Revised Common Lectionary: Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4 and Psalm 119:137-144; Isaiah 1:10-18 and Psalm 32:1-7; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12; Luke 19:1-10
Readings for All Saints Day: Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18; Psalm 149; Ephesians 1:11-23; Luke 6:20-31
Narrative Lectionary: Solomon’s Wisdom, 1 Kings 3:4-9 (10-15), 16-28 (Matthew 6:9-10)
All Saints Day may be observed either this Sunday or November 6th, if not on November 1st.
In the first selection of the Hebrew Scriptures for the season after Pentecost, we have followed the rise of the prophets. The first selection for this Sunday is the same as the second selection reading from back on October 2nd, the 17th Sunday after Pentecost. Habbkuk prophesied right before the Babylonians attacked Jerusalem. Habakkuk argues with God in 1:1-4, because all the prophet experienced was violence. He couldn’t see any hope from God to deliver him or the people from evil. Justice was not possible because the law couldn’t be upheld. However, in 2:1, the prophet remained faithful to God, keeping their position at the fortress, watching and waiting for God to respond in 2:2-4. God told the prophet to write a vision, so simple that a runner could read it, because there was still a vision for their time. Whether it was a vision of hope, or a vision of doom, is unknown, but God would answer if the people waited for it. For the righteous live by their faith and are justified, unlike the proud who live for themselves.
Psalm 119:137-144 is part of an acrostic poem, with each stanza beginning with the next letter in the Hebrew alphabet (a different portion of the same psalm was part of the Revised Common Lectionary on October 16th). This stanza under the letter Tsade proclaims that God is righteous, and God’s judgments are right and true. Though others have forgotten what God has spoken, the psalmist has not, and they are outraged on God’s behalf. Even though they have faced trouble, they have remained faithful to God, and they trust God commandments and teachings. The psalmist’s desire to live is grounded in their desire to learn and understand God more fully.
God spoke through the prophet Isaiah in the second selection of the Hebrew scriptures. In Isaiah 1:10-18, God had enough of their sacrifices and offerings. God didn’t want their festivals and feasts. Instead, God wanted the people to stop their evil practices and instead to seek justice and protect the most vulnerable among them. God will forgive and remove their sin if they come before God and turn away from their evildoings.
Psalm 32:1-7 sings of the joy of forgiveness from God. The psalmist confesses that when they tried to hide their sin, they felt the weight of it in their very body. They physically suffered from denying the wrongdoing they had committed. But when they came before God and confessed, God forgave them. The psalmist encourages the faithful to come before God and to offer prayer, for God will not let them be overwhelmed. God is the one who will protect and deliver those who turn back to God and God’s ways.
The Epistle readings turn to a brief series in 2 Thessalonians. The beginning of this letter, in verses 1-4 and 11-12, proclaim to be from Paul and his companions, giving thanks for the growing faith of the church in Thessalonica and their love for one another, in spite of growing persecution. Paul and his companions are always in prayer for this church and that Jesus’s name will be glorified in them.
The Gospel reading of Luke 19:1-10 is the story of Jesus’s encounter with Zacchaeus in Jericho. It appears from the context that it is possible Zacchaeus had either met Jesus before or heard enough of him that Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector in Jericho, had been transformed by the message of Christ. He so desired to get Jesus’s attention that he climbed a tree to stand out above the crowd. Jesus called out to Zacchaeus to come down from the tree, for he planned to stay with him. Zacchaeus in turn promised to give away half of his possessions and to pay back anyone he had defrauded fourfold, for tax collectors extorted money on behalf of the Roman government from the civilians. Jesus declared that salvation had come to the house of Zacchaeus, for the Son of Humanity came to seek and save the lost—and Zacchaeus, too, is a child of Abraham. Jesus spoke aloud that others cannot cut off people from the family of faith, for God is a God of inclusion, not exclusion, when people repent and turn back to God.
The readings for All Saints Day begin with Daniel’s vision in 7:1-3, 15-18. Daniel beholds a vision of earthly kings as beasts who seize and take hold of the earth. This is probably referring to the Greek emperors of his day and the divisions within the empire—but God is the one who will reign forever and ever in the heavenly kingdom.
Psalm 149 is a song of praise to God, who delights in those who are faithful. God has led the people to victory against their enemies because they stayed true to God. God reigns on high, and the faithful are victorious in their praising of God, which is their weapon against their foes.
Ephesians 1:11-23 speaks of the inheritance the faithful have through Christ, especially for the Gentile readers of this letter, that they have been included in God’s plan of redemption. The writer (purporting to be Paul) gives thanks for the faithfulness of these followers of Jesus and prays they may know the fullness of what God has in store for them. Christ, raised from the dead, reigns on high, and has authority and power over everything in heaven. The fullness of Christ is found in the body, the church, of which Christ is the head.
