“Preparation” Matthew 24:36-44

This is the time of year when we think a great deal about preparation.  We rummage through the attic and the closet to assemble all the decorations for the season.

We prepare our lists.

There is a list for shopping for gifts, and one for shopping for groceries.

A list for sending Christmas cards and a list for things to accomplish before family and friends arrive.

We pride ourselves on knowing just when everything has to happen, and working out our schedules so that nothing will be forgotten and nothing left to chance.

The people who talk about organizational skills professionally remind us of the importance of managing our time effectively.  Good time management can help to reduce the stress that has become a natural part of the holidays.

That is why we carry around these things — electronic gadgets, planning calendars, cell phones with connections to desktop calendars.  We use them to make the most of our time and to map out how best to spend that time and get some control over it.   I think there was even a slogan by one of those “management gurus” that went, “Master the use of your time, and you can master the world.”

Jesus too, urges us to manage our time well in Matthew‘s Gospel, but in a little different way than the “organizational specialists”, and toward a different end.

You see, what I am encouraged to do by those folks with this tool, and all those like it, is to take charge of my time.  Here I control what I do and when I do it.  Here I lay out where I go next week and with whom I will interact.  If I use it really well, I can even accomplish the illusion that I am in control of my life.  I am the “Master.”

I can tap a few screens and tell you where I’ll be next week.

Another tap and I see next month, or even next year.

I can tell you when Christmas will be in a decade, or 100 years.

Hey, I’ve even got my retirement date plugged into here.  On August 25th, 2026, I’ll have been in the ministry 40 years, and I’ll be pushing 68, that might be my to turn in my resignation and make way for the next generation of leaders.

On some days, I even begin to believe that I can map things out and that those days will go just as I have them planned.

But you and I both know that all the stuff that I put in here is all really just wishful thinking.  No matter how well intended, life does not always follow the plan that we lay out.

That is what Jesus reminds us about here, and what Advent drives home.

Jesus speaks of life’s unpredictable nature, and what we are to do in the midst of it as Advent people, people who are looking for Christ’s coming.

“For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”

No one saw the flood coming, not even Noah until God spoke to him.

No one knew how to prepare for it, except the one whom God had told about it.   And the Ark was built, and Noah alone was prepared when the floods came.

Life went on for everyone else.

They made their plans in ordinary time as if the world would go on forever, and scoffed at Noah’s acts of preparation.

They believed the world would go on as it always would, right up until the flood came and swept them all away.

This is what it will be like, Jesus says, the Son of Man, returns.  It will seem like ordinary time right up until it happens.

That’s what makes Advent, and our faith lives so difficult to plan for.

In this season we call Advent, we are told to watch and wait for the coming of the Son of Man.  But we do so with a little handicap.

We’ve been waiting for an awful long time; 2000 years, for Jesus to return.   We’ve even organized time into cycles, into the church year.

Advent will be followed by Christmas, then Epiphany, then Lent, Easter and Pentecost.  We plan in the church, on our calendar of Blue and White and Purple and Green and special days of Red, as if “as in the days of Noah,” things would just go on forever.

But Advent, our beginning of the Church Year, is also a reminder of our end.

It is a reminder of the promise that Jesus will return, and so in all of our ordinary planning, we keep in mind that promise.  We can’t just fill in the calendar is if it will go on forever.  There will come an end, and Jesus will be there at it.

This is how we are different from those who lived in Noah’s day.

In that day, no one knew about the flood but Noah.  That was the way it was supposed to work, only Noah was righteous, and so God was saving him while wiping out all the rest of the wicked of this world.

But with the coming of Jesus, God has a new plan.  Now the plan is for all to know of the coming of the Son of Man.

Now the plan is for all the world to know, and therefore to be saved.

It is up to those who follow Jesus to bear witness to a dying world of the salvation prepared for them by God.

You and I and all who have been recipients of the Gospel know that Jesus is coming to judge and to bring history to a close.  So then, how are we to prepare for his coming?

For those of us good at using these tools of calendars, we would start to make lists, wouldn’t we?   If we knew that Jesus was coming, say a week from Tuesday, we’d make a quick list of all the folks we would want to talk to before that happens.  We’d pull out our planners and schedule in a time to meet, to talk with them about Jesus, make sure they are in the know as well.   It’s what we do best with our planners, schedule time to attend to the important things, the important people in our lives.

