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Wrestling with the Word, episode 98: All Saints Sunday, Year C (November 7, 2010) November 1, 2010

Posted by fostermccurley in Wrestling With The Word podcast.
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All Saints Sunday

This particular Sunday offers many people comfort and hope, often while stimulating feelings of pain and sadness, even guilt and anger over the death of loved ones. Many churches continue the tradition of reading aloud the names of those who died since the last All Saints Sunday, and frankly, I find it especially meaningful and challenging when those names ring familiar bells. The Sunday challenges us in another way also; it forces us to think about what we mean by the word “saints.” The Super Bowl winners of 2010 are, of course, the Saints from New Orleans. And on this day the word seems to focus on those who died. Who are “the saints” anyway? Perhaps we do well to recall the addressees of the Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Romans: “To all God’s beloved in Rome who are called to be saints.” Paul uses the term to define forgiven sinners. As for me, “I wanna be among that number,” because without God’s forgiveness I am only a sinner. And I want to be among them not only when the saints come marching home but when together we march together to a different drummer here and now.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 98: All Saints Sunday, Year C.


Psalm 149
The psalm summons the faithful to sing praises with voices, instruments, and dancing to the Lord their King and Creator.  The motive for all this praise is the Lord’s good pleasure that rests on his humble people who are faithful.  The second half of the psalm, however, moves in a different direction. The tone promises the wrath of God on the nations (the gentiles) and the promise of God’s people in the bloody vengeance.  In the glorification of God that will ensue, the people of God will also receive glory. (Constantine must have loved this psalm as he led his armies to conquer the world for God. So, I’m sure did Charlemagne and the Crusaders. And perhaps many people even today think that we should go to war on behalf of God. But all that contradicts the teaching of Jesus in our gospel reading for this day: “Love your enemies.”)


Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18
Although worldly powers come and go, God promises the gift of the kingdom to those who are faithful in the face of adversity and persecution.

The Book of Daniel was written between the desecration of the Jerusalem Temple by the Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167 B.C. and the death of Antiochus in 164 B.C.  The years between those two dates were times of testing, persecution, and war.  Antiochus’ act, “the abomination of desolation,” led to such an uprising among the Jewish people that the Maccabean War resulted.  The Book of Daniel was written in these precarious times in order to give hope to the people while Antiochus attempted to universalize the religion in his domain.  The first half of the book (chapters 1—6) consists mostly of stories that demonstrate the rewards given to those who are faithful.  The second half conveys visions and dreams that offer hope in terms and images of an apocalyptic bent. (Apocalyptic is the “unveiling” of the end times and the timing of the end’s occurrence.) Much of the book of Daniel, including our pericope, appears in Aramaic. The omission of verses 4-14 in our pericope offers the interpretation without the occurrence of what Daniel saw before God’s throne.

Key Words
V. 1.  Belshazzar: The son of and co-regent with Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon (555-539 B.C.).  At the end of their reign Cyrus, King of Persia, defeated the Babylonians and took control of the empire.

V. 1.  chelmā’ ketab = “he wrote down the dream”:  One of the differences between prophecy and apocalyptic is that while prophecy is primarily conveyed by speaking, apocalyptic is written.

V. 2.  chāzēh chawêt becheznî ̒im-lêlyāʼ = “I saw in my vision by night”:  Like apocalyptic, prophecy also uses visions as the means by which the promises of God are conveyed to human beings (see, e.g., Isa. 6:1; Amos 1:1).  The difference, as here, is that apocalyptic tends to fill those visions with imagery that is somewhat bizarre while prophecy focuses on what will occur within history.

V. 18.  wîqabbelûn malkûtāʼ qaddîšê ̒elyônîn weyachsenûn malkûtāʼ ̒ād-̒almāʼ wad  ̒ālam ̒almayyāʼ = “But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever”:  In the vision everlasting dominion is given to the “one like a son of man” (v. 13), and so the interpretation seems to identify the humanlike recipient of the kingdom as the martyrs of the Maccabean revolt.


