Where are you this week? Are you in the midst of ordinary time with texts that focus on relationship with others and with God? Or are you celebrating All Saints Day with texts that point toward, as Revelation states, “a new heaven and a new earth”?

I am caught somewhere in the middle. I belong to a denomination that doesn’t typically observe All Saints Day. However, it is the 23rd anniversary of my ordination and All Saints Day has meaning for me. It serves as a reminder that I did not get to ordination alone, that I have not walked this path of ministry on my own; generations of others have gone before me. They are now enjoying the feast at God’s banquet table, saving me a seat within reaching distance of all things grain and dairy (I have celiac disease and can’t eat these things now. I take this banquet table image very seriously!)

These All Saints Day images of banquets and new life are the perfect backdrop for honoring the saints of our churches who have made it possible for us to gather for worship and kinship today. The promises of God flood through these passages and fill me with hope and reassurance that there is more to come, and it will be very, very good. There is great potential here for a sermon on the many saints and sinners who have paved the way for us as we journey toward God’s table.

On the other hand, the “ordinary time” passages contain images of promise as well. Ruth and Naomi provide us a model for relationships that is stunning. “Where you go, I will go…” While I’ve been blessed with a few people in my life who have stood beside me through all kinds of stuff, I heard this passage in a new way as I am thinking about my ministry this week. It occurred to me that this is sort of what pastors and congregations say to one another as they covenant together for a period of time. “Your people shall be my people…Your God shall be my God…” This would be interesting to explore in a sermon – how do we covenant together as the people of God?

While we are thinking about our relationship with family, friends, and church folks, the Deuteronomy passage serves to remind us that our capacity for love begins and ends with God. And, of course, the Mark text, ties them both together. Love the Lord, your neighbor, and yourself. Christ calls us to live fully in relationship without leaving out God, neighbor, or ourselves. That’s tricky business and a great sermon topic as we head into the last few weeks of the Christian calendar.

It’s a difficult choice this week. I’m inclined to talk about All Saints Day using the Ruth and Mark texts. I like what these say about our connections to those who walked before us, those who walk with us, and those who will walk along at a later time. Combine the nostalgia that hits me as I think about my journey through ministry and the enormous changes – moving 1428 miles from all things familiar and the death of my mother – and I end up with gratitude for the relationships of love that have gotten me this far. The enormity and the impossibility of the journey is testimony to the One ultimately invites us all to the banquet table. Who are the saints or sinners who have made your journey possible?

As always, there are countless places we can go with these texts. Where is the Spirit leading you? What images contained in these passages capture your imagination? Are you seeing anything from a new perspective? May our conversation here be fruitful as we accompany one another on the journey!

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7 thoughts on “Revised Common Lectionary: Saints and Sinners Edition

  1. I have chosen the Ruth scripture. And a title, “Sticking Together,” but that’s as far as I’ve gotten. Ruth appeared in the Narrative Lectionary a couple of weeks ago. Here is the discussion on that week’s Tuesday Narrative Lectionary post:

    Hoping to find some energy and inspiration soon. The congregation where I am preaching likewise does not observe All Saints’ Day, so there’s really no need for me to tie it in. But that kind of leaves me at loose ends, too. Thanks for your thoughts, Rachael!


  2. i was planning on Ruth for this week and next week, but i am hosting a family 90th birthday open house this Saturday over an hour away, so i will be cooking part of Friday and out all day Saturday.
    Three years ago, in a different placement, i looked at love, and the Mark reading. I may just update the news events and go with that.
    I don’t know if All saints is celebrated here, i think for the children’s talk we might all make paper chains with a name of someone influential in our spiritual lives on each link. then for communion, we will be surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. i may have written a sermon on all saints in theology class? wonder if I can still find the assignment.


  3. Last time I preached Ruth (in a different church), I focused on Naomi: The people of Israel had a particularly low view of Moabites, starting with how the patriarch of their tribe was conceived. what was it about Naomi that led Ruth to trust going with her to Naomi’s people, rather than going back to her own as Orpah did? And what do others think about our people (Christians, our denomination, our church) based on who we are to them? Would our relationships with others lead them to want to be with our people, or would they think doing so would be a bit risky?

    The church where I’m filling the pulpit most Sundays uses two readings (my choice), so this time I’m going with Ruth and Mark. I think I’m going to use the saintliness of being a neighbor to others, and bolster it with the Ruth reading: was Naomi a neighbor to Ruth, or Ruth to Naomi? Perhaps both.


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