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Monday, November 7, 2016

ALL SAINTS SUNDAY: "World without end, Amen. God’s not going to end the world in conflagration, but we humans might." The Reverend John Smith

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All Saints 2016

          “For All the Saints Who from Their Labors Rest” is the key descriptive hymn for the Feast of All Saints which we celebrate today.  I ask myself:  When this first line of the hymn speaks of “labors,” what labors are being referred to?

          Saints, canonized or not, work in the field of love:  feeding the hungry, wiping the tears of those who weep, standing by the weak and poor, those who are hated, defiled, reviled, and defamed because of the Son of Man (a figure referred to in Daniel who will come to receive an eternal Kingdom- Jesus used this title to refer to himself often in the Gospel). To take on Jesus’ teaching and practice is real work!  This is like the title of another hymn:  Come, Labor On.

          When you do the work of God it will never be destroyed.  When you work that the Kingdom of God become a reality it will never come to an end.  The Kingdom will continue to grow in this world until the Son of Man (Jesus) returns to claim it.  Until that day, we, and the saints before us, labor on.

          The Book of Daniel is part of what is called apocalyptic literature.  It is literature which speaks of crisis and how everything will end.  There are great battles and much suffering.  It always involves the great political and military powers of the world in conflict.  In the Book of Daniel, less than 200 years before Christ, there are four powers that be:  Babylon, Media, Persia, and Greece.  These powers threatened Israel and all that God was trying to do through his chosen people.  But God’s Kingdom would prevail in the end.

          The important thing to keep in mind (there is so much misunderstanding about this) is that all the battling, violence, and suffering that takes place in this world is completely human in origin.  The battles are not between God and humans (no contest!) or God’s allies (the good folks) and evil (the bad folks).  No, all the destruction and pain comes from sinful, human rivalry.  God gives all of us life and a beautiful creation to live in and enjoy.  All the saints knew this. The Kingdom of God, inaugurated by Jesus, and the saints, whose labors helped it take root among us, will never come to an end.

          So we’re not merely hanging around to see what’s going to happen with the powers of the world and their continued warring, or wait for the final battle to come, like Hollywood films or the Left Behind series describes.  Remember the way many prayers conclude:  World without end, Amen.  God’s not going to end the world in conflagration, but we humans might.

By our baptism we are saints too and we need to “labor on” by living Jesus’ example of love and peace in a sinful world.  We, like all the saints, are sinners too.  We are undergoing our own conversions to Jesus Christ.  That is why we gather each Sunday to confess our sins (to aid our conversion) and to be nourished by the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus who is present with us, in a tangible way, in the struggle.  The Good News is that rest will come.  But, until then, we have work to do:  loving, forgiving, sharing, and striving for peace without using violence.  No one said that this is easy.  This is the Cross which Jesus asked his disciples, you and me, to carry.  This is the work of saints.  Amen!   
John+
St. Alban
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.
The Reverend John Smith, Vicar

5235-6674 cell telephone (502 country code)

THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE 

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