But Jesus is pushes us to consider something else. He tells the story of working side by side with one another, and how one will be taken and another left.   It’s not told to promote some supernatural “Left Behind” kind of scenario.

No, it’s told to remind us of how important it is to speak of the Son of Man’s coming! Who have you shared the news about Jesus with?  Who is on your “list” right now to talk to about Jesus?

Who are you working beside right now?  Do they know about Jesus?  Do they know the hope you know?

We know from Matthew’s Gospel that Jesus gives one great commission.  “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.“

That’s our commission, the task that is given to us.

We know from all the Gospels that Jesus gives one great commandment.  “Love one another.  Love your neighbor as yourself. “

With those things as our guide, how do you think we are to prepare for the Lord’s coming, in ordinary time?

Would it not be to take every moment of ordinary time as an opportunity to bear witness to the one who so loves the world that he has sent his only Son to save it?

See, here’s the deal that this illustration pushes us to think about.  When the Son of Man comes, it will be like this, Two will be working together, one will know, but will the other?  What about them?

Would your co-worker be on your list to make sure they know about God‘s love and mercy, God‘s forgiveness available to them?

Would your neighbor be there?  Your spouse, your child, or your old friend?

This illustration of two in the field together, two at the mill together, is less a matter of who will be taken, and more a matter of who haven’t you told.

Who isn’t on your list?

We don’t know the hour.  It could be a week from Tuesday.  It could be right after this service, or right in the midst of it, and yes, it could be 2 centuries from now.  But the real issue is that it will come in ordinary time.

It won’t be something that you can schedule in, or prepare for, or search the heavens for signs to know just when it’s coming so that you can make your list to get things done just before it gets here.

You can’t master this world, but you can introduce this world to your Master.  And, you have every day, every moment of your life in which to do that.

How is that going for you?

You can’t plan for everything you know.

You don’t know when Jesus will come, and you don’t know when Jesus will put someone in your path, or alongside of you at work, who needs to hear the Gospel.  You must therefore live as if every moment was the last one.  The last chance to say something that will make a powerful difference in someone’s life.

“Watch and wait” Jesus says.  “Be prepared!  If the householder had known at what hour the thief was to come, of course he would have been there to prevent the break-in.  But the point is he doesn’t know!–and neither do you, and so every moment becomes precious, doesn‘t it?

Every relationship you find yourself in is suddenly precious, important, and one in which the Gospel is to be shared.

Take no one for granted, no moment for granted, for this sacred moment might be the one that is most precious for both of you.  The moment when you can speak of faith, and someone might receive it.

Beloved, it is my privilege to walk with you in these days of Advent, of watching and waiting.  We have many things to plan for, and to consider, but first and foremost I want you to take a moment now, and look at who you are sitting near, who else is in this place with you.  Recognize this as a precious moment, a time that God has placed each of you here for purpose.

Look around also, at who is missing, and who needs to be here.  Who you work with, play with, have casual conversations with that have never entered the realm of faith.  Maybe even make a list?

Who will you ask to come and worship with you this Christmas.  It may very well be the last, you know.

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“None of Us Knows What We Are Doing.” Luke 23:33-43

It’s entirely possible that none of us knows what we are doing.

Oh, I’m not talking about things in general here.  Lord knows I’ve done my share of just stupid things where I started doing something that didn’t really look that hard, only to find myself in way over my head.

I thought I could replace the fan on a laptop computer once.  I mean, how hard can it be?  I watched the YouTube video on how to open the case, disconnect the screen, lift out the old fan and reset things, etc.   It all looked quite straightforward.

Well I soon discovered that my fat fingers were no match for working on the delicate connections in a half open clamshell case, and in the end the whole laptop simply went to scrap.

We all have stories like that.  Stories about where what looked like a simple task suddenly became much more complex and we just got in over our heads.   We chalk it up to experience and just move on from there.

No, when I say that it’s possible none of us knows what we are doing in relation to this Gospel lesson, I’m talking about how our actions, words, and responses are doing things that we’re just not aware of at the time.

As I look at the Gospel lesson for this Christ the King Sunday I am struck by Jesus’ prayer for us from the cross.  “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

Now I’ve always read that as being directed to the crowds, to the Romans, and to the Chief Priests who are responsible for crucifying Jesus, and surely it is in part.

