EASTER, Year A St. Matthias – 2014
John 20: 1-18
Alleluia. Christ is Risen.
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.
What a wonderful message. What a dramatic change from the services of the past few days. What a celebratory tone we see and hear in today’s service. Look around you. The church is decorated with flowers and special vestments. We are dressed in our Easter finest. We sing joyous hymns. What a glorious day.
Today’s gospel reading tells a familiar story, a story that presents the fundamental tenant of our faith. Mary goes to the tomb and finds it empty. She runs to Peter and the other disciple and tells them and they in turn run to the tomb. Seeing they exit the story and then we read of Mary’s encounter with Jesus, the risen Lord. The story concludes with Mary returning to the disciples and telling them what Jesus had said to her. Alleluia. Christ is risen.
Sometimes, however, a story can be so familiar that we miss the some of the message. What does it mean to say, “Alleluia, Christ is risen.” Look carefully at the details of the story. Mary came to the tomb while it was still dark and found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. How does she respond? She runs “to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we [emphasis mine] do not know where they have laid him.’” [John 20: 2] Note the details, clearly by her actions, Mary is still in the dark, but notice also what she tells the two disciples. She doesn’t say ‘I don’t know …’, she says “we do not know where they have laid him.” Peter and the other disciple are in the dark as well.
Both disciples run to the tomb. Contrast this with Mary who has run away from the tomb. The disciples are running toward the scene of God’s action, though still not enlightened regarding what has transpired. The other disciple arrives first but hesitates and the entrance, while Peter enters the tomb. There he not only sees the linen cloths, but also the napkin used to wrap Jesus’ head. It is not with the cloths, “but rolled up in a place by itself.” Recall Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus emerged from the tomb still wearing the clothing of death, but here the trappings of death are empty. The napkin folded and separated from the linen cloths suggests that God has entered the story. The other disciple sees these signs and believes, but neither is aware of the Scripture that tells that Jesus must rise from the dead. Two disciples critical to the establishment of the early church witness the action of God, one believes, but neither is aware of the scripture that declares that Jesus must rise from the dead. God not only acts, but also speaks through the scripture to those of us who are not able to enter the tomb and witness his action. Thanks be to God.
Again I invite your attention to the story. After witnessing the action of God what do the disciples do? “Then the disciples went back to their homes.” Remarkable, they are still at least partially in the dark.
Here Mary reenters the story, she has returned to site of God’s action and encounters two angels who ask why she is weeping. She responds, “Because they have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid him.” Note, she no longer says “we do not know . . .”, but now “I do not know . . .”. Peter and the other disciple have recognized that God has acted, but as yet Mary has not. Then she sees Jesus, but does not recognize him and the “they have taken him” becomes “you”, a personification of those who have removed her Lord. At that point Jesus calls Mary by name and she recognizes him and acknowledges him, “Rabbouni!”, meaning Teacher. Jesus’ responds, “Do not cling to me . . .”. An intriguing response, what is Mary clinging to? I invite you to consider that she is holding onto her old relationship with Jesus, “Teacher”, not to the new relationship brought to fruition with Jesus’ resurrection.
In verse 17 Jesus tells Mary to “go to my brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” The relationship has changed, Jesus through his resurrection has brought “his brethren” into a new relationship with God, a relationship also acknowledged in the Epistle reading for today, “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life is revealed, then you too will be revealed with him in glory.”
How does Mary respond to this new relationship, how does she respond to Jesus’ instructions? She obeys; she goes and tells. What does she tell? “’I have seen the Lord’: and she told them that he had said these things to her.” Later the disciples will also “see the Lord” in a number of post-resurrection encounters and as we see in today’s reading from Acts, they too will go and tell what they have seen.
Where then do we fit in this story? Do we try to cling to that that we know, the familiar, the safe, the comfortable, or even familiar pain and loss? How many times, how many Easters have we like Mary come in the dark to the tomb and fled, or come like Peter and the other disciple and seen, but not fully understood and then “went back home”? This Easter morn in the full light of day and the full light of God’s glory, I invite each of us to recognize the meaning of that new relationship brought about by Jesus’ resurrection. God is our God and Father, and we are the body of Christ in the world.
How then do we respond to that awareness. In a few moments we will pass the peace, a meaningful experience for most of us. On a number of occasions I have shared with you the custom the church in the Province of Central Africa. There, instead of saying “the peace of the Lord be with you,” one takes the hand of the person next to them, looks into their eyes and says, “I love the face of Christ I see.” —- “I love the face of Christ I see.”
Whether through scripture or in the eyes of the person next to us this morning, and indeed, each day, we can see the Lord. Jesus’ instruction to Mary is also Jesus’ instruction to us, “Don’t cling to me, . . .. Go and tell . . .” At the end of this service, as at the end of each service we are reminded of Jesus’ instruction, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” This Easter morning let us renew our understanding of what we are thankful for when we respond, “Thanks be to God.” — “I love the face of Christ I see.” “I have seen the Lord.”
Easter Vigil A St. Matthias, 2014
Matthew’s Gospel was written 5-10 years after the destruction of the Temple in 70AD. Initially, the Gospel was written to a Jewish-Christian audience/church that was trying to come to terms with the growing number of Gentile Christians; written to a church in transition.
Matthew understood that Christ was the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel. In this sense, Matthew might be the Gospel account that is best suited for Vigil. We have heard the stories of God’s saving acts on behalf of Israel. Matthew presents Jesus’ resurrection as the culmination of God’s saving acts on behalf of Israel.
In contrast to the other two synoptic Gospel’s version of Jesus’ resurrection, Matthew’s account is rich in details. John’s account of the resurrection, like his presentation of Holy Week and the crucifixion, takes a different course than the Synoptics. There is an intimacy in John’s account, but again, it is sparse on details.
As the sun begins to rise on that first Easter morning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. Note they did not go to the tomb to complete the preparation of Jesus’ body. They just wanted to go to the place where Jesus was buried. Theirs was a very human response, not much different than our visits to the graves of loved ones. Matthew sought to refute the charge that Jesus’ disciples had stolen the body. The Jewish leaders asked Pilate to place a guard on the tomb, but Pilate had washed his hands of the matter and told them to take care of security themselves. The Jewish leaders posted a guard and they “sealed” the stone that Joseph of Arimethea had rolled to the door of the tomb.
If the two Mary’s had any concern about rolling back the stone, they did not voice them. Any concerns they had were dismissed when a great earthquake hit the region. Normally, one would expect a person to be frightened in a major earthquake. I’ve not been in a major earthquake, but my freshman year at Rhodes in Memphis, there were a couple of minor earthquakes that rattled windows and shook my bed. I don’t know that I was “scared” but it was somewhat disconcerting. But scripture doesn’t indicate that the women were afraid of the earthquake. Neither were the guards scared of the earthquake. What scared them was the presence of an angel, who rolled away the stone and then sat on it. His appearance was like lightening and his clothes a dazzling white. Men, again we don’t come off too good here. The guards were “scared stiff.” But the angel spoke to the women. He issued the most often used command in scripture, “Do not be afraid.” The women don’t go into the tomb in wonder at the empty tomb. Neither mistakes the angel for a gardener and asks where Jesus’ body has been taken. The angel clearly states that Jesus is not in the tomb, “He has been raised.”
The angel invites the women to look in the tomb and see that it is empty, and then quickly go and tell the disciples that Jesus is going ahead of them to Galilee. Galilee was a Jewish area, but the Galileans were “country Jews.” Think Hall’s Summit, Sibley, Martin, Castor, and Ringgold. I invite you to consider that Jesus went to Galilee to again demonstrate that His kingdom did not conform to a human model. The Galileans were sort of like the “rednecks of Palestine.” [pre-Jeff Foxworthy, when “redneck” was a pejorative term, not a source of pride]. Certainly, the Galileans were not the nobility of Palestine, but this is where Jesus chose to appear.
After a brief moment in the tomb, the women then, in fear and joy, ran to tell the disciples what they had seen and heard. Fear and joy? What does that mean? Several years ago, I visited the Grand Canyon. There are places where you can get right up to the edge. As you approach the edge and look out at the canyon, there is a glorious sight, but when I got to the edge and looked down, I quickly backed up. That was a long drop. Joy and fear.
Note the difference between the actions of those who first went to the tomb in Matthew’s account and in Mark’s and John’s Gospel. In Matthew they were both afraid and joyful. In Marks account they were just afraid and ran away, telling no one. In John’s account the women told the disciples whom they could find. Peter and the disciple who Jesus loved ran to the tomb. At the tomb, Peter pushed past the other disciple and went into the tomb. Finding it empty, he went home!
In Matthew’s account, there is still one other group at the tomb, the guards. When they finally awoke, they too ran away in fear. When they told the Chief Priest what had happened, they were given “a large sum of money” to say that Jesus’ disciples stole the body while they were asleep. They were bribed to deny what they had seen and experienced.
As we turn our attention back to Jesus’ disciples, I’m struck by a couple of points. What at first appears to be a flight from Jerusalem by the disciples is revealed to be a part of God’s plan. And isn’t it intriguing that the women who stayed with Jesus at the cross, the women who sat at the tomb after he was buried, the women who came to the tomb that first Easter morning, heard the angel’s instruction and obeyed, were the first to see the risen Lord.
As they were going to tell the disciples, Jesus appeared to them. Immediately, they fell at his feet and worshiped Him. Jesus said, “Do not be afraid, go and tell …” They went, and they told. The disciples obeyed Jesus’ command, went to Galilee, and on a mountain there saw Jesus. During this brief encounter, Jesus instructed His disciples and gave them the great commission: “Go … and teach [tell] … and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit… And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
This Holy Week we have shown our fickle nature. We cheered with the crowd as Jesus entered Jerusalem. We called for Jesus’ crucifixion when Jesus did not live up to our expectations. Thursday, we began to understand that Jesus’ Kingdom was different from earthly kingdoms, as our teacher humbled himself to wash the feet of his disciples [slave’s work]. Friday, some watched at the cross as Jesus suffered and died, while others fled, or stayed away. Tonight the darkness of Friday gives way to the light, the light of the world. Jesus, God, sacrificed himself, in obedience to God’s will that all of us- the Mary’s, the Martha’s, Johns, James, and yes even Judas’ may be reconciled to God. No one is beyond the redemptive love of God in Christ. And for all of us the command is the same, “Do not be afraid, Go and tell… Making disciples of all people.”
Maundy Thursday St. Matthias – 2014
Exodus 12: 1-4, 11-14; Psalm 116: 1, 10-17;
I Corinthians 11: 23-26
John 13: 1-17, 31-35
On the night He was handed over to suffering and death, our Lord Jesus took a towel and washed the feet of His disciples. It’s hard for us to appreciate the significance of this act in the culture of 1st century Palestine. Then and now, Middle Eastern cultures value signs of hospitality. In Jesus’ day a meal was one form of hospitality. But as the guests entered they would have their feet washed. Usually this was done by slaves, or hired servants. If none were present then the guest in the least important seat would be expected to perform the service. But it was unheard of for the host himself to wash feet, particularly if the host were one’s teacher, employer, or someone of higher status.
Perhaps the experience of Jim Somerville, Pastor of 1st Baptist Church, Richmond, VA will give us 21st century point of reference. While attending a ministerial conference, Jim Somerville was introduced to the keynote speaker, a well respected minister. During the conversation that followed the speaker noticed that Somerville’s shoe was untied and instead of saying something, the man dropped to his knee and tied the shoe. The Reverend Somerville was embarrassed, like Peter, but when the man stood up he continued the conversation as if nothing unusual had occurred. This Pastor lived Jesus’ call to humble service. The foot washing service reminds us of Jesus’ call to humble service – If God has so acted, how ought we to act.
Jesus’ act of foot washing goes beyond simply an example of humble service. It shows us what God’s glory looks in the Kingdom of Heaven. In the foot washing Jesus empties himself of any form of self-promotion. He demonstrates to His disciples, those who would take Jesus message and ministry to the world after His death and resurrection, the humble service and submission that the church would take into thee world. It is the means by which all who follow Jesus can experience God’s glory. Foot washing is something all can do, regardless of status, wealth, age, gender, strength, or weakness. In this act, Jesus shows his disciples, and us, how to love.
Note whose feet He is washing. I suggest to you that Jesus began with Judas, the only disciple who was not a Galilean. Internal textual evidence suggests that Judas, the one who would betray Jesus, was likely in the guest of honor position which was to the left of Jesus. Rather than isolate Judas, or chastise him, Jesus honors Judas, offering acceptance. To Jesus’ right was John, probably the next to have his feet washed. John who with his brother James had been arguing about who was the greatest and who would sit at Jesus’ right and His left, should have arranged to have someone wash the feet of those present. Again Jesus doesn’t chastise, instead, He offers cleansing. John and his brother James would disappoint Jesus again later that evening as they fell asleep while Jesus was praying.
And so, moving down the table, Jesus washes the feet of those who would abandon Him that night; James, Matthew, Andrew, Philip, Nathaniel, Thomas, Simon the Zealot, James the son of Alphaeus, and Judas the son of James. Again Jesus does not chastise, He offers healing and acceptance. He is showing those who would carry his message to the world, how to love.
Then Jesus arrives at Peter’s place, Peter, who also fell asleep while Jesus prayed; Peter, who would deny Jesus three times; Peter, who initially refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet, didn’t get it. Recall Peter’s rebuke of Jesus when Jesus began talking about his death. Peter’s expectations of Jesus mirror those of the Jerusalem crowd. Peter is likely thinking about what position he will hold in of Jesus’ kingdom, as Peter imagines that kingdom. A King washing his subjects feet, just won’t fly. But again, Jesus does not rebuke, or chide the 12. Instead, these men who would betray, abandon, and deny Jesus experienced God’s grace, God’s acceptance, and God’s glory.
Just as the disciples failed Jesus, all of us have failed Jesus as well. Some of us, like Judas, may have failed to such an extent that we can’t forgive ourselves, and, like Judas, we may not believe that God could forgive us either. Tonight’s Gospel rejects that thinking. What could be worse than disciple’s actions that night? Over and over the 12 had disappointed Jesus. Again and again Jesus taught them, instructed and accepted. That final night with the 12, knowing what lay ahead and knowing how they would respond, Jesus washed their feet, washed away the dirt, the grime. “Having loved His own who were in the world, Jesus loved them to the end.”
Jesus extends that love and grace to us as well. Like the disciples we come together at the table. Here at table Jesus offers acceptance; he shows us what glory looks like in God’s Kingdom. Here we experience God’s healing, cleansing presence. – At table we receive the gift of God’s grace remembering that Christ died for us, —-and He also died for those who have hurt us and for those we love. “As I have loved you, you also should love one another.
Palm Sunday A St. Matthias – 2014
Liturgy of the Passion
Isaiah 50: 4-9
Psalm 31: 9-16 Liturgy of Palms
Philippians 2: 5-11 Psalms 118: 1-2, 19-29
Matthew 27: 11-54 Matthew 21: 1-11
Several years ago, I was attending a conference in New York. We had one free evening during the conference and four or five of us decided to go to a Yankees game. The Yankees were playing the Oakland A’s that night and in the third inning an Oakland player hit a home run into the right field seats. There was a young boy and his father in those seats that night and the boy made a nice catch. The crowd roared its approval. Proudly, the boy held the ball up and began hopping up and down. Now those of you who know baseball know that it has become something of a tradition in ball parks now that when a member of the visiting team hits a home run, the ball is thrown back onto the field. While that may have been the crowd’s expectation, it was not the boy’s. He wanted to keep the ball. The crowd then began shouting, “Throw the ball back! Throw the ball back!” The boy looked at the ball in his hand, then looked up at the crowd. “Throw the ball back!” again rang out. One more look at the ball and the boy then looked at the crowd and shook his head, “No!” The crowd then yelled,
“Throw the boy back!” I could see the whites of the boy’s eyes from my seat behind the first base side dugout, just before the boy turned and ran up the steps and headed for an exit with his father desperately trying to catch him. One minute the crowd was cheering the young boy; a minute later the crowd was calling for the boy’s head.
How does a crowd turn so quickly? How does a welcoming crowd turn from shouts of joy [Hosanna!] to calls for death [crucify him] in the course of a couple of chapters in scripture, in four days in Jesus’ life, or in an hour long worship service?
This morning we read of the people of Jerusalem welcoming Jesus with shouts of Hosanna, which means “save us.” We entered the church waving our palm branches, and singing, “All Glory, laud, and honor.” We celebrate the arrival of Jesus, the king of salvation. “Hosanna, save us good Lord.” Then, just minutes into the service we read Matthew’s account of Jesus’ passion. The same voices that welcomed Jesus, now call for His crucifixion. How could the Jerusalem crowd flip-flop so easily? What could cause them to act in such a manner? But aren’t we also part of that crowd. Our service this morning reminds us that we are part of the crowd that cheered Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem and then just days later called for His crucifixion. Events like my experience at the ball game remind me as well, that I would have behaved any better than the residents of Jerusalem. I cheered with the crowd and laughed as the boy fled the stadium.
Why? What accounts for such dramatic change in such a short span of time? I suggest that our disappointment at unrealized expectations is the primary cause.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the people waved palm branches [symbols of Jewish nationalism] and cried, “Hosanna! save us!” They expected Jesus to free them from Roman rule. But Jesus doesn’t act as the people wanted. Jesus acted in obedience with God’s will, not the peoples. Jesus allowed himself to be arrested and to be beaten. When Jesus didn’t “live up” to their expectations, they turned on Him and called for His crucifixion.
What expectations do we have about God? In what ways have we made God in our image? Do we confuse various forms of human victory [how often do sports figures “Give all glory to God” for helping them win.] with God’s saving grace? The Palm Sunday service reminds us that God doesn’t save in ways that we might expect. God does not rule as humans rule. God responds with love, not violence. God sacrificed God’s self, rather than take others lives. God suffers with us, rather than humiliate us.
I invite each of us to reflect on our expectations of God’s saving action. How do we try to control God? Do we try to bargain with God? Do we claim God for our side and then declare that those who disagree with us are not Godly? Do we contract with God [If I go to church and tithe, then God must prosper me.] Having examined one’s expectations, then develop clear concrete intentions about what you want out of life. However, don’t get too attached to the outcomes. All our efforts to control God notwithstanding, God is God and we are not.
The liturgies of the palms and the passion remind us of this and push us to examine our expectations of God, and/or our misgivings about some of the ways God rules. They remind me that it is through the cross that God brings salvation and hope to a broken and suffering world. Each year, as I say aloud, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! I am forced to acknowledge that I am part of that Jerusalem crowd with its false expectations of God. Yet I also realize that at the cross, Jesus forgave the crowd, the soldiers, the disciples [yes, even Judas]. Forgiven and accepted by God, we called to continue Jesus’ ministry on earth and are empowered by the Holy Spirit to go forth to love and serve God.
In the words of Teresa of Avila, “Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” That’s the good news.
All Saints Sunday St. Matthias-2013
Daniel 7: 1-3, 15-18 Psalm 149
Ephesians 1: 11-23 Luke 6: 20-31
Today we celebrate All Saints Sunday. Originally, the Feast of All Saints commemorated a fairly exclusive list of spiritual celebrities. By the High Middle Ages, the church calendar had become crowded with saint’s days, as more and more people were canonized. All Saints’ Day became the day to commemorate those “minor” saints for whom the church could not find a day of their own. The Protestant Reformers deemphasized All Saints Day and most of the other saint’s days as well. In Anglican Tradition, the 19th century liturgical renewal movement reclaimed All Saints’ Day as a significant feast. The focus of the observance shifted from recognition of spiritual celebrities, whether major or minor, to a day that celebrates all of us, living and dead, as saints of God. It is a time of thanksgiving for those saints who have played an important part in our pilgrimage of faith and in the life of St. Matthias Church. We also take time to celebrate those “whose faith is known only to God.”
“[We] sing a song of the saints of God, patient, and brave, and true, who toiled, and fought, and lived, and died, for the Lord, they loved, and knew. And one was a doctor, and one was a queen, and one was a shepherdess on the green: they were all of them saints of God and I mean, God helping to be one too. … You can meet them in school, or in lanes or at sea, in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea. For the saints of God, are folk, just like [us] and I mean to be one too.”
Saints of God are folks just like us? I’m no Mother Theresa, much less, St. Paul or St. Luke. How can we hope to be saints, to match what the “saints” have done. I invite your attention to verse 18 in the reading from Daniel. There we read of “the holy ones of the most high [who] shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever.” Older translations read “the saints of the most high …” “Holy ones”, is the more accurate translation of the Hebrew word, qadosh. The word is not about virtue, rather it means one[s] set apart. The Hebrew people were set apart as a “holy nation”, a kingdom of priests to serve God. Through our baptism, we are set apart. Through our baptism we are welcomed into the Body of Christ. “We are sealed by the Holy Spirit, and marked as Christ’s own, forever.” This makes All Saints day particularly appropriate for baptisms. On this day, as we remember the faithful departed, we also are re—membered by God and strengthened for faithful living.
