Today is All Saints’ Sunday. That’s the Sunday following All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day; the first, celebrating the great Saints of the Church on Nov. 1 and the second on Nov. 2 celebrating those lesser saints like you and me who are saints in the N.T. sense…saints, because we are baptized members of the Church of Jesus Christ! And the Gospel reading for this day is always the Beatitudes (Luke 6:20-31), those beautiful “blesseds.” Blessed are the poor, blessed are those who are hungry, blessed are those who weep,” and all the rest.
Episcopal clergy normally don’t title their sermons like our Protestant brothers and sisters, but if I had to title this one it would be “The Illogical Logic of the Kingdom of God.” The Illogical Logic of the Kingdom of God! Because, when you first look at them, the Beatitudes are downright illogical! How are the poor blessed? How are the hungry blessed? How are those who are weeping blessed? How are those who are hated and excluded blessed? That’s illogical!
At least it would be illogical if Jesus was talking about the present. Today the poor and the hungry and the grieving are not blessed at all. But Jesus is not talking about the present. He’s talking about the future. He’s talking about a Day when God will finally intervene and set things right again – once and for all. ON THAT DAY, Jesus is saying, the poor will be blessed. On that day, the hungry will be blessed, and on that day, the weeping will be blessed.
(And, by the way, on that day, he says, the rich will be poor, the fat cats will be hungry, and those who are laughing at the rest of us now, will “mourn and weep!”) Now, that may sound illogical, dear friends, but I submit to you that the Gospel today tells us that it is the illogical Logic of the Kingdom of God! When the Kingdom of God finally comes in its fullness, what seems illogical now will be the logic that saves us all!
So that’s our hope for the future. But what are we to do until then? What are we to do right now? Well, according to Jesus, we are to live our lives as though that Kingdom has already dawned. Because it has. It’s not here in its fullness yet, but because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Kingdom of God is within us and we are to begin to live the ethics of the Kingdom:
“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.” The illogical logic of the Kingdom of God!
Well, that’s just impossible, you might say! How are we to live like this in today’s world? Jesus answers us in one sentence. “Do to others as you would have them do to you!” That is, of course, The Golden Rule and it appears in one form or another in every major religion in the world. Because that is so, the great Roman Catholic theologian Hans Kung has called it “A Global Ethic.”
In Judaism it reads: “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man.” (Talmud). In Christianity, “Do to others as you would have them do to you (Luke). In Islam, “None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” (#13 of 40 Hadiths). In Buddhism, “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” (Varga 5:18). And in Hinduism “This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.” (Mahabharata 5:1517).
It’s almost as if God has written this Golden Rule deep in the human heart, across cultures and religions and across the centuries! If we just lived like this, the Kingdom of God really would be evident. The poor would be blessed and so would the hungry and the mourners! We would begin to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. We would be able to bless those who once cursed us, and pray for those who were formerly our abusers!
So, on this All Saints’ Sunday, there’s a sense in which we have to wait for the promises of the Beatitudes to come true. Wait for that Day when things will be set right again.
But there’s another sense in which we can begin to live those Beatitudes right here and right now. We can love our enemies. We can do good to those who hate us. We can bless those who curse us. And pray for those who abuse us.
We can begin all this by “doing unto others as we would have them do unto us!”