Sermon from All Saints Sunday Nov. 6, 2022

Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost
November 6, 2022
Daniel 7: 1-3, 15-18; Psalm 149; Ephesians 1: 11-23; Saint Luke 6: 20-3

In nomine Jesu! All Saints Sunday 2022 needs to be more for us than just the opportunity to light candles and give thanks to our departed loved ones; however, in any other year, that would be enough. This All Saints Sunday needs to be more for us than merely an opportunity to give thanks for the newly baptized; although in any year that would be enough too. This year, we need more from God than that.

I know that because in virtually every conversation I have been a part of or overheard, many, if not most, have directly referenced the decisions we and our fellow citizens will make this week and in so doing have echoed Daniel’s lament: “As for me, my spirit is troubled within me, and the visions of my head terrify me.”

It is precisely to anxious, troubled spirits like ours, living in anxious, terrifying times like these that the theologically astute and pastorally sensitive writer of Daniel introduced a revolutionary new concept – the resurrection of the righteous –to provide us, hearers, with the hope we need to face these days with confidence and courage.

To all whose spirits are troubled and whose visions are terrified, God proclaims “the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess it forever.” God has conquered the only thing you have to fear, death itself; death and all its power to trouble and terrify us. Go and live accordingly.

There are startling parallels between the time of Daniel’s writing (200 years or so before the birth of Jesus) and our today. Many were abandoning faith practices that had become, at best, inconvenient for doing business and daily living and, at worse, an impediment to life itself. Many were leaving the country. The unscrupulous amplified and exploited the fearful while power holders and would-be power wielders sought authority for authority’s sake. Many faithful people resisted, and many of those who resisted were vilified, shunned, imprisoned, and killed.

What was their fate? What would become of their country? Was resistance worth it? Why risk myself for what is pure and good and just and right? “My spirit is troubled within me. My vision terrifies.”

The writer of Daniel answered these questions with a basis for hope and a firm foundation on which to faithfully and courageously stand: “the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess it forever.” Go and live accordingly.

We celebrate that Promise as we rejoice in the gift of baptism shared with us by the infants and children for whom God in Christ through these waters, put death and the fear of death behind them.

We celebrate that Promise’s fulfillment as we remember with thanksgiving those who have passed through death to receive and possess God’s forever kingdom and live accordingly. How? Speaking to us disciples, Jesus says:

“… 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.”

It takes courage to live this way; to love enemies, those who hate, curse, abuse, or diminish you. If some of our worst fears and terrors are chosen, we will each need all the courage we can muster.

Today we rejoice that we do not need to muster that courage on our own. “The holy ones of the Most High,” – like fervent Astros fans – cheer us on, a great cloud of witnesses, some of whom we name today surround us.

And God, God’s own self, through Word and Meal infuses the power of the Spirit into us, the same power “God put to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, put[ting] all things under his feet.”

God putting the power of Christ’s resurrection to work in us. Loved ones encouraging us on earth and in heaven – through these God gives us courage and strength for the living of these days until that “yet more glorious day” of which we sing “when the clouds of earth’s sorrow are lifted at last.”