Homily for All Saints’, Reformation, and Communion Sunday November 2, 2014,
and the twenty first Sunday after Pentecost.
Based on: A reading from the Book of Joshua, Chapter 3, verses 7-17, “Joshua leads the people across the River Jordan” and from the gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 23, verses 1-12. “The greatest one will be the servant.”
Offered by: the Rev. Liz Bowyer
For the people of Knox United Church, Vancouver, B.C.
Opening Prayer: Guiding, nurturing, redeeming God, may we know your compassionate care as we reflect together on your holy word for us this day. Amen.
Our readings this morning offer us an interesting contrast between two very different styles of leadership. On the one hand, from our Hebrew scriptures, we have the story of Joshua’s ascension as a strong, courageous, and organized leader. What is his first off the mark single minded task? To get God’s people, the ancient Israelites, and the Ark of the Covenant (aka God’s House) safely across the Jordan River. We are told in the passage that Joshua “will be exalted” by God for his leadership.
On the other hand, we have our story from Matthew’s gospel offering a completely different style of leadership as Jesus turns the world on its proverbial ear, reminding his listeners that “those who exalt themselves shall be humbled and those who humble themselves shall be exalted.”
This description of what is commonly known as servant hood leadership, one taking as it base, humility, is introduced only after Jesus levels a scathing attack on the religious and political leaders of the day come to hear him preach in the synagogue in Jerusalem.
A blended crowd, Jesus’ listeners would consist of those we know as his most adamant opponents-elders, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and the followers of Herod Antipas. There would also be among the thronging crowds, those folks longing for a change of leadership, a new day, and a new Messiah who would surely set things to “right”.
And, then of course, we have the disciples, those folks also so eager for change that they have dropped everything they have known up to now, to follow in the path of this Galilean upstart peasant from the back of beyond.
While it’s difficult to imagine exactly what expectations those gathered might have brought to this circumstance, it’s not difficult to imagine their affront and distress at having their inclination to hypocrisy and pride so clearly named and exposed.
Its also not difficult to imagine or even to understand how vociferously they would respond to Jesus’ challenge to change, but that is a topic for another day.
For this morning, it’s enough for our celebration of the cloud of witnesses surrounding us to rest in knowing that we inherit everything that has gone before and that God journeys with us through all the times of trial and challenge and through all the times of smooth sailing.
As we continue to reflect on the lives of the saints who have gone before, those who have shaped our personal lives and the life of this faith community for its on going ministries of teaching, healing, pastoral care, and administration, we remember those who effectively exercised “single minded focussed follow me” type leadership and those whose authentic leadership style taking its impetus from servant hood and a sense of humility.
And we are called together to anticipate catching glimpses of the current saints residing within and among us. On this day, we remember who and whose we are as “We are called alone and together in the spirit of radical connectedness with others into new relationships that enable us to see ourselves as God sees us: as sisters and brothers, each deeply valued, and each worthy of respect”.
(words attributed to Carter Heyward in an article offered on October 21, 2008, Christian Century)
On this our All Saints Sunday, this is the Word of God for the people of God this day. Thanks be to God, amen.