Introduction and Call to Worship
On this All Saints’ Day we give thanks for all those who have served God faithfully in the name of Jesus Christ – a great crowd of witness to the glory of God – and we are invited to follow their example of faith.
First Reading Daniel 7:1-3. 15-18
Daniel’s vision is revealed as foretelling a troubled future for a world ruled by violence, but promising an everlasting kingdom for God’s “holy ones”.
Second Reading Ephesians 1:11-end
Christians, the body of Christ in this world, need the Spirit’s gifts of wisdom and revelation to recognise God’s power and inherit eternal glory.
Gospel Luke 6:20-31
Jesus urges us to treat others as we would want to be treated – loving, forgiving. Those who are underprivileged may recognise God in this; the comfortable may need help.
HOMILY “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31)
Over the past 2000 years, each century has produced holy men and women who have found that a sense of humour is extremely helpful! Maybe that’s because humour requires a special insight, a more relaxed philosophy of life. Often, those with a great sense of humour have much more than a simple knack with witty words or a great repertoire of jokes. Funny people see the outrageous contrast between what is said and what is actually done, and they poke fun at hypocrisy and of course themselves! St Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) was not simply brilliant with people and animals, but he had a sense of humour! He said of himself that he was a “fool for Christ”! Before he challenged others he first recognised his own failings.
The Saints are those who walk a life close to God, following the example of Christ and recognising the foolishness of human pride. They see the funny side to life while keeping in prayer the serious matters of day to day life. In the Old Testament such people were described as filled with wisdom. They perceive more than the superficial and look to that which is eternal and God-given.
At the heart of this wisdom is an ability to perceive need in others and treat others with respect. Concluding today’s Gospel reading, Jesus reminds his listeners of the golden rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” The first half of the reading reflects the harsh reality of life, and the truth is that life has been tough for many people throughout human history. Some people are rich, happy, living comfortable lives, while others are poor and hungry, hated and excluded. Some are physically rich but spiritually poor which is probably the worst place to be in relation to God. Jesus offers comfort to those who are poor, calling them blessed. Is this because they are more likely to recognise their need for God? Is that why the kingdom of God is theirs and their reward great in heaven?
To those who are comfortable in this life, however, it seems Jesus is condemning them outright: “Woe to you!” That is, until we reach the single, simple word on which this whole passage hinges: “but” – thank heavens for that, I am sure a few of us are thinking… BUT! Those who are comfortable now, who are rich, respectable and popular, are thrown a lifeline by our Lord of all life and love for he recognises that being rich is not itself a crime. Friends, it is what you do with your wealth and power that really matters, not how much of it you have. Jesus makes clear “to you that listen” – which is to all of us today, we need to order our priorities according to those of his Kingdom. We must prioritise love, blessing, giving and forgiving, the very virtues by which we hope to be treated. And we need look no further than the Saints to find examples of such virtuous and Godly living, those willing to sacrifice of the little they have in order that others may be raised up in faith.
Likewise, the kingdom Jesus promises speaks of the same values: God loves us, blesses us, forgives us and even gives, in Jesus, the ultimate gift – dying for us to rescue us from our sin. Rich or poor, we cannot earn our place in the Kingdom of Heaven financially. No pot of gold on earth can buy our place in heaven. We need to live by the values of God’s Kingdom as taught by Jesus, recognising that we are called to be saints today – and be joyful about it! That requires wisdom.
Today we celebrate not only those saints with churches dedicated to them or a special day of their own in the church calendar. We also remember all those who have followed the teaching of Jesus, walking a life close to God. Just as all the early Christians were addressed as “saints” in Paul’s letters, we are all called to be saints today, to walk close to the Lord and remain faithful in prayer while having a sense of humour. We know we’re not perfect; we know we get things wrong. Just like St Francis, we can be fools, yet we also know that our baptism has cleansed us and Jesus our Lord has saved us, and we now continue his ministry here on earth – living his kingdom values out daily.
In today’s world, people still toil in dreadful conditions, people still hunger, people are still excluded, reviled, even persecuted – like many of the saints. In a world where refugee children are washed up dead on holiday beaches, and children just 70 miles away have no bed to sleep on in a Calais camp, there is work for all the saints. That means us, all of us – we are the saints today. There is work for all Christians to do, strong in the knowledge that the hardest work of all has already been done for us, on the cross by Jesus our Lord.
Jesus urges us to do to others as we would have them do to us – loving and forgiving. We need to have a good sense of humour like the saints and recognise our own failings first.
Those who are poor know their need of God’s help, while those who are comfortable may need a helping hand, offered by the teaching and example of Jesus.
As followers of Jesus, as his “saints”, all of us are called to apply his teaching to the world we live in. We are called to walk a path of faith close to the Lord.