All Saints SundayNovember 6, 2016
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- Pr. Olavi
Jesus looked up at his disciples and said:
"Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21"Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
"Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. 23Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.
24"But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
25"Woe to you who are full now,
for you will be hungry.
"Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
27But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Jesus' teachings were more about present life than life after death. Even in today’s gospel, that is selected for the Sunday of all saints, Jesus was preaching about the present. He says: "Blessed are you" He doesn't say: "You will be blessed..." but that you are already blessed... Beatitudes speak about present time, not the time after death or after something else.
As Jesus goes on with the list of beatified people, I many times catch myself thinking do I belong to any of these groups? Am I poor enough to be blessed or does my economy make the Lord rather to say a sad woe to me. - I suspect the latter. Am I hungry or satisfied, weeping or laughing? Do people respect me or speak bad about me? Rather than being the requirements of the kingdom, the beatitudes are a promise to the week and helpless, that God is on their side. They are those, who are ignored by us and the world, who get God’s special attention. They are those to whom God is the only source of hope. None of us envy these people, because of their miserable circumstances. It may offend a modern image of God, that God is biased. According to our concept of justice, also God has to be impartial, like a mom, who shares exactly the same amount of candy to each kid. Past generations understood this, because their image of God was more scary and God could do whatever God wanted to do. But nowadays many feel that God has to accommodate our concept of justice, that we have designed for ourselves. But please read your Bible again and see that God is always on the on the side of those, who are poor, lonely, persecuted, oppressed and suffering. I wonder if this is the reason why people in the western world have lost their interest in God and his message about his love in Christ. Because it is the message of Hope to the people, who have no hope: to the poor, to the hungry, to those, who weep, to those, who are hated and excluded, reviled and defamed.
Jesus asks us to love, do good, pray and bless people, no matter how good or bad our relationship is with them. We have to remember that the word “Love” in the biblical sense almost never is about the feelings of love. When Bible speaks about love, it speaks about acts of love, which means that we do good to others, and according to Jesus, even to our enemies. To love doesn’t mean that we have warm and fuzzy feelings for everybody, but we are called to love all, even the ones that we don’t like. When we in our culture speak about love, we usually mean feelings – romantic feelings most of the time - or then we may say something as ridiculous as “I love my new phone”, making the word Love to mean something very insignificant and vain.
It seems, that love means to us either strong and deep feelings or something very surficial. But in the Bible love refers to actions.
I want to conclude with a word from Bono (U2):
God is with the vulnerable, and the poor.
God is in the slums and the cardboard boxes where the poor play house.
God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives.
God is in the cries heard under the rubble of a war.
God is in debris of wasted opportunity and lives.
And God is with us if - we are with them.
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