Monday, October 31, 2011

November 6, 2011: All Saint's Sunday

The Gospel lesson for All Saint’s Sunday is challenging throughout, though not – it must be noted – as challenging as in Year C, when Luke’s less spiritualized version is read. It is the very last verse, however, which poses a particular difficulty for those of us who enjoy being liked by others. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Jesus’ call to a disturbingly counter-cultural way of life, and its inescapable political ramifications were the subject of John E. Smith’s “Serving the Word” commentary in the 1 September – 23 November 2008 issue of Homily Service.

Yes, we are to turn a cheek or two, to be forgiven and to practice forgiveness, to practice peace even before the emperor, and to do it as a community together – again and again and again, without giving in, hanging on like a terrier to a sock… Because there must be saints, and because they must actually live in the world, building communities seeking to be faithful to Jesus, and because the vision and hope they possess is for all of humanity, there will be tension with the emperor and the culture... they will appear to be revolutionary, and sometimes provoking. The church has to remember to represent itself politically, proclaiming again and again that Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. Saints may vote for different candidates than their neighbors do and for different reasons. They may even talk about their different reasons for so doing. They may say “peace” when other say “war,” while claiming the right of self-defense... Christians may speak from strength and piety because the saints have received and do possess something in which they can be glad and rejoice. They may be reviled, falsely accused, even persecuted, but it will be because they have received what is worth gladness and rejoicing.

So, will you be mentioning the Occupy Wall Street protesters in your sermon this Sunday?

Homily Service: An ecumenical resource for sharing the word; Vol. 41, no. 4, p. 110.
John E. Smith is pastor of Bethany United Methodist Church in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

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