Sermon All Saints 2019
The holy gospel according to Luke, the 6th chapter.
Glory to you, O Lord.
20Then Jesus looked up at his disciples and said:
"Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21"Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
"Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23Rejoice 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.
24"But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
25"Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
"Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
27But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.
The gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator, and our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
We have once again come to All Saints Day, the day we remember all those who have died in the faith and who have claimed the promises God made to them in the waters of baptism.
We will gather this morning as we do each week at the Lord’s table. Today we especially remember those who are gathered with us on the other side of the table, at the great high feast in the Holy City of God.
Today is a day of remembering our blessings. We especially remember the saints from our congregation who have died in the past year.
We remember these friends and neighbors as we look on the candles we lit for each of them: Mary Lou, Arla, Florence, Mae, Norma, Lynn, Stephen, Jeff, Peggy, Rod, Edna, Ike.
We remember all of them and all the others in our lives who have gone on to heaven ahead of us. We remember both the good and the bad things, the happy and the sad times. We pray forgiveness for those times and relationships that were not as God intended.
It is traditional in the Jewish culture to refer to someone who has died as a person “of blessed memory.” So, today, we remember that these people were a blessing to us. We give thanks to God for giving them to us as companions on earth.
A blessing is a thanksgiving event. It means that God has chosen us, granted us favor, and made us holy. God richly blessed us here at Central Lutheran with the privilege of knowing and loving these saints who have gone before us.
Today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke is part of what we call the Sermon on the Plain because Luke tells us that Jesus went to a level place to preach. This part of the sermon is called the blessings and woes. It contrasts with the beatitudes in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount which just includes the blessings.
In this passage, the word used for “woe” isn’t exactly the opposite of the word for blessing. It doesn’t mean a “curse” for example. It is more like a warning. It’s like saying, “watch out” or even “yikes” to those who are being warned. Luke’s message is providing a caution sign for those who are rich and full and laughing now. He’s telling them they better watch out.
Today I would like to offer you an image to help understand the idea of both blessings and woes. It’s the image of a river. The water in the river represents the blessings in our lives, those gifts of God that remind us who we really are and remind us of the God we belong to.
Living here in Yakima, we are blessed to be near a beautiful river. We enjoy being in this incredibly fertile valley, watered by the river which is filled by the snow God sent on the mountains. We know that growth and food and life itself here in our valley are dependent on the river.
The Yakima River is a blessing to us because we can use the water to grow apples and hops and so many other good and useful things. The river blesses us because the water is clean and alive and moving and being shared.
The Jordan River is the major source of water and life in the Holy Land. People use it for drinking water and to water their crops. The Jordan flows into the Sea of Galilee and provides a home for fish which give the blessing of employment and food for many people.
However, after it passes through the Sea of Galilee, as the Jordan River moves farther south it empties into the Dead Sea. The river just stops there at the Dead Sea. The waters go no further and are no longer shared. When the water stops moving, stops being shared, nothing can live. Woe to those waters that are not being shared. Nothing can live in the Dead Sea.
Blessings are like the waters of the river. They are only blessings when they are being shared. When they are not being shared, they are like woes.
The saints we remember today knew that. They are the saints of blessed memory because of all that we shared with them. These memories probably include times of hardship as well as times of joy.
When we go through life together, we will always have times that are easier than others. When someone becomes a blessed memory, we tend to remember more of the joyful times. And when we remember the difficult times, we remember that we got through them together. This is part of the blessing God gives us, that even the difficult times can be remembered well.
Jesus gives his blessing to the poor and the hungry and those who weep and those who are hated. He reminds us that these difficult times do not last. He reminds us that he is with us throughout all the hardships we will endure in this life. He has been through suffering and shares these times of suffering and grief with us.
Jesus began his ministry in the waters of the River Jordan when he was baptized by John. When God welcomes us into the waters of baptism, Jesus joins our lives with his.
Today, in addition to remembering the saints who have gone before us, we celebrate fifteen new saints who were baptized and became members of this congregation this year. The Holy Spirit is active in this place. Fifteen new saints! What a blessing for them and for us!
There is another important river in scripture that reminds us of blessings. The River of Life flows through the Holy City and leads to the throne of God. All of the saints, including our friends of blessed memory, are already there.
Our friends who are newly baptized have joined us on the journey to the river of life. We share the blessings as we travel together through this life and we listen together as Jesus reminds us to share with our neighbors and to give to everyone in need. Jesus tells us to pray for those who are hurting us and to treat others as we wish to be treated.
Jesus knows we will fall short sometimes and will not always live like saints. He knows and we know that in this life we will always be sinners at the same time we are saints. Yet, although we are still sinners, Jesus went to the cross for us. He overcame death for us. He opened the gates to the Holy City for us. Jesus offers us water from the River of Life. He says, “You are the blessed ones. All who drink from this river will live forever.”
Shall we gather at the river? Amen.