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Gospel: Luke 6:20-31

20 Then [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.   22“Blessed 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.   26“Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.   27“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 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. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

This Sunday we celebrate All Saints’ Day. A story about the communion of saints.

A story by Pastor Gary Roth:

Amy Johnson is a twelve-year old and attends the Lutheran Church in her small town, and is in Confirmation Class this year. Her folks went through a divorce not too long ago and Any’s mom was determined to get out of the marriage. She took the two younger children with her, and moved to Phoenix, where her brother lived. So things were a bit rough for Amy, who had lost her grandpa just recently as well, and who wanted to remain with her dad and her friends, and she missed a good bit of confirmation class because of scheduling problems. The Pastor is trying to work with her, by providing some study sheets when she can't make it, and Amy is pretty good about filling them out and getting them in. Recently, they class was talking about the Creed – especially the last section talking about the Holy Spirit. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints… that may sound familiar. Amy missed the class, so the Pastor asked her to look up some Bible passages, then had a few questions about the Creed: "Define ‘the communion of saints.” And, "Tell me in your own words what it means."

So she wrote down her answers and turned them in. What she said was this: "I'm not really sure, but it's like when I go to communion, and we gather around the railing, and I always try to get the spot on the end. And I close my eyes and imagine that the railing continues around the other side of the altar to make a full circle. And I put my hand on the end of the rail, and imagine my mom's hand next to mine, and she's there with my sister and brother, and my grandpa and grandma are standing next to her. And when I take communion, I imagine that we are all there together, and that we are all one family, eating together, just like we used to do every Sunday at grandpa’s house, after church, when I was little." And, for the last question, which was, "Tell me in your own words what it means," she wrote, "I just did."

Hers wasn't Luther's answer, but it was her own, and it was good enough. Sometimes people get divided, whether in the church or in the world, and the great advantage we have as Christians is that we have a place to come, and be given a chance to reach across the altar rail, and make our peace in Christ. Whatever our differences, there is only one altar where we are gathered around, in one circle, just as there is only one body, one Lord, one Gospel, and one God and Father of us all. And the message today is that he continues to hold us, and bind us to one another, wherever we are on that rail, whoever we are. We are surrounded not only by his grace and love, but by a wonderful cloud of witnesses - all those who have ever struggled with the faith and all who ever will. That is what Amy believes - that her father and mother, and brother and sister, and grandma and grandpa are still joined at the rail - they are all there with her, in Jesus.

This All Saints Day we remember the saints who have gone before us. We also remember the saints who surround us and let the love of God shine through them.

Remember the saints. Let us live as though this relationship to God really matters. Let us live defined not by what the world says, but by what God says.

In the waters of baptism, we say these words: “Child of God, you are marked with the cross of Christ forever!”

And NO ONE can take that away.

God holds on. God will NEVER let go. In the end, what else matters?

Let us pray: Almighty God, we give thanks to you for the saints, the holy ones whose lives have shone your light in our lives. Bless those who have died and rest now in you. May they rest in peace and rise in glory. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen

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