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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