Scripture readings for 11/3
This Sunday we will observe the celebration of All Saints’ Day, the church’s memorial day. It is a time to remember and mourn those who have died, but also a time for hope and thanksgiving. We remember every Christian who has died in the faith and now rests from his or her labors, awaiting the Last Day. We thank God for the blessings he has brought us through their service and example. We hope for the return of Christ and the resurrection of the dead.
- The Gospel reading describes the life of God’s saints as a contrast between earthly appearances and spiritual reality.
- The Revelation reading (in place of the Old Testament reading) is St. John’s vision of a great multitude of saints who enjoy Christ’s blessing forever, encouraging us in our troubled earthly lives, as well as giving us hope for loved ones who have gone before us.
- The New Testament reading describes us as God’s children, waiting with hope for our eternal inheritance.
The Gospel reading:
This reading is the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, and it is often referred to as “the Beatitudes” (from the Latin word for ‘blessed’). These sayings of Jesus are drawn from teachings of the Old Testament, but have an unmistakable stamp of Jesus’ authority in their application. These are not laws or commandments calling on people to be meek, merciful, and pure in heart in order to earn a reward. Instead, they are expressions of what Christ has made his children to be. It is counterintuitive to think that those who are mourning, persecuted, and poor in spirit are blessed, but they are. If you are poor in spirit, you are blessed because God’s reign and rule, God’s kingdom, has come for you. If you are mourning, as many people are on All Saints’ Day, you are blessed because there is comfort in the hope of the resurrection. The glory and blessings of God’s saints are not evident in this world where they are often troubled and persecuted, but they are blessed nevertheless!
The Old Testament reading:
The book of Revelation stands at the end of the New Testament, but in style and content it is much more like the prophetical books of the Old Testament, and so this reading stands in that place for All Saints’ Day.
In Revelation chapter 6, Christian martyrs cried out to God, “How long until you judge the inhabitants of the earth?” God’s response is to bring the great Day of the Lord described in Isaiah 2 and Joel 2. But in view of that Day, the people of the earth cried out, “Who is able to stand?!” This reading is the answer to that question.
St. John heard about the numbering of an army of 144,000 Israelites, but what he saw was the surprising fulfillment through Jesus, the slain Lamb. John saw the messianic army of God’s kingdom. It’s made up of people from all over the world, fulfilling God’s ancient promise to Abraham. This multi-ethnic army of the Lamb can stand before God, because they’ve all been redeemed by his blood. They are all clothed in white robes, waving palm branches, and shouting praise to God and to the Lamb. And they are called to conquer, not by killing their enemies, but by suffering and bearing witness just like the Lamb. It is a beautiful scene that gives us a glimpse of our future with Jesus Christ in the midst of the throne as both Lamb and Shepherd, leading us to living water. The beauty, glory and satisfying shelter of life eternal includes the absence of all earthly suffering which at present still causes tears.
The New Testament reading:
1 John 3:1-3
We first entered this world as God’s enemies. But Jesus switched places with us, taking the punishment God’s enemies deserve and making us God’s children instead. Through Baptism we are now restored to God’s image and have everlasting life in us already. We don’t know as yet exactly how our heavenly bodies will differ from our earthly bodies. But we can get a pretty good idea that it will be wonderful, because we will be like Jesus. He loves us so much that he kept his body even after the resurrection and ascension, just so that he could remain our human brother forever!
For now, our father-child relationship with God is not visible to the rest of the world. Frankly, to the naked eye, we don’t look like heavenly royalty. But even if we don’t get any respect from the rest of the world, that is no cause to doubt the Father’s love—most of the world couldn’t figure out that Jesus was God’s Son either. Our confidence in the returning Christ motivates our active efforts to overcome sin, but ultimately, we can only rely on Christ, the Pure One, to accomplish this effort.