All Saints Day
November 1, 2023
Pastor Steve Young
Happy All Saints Day! Or should I say, “blessed All Saints Day”? It is, of course, the day after Halloween, and at our house we still have lots of candy we did not give to the little gremlins, goblins, and Taylor Swift look-alikes of the neighborhood.
Halloween is just a condensation of “All Hallows Eve” – that is, the evening before All Saints Day. That is why we go from Reformation Sunday to All Saints Sunday on our church calendar.
I don’t want to give away the punchline for Sunday’s sermon, but the Gospel reading for Sunday’s observance of All Saints is the Beatitudes, from Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount.” For me growing up the Beatitudes were always “blessed are …”. “Blessed are the peacemakers” (one I really want to be true this year); “blessed are the merciful,” and so on — you can read the whole list in Matthew 5 and Luke 6 in your Bibles.
When I was a kid the “Good News” Bible appeared, and translated the word blessed as “Happy.” A New Testament professor at Loyola University used to say the meaning of the word was more like “lucky” or “fortunate” – like the nickname of “Lucky Luciano,” the mobster, he pointed out with a chuckle: that it refers to those for whom things just go well.
To paraphrase, Jesus was saying, “You know who things go well for? The destitute … the mourners … the persecuted …” etc. Jesus was upsetting the usual expectations. Good fortune is grieving, is starving, is being bullied? That makes no sense! It was one of Jesus’s techniques for getting us to think differently.
“Blessed?” In the words of Mordred in the musical “Camelot,” “It’s not the earth the meek inherit, it’s the dirt.”
“Happy?” I think the word as we use it today has too much of a sense of a temporal emotion or sense of enjoyment to it to be what Jesus was talking about.
But “happy” and even “blessed” – well, I’m not going to wish that on you this All Saints Day.
But do enjoy a not-overly-unhealthy portion of Halloween candy. Now and then it’s OK. Just remember moderation! See you Sunday.