You might recall that last week, we heard the LORD instruct Moses to inform the Hebrews that they “should be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” You might also remember that I read that commandment from God in a pretty hard-line sort of way. We ought take these words from God seriously, and strive for holiness, while understanding that it is simply impossible to do it on our own. I doubt that the guys-drinking-scotch-in-a-smoke-filled-room who settled on the Revised Common Lectionary had it in mind, but this Track Two Old Testament lesson for Proper 25, Year A prepares us nicely for the Gospel lesson on the transferred Feast of All Saints’.
This Sunday, we return to the Sermon on the Mount and lesson we heard way back in Epiphany. Jesus, seeing that a crowd is beginning to gather around him and his message, hits the pause button and invites his closest companions to come up the mountainside for a crash course in the basics of the Kingdom of Heaven. The lesson appointed for All Saints’ (BCP and RCL) is the opening salvo in that message of hope, grace, and love, and it is, quite simply, as mind-blowingly impossible as last week’s mountaintop conversation between God and Moses.
This week, instead of focusing on holiness, the message of God is pointed toward blessedness. Sometimes translated as “happy,” this ideal that Jesus sets forth in the Beatitudes is a helpful one as we consider what it means to be included in the list of the saints of God. We who are called to be holy, with God’s help, are, also by the grace of God, able to find happiness and contentment, to receive blessedness, when we find ourselves poor in spirit, mourning, meek, and hungering for righteousness. That is, when we are most aware that the world is not as God intended it to be, we are also the most blessed, able to see the world through the eyes of God. Equally so, when we are merciful, pure in heart, working for peace, and even suffering persecution for righteousness’ sake, we find ourselves blessed. In our work to fulfill the baptismal covenant (All Saints’ is a proper Baptismal feast, after all), we find the purpose for which we were created.
As with holiness, blessedness is not something we can accomplish on our own, which might be the first and only real lesson we need to learn about sainthood. It is all grace, which, come to think of it, would work quite well for those who are remembering the 500th anniversary of the Wittenberg Door as well.