Signpost for Sunday 2 Nov 2014, All Saints Day: Rev 7:9-17; Ps 34:1-10; 1 John 3:1-3; Matt 5:1-12
Sometimes, the Lectionary annoys me. The sequence of readings seems to point in a particular direction which may not accord with each reading at all. Take these verses from Revelation. They appear to show us all the saints in heaven, and that’s what I suspect most people in church will think when they hear this on All Saints Day.
They might also think this applies to all those whose garments have been washed in the blood of Christ and made white. That is, all Christians throughout the ages.
But it doesn’t say that at all. These are not the numberless saints of those who have put their faith in Christ; they are quite specifically the 144,000 chosen from the twelve tribes of Israel (12,000 each tribe) if we follow the logic of Revelation (Rev 7:4-8). Revelations is very much about the early church, its origins as a branch of Judaism and the oppression that people came under from Rome.
But am I right to follow the logic of Revelation? The phrase that connects everything is ‘after this’, which is no more than a literary convention, and a very basic one. It’s like in a child’s story where the words ‘and then’, ‘and then’, ‘and then’ punctuate every scene. The sort of thing my teachers in primary school told me to stop doing.
Then there’s Psalm 34 on all Saints Day. Well I’m guessing it’s here because it echoes what most people will think they’ve just heard – praise God and you’ll be amongst the chosen people (Jews and gentiles).
1 John 3:1-3 also appears to reassure us that all Christians are the chosen ones.
Now for the Gospel and it’s the beautiful Beatitudes; here is some of the most wonderful writing in the Bible. So much so that many people forget all about the shorter version in Luke 6: 20-26. But having spelled out who’s off to heaven to the congregation in the previous readings, I reckon quite a few of us now cringe in our pews unsure of whether we are poor, mourning, meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, merciful, pure, peacemakers or persecuted enough.
Which is a shame because that’s not the point. The point is, it doesn’t matter how tough life is for you, God is with you and unlike society that may not even seem to notice you exist, your God knows you exist and has not nor will not ever abandon you. Well, that’s what I think anyway. Other smarter people may disagree.
P.S. According to the Catholic church website, the root of the trick or treat phenomenon comes from the Medieval practice of poor people begging for a ‘soul cake’ – something like a doughnut – and when you gave them a soul cake they would agree to pray for the departed souls in your family. Maybe you knew that already.