Many congregations will observe All Saints Day this Sunday. We will lift up the names of those who have died and those who have been baptized in the last year. Candles will be lit and songs will be sung. Tears will flow from the eyes of those who mourn. We remember. We honor. We pray and lift up the saints of tomorrow. This is the perfect activity for the last Sunday before the presidential election here in the US.
Any number of us have been traumatized during this election cycle. We have listened to hate-speech, threats of violence, and more false or exaggerated accusations than ever before. Whole groups of people have been dismissed and devalued – Muslims, women, Mexicans and other Latinx folks, People of Color, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ+ folks. Religious beliefs have been tangled and distorted and abused as they were tangled up in political rhetoric. It’s distressing and the future looks uncertain.
But we will remember the saints who touched our lives, shaped our faith, and entrusted the future to us. And we will lift up infants who have been baptized whose lives we will touch, whose faith we will shape, and whose future is in our hands. All Saints Day isn’t just a nostalgic time of remembrance. It’s a time of stepping into the shoes of those who’ve gone before and walking in a direction of leadership and love for those who will soon follow us.
That day, long ago, when Jesus addressed his disciples while a crowd pressed in, speaks to the spirit of the day. Luke’s version starts off with Jesus assuring those who are poor, hungry and weeping that they will be blessed. So, too, those who are hated and mistreated because of their faith. This sounds good. We all agree that those who suffer deserve blessings at some point. But then Jesus goes to the woes. Woe to the rich, the satisfied, and the ones who are laughing. Woe also to the ones who please everyone all the time. This makes us a bit uncomfortable.
We like to have money in the bank, and food in our cabinets, and lots of laughter. And, well, is really that bad if everyone likes you? Yes, yes it is. Having everyone like you all the time means that you aren’t really standing up for anything very important all that often. What kind of is this the kind of saint you want to be? As for wealth, food, and laughter? Well, at whose expense have we gained these things?
This isn’t the end of discomfort in Jesus’ words. It gets worse if we are among those listening. Jesus commands that we love our enemies, be nice to those who aren’t nice to us, and offer blessings and prayers for those who abuse and oppress us. More than that, we are told to “turn the other cheek” if we are hit. If that’s not enough to challenge all of us, then if someone takes our coats, we’re supposed to offer our shirts, too. And give to those who beg. And let people keep what they have stolen from us. And the infamous bottom line: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
This is the crux of it all. Those we lift up as saints, those with days named after them and those who are remembered by so few, are remembered because they did their best to love others, to be generous, kind, and compassionate. Those little ones we’ve baptized this year will look to us to be the saints in their lives, living out God’s love, forgiveness, and grace.
These are the kind of thoughts we ought to be entertaining as we head to the poles. Blessings or woes? Which candidate is more likely to allow us to leave a legacy of compassion? Which candidate is more likely to lead in a direction of unity and encourage all to live according to the Golden Rule? We honor the saints who have gone before us. How will we honor those who come after us?
RCL – Year C – All Saints Day Observance – November 6, 2016
Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18