All Saints' - St Bride's: Reflection

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All Saints'

Luke 6:2-31

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And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days?

And Jesus answering them said, Have ye not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was an hungred, and they which were with him;

How he went into the house of God, and did take and eat the shewbread, and gave also to them that were with him; which it is not lawful to eat but for the priests alone?

And he said unto them, That the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.

And it came to pass also on another sabbath, that he entered into the synagogue and taught: and there was a man whose right hand was withered.

And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him.

But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth.

Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it?

10 And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other.

11 And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus.

12 And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.

13 And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles;

14 Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew,

15 Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes,

16 And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor.

17 And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judaea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases;

18 And they that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed.

19 And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.

20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.

21 Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.

22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.

23 Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.

24 But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.

25 Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.

26 Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.

27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,

28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

29 And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.

30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.

31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

All Saints'

The Forerunner of Christ with Saints and Martyrs - Fra Angelico

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Many of you will be familiar with the famous passage from St Mathew's gospel, known as the Beatitudes, which begins "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven".  It's a passage that's used frequently worship.  In this morning's Gospel we've heard Luke's version. Although it's clearly the same basic format, Jesus teaches his audience about God's blessings, Luke's version is different in some interesting and important ways. 

There are fewer blessings in Luke's version and unlike Matthew's version they are followed by 'woes' which correspond to each of the blessings.  So for example - "blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God" is followed later by "woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort".

As in his Gospel as a whole, Luke has a particular focus on those who are marginalised and socio-economically disadvantaged.  His accounts can often challenge us not to overlook or down play material hardship in the world.  They often protect against what we might call an overly spiritualised Gospel but they recognise the importance of serving those in need today.  Nevertheless, Jesus' teaching in Luke's gospel makes clear that the blessings of faith aren't worldly - "in this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world".  He emphasises that fortunes will be overturned; the hungry shall be filled and those that weep now, shall laugh.  The Christian community shares in this anticipation.

Now today of course, we are celebrating All Saints'. In Catholic tradition a Saint was regarded as having attained the beatific vision in heaven.  That term 'beatific' has the same route as the word that we use for the 'beatitudes', both come from the Latin for happiness.  The beatitudes are those blessings that are the happiness of the Christian community if you like and the beatific vision describes the happiness of those who dwell in the heavenly kingdom.

Saints, their veneration and observance of Saints days, were the subject of much disagreement at the reformation.  In the Anglican church, whilst those Saints canonised before the break from Rome are generally still recognised, Anglican doctrine is more cautious over particular individuals and we tend to speak of saints as all the faithful departed or even all those who are in Christ.

My sending church, where I was during the discernment process and training for ministry, and where I maintain a connection when I'm not here, is dedicated to St Laurence.  St Laurence was martyred during the persecutions under the emperor Valerian in the year 258.  Often when his story is told the emphasis is placed on the manner of his death, he's said to have been roasted on a grill.  During which he's supposed to have said "I'm well done.  Turn me over!".

The important story about St Laurence though is what he's said to have done when ordered to turn over the riches of the church.  He was given 3 days to prepare and promptly set about distributing the church's property to the poor.  When the 3 days were up he appeared bringing with him the poor, the crippled, the blind and suffering - the true treasures of the church he said.  That seems to me to be very much consistent with the teaching we see in the Beatitudes - it is the poor, the hungry and those who weep that are blessed.  Not confusing the riches of the church is very important I think.  They aren't the Gold or the architecture or the music, the riches of the church are its people, the riches if the church are the body of Christ. 

Let me tell you a story about one of the riches of St Laurence church from its congregation today.  Fredrick Glover, John to his friends, served with the 9th battalion Parachute Regiment in World War II.  He was 19 years of age on June 6th 1944, D Day, when he was aboard a glider that was directed towards a machine gun battery on Sword beach.  They overshot and landed in an orchard behind the beach amongst enemy troops. In the ensuing fighting he was injured in both legs and when the battle subsided he couldn't catch up with the rest of his troops.  He came across two German soldiers and claimed them as prisoners whilst he waited for his comrades to find him.  One of the Germans was badly wounded in the stomach and John gave him the draught of morphine he had with him judging that his need for it was greater than his own.  Eventually they were found, but by German troops. John was armed of course and it quickly got ugly, he feared the worst until the men that had been his prisoners intervened on his behalf.  Taken prisoner himself, he was later operated on by a German surgeon and held captive whilst he recovered before he escaped, but that's another story.  John believes that act of goodwill towards his enemy saved his life.  In the Gospel passage we heard, Jesus says "as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them" - John's actions are quite an example. 

Of course Jesus' teaching goes further.  "Love your enemies" he says, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you, to one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other, from one who takes your cloak do not withhold your tunic.  It's quite a standard to aspire to isn't it? And of course we fall short.  We fall short because we are a church of sinners.  Any suggestion that the church is filled with the pure and that others have been removed is of course nonsense.  We are all in need of God's mercy.  As we are told in the letter to the Ephesians it is Christ's love for the church and his sacrifice that renders the church holy.  It is Christ's love that sanctifies us.  We are called to live in that love and to be a sign of hope in God's redemption.




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