The Crowds don’t really know what they are doing.  They are just reacting in anger to their situation under Roman occupation.  They have been incited, whipped up to join the frenzy.  They don’t really know or care who Jesus is, he’s just another Galilean “would-be Messiah” like so many others before him.  Crucify him before he riles the Romans to action!

The crowd ends up doing things they aren’t even aware the consequences of at the time.

The Chief Priests don’t know what they are doing.   Here the Son of God has come to bring in the Kingdom and they are more concerned with holding on to their own power and consolidating it.  They don’t even bother to listen to Jesus, or entertain the possibility that God might act in a new way.   Jesus is just another troublemaker come into Jerusalem during the Passover Festival, so best to dispatch him quickly lest Roman retaliation be brought down upon the Temple and the crowds.

Let us party in peace, Jesus.    They are not aware of what they are doing, how it will change the world in the long run.

The Roman soldiers have no idea what they are doing.   For them it is just another state ordered execution.  We have the routine down.   March them through the streets, take them to the place of the Skull, there the uprights are waiting for the new victims to be hoisted.   Cast the lots of the clothing to get some compensation for our trouble, and watch the proceedings to the end.

The “crucifixion detail: has been served before, and will be served again no doubt.

In short, No one at the foot of Jesus knew what they were doing.   They did not know at the time that this particular crucifixion out of all that happened in those days would be remembered and talked about for the next 2000 years.

Truly, NOBODY knows what they are doing.

But the more I read this on Christ the King Sunday, the more I am struck by the fact that nobody here knows what is being done for them in the Cross either.

In other words, it isn’t just those who are pushing the crucifixion for whom Jesus prays.

The prayer also extends to those caught up in the events, those crucified beside Jesus as well.   They do not know what they are doing either.

One clearly joins in the taunting, and the taunting all has to do with the same expectation, whether that is from the leaders or the soldiers.

The expectation is that Jesus will first act to save himself.

“He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” the leaders chant.

“If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”  the Soldier mock.

Even the one crucified beside him has the same expectation, or temptation as the case may be.  “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”

The expectation is that self-preservation will be the coat tails upon which we all may follow and ride into the Kingdom.   If Jesus is King, and a King protects his people, then this is what will prove that Jesus is who he says he is, that he is “King.”    Everyone at the cross assumes that it will be the ability to “pull himself out of the fire at the last moment.”  The miracle, if you will, that will prove Jesus as King.

But this is not what would prove Jesus’ Kingship.  This, in fact, was rejected at the very beginning of the story, where we read in Luke 4.

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written,
“He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you”,
and
“On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’
Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” 

The temptation to engage in self-preservation as proof of Messiahship was rejected outright, as the last temptation way back there at the beginning of the Gospel as Luke records it.

It’s not acting to save yourself, or hoping that God will swoop in at the last minute to take you out of suffering that proves Jesus as King.

It is also not saving those who hope to escape the injustices of this world that proves the Kingship of Jesus.

It appears that what proves Jesus to be King is his capacity to forgive and to pray for those who do not know what they are doing.

It also appears, that the quality that allows one to share paradise with Jesus is that capacity to realize what you’ve done, and come to terms with it.

The man who hangs next to Jesus and acknowledges he’s getting exactly what should be coming to him.  That is an admission that no one else at Golgotha is ready to make yet.   Still looking for vindication of their actions, demanding action of Jesus, of God.

You cannot rule over those who will not be subject to you, that’s a fact.

So in this moment the thief next to Jesus comes to terms with what he’s done, and in that moment Jesus has a word for him.

This world is not all there is, nor is it all that we hope for or look to as followers of Jesus.

“Today you will be with me in paradise.”  Jesus says.

This is where I’m pretty sure we can find a connection with the idea that none of us knows what we are doing either.

It occurs to me that a lot of folks in the last election cycle were looking for some vindication or action by God to “prove” their vision of the Kingdom.

Some were looking for the continuance of strides made in what is called by some “a liberal agenda.”

Others were looking for God to “prove” the Kingdom by restoring conservative values and principles.

Now it feels like everyone is scrambling about just like those who were at the foot of the cross all those years ago, still making demands of God, of Jesus, and of one another.  All those who look for God to somehow bless and vindicate the actions of the Kingdom of this world are doomed to disappointment.

