You only have to read the Gospel for All Saints to know that Jesus would never get elected to anything. He’d get banished as a crazy person, locked up for being a troublemaker. And that is exactly what did happen to him 2 millennia ago. He was locked up and sentenced to death as a troublemaker. Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian woman who spoke at the Churchwide Assembly said, “People say to me, ‘Leymah, you must not be such a troublemaker’ And I say to them, “I got a Nobel Peace Prize for being a troublemaker. You should try it, too.’”
Jesus was considered a troublemaker because he challenged the status quo. He challenged the cultural assumptions of the Roman Empire of his day, and his words continue to challenge us today. Particularly in this contentious election year, Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Luke stand as a jarring contrast to the rhetoric that inundates us and tells us what to long for and what to fear. Jesus would never get elected with a platform like the beatitudes, regardless of whether you go with this year’s Luke, or the more familiar Matthew.
Focus groups have documented that people do not want to hear “Blessed are you who are poor” or “Blessed are you who are hungry now,” or “Blessed are you when people hate you.” And they certainly do not want to hear “Woe to you who are rich,” or “Woe to you who are full now,” or “Woe to you when all speak well of you.”
And as for “Love your enemies,” “bless those who curse you,” “don't fight back against a person who hits you,” “give to everyone who begs from you,” this is not considered good policy. But it is the ethic that Jesus taught, the ethic that we affirm as Christians, even if it makes us uncomfortable.
It is the ethic, ultimately, that connects us with all the saints, those living and those who have died in the faith. On All Saints we remember the heroes and the martyrs, and we also remember our grandmothers and grandfathers, our mentors and teachers who helped us grow in the faith by their words and by their example. And we remember Christians across the globe—our ecumenical full communion partners with whom we share ministry; our companion synods whom we accompany in ministry and service; Roman Catholics with whom we are exploring the meaning of the Reformation five centuries ago; Orthodox; Pentecostal; large denominations and individual congregations—we acknowledge that despite our differences in expression and emphasis, we are one in Christ.
On Monday of this last week an historic event took place. On the 499th anniversary of the reformation, Pope Francis joined Lutherans from around the globe at a spectacular service of worship, commemorating the Reformation. What a hopeful sign to cling to as we celebrate All Saints this year, and as we finish up this divisive election season. Next year, on October 30, I invite you to join the 2 Montana Catholic Bishops and me for our joint service of Christian Unity.
Such is the Kingdom of God
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA