This will be a long posting, so hold on beloved reader. The first passage is from Ephesians, the author, of course, being Paul. The passage for today picks up a little ways into the first chapter of Ephesians, where Paul is past the opening portion and starting into his exhortation and teaching.
“In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 11 – 14)
Remember the focus of today’s passages is the celebration of All Saints Day. It seems apparent then to read/hear Paul talk about the taking of the Christian life.
“I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.” (Verses 15 – 19)
While it is not explicitly said here, those of us who are living in the light and wisdom of Christ’s example will someday be grouped among the saints who have passed on. If that surprises you, consider that the audience that Paul is writing to might have felt the same surprise and humility that you do. And that Paul himself would not have considered himself a “saint.”
“God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Verses 20-23)
Just as God raised Jesus, we too shall be raised. And while the right hand of God may not be our place, we will most certainly be numbered among those who have been welcomed into heaven. One might rightly ask however, how can we be sure we will be welcomed into heaven? The passage from Luke 6:20 – 31 might well provide the answer to that question.
“Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice 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.” (Luke 6:20 – 23)
It is not easy being a “saint” and no where is it promised that it will be. Jesus does not say it. Paul does not say it. And neither do the other writer of the New Testament. I do not say it either, beloved reader. But it is easy to slip from that path.
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. 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. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.” (Verses 24 – 26)
One of the reasons the Christian church sets aside this time of thinking and meditating on the lives of the saints is to remind us what it takes to follow and be faithful to our Lord God.
“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 if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Verses 27 – 31)
I was thinking and meditating on the last verse of Luke chapter 6 today; it is not enough to do to other as you assume they might do to you – that is, that the other will do only the bare minimum of civility and respect. You should do for others according to what you hope in your deepest heart and spirit will be done to you. And do not wait until the other has shown who and what they are; be the first to offer care and compassion. This brings blessing and glory to God, to the name Jesus Christ, and to the name “Christian.”
Let us close by praising our Lord God, who has called to the Divine Self all the saints.
“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.” (Psalms 149:1 – 5)
Oh, but beloved reader, how we struggle to set aside the image of God that is vengeance and judgment. We too often see life and living from just our side, and fail to recognize where our own code of living and expectations does not take into account the Lord God’s mercy upon confession and penance.
“Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands, to execute vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind 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. Praise the LORD!” (Verses 6 – 9)
There is one more passage cited for today, but I had chosen not to include it. But in light of the last few verses of the psalm passage, it may be illuminating – Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18.
“In the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head as he lay in bed. Then he wrote down the dream:
I, Daniel, saw in my vision by night the four winds of heaven stirring up the great sea, and four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. As for me, Daniel, my spirit was troubled within me, and the visions of my head terrified me. I approached one of the attendants to ask him the truth concerning all this. So he said that he would disclose to me the interpretation of the matter: “As for these four great beasts, four kings shall arise out of the earth. But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever–forever and ever.”
We need to remember, beloved reader, that evil is in our world and we must stand against it. But those who seem to personify evil are as much a victim of it as we are who consider ourselves “holy ones” and future saints. May we continue our journey to “sainthood” remembering that each saint was once a sinner in God’s eyes but was redeemed through the power of Christ. Selah!