Sermon Pentecost 25 All Saints Remembrance November 6, 2016
Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18 Psalm 149 Ephesians 1:11-23 Luke 6:20-36
May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer.
When reading today’s Gospel, and always, it is important to put Jesus’ words in context. Jesus is not saying that all the poor, or all the hungry, or all who suffer, or all those who are hated, are blessed just because they are poor, hungry, suffering or hated. No, that would not be right ! The context is that Jesus is speaking to His disciples (which includes us). Jesus knows it’s not easy to be a disciple and to take up His invitation to follow Him (Matthew 4:19). In following Him it is sometimes necessary to give up a lucrative opportunity, and then find your budget is stretched really tight and luxuries are a non-starter, you are poor. Along with that often comes hunger. Sometimes it’s important to take a stand on principle and get lots of people mad at you. And if it is a government, even one governed by the rule-of-law like ours, you may find yourself spied-on or incarcerated for doing what you believe is right. And if it is a government with lower standards than ours it may lead to your wrongful imprisonment, torture and death.
What you believe whether it’s a social matter, such as assisted dying, or a political matter, such as CETA the trade agreement with Europe, or a religious matter about the freedom to worship, your belief can lead you into trouble. You can be spied upon, your locations checked, your telephone and internet presence monitored by the government even in our fair land, and some people are for the causes for which they stand. Imagine what it is like under a totalitarian or corrupt regime like most places in the Middle East, including Turkey of late, Russia and China and their client-states, most of North Africa, Egypt in particular and definitely Zimbabwe to the south. This is still an unsafe world for people with Christian principles.
There is another complication – fundamentalist Islam. Historically, right from the get-go, Islam, which ironically means “Peace” has spread its political and religious power by the sword. There is no separation between ‘mosque and state’ in Islamic countries and because of that Christians are being martyred there even today. It is not politically correct to talk about this but we must. Churches are being destroyed and Christians are being killed for their faith – the Age of Martyrdom is not over by any means therefore celebrating All Saints’ Day today is as relevant as it ever was. Jesus stated a timeless Truth that His disciples would be poor, hungry, suffering and hated, and He was right, and that will be the case until this whole world comes to see the Truth in Him. It makes our task of bringing Christ to our families, friends and acquaintances even more valid and urgent. Military intervention of Moslem countries, called by a recent American President a ‘crusade’ is not going to work – Jesus denounced violence saying “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52b) and regrettably the current disorder in the Middle East is partly a product of that ‘crusade’. Once again Jesus was right. Spreading the Word is the only way. And we do that by word but best by action. Jesus commenting on this very point said “you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35). So we are to set an example to others by the very action of loving. / How dangerous could that be ? It sounds as though we have the easiest task going ! But that is not so. Loving can mean taking a stand against the tide of popular opinion for something that you believe in. Assisted dying – do you agree with that ? If not take a stand. It’s not just a political opinion but a matter of life and death, and Jesus came that we all may have life (John 20:31). Same thing for abortion. Loving is the most difficult task. To whom do you show love and how ? When should a person be released from suffering ? Or should nature take its course ? How will you show love ? Is it better for a baby with a certain condition not to be born ? How will you show love ? If you make the wrong decision then Love turns into Persecution. And there are other issues to settle, Indigenous issues, health care, affordable housing, minimum wage, minimum income, and on and on. Where do you stand ? Love is not easy, never was, never will be. / And standing aside is not an option. We cannot avoid examining our Christian principles in any situation and that is what all the saints we remember today wrestled with. Taking care of others is an expression of love. The work you do with food banks, charitable donations, with the resettlement of refugees expresses love, not to do so leaves us open to the accusation from the needy and Jesus, “I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me” (Matthew 25:43).
We have countless witnesses to our faith for us to follow, all have stood up for what is right by the Gospel. How do we know what is right ? Only by reading Scripture, thinking about it and discussing it, we don’t do much of that generally do we ? But we really should and by so doing we will honour the saints who have stood on the Bible and could do no more. As I have said before the Church has not been innocent in this. It has perverted the Truth in the past. The Middle Ages were a terrible time, when countless martyrs suffered its wrongs. It took them and other good Christians to speak-up and bring about needed change, people like Martin Luther, who was labelled an heretic and excommunicated. A good sign occurred this week when the Pope acknowledged that Luther was right to post the ninety-five theses five hundred years ago on a church door that sparked the continental Reformation of Europe, which in turn brought about the Protestant Church (Anglicanism remained and remains catholic). The Pope declared that Luther and others in challenging wrongs were right and that the struggle although it cost them much is worthwhile. We praise and celebrate all the Saints of the Church for their courage. May we not be found wanting when we are called upon to stand witness to Christ. Amen.