With the adoption of the Episcopal version of the Revised Common Lectionary, we have different readings for each of the three years for our fixed feasts and this Sunday is no exception.
And we are reminded in the reading from Daniel and the Second letter of Paul to the Ephesians that the holy ones of God are destined for the kingdom forever. And it is clear from Paul’s writings elsewhere that the kingdom is here and yet not completely here.
Paul always used the term saints to refer to the living church and those who had already died. We are made holy—sanctified by the work of the Holy Spirit, marked with it in baptism.
The Year C gospel for All Saints’ Day is what scholars call the ‘Sermon on the Plain.’ While similar to the Sermon on the Mount, it is not as long and it focuses on the contrasts that Jesus sees around him in society.
Basically, at the two extremes of humanity there are those that experience the short end of the stick and those who can afford to have someone hold the long end of the stick. If one is poor now, the kingdom of heaven awaits. If you are rich and thoughtless about the situation of others, then you have your reward in this life already.
One would hope that the ‘greed is good’ folks might ruminate on that. The question for the faithful is whether or not we believe that those who aren’t nice won’t prosper. It has been so since time immemorial as the psalms attest.
But Jesus in somewhat of a greater departure from the Sermon on the Mount says what they do or don’t do is not of the believers concern.
Instead Jesus proposes that the believer take the overall initiative away from those in opposition.
Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you—it messes up their minds.
Bless those who curse you and pray for those who abuse you—even when you’re trying to get to work or come home again: an antidote to road rage.
If you are struck on the cheek, turn the other–so that the next slap won’t hurt as much
If someone takes your coat, take off your shirt—your action may attract a friendly policeman
Finally give to those who beg and if anyone takes your things, don’t ask for them back—because you probably won’t get them anyway.
The point is to break the cycle, put those who are after you off their game, make the world a better place.
And Jesus summarizes this by giving us the golden rule.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
This is quite different from the oft heard: Do it to them before they do it to you.
Several years ago and in a currently running Liberty Mutual Insurance TV commercial, the idea of paying a good turn forward is explored.
I think about that each time I am in a line on the highway and someone drives all the way to the obstruction and tries to squeeze in to beat the line.
But it is also true that those who refuse to let people in when two lanes shrink to one cause amazing snarls in the traffic as they do coming north on the Palisades Parkway near the Haverstraw exit.
What happens when the sense of personal entitlement clashes with the Golden Rule? Unfortunately we experience it all around us sometimes on a daily basis.
We see it in the lack of civility—in the ‘me first’ approach to life which is antithetical to the Christian way. And I wonder what we are teaching our children.
Being considerate toward others, living the golden rule—these are things we teach and live out here in church. But what do our children see in terms of our approach to life? Are we always trying to win at the expense of the other?
I think we need to insist on good ways of acting toward others while we are in church and at home as well.
Just as the children learn to wash their hands whenever they go to the grandparents, they can learn to be considerate on ‘our turf.’ And if we model that consideration, it will become ingrained in us as well.
And our part of the world will be a better place so give others a break, hold the door for those with their hands full, and be a little less fixated on winning.