the taller ones. The kid with two left feet. The one who’s so scared to make a mistake he cries whenever the pressure’s on.
And he promised to restore God’s blessing to the world through them. How great is that!
The main way God blesses the world is by pouring his grace upon unlikely people, and then using them to live and tell his Good News to others. This is one of the great messages of All Saints’ Day. You don’t need to have “what it takes.” Riches aren’t required. No diploma necessary. You don’t have to be good looking, coordinated, popular, of any certain race, class, or social status. First in your class, or at the bottom, it doesn’t matterâ€”God’s grace is here for you in Jesus.
Anyone can be a “saint.” Though we may honor certain of our forbears as exemplary people of faith, hope, and love, the Bible uses the word “saint” to refer to anyone and everyone who has received forgiveness and new life through Jesus. The Protestant take on saints is that ultimately there are no levels in God’s family. There is no “elite” class of Christians beyond a “regular” class of hoi polloi. Today we honor all saintsâ€”known and unknown, past and present, from every branch of God’s family tree.
In doing so, we magnify the grace of God in Jesus Christ. There’s no other way Charlie Browns like me could be called blessed.
Prayer of the Day (By Bruce Prewer, Uniting Church of Australia)
Living God, in whom there is no shadow or change, we thank you for the gift of life eternal, and for all those who having served you well, now rest from their labours.
We thank you for all the saints remembered and forgotten, for those dear souls most precious to us. Today we give thanks for those who during the last twelve months have died and entered into glory.
We bless you for their life and love, and rejoice for them â€œall is well, and all manner of things will be well.â€
God of Jesus and our God, mindful of all those choice souls who have gone on ahead of us, teach us, and each twenty-first century disciple of every race and place,
- to follow their example to the best of our ability:
- to feed the poor in body or spirit,
- to support and comfort the mourners and the repentant,
- to encourage the meek and stand with them in crises,
- to affirm those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
- to cherish and learn from the merciful,
- to be humbled by, and stand with, the peacemakers.
Let us clearly recognize what it means to be called the children of God, and to know we are to be your saints neither by our own inclination nor in our own strength but simply by the call and the healing holiness of Christ Jesus our Saviour. Amen!
Luke 6:20-31 (NLT):
Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said,
â€œGod blesses you who are poor,
for the Kingdom of God is yours.
God blesses you who are hungry now,
for you will be satisfied.
God blesses you who weep now,
for in due time you will laugh.
“What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way.
â€œWhat sorrow awaits you who are rich,
for you have your only happiness now.
What sorrow awaits you who are fat and prosperous now,
for a time of awful hunger awaits you.
What sorrow awaits you who laugh now,
for your laughing will turn to mourning and sorrow.
What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds,
for their ancestors also praised false prophets.
â€œBut to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, donâ€™t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you.”