That’s not how it works.  God doesn’t hand us things from on high.  God instead empowers us to bring such things to those with whom we hang.

We are the ones who make justice, righteousness, and peace happen in the here and now, not by following not the inclinations of this world, but rather by owning up to our own inability to do any of this on our own.   We don’t know what we’re doing most of the time.  We need a King, a Savior, someone greater than ourselves to be subject to and to show us a better way.

And so on Christ the King Sunday, maybe the best thing we can do is realize that we don’t really know what we are doing.

We don’t have the answer to the troubles of this world, not from our perspective, and surely not if we act only on our own or try to force our perspective on others.

We don’t know what we’re doing most of the time.   So it is that we pray that God would have mercy on us, forgive us, and hang with us.

Somehow in the posture of humility and acknowledgement that most of the time we’re getting what we deserve for what we’ve done, Jesus is able to confer a surprise to us.

Today.

Right now.

This moment…you can be with Jesus, and it’s paradise.   Not because you’re dying, but because now you are hanging with him, and being honest with yourself.   Now you see Jesus not as someone who’s going to save your bacon, but rather as one who has deeper promises to convey than your own petty desires in this life.

For a brief instant, amidst the chaos of the Golgotha, there is this exchange between Jesus and the one who simply asks Jesus to remember him, with no strings attached, no expectations of getting something in return, and in that moment, the Kingdom is opened up and paradise is revealed.

None of us knows what we are doing most of the time, that is the truth of life.   We stumble through as best we can.

And it is for all those people who don’t know what they are doing that Jesus prays, and hangs.

It is for each and every one of those people who are not aware of what they are doing that Jesus asks God to forgive, and it is for them that he goes to the cross; including you and me, hoping for a moment, an honest exchange.

None of us knows what we are doing, and acknowledging that is the doorway to finding out that Jesus is praying for us, in fervent hope that maybe we’ll realize finally what is it that we have done, and in doing that, perhaps find the forgiveness and the Kingdom that Jesus brings.

“Some were speaking about…” Luke 21:5-19

“Some were speaking about the elections…..”

Oh wait, you hadn’t heard anything about that all this past week?

Or maybe you were hoping this was the one place where you could get away from all the incessant analysis, dire predictions, outright disgust, dismay, the promulgation of fear or a sense of gloating.

No such luck!

Don’t blame it on me though.    Blame it on the Lectionary Committee, as this is the appointed lesson for the day.

We have Jesus walking into Jerusalem today and commenting to his gape-mouthed Disciples about the temple, and political power behind it, and what you must do in time of persecution.

For you see, as pretty and impressive as the Temple looks right now, as permanent as it appears, it is not something in which you can put your trust.

“Not one stone will be left upon another, all will be thrown down.”  Jesus says.

Such is the truth about the things that we build, the things that we construct, or the machines that we think will last forever or carry on indefinitely, be they mechanical or political.

Most scholars date Luke’s gospel at around 85 CE, a full 15 years after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem has already taken place.

So, if the Temple is already gone by the time Luke writes his account, why does he include it?

One reason why this story shows up in the gospel is simply a matter of validation.   Jesus said the Temple wouldn’t last, and now we (the folks reading the gospel) have all lived to see that Jesus words of prediction come true.  “Not one stone is left upon another…”

But there is another reason why this story shows up in Luke’s “orderly account” and it has everything to do with this past week’s election and really, this whole past year’s election cycle.

Upon hearing from Jesus that “not one stone will be left upon another….we see in the story that the disciples continue to be fixated on the same thing from which Jesus was trying to redirect them!

“Teacher, when will this be?”  They ask, “and what will be the sign that it is about to take place?

Hear that question for what it is, for it is uttered with their eyes still firmly fixed on the temple!

They are still looking at “things.”

They want signs that give them clues about the end of things – and Jesus is trying to get them to move beyond fixing their eyes on things.

They are still enamored by the sight of Temple, — now perhaps imagining it as a ruin, and so Jesus “doubles down” on the “get your eyes off that thing!”

“Beware that you are not led astray” he says.  And, more importantly “do not be terrified!” 

Then Jesus goes on to list a whole pile of things about which one could be legitimately afraid!   Nations rising against nation, wars, famines and plagues, portends and signs in the heavens.

But none of those things are that important.