The Sermon on the Plain in Luke 6:20-31 is the gospel text for All Saints Day. Jesus gives the same blessings as found in Matthew 5, except that the poor in spirit is simply “the poor.” Jesus also adds woes, warnings to those who have sought the world’s pleasures and measures of success, for they will come up empty. Instead, love your enemies, do good, do not take up violence, but do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
The Narrative Lectionary turns to Solomon’s Wisdom in 1 Kings 3:4-9, in which Solomon makes a sacrifice before God. God asks Solomon what gift he should be given, and Solomon asks for an understanding mind to govern and discernment between good and evil. Solomon acknowledges his shortcomings of experience as a youth. In verses 10-15, God replies to Solomon, pleased with his request, and only asks Solomon to stay faithful and to keep the statutes and commandments God has given the people. In verses 16-28, the famous story of two women who come before Solomon is told—they were both sex workers in the story, probably to show their low status in society and why they came before Solomon as judge instead of men who spoke for them. The women both had a baby close together, but one’s son died and claimed the other’s son as her own. The women argued over whose son was the living one, and Solomon judged that they would cut the baby in half and give each woman half. One woman said she’d rather have the baby given to the other woman than have him killed, and that was how Solomon determined which mother was telling the truth. This story was shared throughout Israel to demonstrate Solomon’s wisdom and judgment.
The supplementary verses from Matthew 6:9-10 come from the beginning of Jesus’s prayer to God the Father in heaven, holy is God’s name, and praying for God’s kingdom to come and will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Seeking what God desires first over our own desires is the beginning of wisdom.
The readings for October 30th lead to a theme of confession and repentance, of striving to do right, and that living into God’s ways is more important than what others say or think. Zacchaeus may have been despised for being a tax collector—a label he could never be free from as long as he continued his work—but he could change how he lived out his role and change his behavior. Isaiah spoke to the people that God didn’t desire outward displays of religiousness if it wasn’t accompanied by an inward transformation, beginning by ceasing to do evil. The psalmist understood that when they tried to put on an outward display of goodness without an inward acknowledgement of confession, they even felt sick physically. Once they confessed and acknowledged their own wrongdoing, they knew God’s forgiveness. Zacchaeus is a prime example that others may still exclude based on prejudice and assumptions, but Christ is the one who declares that salvation has come to us. There is always time to change inwardly, which is what God desires most.
For All Saints Day, we are reminded that God’s reign is not of this world. This world that we humans have created seeks worldly wealth and notoriety, worldly measures of success, but Christ warns us they will leave us empty. These measures lead to dead ends. Daniel envisioned terrible things for the earth but knew that God reigns forever. So it is with us. Death interrupts our lives, and at times the ways of the world we have made, the way of empire, seems to overpower us, but we know that God’s reign endures forever. Eternal life is new life that begins now, and the ways of this world have no hold on us.
Call to Worship
We bring our prayers and confessions before God,
For God knows every word before we speak.
The truth is bared before us, and we acknowledge and accept it,
For falsehoods and injustice will not prevail in the reign of God.
Though others may judge us while taking the easy way themselves,
We will tell the truth of who we are and live in integrity.
For Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life,
We come together in this way to worship God as our true selves.
All Saints Day Call to Worship (from Psalm 118:1, 14, 17, 24)
O give thanks to the Lord, for God is good;
God’s steadfast love endures forever.
The Lord is my strength and my might;
God has become my salvation.
I shall not die, but I shall live,
And recount the deeds of the Lord.
This is the day that the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Prayer of Brokenness/Confession
Ruler of All, we confess that we are quick to judge and condemn. We are swift to label and expel. We are smug in our thoughts of self-righteousness and perseverance. Forgive us for not loving our neighbors as ourselves. Forgive us for living into the ways of this world and judging others instead of seeking Your commandments, wisdom and insight, to live as You would have us live. For Your reign is not of this world that we have made, with wealth and fame and excess. Your reign endures forever, and You call us to seek Your justice, mercy, and peace. May we shed the ways of this world and turn to You. We ask for Your forgiveness, O God, as we repent. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.
Blessing/Assurance (from Psalm 119:142)
The psalmist declares that God’s righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and God’s law is the truth. When we confess our sins before God, God knows our hearts, our sincerity, and forgives us. But the granting of forgiveness also calls us into the act of repentance—seeking God’s ways above our own—and to repair what has been broken. God loves you so much, and forgives you, and God knows you will do the work necessary to repair the brokenness in this world. So go forth, and heal, and build up, and love one another. Amen.
Reforming God, You are constantly reshaping us into something new. We are treasure in clay jars, as the apostle Paul wrote, and in our fragility You are constantly reworking us to be sturdier and steadfast. You have made us precious and vulnerable, and love us, and You know we are capable of renewal and restoration. You know we are capable of mending the brokenness in this world into something new. Reshape our hearts, open us to Your healing love, and send us forth into the world to reform, repair, and renew. Amen.
Prayer for All Saints Day
Eternal God, we give You thanks for those who have gone before us, who have shaped our own faith journeys. We know that our grief, though difficult to carry, reminds us of the great love You have for us and that we share with others. Love is always stronger than death, which is why we mourn. While grief may never fully leave us, neither will love, and love is strong enough to carry us forward. Until that day when the division of earth and heaven is no more, we pray for the courage to live into Your ways of love with one another, to carry each other’s burdens, and to live in the wisdom and insight of our ancestors that remains with us, now and always. Amen.
Other prayers for All Saints Day can be found here:
Archives (November 1, 2020, November 3, 2019, November 4, 2018)