The Reverend Elizabeth Bowyer

Introduction to the readings for  All Saints’ Sunday

 

This morning we hear a word offered to a Jewish community struggling to maintain a sense of cohesion and relevance in a foreign context. 

Thought to be set in Alexandria in Egypt somewhere between 250 and 30 BCE, the author’s purpose is to encourage his listeners to take pride in a traditional understanding of the Jewish faith.

Wisdom of Solomon 3: 1-9 “The destiny of the righteous’

“But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them.

In the eyes of the foolish they seem to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster, and their going from us to be their destruction;

but they are at peace.

For though in the sight of others they were punished, their hope is full of immortality.

Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them, and found them worthy of himself;

Like gold in the furnace, he tried them, and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.

In the time of their visitation they will shine forth, and will run like sparks through the stubble.

They will govern nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord will reign over them forever.

Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide in him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones, and he watches over his elect.

Here ends the first reading from the ancient texts.  In response we remain seated and sing together:  VU896 ‘Blest Are They

 

Our reading from the author of the gospel of Matthew brings us face to face with Jesus’ first teaching on the Sermon on the Mount.  Listen to how he takes a familiar formula about those considered to be blessed, revered and honoured and flips the concept on its ear for his disciples, those first followers in the way whose focus in the stratified world of first Century Palestine to be about the building of God’s vision of Shalom where all are welcomed and included.

Matthew 5: 1-12 ‘The Beatitudes’

“When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.  Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Blessed are the poor of heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely, on my account.   Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for the in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Through these words from long ago, may we hear God’s living word.