What is important is that in each of these events that are bound to come, the arrests, the persecutions, the being brought before political powers, Jesus tells his disciples that they will all be able to do something.

The events themselves are not what you are to look to, they are only “things.”

No, what the events will all allow you to do is testify, to speak of what you know to be true about God and about God’s Kingdom to one another and to those who have questions .

So, the other reason Luke puts this story in is because while the temple is long gone, what is unfolding after 70 CE are ample opportunities to testify!

And, this is where what Jesus says gets really interesting, because you might have expected Luke’s gospel to record what Jesus tells his disciples to say in the face of such dire things!

You might have expected Luke tell us exactly what it is that we should say in the face of all these trying events.

You might have expected words from Jesus to speak when the nations are rising against each other, or when the plague strikes, or when you are hauled before the political authorities.

You might have expected Jesus to say, “when that happens, say this….”

But that’s not the direction given.

In fact, we are told explicitly not to prepare our defense in advance.  Why?

Because I think Jesus is specifically directing our eyes away from what we’re most enamored with, and he is trying to get us to look somewhere else.

Jesus is trying to get us to focus on him!

Quaint tropes and things you may have memorized are not going to cut it in the face of really trying times.

Forget the slogans, and your memorized catechism, or what your Sunday School teacher said to you in the 3rd grade.   None of that is going to be enough!

You will need the words and the wisdom that God through the Holy Spirit will provide for you in that moment.  Those alone will carry the day.

We have sensed such words spoken in the past.

I doubt very much Martin Luther practiced his “Here I stand, God help me, I can do no other” speech before he was brought before the Roman Catholic scholars at the Diet of Worms.

We know that Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was hastily scrawled on a scrap of paper as he surveyed the battlefield enroute to a deliver a minor dedication of a cemetery.

We know that the words of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial were not written down in the speech he had prepared, but came to him as he looked out upon the sea of humanity stretched before the monument.

Words have a way of coming when the need is great.

The Spirit moves.

We have experienced such words in our own lives most likely.  They were spoken at the bedside in the death of a friend or family member, in the disappointing news that was received, in the moment when we tune our lives to the life of that other and let God’s grace and mercy and love speak either through us, or to us.

We are hardly aware even of what we may have said.

The person who said just what we needed to hear in that moment may not have realized or believed they were saying anything profound, but the words spoken were powerful and just what was needed in that moment.

Which brings us back to this past week, and the times in which we live.

Surely things have been said that we would very much like to retract, and most of those were the slogans and catch phrases spoken to the air, or to the airwaves, or posted without a lot of thought as to who might have read them and how they might have been received as they went out on the “twitterverse” or in Facebook post.

Such words are like canned phrases, tropes that we let fly.  Oh, what seemed witty at the time, or profound can have such lasting effect and unintended consequences.

Sometimes such words are spoken with intent to inflict viewpoints, or challenge assumptions.

Those words will fly.

But in the end they will not have the power of testimony.  They do not have the power to speak truth, to make alive, to rescue and empower.   They don’t have that power because they are not spoken to an individual, they are spoken to a thing.   A constituent group, a clumping of demographics, those identified as “the other.”

“Beware!”  Jesus says, “Do not be led astray.”  Don’t attach yourself to viewpoints, or those who would claim to be a savior!   Many will come who will say “I am he!” “The time is near!”  Do not go after them, Jesus warns.

To attach your hopes on something, or someone, is to take your eyes off Jesus and to become enamored with the very thing that is doomed to pass away!

“I’m with her…”   “Make America Great Again.”  “A complete and total ban…” “Deplorables”

All those were words that were well thought out, carefully crafted and prepared, and thrown out there which were meant to elicit a response and attach you to a thing. Be that an idea, or to a stance, or to a party, or to a mindset or a candidate.  They were thrown out sometimes to appeal to you and make you go after a thing, or worse yet, thrown out to cause you to experience revulsion and react against a thing.

Slogans and prepared words will not stand the test of time.

Nor will they suffice when we get down to the real business of testifying to what it is that God in Christ Jesus has called us to do and to be for one another.

Jesus knows it is so tempting to put our faith in things.

Jesus knows how we do like to attach ourselves to things, and how easily our eyes are diverted from him, and how we do like to go after shiny things, and put our trust in things of this world.

And so, he warns us not to be led astray, but more than that.

