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Bible Study Guide for Sunday, November 5, Year A

October 30, 2023

● Revelation 7:9-17
● Psalm 34:1-10, 22
● 1 John 3:1-3
● Matthew 5:1-12


This year’s All Saints Day readings celebrate those who have endured persecution, and warn us to expect and even rejoice in persecution and suffering in this world. The great multitude of redeemed souls from all the nations that we see in our first readings are specifically those “who have come out of the great ordeal” and now rejoice in the presence of the God they served so faithfully.


For Christians living in the United States, it is vanishingly unlikely that we will suffer physical violence due to our faith.  We may well be considered irrelevant or outdated but there is almost no realistic chance that we will actually be in any danger for being Christian.  The story is very different in some other parts of the world.  In 2013, suicide bombers killed 127 people and wounded 250 others at All Saints Church in Pakistan. In Nigeria at least forty people were killed when gunmen attacked St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church during Pentecost celebrations in 2022.  In 2015 the world watched in horror as ISIS videotaped the beheading of twenty-one Coptic martyrs in Libya.


For Christians in the United States we are extremely unlikely to be killed “in hatred of the faith.”  But it is possible.  A shooter attacked Sunday morning worship inTexas in 2017, leaving twenty-six dead. Members of other faiths often face higher likelihood of violence.  Within the last two weeks, a six-year-old boy was stabbed to death and his mother wounded by an attacker shouting “you Muslims must die!”  In 2018, eleven people were killed and six wounded when Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh was attacked during morning services.


This is a harrowing list.  And Jesus says to “Rejoice and be glad” when such things happen.  The Epistle warns the Church to expect harsh treatment because the world did not know Jesus so the world won’t know us either.  But this is never the end of the story.  The Epistle roots all of this in the overwhelming love of God.  Rooted in God’s love, we are already the children of God and in the process of becoming more and more purified and like God.  Any resistance that the world has to offer is simply a reaction to this great love that is being worked out in us.  And all of it leads to endless joy in the very presence of God.  


On All Saints Day we celebrate the great heroes of the faith, who have totally given their lives to Christ.  For some people, throughout history and in our present day, this has actually meant dying.  Sometimes people are targeted for death simply because they are Christians.  The Church has also recognized “martyrs to truth and justice” such as John the Baptist, who aren’t killed for their faith precisely but because their faith causes them to stand for righteousness and they follow that call until the end.  Some others are not specifically targeted but put themselves into dangerous situations in order to serve God and their neighbors and find themselves in greater danger of violence or disease.


The vast majority of us, of course, are not called to die for Christ but to live full lives dedicated to Christ.  The Beatitudes describe the upside down values that undergird our lives, where God’s abundant grace seeps into everything.  When we are suffering, poor, mourning, meek, hungry, and persecuted we will find God’s grace surrounding us, and that grace empowers us to be merciful, pure in heart and peacemakers.  And eventually we too will join the saints in glory. — Kristen Filipic



● Who are some modern day martyrs, either those targeted in hatred of the faith or in hatred of truth and justice?  Are there any ones whose stories are particularly compelling to you?

● Most of us are very unlikely to be facing death for our faith, but we may still have prices to pay, on a much smaller scale.  What are some small prices you have paid or seen people close to you pay in order to follow Jesus more closely?

● When have you found God’s grace in the midst of difficulty?






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