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Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Lectionary Scriptures:
For Sunday: Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4 and Psalm 119:137-144 OR Isaiah 1:10-18 and Psalm 32:1-7, Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12, Luke 19:1-10
For All Saints Day: Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18, Psalm 149:1-9, Ephesians 1:11-23, Luke 6:20-31

Monday, Nov. 1, is All Saints Day. Many churches use the Sunday nearest to that date to celebrate “All Saints Sunday,” and the lectionary offers the second set of scriptures as an option.

All Saints Day is the day we celebrate our connection with all the saints in all ages, past, present, and yet to come. It is called “The Communion of Saints” and we are all part of it.

It can be a time for reflecting on, among other things, the nature of the “community” in which we participate in the here and now. I’ve long been interested in “community,” not so much in the geographic sense of a group of people who live in the same neighborhood as in the sense of a group of people who intentionally band together in some kind of common life. The building of “community” has been one of the guiding principles in my ministry.

What does community means to us? What kind of community do we seek to participate in and build? What kind of community are we called to be?

The Quakers, who have deeply influenced my thinking about and experience of community, speak of the church as “The Blessed Community.” Josiah Royce, founder of the Fellowship of Reconciliation coined the phrase, “The Beloved Community,” borrowed by Martin Luther King to describe his vision for human relationships on this earth. Both sets of this week’s lectionary readings offer insight into what it means to live in community. Here are excerpts from those scriptures, as well as from the Quakers and Martin Luther King. May we find in them some inspiration for living as “The Communion of Saints” in our place and time.

Paul’s letters are full of expressions of his closeness, his partnership, his sense of community with those to whom he is writing.

II Thessalonians 1:3—“We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of everyone of you for one another is increasing.”

Ephesians 1:11-23 (although probably not written by Paul) is a text often used in celebrating All Saints Day because it reaches beyond the confines of this life to speak of an “inheritance,” a “destiny,” a “hope.” In the middle of it is another expression of that sense of connection: “I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.” (vss. 15-19)

A Quaker statement about “The Blessed Community”: “We are a diverse group of individuals who have been drawn together by the Spirit . . . It is only with God’s Spirit that such a diverse group of individuals can realize and embody the kind of unity, belonging, and community that answers to that of God within us. The Quaker Meeting is meant to be a Blessed Community – a living testimony to a social order that embodies God’s peace, justice, love, compassion, and joy; an example and invitation to a better way of life. Like our other testimonies, Community can be a prophetic call to the rest of society. From their earliest beginnings, Quakers have witnessed to their experience of the wholeness that God intends for us in this lifetime on earth. The Spirit calls us to live in a loving relationship with God, with each other, and with all of creation.”

Excerpts from “The World House,” a chapter in “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?” by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “We have inherited a large house, a great 'world house' in which we have to live together—black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Moslem and Hindu—a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.
. . .
“Every nation is an heir of a vast treasury of ideas and labor to which both the living and the dead of all nations have contributed . . . We are everlasting debtors to known and unknown men and women. When we rise in the morning, we go into the bathroom where we reach for a sponge which is provided for us by a Pacific islander. We reach for soap that is created for us by a European. Then at the table we drink coffee which is provided for us by a South American, or tea by a Chinese or cocoa by a West African. Before we leave for our jobs we are already beholden to more than half of the world.
. . .
“Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly . . . This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all men . . . We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. This may well be mankind's last chance to choose between chaos and community.”

The Gospel lesson for All Saints Day includes Luke’s version of the Beatitudes, surely part of the definition of what it means to “The Blessed Community”: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours in the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.” (Luke 6:20-21) The passage ends with some specific instructions for those who would live together. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (vss. 37-31)

The Gospel lesson for Sunday is the story of Zacchaeus, which shows Jesus again reaching out to include someone who is considered unclean by the religious establishment, not only a tax collector but a “chief tax collector.” (Luke 19:2) This “outsider” then demonstrates another feature of community. With no apparent prompting he commits himself to repaying those whom he has defrauded, mending relationships which have been broken. When Jesus sees this act of community-building, he calls it “salvation,” reminding us that community is about seeking out and including, not just about feeling “warm and fuzzy” with those who are like us.

Being “The Blessed Community” is no small thing. It is a partnership into which God has called us, in which the divine presence works in and through, beside and with, us day by day.

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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