He promises us that when the time comes, when we look to Jesus, the words to speak will be given, but to receive them, you will have to find yourself in relationship with that other.

Brought before kings and governors….

In the same room with parents and brothers, relatives and friends, some of whom will betray you because hey, they know exactly what buttons to push to set you off because of their relationship to you.

In all these opportunities you have a choice.   To sling back the rhetoric of things, or to testify to what you know to God’s preferred vision for this world.

Hey, listen, I don’t pretend to know what to say to the events of this past week, the “things.”   I don’t know what to say to the election outcome, or to the prospects of a vague future, or to the “isms” as non-descript things that raise their out there.

I only know that if you were thinking that either candidate would be “the one” to save us or make everything all better, you were no different than the disciples oogling over the Temple.

This I do know.

In the days ahead we will be given ample opportunities to testify, and this is what that has to look like.

So to the general phrases about “those people”, to the labels whatever they may be, our testimony must be about the people that we know, and get to know.

To the generic label of a person or group, we must be able to testify to the real person that we know, that we have met and gotten to know, who is a child of God and beloved, but just has a different point of view.    And in the midst of testifying, we may learn a few things, and overcome some divisions, and perhaps even change a set minds or viewpoints.

Opportunities to testify, that is what we are given.  Not to speak about a thing, but to tell of God’s love, that we have found, and that is offered freely to all.   Love that puts away fear and hatred, and promises a future.

Luke 6:20-36 All Saints

This morning we gather to celebrate “All Saints Sunday,” the service where we remember those who have gone before us in faith and rejoice in the promise of the gift of the resurrection.

In a way, this is a funeral sermon, one that speaks of the reality of the pain of loss, but a sermon which also looks forward to the joy of what will be.

It may sound a bit morbid, and you’ve probably heard it before, but I like funeral sermons.

Why you ask?

It is because funeral sermons address people who are facing the reality of life and death.   They are spoken to people who are anxious to hear the promises of God.   People who come to funerals are looking for some word that will make sense out of the events of where they are living in this moment.

Ordinary sermons on ordinary Sundays are not always met with such anticipation.

We can take or leave them, critique and evaluate them whether on the basis of whether or not the pastor was “on game” today, whether the pastor engaged them, whether or not the sermon “spoke” to you as the listener, or whether it was humorous or entertaining.

Ordinary sermons are listened to, but seldom looked upon with any sense of longing anticipation.

Funeral sermons on the other hand are delivered to a people struggling with where they find themselves right now, in the intersection of life, death, and personal meaning.    People at this crossroads are looking for some word of hope, some assurance that tomorrow will come, and it will be better than yesterday when the world fell apart.

I can see that in the eyes of the bereaved.

They want a word to lay hold of, something to give them a footing in the slippery and uncertain ground that is grief, loss and confusion.

They are hoping for something to lay hold of that will help them make it through the next ½ hour, or day, or month.

Their eyes are pleading, wondering…what will the pastor say to this?

Now, here is the tricky part, because the words that I speak at a funeral sermon are really no different than what I would say on any given Sunday.

They are words that speak the Gospel, the good news of Jesus’ presence with us in all of life’s challenges, twists, turns and events.

But now, in this moment when a person is faced with the reality of death, those gathered are somehow more receptive, more ready to listen, and to take on those words meant “just for them.”

Put on those ears today, as you hear the beatitudes.  Ask yourself, “Are these words meant for me?”

Because you see, the most powerful proclamation in these beatitudes is the sense of their immediacy and Jesus speaking to where you are right now.

What Jesus says is present tense, it is spoken in the “now” and affirms where you find yourself in this moment.

“Blessed are you if you are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God.

Not that the Kingdom “will be” yours.. someday…

Not someday, or maybe, or in the future.

No, the Kingdom is yours….now…. Is.. the Kingdom is yours!

Blessed are you who are hungry now… you will be filled.

Blessed are you who weep now…you will laugh.

Blessed are you in this moment, when they hate you, revile you, defame you…

This is your moment… and God is with you in it.

Of course, the same is true in Luke’s Gospel with the “woes.”  It is not some warning, but rather a statement of where you are in the moment.

“Woe to you who are rich.”

“Woe to you are full now “…. Hunger will find you.

“Woe to you who laugh now ….mourning and weeping will find you.

