Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Lectionary Notes: All Saints' Sunday

Year C: Daniel 7.1-3,15-18; Ephesians 1.11-23; Luke 6.20-31.

To be frank the Daniel reading has been castrated by the lectionary - only the bare remnants of the vision are left, what remains is aimed only at getting to the punchline about the saints receiving the kingdom and possessing it forever. The struggle of the saints against the beasts has been removed.

But it is the kingdom that is at the heart of these readings. Daniel tells of the promise that the saints will possess it. Paul's letter to the Ephesians is his great letter about the nature of the church. In the passage here, we have Paul praying that the eyes of his readers would be opened so that they might know the true reality of which they are part. In Christ, God has given us the inheritance of the saints (which in Daniel remains a promise). The kingdom has arrived, all power has been given to Jesus, and why? For our sake. The point of all of this is us - the saints who toil below, as the hymn puts it. It is for our sake that God has done all of this, not for his sake, not for Jesus' sake but for ours.

The lectionary may remove the struggle from the passage from Daniel, but it is there in spades in the Gospel. Jesus' teaching in the Gospel begins to give some content to the nature of the kingdom. The kingdom is found among the poor, the hungry and the weeping. It will have people hating us, excluding us, defaming us. Jesus warns us against riches, being well-fed, laughing and being spoken well of - these are signs that we are not speaking God's truth, that we are false prophets. And the practice of the kingdom is love, doing good, blessing and praying even (perhaps especially) for those who hate and persecute us. We are to give and to give again. It is a costly thing to be part of the kingdom.

To be the saints of God is not an easy task - Jesus' teaching is not easy to follow. It involves struggle and effort. The vision that sustains us through this, is the vision of the kingdom of God, the world as God wants it to be. This is the promise that we have as God's people, that we will inherit the kingdom and that we will be able to rejoice in the fulfillment of God's purposes.

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