- The Revd Camellia Flanagan
Hope conquers grief
191103 All Saints C Daniel 7: 1-3,15-18 Psalm 149, Ephesians 1.11-23 Luke 6:20-31
+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
We all find dreams and plans for our future fascinating. Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar both had dreams recorded in the book of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream covered the political aspects of empires, and Daniel’s dream depicted their moral characteristics. The nations were evil and cruel, but Daniel saw God’s everlasting, indestructible kingdom arrive and conquer them all. The coming of Jesus Christ ushered in the Kingdom of God, and all faithful believers are its citizens. Although God may allow distressing things to continue for a while, the destiny of his followers is to possess the kingdom and be with him forever.
Psalm 149 is a victory celebration to follow the visions of Daniel. We have the assurance that God truly enjoys his people and although the Bible invites us to praise God, we often aren’t sure how to go about it. The anonymous writer of the psalm suggests several ways: in the dance, with the voice, and with musical instruments. God enjoys his people, and we should enjoy praising him. A two-edged sword is thought to be a symbol the completeness at the end of time as we know it, probably when the Messiah returns.
God’s plan has always been for the redemption of the world. God is sovereign, he is in charge. When our world seems chaotic, we can rest in this truth. Jesus is Lord and God is in control. God’s purpose to save us cannot be thwarted no matter what evil may happen. The ascended, heavenly Jesus is, in the words of the letter to the Ephesians, the one who fills the whole creation, “ the fullness of him who fills all in all” .
The sign of Jesus’ ongoing presence and a guarantee that the community of faith will have the wherewithal to carry out its mission, is the promise of the Holy Spirit. We have the eyewitness accounts of the Disciples and others who lived with Jesus on earth and we are invited to believe their testimony. They saw that Jesus ascended to the Father giving an assurance in faith that the Resurrected One is with God. The persons of the Trinity poured out the Spirit on the early disciples, and then all of us to empower us to carry forward God’s work. The Holy Spirit is God’s seal that we belong to him and his deposit guaranteeing that he will do what he has promised, a validating signature on the contract.
In Baptism we are marked with the seal of the sign of the cross and the blessing of the Holy Spirit. As we grow, we are taught and learn to recognize the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The presence of the Holy Spirit in us demonstrates the genuineness of our faith, proves that we are God’s children and secures eternal life for us. His power works in us to transform us now, and what we experience now, is a taste of the total change we will experience in eternity.
Saint Paul prayed that the Ephesians would know Christ better. Christ is our model, and the more we know of him, the more we will be like him. As we learn what Jesus was like on earth, and get to know him in prayer now, this personal knowledge of Christ will change our lives. The hope we have is not a vague feeling that the future will be positive, but it is complete assurance of certain victory through God. This complete certainty comes to us through the Holy Spirit who is working in us.
When we hear of the rumours of wars and the fear there is of the power of the atom, and other means of destruction, we need to remember that we belong to the God of the universe, who not only created atomic power, but also raised Jesus Christ from the dead. God’s incomparably great power is available to help us. There is nothing too difficult for him. Having been raised from the dead, Christ is now the head of the church the ultimate authority over the world. Jesus is the Messiah, God’s Anointed One, the One Israel longed for, the One who would set the broken world right. As Christians we can be confident that God has won the final victory and is in control of everything. We need not fear any dictator, or nation or death itself. The contract has been signed and sealed and we are waiting just a short while for delivery. St Paul says in Romans 8:37-39 that nothing can separate us from God and his love.
We are described as the Church, the body of Christ and as such we can be full of the expression of Christ, his love, his gifts and his blessings. When reading Paul’s letter to the Ephesians it is good to remember that it was written primarily to the entire church, not merely to an individual. The metaphor of Head and Body is often used. Christ is the head and we are the body of his church. This metaphor demonstrates the church’s unity. Each member is involved with all the others as they go about doing Christ’s work on earth. We should not attempt to work, serve or worship merely on our own. We need the entire body.
The Gospel read today thought to be Saint Luke’s version of the Beatitudes usually read from Matthew. Here Jesus blesses his disciples, and here is described what it means to be Christ’s follower. These verses are standards of conduct contrasting kingdom values with worldly values and showing what Christ’s followers can expect from the world and what God will give them. They contrast fake piety with true humility and finally they show how Old Testament expectations are fulfilled in God’s kingdom.
Jesus startles his hearers by pronouncing blessings on the hungry, and in doing so he was in line with an ancient tradition. The Old Testament is filled with texts proclaiming God’s concern for the poor and needy. We are reminded that short term fulfilment may come through wealth which may be the only reward received and it may be gained at the expense of eternal life. We are also reminded that popularity is no guarantee of truth. In all that happens to us can we remember that we are never far from the love and protection of God and that we need to show the same love to others whether they deserve it or not? This requires significant effort on our part. Jesus asks us to follow his example by loving our enemies including family members we may not like and giving them the same respect, we would desire for ourselves.
On this day when we remember those who have lived and gone before us, we remember their lives of faith and integrity and also remember that the Ascension of Christ, reminds us of eternal life, and expresses the triumph of God’s purpose for the world and eternity. The Resurrection of Christ points to our own exaltation that is achieved through our healing and empowerment by the Holy Spirit. God has done all this for our sake; all we need, is to do our all, for God’s sake. Amen