Lectionary Reading for All Saints Day: Luke 6:20-31
This week, we take a bit of detour. Well, not really, but this post is not about next Sunday’s lectionary reading. November 1st is just a few days away; in many Christian traditions, All Saints Day serves to venerate the saints of the congregation and the community. The Revised Common Lectionary has a special reading for this day, and it seems appropriate to take a look at it.
Part of our reading comes from Luke 6:20-31; it incorporates the Beatitudes as part of the Sermon on the Plain. There is much than can be said about this passage. For example, what is the significance of saying “blessed are you who are poor…” instead of “blessed are the poor in spirit…” as it appears in the Gospel of Matthew? Or, what does it actually mean to be poor, in spirit or otherwise? How do I really love my enemy? Or, how do I do unto others as I would have them do unto me? Of course, these are all many things that ought to be explored, but for now, I simply want to focus on remembering others.
We have a tendency of publicly remembering those whom we call saints; after all, they are great yet humble people who have done some great work. But, we also remember those who are not so saintly. Perhaps, we do not tend to revere those who are not saintly by our standards, but we do remember them. After all, following the four beatitudes in Luke, there are four woes for those who are not quite so saintly. In either case, we remember and we do things that make others remember us. How we are remembered does matter. And, that takes us to episode 283 of This American Life: Remember Me.
In this episode, host Ira Glass introduces stories of several people and how they are remembered. Not all these people are saints; but, if we were to judge their lives we can certainly determine whether they fall on the “blessed are you” or the “woe to you” camp. Or, maybe it is not so easy to judge in one of those two. Act II is about Walter and how he is remembered. This story is a bit complicated because Walter is a ghost haunting a hotel in Wisconsin. The interesting thing about Walter the ghost is that he is not a scary ghost, he is an annoying ghost. Whether or not you believe in ghosts, it is hardly positive to be remembered as annoying, or scary for that matter.
The show opens with the story of Sam, a kid in high school who tries to get in as many club pictures as he can for the school’s yearbook. He succeeds and has the most pictures for that years publication. He wasn’t a member of the clubs; he just had a goal and set out to do it. Well, for that, he is remembered. Perhaps, not a saintly way, definitely mischievous, to be remembered. Yet, he was, indeed, remembered.
Then, there is the more touching story by David Wilcox. He talks about his parents and his sister. His sister, Jenny, had a mix tape which she absolutely loved, even though it was a bit annoying to the rest of the family. David’s sister was born with a mental handicap and because of it, she loved simple, routine conditions over complex situations. When diagnosed as a child, doctors recommended that the girl be sent to a state institution. The parents refused and lived with her. Her mom, however, became sick and tried to find a way for her daughter to remember her, as she would not understand death and why her mother might be gone.
As David continues with the story, it was a difficult thing for his mother. She made a videotape so that her daughter could watch. She struggled, however, as she did not know what to say to someone who might not understand in the first place. Eventually, she passed away and Jenny watched the video but in a short time, she put it away. Jenny didn’t remember her mother much because she couldn’t. David and the family, however, remembered her – what she did for Jenny and the family and that she wanted Jenny to know that she was not abandoning her.
And so, on this All Saints Day, when we remember the saints of our communities, it is important to not just remember but think about how we remember. We might not be inscribed in history books, not even Wikipedia, but we will be remembered somehow by our families, friends and our communities. How do we want to be remembered? Is it by blessing our enemies or by coursing our enemies? Do we want to be remembered because we fled from struggles, because we were quick to hit back or because we learned how to face those situations? We do have a say in how we are remembered. We can be annoying, like Walter the Ghost, or clever and mischievous, like Sam or as a caring and dedicated parent, like Jenny’s mom. And, if we read back on Luke 6:20-31, we find things to do that will definitely remind others of what we have done.