Engaging the Word: Readings for 11/6/16 (All Saints’ Sunday)

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By Barbara Klugh

Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18; Psalm 149; Ephesians 1:11-23; Luke 6:20-31. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the lectionary. In this week’s readings, despite his terrifying visions of four great beasts, Daniel also learns of an eternal kingdom for God’s people, Paul rejoices in our glorious inheritance of redemption through our Lord Jesus Christ, and, in the beatitudes, Jesus contrasts the coming blessings for the poor with the woes against the rich.

Daniel’s vision by Hans Holbein the younger, 16th century. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Daniel’s vision by Hans Holbein the younger, 16th century. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18: In the Book of Daniel, Chapters 1-6 comprise stories about Daniel and his friends while they were Jewish exiles in exile in Babylon.  Chapters 7-12 are his visions of the end times. Although the action of the book takes place in the 6th century BC, most scholars think it was written in the 2nd century BC.

This week’s reading is about the first of four apocalyptic visions. Daniel saw “four great beasts” stirred up by the “four winds of heaven,” which came out of the great sea. In the Bible, frequently the sea and sea monsters represent the forces of chaos. The four winds stand for four kingdoms—the Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians and the Greeks. Not in the lectionary, but in verses 9-14 the fourth beast is killed, and God gives dominion of the remaining three to “one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven.” Christians see this figure as Jesus.

Daniel was troubled by the vision and asked for help in interpreting what the vision means. He was told that the beasts represent the kings of the four kingdoms, but that the “holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom for ever—for ever and ever.”

Psalm 149: This week’s psalm is a liturgical hymn praising God for victory over enemies. We should praise God’s Name by singing “a new song,” dancing, and playing musical instruments.

Apostle Paul Window By A. W. N. Pugin (1812-1852). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Apostle Paul Window By A. W. N. Pugin (1812-1852). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Ephesians 1:11-23: This letter is named for the Christian community in the City of Ephesus, now in western Turkey. It was an important center of Early Christianity from the AD 50s. Scholars think Paul wrote the Letter to the Ephesians while he was in prison in Rome, or that a later author wrote it in Paul’s name. It’s likely that the letter was meant to be circulated among a group of churches around Ephesus.

In this week’s reading, Paul reminds the Ephesians that in Christ we have obtained the inheritance of adoption, and are the first of many who will come to Christ, that we “might live for the praise of his glory.” All who believe in him are marked by the seal of the Holy Spirit  at baptism, so that we will have full union with God.

Paul gives thanks to the Ephesians for their faith in Jesus and their love “toward all the saints.” Paul prays that God may give them “a spirit of wisdom” that “with the eyes of your heart enlightened,” they (and we) may fully know their heavenly calling, glorious inheritance, and the immeasurable greatness of his power. And “God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead” and set him in the heavenly places to share God’s throne. Therefore, Christ’s authority is greater than all others, whether in heaven or on earth and for all time. Jesus is head of the church, and it is through the church that all things will be brought to completion.

Jesus teaching his disciples by C.H. Bloch, 1877. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Jesus teaching his disciples by C.H. Bloch, 1877. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Luke 6:20-31: Luke’s Sermon on the Plain is similar to Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, and both include what we call the Beatitudes, which is part of this week’s reading. Luke’s account is shorter, and he pairs the blessings with corresponding woes.

Jesus offers blessings to those who are poor and hungry, sad or hated “on account of the Son of Man.” Jesus said their hardships will be turned to blessing, “for surely your reward will be great in heaven.”

But woe to those who are rich, with full stomachs, laughing, or who enjoy worldly acclaim. Their present success will ultimately turn to failure, mourning and weeping.

Then Jesus adds, “Love your enemies, do good to those that hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” If you are hit, turn the other cheek’ if someone takes your coat, give them your shirt; give to everyone who begs; and if someone takes your possessions, don’t ask for them back. “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”

The Life with God Bible comments:

It is one thing to love a friend or a stranger or the virtually anonymous mass of humanity and another to love and forgive an enemy who hurts us and hates us. Such love would transform our world but, as G.K. Chesterton said, the trouble is that this kind of Christianity has never been tried. When Jesus tells us to love, bless, and pray for our enemies and turn the other cheek, he’s emphasizing he doesn’t want us to be people who thrive on aggression and retaliation, who return blow for blow, curse for curse, grudge for grudge, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. He doesn’t want us walking around looking for a fight, brooding about how we can get even, planning an act of vengeance. He wants us to break the cycle of hostility….This Christianity is not an easy thing to do. But following Christ has never been an easy thing to do. It makes us free. But as Martin Luther King, Jr. stressed, “Freedom has always been an expensive thing.”

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