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"All Saints" - All Saints Day - November 6, 2022

All Saints Day is quite special to me. 9 years ago, my children were baptized here at St. Andrews on All Saints Day. Well, technically one of them got bat-tized in his batman costume. You see, he was 3 years old, almost 4 at the time. When he heard about his upcoming baptism, he heard two things: 1. There’s water involved so I get to wear my puddle jumpers! 2. Baptism sounds close enough to batman, so I get to wear my costume! That’s how he showed up for the baptism rehearsal. He was my third child, so I had figured out which battles I was willing to have with them. Weird outfits just aren’t one of them. However, I didn’t anticipate Mother Jo. Running around the office, Devlin inadvertently ran smack into her. Jo took one look at him, smiled that big smile of hers and said: “Is this what you’ll wear for your bat-tism?” Now, I don’t think she’ll remember this, but I was standing behind Devlin like this:

He wore his costume all of October already, I wanted to get him out of it, not baptized in it! But it was too late. Devlin and Jo had already decided. And yes, we have the most adorable and weird baptism picture to show for it!

Many years before that adorably weird and batty All Saints Day, my Oma, my grandmother, explained the significance of this day to me. I was just about the same age Devlin was, around 4 years old. This is one of my earliest memories. We did not celebrate Halloween in Germany back then at all, so any ghost stories and tricks or treats were not on my mind. But Oma did explain to me, that on All Saints Day,

Allerheiligen, all the Saints I knew would visit us. Saints? The only saints I knew were the ones portrayed in stained-glass windows in churches. How can they visit us, I asked? They’ll come down from heaven in a big cloud, she said. Oma didn’t like too many questions and would make up answers on the spot. So, to keep my questions to a minimum she told me, that, yes, all the Saints I knew from church, and all the ones I didn’t know, come down from heaven on this day, so the living and the dead can be united on this one day a year. Then she said: ok, naptime!

Naptime. My Oma just dropped this supernatural bomb on me and then put me down to sleep. Back then, I still listened to what I was told, so I did go to sleep.

And I dreamt. I had the most adorably weird and batty dream. In my dream the Saints in those stained-glass windows, climbed out of their frames and walked together towards me. Their halos seemed attached to their heads, and all their features were still like that of vibrantly colored glass. They began walking in a sort of parade, waving at me and laughing. There was music. All the Saints I didn’t know joined them seemingly out of nowhere, until my sleeping head was filled with this great cloud of brightly colored stained-glass witnesses. They were joyful and awe inspiring. They were incredibly loud and utterly silent.

And till this day I’m wondering, not only about my sanity, but also:

Who are they?

Who are the Saints?

I believe our gospel reading gives us some insight into this today. I believe the key to our question lies in who Jesus addresses with his famous sermon known as the Beatitudes. Who is he trying to reach with his message? Who is the intended audience of Jesus? Who is he preaching for? Is there anyone He leaves out? Let’s look at it.

“Blessed are you who are poor,” he begins. The Greek word used here for “blessed” is “Makarios”. It can be translated as blessed and happy. Happy? Yes, happy. Today, to us, the word happy mostly means something over the top and outrageously hard to achieve. But it can also mean to be content, satisfied, unburdened. When Jesus addresses the poor, and tells them that they are blessed, he tells them that they are not to worry, that with God’s Kingdom comes relief from their poverty. In this manner, Jesus tells all who are burdened by poverty, hunger, and oppression, that in God’s Kingdom, they are blessed, they are happy, their burdens are eased and are no longer of any consequence. This is the first group he addresses and clearly, this sermon is for them. It’s a sermon for the poor, the hungry, and the oppressed. In God’s Kingdom, the status quo, the norms of our society are turned on their head. Blessed are the poor. And only the poor. Right?

Because, when Jesus continues, he says: “But woe to you who are rich,”. “Woe to you”, that certainly is in sharp contrast to “blessed are you.” It almost comes off like a threat, doesn’t it? But the Greek word used here, the word “ouai” does not mean cursed, or damned, or even unhappy. It’s more of a warning, an exclamation, it’s a little like: Yikes, you’re rich huh? Better look out. You may be so distracted by your possessions that you miss the blessing of God’s Kingdom.

The rich and the poor, the haves, and the have nots. At first glance it might seem that this sermon from Jesus pits them one against the other. Blessed are they (the poor) and woe to them (the rich). It’s unfortunately a human condition to create such groups, groups that are in and groups that are out. Taking sides makes us feel safe. It really is an exquisite irony that wars are started by this desire to feel safe.

Because we are so concentrated on this taking sides business, so focused on it, we interpret everything around us in that manner. Even the Beatitudes.

But the fact of the matter is, that Jesus addresses both the rich and the poor, the ones with full pantries and the starving, the privileged and the oppressed. And while we see a line dividing these two groups, Jesus sees that together, the rich and the poor can be of God’s Kingdom.

So, he addresses the poor and tells them, don’t worry. Don’t give in to your fears. Don’t worry about your lack of possessions, because while the world might make you believe that possessions are important, and that you are less for not having them, they actually don’t mean anything these possessions, not in God’s economy.

And he addresses the rich and tells them, watch out! Don’t be tricked. Watch out, because your possessions, the things this world tells you are so important, not only mean nothing in God’s economy, but having them is distracting you from the actual blessings of God’s Kingdom.

You see, do you see the kind concern, the deep love Jesus has for both groups, for all of us?

We see division, Jesus sees perfect balance.

One group is suffering because they have too little, because their daily life is burdened by making sure they have enough to survive, and this distracts them from God’s Kingdom. The other group is suffering because they have too much, because their daily life is burdened by taking care of ultimately insignificant possessions and this distracts them from God’s Kingdom.

We see division, Jesus sees perfect balance.

One group is suffering because they lack basic human rights and attaining them takes up all their time and thinking and distracts them from God’s Kingdom. The other group is suffering because they have too much power and holding on to that power takes up all their time and thinking and distracts them from God’s kingdom.

We see division, Jesus sees perfect balance.

When we listen to the invitation of the Beatitudes, to create that perfect balance, we all, both groups, gain access to God’s Kingdom.

And that is who Jesus addresses here.

All of us, the haves and the have nots, the rich and the poor and everyone in between, this group and that group, he wants all of us. After all, we can only reach that perfect balance together.

Who are the Saints? Who does Jesus call? Who does he address?

You. You who listen, he says.

In my dream, all the Saints wore a halo. Every halo was unique, every halo was celebrated and admired by the other saints.

Everyone can join in this celebration, this parade of saints, laughing and waving at each other. Each one of you wears a vibrantly colored halo. And when we listen to Jesus’ words and let them guide us, we can see and celebrate the unique and beautiful halos of All Saints.

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