“Woe to you who enjoy favor in this moment…. For the fall awaits.

Are these words for you?

The Beatitudes are a statement of fact.  These truly are blessed, Jesus says, in the Kingdom, for in this state, they see what is really important.

The poor see that life is more than food, and the body more than cloths.  That’s something we were reminded over and over again by survivors of natural disasters.   Immediately after the event, those who survived find it to be a life re-ordering experience for them.

How often when the microphone is thrust into the face of the still dazed person do we hear that person say “none of this stuff really matters, we’re o.k., and that’s what is important.”

We spend so much time worrying about trivial things.

And as for the “woes”… well is it not the case that we get wrapped up in the privilege of of things going well that we can’t really imagine it ending?

So much of our time is caught up in the things of this world, the amenties, having the latest gadget, the right brand.

It takes an event that shakes us to our foundations to remind us of the great and gracious gift that life is.

Life is a gift of God’s grace that is too often overlooked and taken for granted in the “here and now.”    It isn’t until it is threatened, or taken away in some way that we realize that.

And so, “Blessed” are those who face poverty, loss, pain, death, hunger, persecution – for they see with new-found clarity the gift of grace that is life.

“Woe” to those who think tragedy cannot touch them, that they could not find themselves in the place of the neighbor who suffers, for they may be only one paycheck, one law change, one twist of the predictability of this world away from losing everything and not realize it, or deny it.

We don’t truly understand the beatitudes until we see them as a word spoken to us to strip away all the meaningless junk that otherwise occupies our lives.

So it’s All Saints Sunday, and with the beatitudes ringing in our ears we come forward and light a candle for a loved one, and it shakes us to our core, this realization that some day a candle will be lit for us… we hope.   And all the stuff we thought was important, it’s all just junk.

It’s All Saints Sunday in front of an election day that will see an uncertain outcome, and governing in the days ahead no matter who the winner will be a difficult task.

It’s really good news to be reminded that God confers blessings in the “now”… to where you find yourself in the present circumstances.

It’s really good news to be reminded that what we think will stand forever can all be blown away in an instant.

For indeed, we all feel as if we stand at a crossroads of sorts.

Some of us will be thrilled on Wednesday.

Some of us will be disillusioned beyond words.

But, no matter where you are in that moment, hear what God has to say to you.

“You are blessed…. Now!”

“I am with you in the “woes”… Now!

We are confident in the resurrection, and in the presence of God in life and beyond this life, that we shall indeed be reunited with those we love before the King.

But on this day, we are also encouraged to understand the precious gift that is life.

Now is the time for living.

Now is the time for following Jesus.

Now is the time for loving, for speaking the words to the neighbor, to the family.

The dead cannot look to the future.  Their eternal “now” is waiting for the trumpet to sound and the day to come.

We, the living, are called to focus on life in the here and now, and to be about the task of doing what the Gospel shows us to do with this gift that is life.

May we be servants of the Gospel this day, this week, which shows us how to live in Christ Jesus.

The Gospel, which says that life is always more than what we make it out to be.

The Gospel, which invites us to live as Jesus lived.

The Gospel, which calls us to experience the freedom that can be found in relying upon the Grace of God alone.

The Gospel, which challenges the things that we sometimes call important in life – money, social standing, possessions, fame, being # 1, security, happiness, defense, etc…..All those things that keep us from the clarity of seeing the gift that is life.

The Gospel, which says that what God desires us to be above all else is his Children.  Children, who see that we are gifts one to one another.

We, all of us; have gifts to share, and to bring to the table of life, and now, now is the time to be doing that.

Live life richly and fully this day.

Live as one blessed, for whom all the extraneous stuff has been stripped away so that you can see the gift this day is to you, and to those around you.

Live, and love, and invite those you meet throughout this week to see what a gift their life is, what a gift they are to this world.

If you do that this week, if you spend time in conversation with a friend, a neighbor, or a person in the grocery line ahead of you about what a great gift life is, in the here and now… and what a gift they are to this world right now, — then I guarantee your life will be richer.  And, I guarantee that you will be about your Father in Heaven’s business.

Live the Gospel.

Be the Gospel with your words, with your actions, and you and God will find yourself rejoicing with all the saints.

Be the future that you want for your children, and your children’s children, for the Kingdom of God is yours to live…. NOW!