Ephesians 1:11-23
God has appointed the church to live for the praise of his glory, visioning rather than seeing, hoping rather than despairing, inheriting the kingdom rather than individual gain, and praising God as a community filled with Christ.

This Epistle to the Ephesians, more of a treatise than an epistle, appears to address the church in general rather than a specific congregation.  The primary purpose of the author, probably a devoted follower of Paul, is to define the unity of the church under the lordship of the cosmic Christ, the way they love all the saints, and the inheritance they share among the saints.


Luke 6:20-31
Having commissioned on the mountain twelve of his disciples to be apostles and having healed on the plain the crowds who came with their afflictions, Jesus announces the blessings of the kingdom for the poor as well as the woes of the judgment day on their counterparts.

The contrast between the events of the mountain commissioning of verses 12-16 and of the “level place” in verses 17 and following enables the reader to recognize the relationship between worship and service, both expressions of the kingdom of God.  The beatitudes here are, of course, similar to those at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount Matthew 5:3-12.  The differences between the two reflect Luke’s special concerns for the poor and his contrasts with the rich.

Key Words
V. 17.  epi topou pedinou = “on a level place”:  Luke, following Mark, uses the word topos in a consistent way:  it is the space in which Jesus is interrupted by others who come to him with their needs (see 9:12; 11:1; 23:33).

Vv. 17-18.  “to hear … to be healed … were cured … healed”:  Jesus met the physical needs of the people, and then he then went on in the following verses to teach, as they had desired.

Vv. 20-23.  The address is to “his disciples,” and so in contrast to Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount where Jesus speaks in the third person, here he uses the second person.  The blessings pronounced here indicate the reversal of fortune for those who hunger, weep, are hated.  This reversal occurs as the eschatological reality; note v. 23:  “Rejoice on that day.”

V. 21.  hoti gelasete = “for you will laugh”:  In Psalm 37:13 God “laughs at the wicked, for he knows that his ((God’s; NRSV:  their) day is coming.”  That eschatological laughter of God comes with the dawning of the Lord’s Reign when all things will be turned around (Ps. 2:4).  This blessing pronounced by Jesus seems to indicate that God will share his laughter with those who at present know only weeping and sorrow. (cf. Gen. 21:6).

Vv. 24-26.  The woes are addressed to other than disciples, perhaps to the scribes and Pharisees who had played such adversarial roles in the preceding material.  But beyond these groups, the specific reference is to those who are well off:  rich, full, laughing, praised.  They, too, will experience the reversals of their fortunes. Recall Jesus’ parable about the rich man and Lazarus(Luke 16: 19-31).

Vs. 27-31. The list of promises (or beatitudes and curses) for the future in verses 20-26 seems to provide the motive for the ethics of disciples here and now. The opposites promised now become the opposites of the ways of this age. Recall the call to different behavior on the basis of Isaiah’s vision of the Day of the Lord (Isa. 2:2-5).

V. 27. agapate tous echthrous hymōn = “Love your enemies”: Jesus will later in this Gospel redefine the command to “love your neighbor”  from a fellow-Israelite to any person whom you can serve in times of need (the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:29-37). Here he extends object of the command to love to one’s enemies. This command stands completely opposite to the conclusion of Psalm 149, but it is consistent with Luke’s eschatological consciousness.

V. 28. eulogeite tous katarōmenous hymas = “bless those who curse you”: Blessing and cursing are common themes in the OT. The command of Jesus here sounds like a correction of Genesis 12:3 where God promises to bless those who bless Abraham but to curse the one who curses him.

V. 31. Kai kathōs thelete hina poiōsin hymin hoi anthrōpoi poiete autois homoiōs = “And as you wish that people would do to you, do so to them”: The so-called Golden Rule seems to rephrase the command to “love your neighbor as (you love) yourself” (Luke 10:29; Rom. 13:9; Gal. 5:14; James 2:8).