- 8 November 2022
- Stuart Robinson
St. Peter’s Watsons Bay.
Octave of All Saints’ 2022
I do think that one of the sobering truths emerging from this global COVID pandemic is that we, in the western world, might not be as in control of our circumstances as we once thought we were.
Life can be precarious, we are learning.
And that is confronting for many of us.
With good education, stable employment, investment annuities, excellent health plans, a relative abundance of food, and a raft of social services, our situation – in our corner of the globe, has felt particularly secure.
Yes, the idolatry of self-sufficiency is most alluring…until it all begins to unravel with lockdowns, social isolation, market crashes, illness, and death in some cases.
Indeed, on this feast of All Saints’ – when we remember those who have gone before us, it behoves us to note that more than 6.6 million people have died from COVID-related illnesses in the past 2 years: over 9,000 per day, globally.
And another stream or variant may be heading our way if news reports are correct.
Life can be precarious, we are learning, right?
And even though ours, in this country, has been a relativelysanitised version of the pandemic – compared with the 2/3rds world, we have been unnerved and quite possibly, destabilised, by the upheaval wrought by COVID and its variants.
You know, Jesus warned his friends of the dangers of self-sufficiency and ease.
To the people who solely placed their trust and their hope in the trinkets and treasures of this this life, Jesus predicted a time of woe.
He warned, ‘You may have had it all in this life, but a time is coming when wealth, and comfort, and accolades, will desert you; your idolatry will be exposed and mourning, and discomfort will be your lot’ (Luke 6:24-26).
So COVID has brought the vagaries of life into sharp relief.
It is timely therefore, as we ponder the gospel reading set down for today, that we are presented with the hope that Jesus brings to those who entrust their lives to him.
In Luke 6, from v. 17, an extraordinary scene unfolds before us:
Hundreds of people had travelled hundreds of kilometres in some cases says verse 17, to receive from Jesus healing and instruction – verse 18.
17 Jesus went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.
Never was the like.
We are told that great power (v. 19) was emanating from Jesus such that those who struggled with malevolent sprits were set free from oppression, and those with maladies and diseases, were made whole.
The point, I think, is that this Jesus has both the capacity and the authority to address our brokenness and our frailty.
And that is because he is the long awaited ‘Son of Man’ – verse 22; an ancient term from Daniel 7:13 – that identifies Jesus as Messiah, the long awaited, God-appointed, heavenly king.
Jesus then turns to his disciples, his followers (v. 20) and tells them they are “blessed”.
It is important to note that Jesus is not speaking about a subjective feeling of ‘bliss’, or ‘happiness’ but rather an objective judgement – concerning how God views them.
That is, through Christ – they are participants in the kingdom of God (6:20); they are forgiven, loved, and accepted – now and into eternity.
They live under the rule of God, and need never fear the judgement of God; in contradistinction to women and men who are self-righteousness and self-confident (v.25)
Again, Jesus is addressing his followers, his disciples – many of whom would have been literally poor and oppressed – though not all.
The point is that like those who came to him on the plain for healing and deliverance, disciples/we are to cling to Jesus; weare look to Jesus for material and spiritual satisfaction.
Please note that to be “blessed” does not mean an absence of struggle.
Indeed, as Jesus made it all too clear, being his disciple may well invite hatred, exclusion, being reviled, and being defamed as others reject the kingdom of God, and all who bear witness to it (6:22-23).
Lutheran scholar Ronald J. Allen writes,
To be blessed, is to live through such opposition aware that the struggle is temporary, and that ‘your reward is great in heaven,’ that is, that God will gather up his faithful people to himself (6:23).
That news, says Jesus, should cause us to leap for joy! – v. 23.
In this week of All Saints, I’ve been recalling the large number of funerals I’ve taken over the past two years: children, teens, the very infirm; murder victims, suicides, accidental deaths…and whilst the names and circumstances change, the truth that death comes to us all is reinforced over and over again – as is, in our Anglican rites, the blessed and precious hope that those who are Jesus’ friends, his forgiven and redeemed ‘saints’, will share eternity with him; the ‘reward’ of rest and fellowship, service and worship.
In 1874 – at age 38, Miss Frances Ridley Havergal penned the words of a hymn that expressed her trust in, and dependence upon Jesus (as per our gospel reading).
She died six years later, at age 44 from peritonitis.
May these words, likewise, be our hearts cry:
I am trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,
Trusting only Thee;
Trusting Thee for full salvation,
Great and free.
I am trusting Thee for pardon;
At Thy feet I bow;
For Thy grace and tender mercy,
I am trusting Thee for cleansing
In the crimson flood;
Trusting Thee to make me holy
By Thy blood.
I am trusting Thee to guide me;
Thou alone shalt lead;
Every day and hour supplying
All my need.
I am trusting Thee for power,
Thine can never fail;
Words which Thou Thyself shalt give me
I am trusting Thee, Lord Jesus;
Never let me fall;
I am trusting Thee forever,
And for all.
May we pray?
O Lord – may leaping and rejoicing become our heartfelt response to your generosity and kindness.
Forgive us when forget that all that we have comes from you.
We thank you for calling us into your Kingdom now, and for the glory that awaits us, then.
May our lives as disciples, after the example and pattern of Jesus – be marked by selflessness, generosity, grace, and kindness.