Recognizing this, the liturgy this Sunday is both somber and joyful. In a few moments we will name and pray for those members of the parish who have died in the past year. Remembering may offer comfort to those who still mourn the loss of a loved one. But it is also a joyful liturgy that offers us a different view of life and death. As Paul acknowledges in his epistle to the Church in Ephesus, in life and in death we are part of the communion of saints, part of Christ’s body, part of the church; “not only in this age, but in the age to come.”
And so this day we join with the Psalmist and:
“Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful. Let Israel be glad in its Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King. Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre. For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with victory. Let the faithful exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their couches. [Psalm 149: 1-5]” Alleluia.
But the Psalmist doesn’t stop there. He goes on to speak of the “two-edged sword… executing vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples, [to speak of] binding their kings with fetters and their nobles with chains of iron, to execute on them the judgment decreed. This is glory for all his faithful ones.” A rather jarring, and unexpected shift from people singing songs of praise to the people as warriors authorized to execute the judgment of God.
One commentator described the shift as “theological whiplash” that should encourage us to pause and ask questions. On a literal level the Psalm does seem to advocate armed conflict in God’s name. The crusaders used this Psalm to justify their efforts to use armed might to force the coming of God’s Kingdom. Caspar Scloppius used the Psalm to recruit Roman Catholic princes in the 30 Years War and Thomas Muntzer used the same Psalm to rally peasants during the Peasants Revolt of the 1520s. Today, Radical Wahhabist Muslims justify their actions with the argument that they are agents of God.
How then are we to understand this Psalm, and why is it even included in the All Saints readings? To address the how, recall Matthew’s account of the events in the Garden of Gethsemane. When a disciple took his sword and cut off the ear of one of the soldiers who came to arrest Jesus, our Lord commanded the disciple to put away the sword and he healed the soldier. I suggest that Jesus’ way stands in contrast with that of the Psalmist. In Jesus we see in a new way God’s power to bring about the divine reign through the power of persistent love, even the love of one’s enemies, rather than the two-edged sword of armed might.
While we might take issue with the Psalmist understanding of how God’s reign will be implemented, the Psalmist does recognize that our faithfulness is lived out in a world in which there is conflict between God’s reign and the reign of other powers, other nations, and other rulers. I suggest that true praise of God involves standing against that which resists God’s reign. If we are to follow Jesus’ example of confronting resistance to God through persistent love, then I suspect that we will need the sword of Christ’s Spirit to live the faithfulness to which we are called.
I invite you to consider that Christ’s Spirit is not a sword to be wielded against others. Rather, it is a sword that opens our hearts, opens us to concern for and care of others. This is the thrust of Luke’s Gospel. Unlike Matthew, who spiritualizes Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, Luke presents concrete images of what God’s Kingdom and God’s persistent love look like. In Luke, Jesus declares that those who weep, the poor, the hungry, and those who are hated and excluded will rejoice in the reversal of their condition. Recall in Luke’s Gospel it is the shepherds, not the kings, who attend Jesus’ birth. It is Mary, “poor and lowly,” who is blessed.
As we heard in Luke’s gospel account, Jesus said, “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat, do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and it anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
This is the holy living, the faithful living, that we celebrate on All Saints Day. This is the witness of the saints who have gone before us. Saints like Mother Theresa, known to millions, saints like those whose pictures are on the table before us and saints who perhaps are known only to a few; all these saints, these holy ones, struggled with this call to holy living. They continued Jesus’ ministry and confronted injustice and oppression. They bore witness to suffering and struggle, and responded with persistent love.
Like the Psalmist, the prophets, like those pictured before us, we are called to continue Jesus’ ministry. May the sword of Christ’s spirit open us to an awareness of the suffering and struggles of others and empower us to act on that awareness in a manner that advances God’s Kingdom. For it is in the hope of the ultimate triumph of God’s Kingdom that the true celebration of All Saints Day lies.
 James Luther May, Psalms, Interpretation Series, [John Know Press, 1994], p. 449.