“Now allow us to praise famous people and our ancestors, generation by generation. The Lord created great glory, his majesty from eternity…” Ecclesiasticus 44:1-2
Today, we remember. This morning in worship we read the names of all those known to Epiphany who have passed onto God’s nearer presence in the past year. Sadly, just late last night we appended the list of names to include the victims of the Manhattan Bike Path. May the families of these innocent fatalities find some solace in the grace and consolation of God’s eternal Kingdom. In the life of the church, today is All Saints Day, a Principal Feast that takes precedence over other observances. For the many of us who are recovering from Halloween overload, and recent sadness and loss, today is the day we step back just a bit to recognize, give thanks, and remember those individuals, family and friends, those known and not known who now rest in mystical body of eternal life in Christ. Remembering is a time for storytelling.
May we be reminded that storytelling is a tool for reflective change. Too often these days we divide and alienate and retreat back to our respective corners in search of common ground, looking for those kindred souls who will commiserate with us. For many of us, we’re reflecting in our stories what columnist David Brooks refers to as “attenuated bonds”. We’re without “stable families, tight communities, stable careers, ethnic roots or an enveloping moral culture. There’s just a whirl of changing stepfathers, changing homes, changing phone distractions, changing pop-culture references, financial stress and chronic drinking, which make it harder to sink down roots into something, or to even have a spiritual narrative that gives meaning to life.” We grieve as we remember a way that was, an identity that that once filled a void that is now withering away. So we take comfort in the ease of like minds. But, as Christ’s own, more than ever, we need to stretch past our comfortable like mindedness and build new, wider stories. In sharing stories with those different from our very selves, we open ourselves to being knit together in the fellowship of the mystical body of God.
This All Saints Day, as we remember those who stepped outside of their comfort zone; those who reached past their respective corners; those who chose to leave a mark on the world around them, may we give thanks for this great cloud of witnesses who through their stories have made us worthy as fellow citizens and members of the household of God. May we take the time to gather the stories of others. May we listen with honesty. May we ask questions that encourage appreciation over distain. May we approach with love. May our stories become life changing events that call the next generation to reflect on their story and how it will be told. May we give thanks to God for opportunities to engage in dialogue that, while often challenging, opens our eyes to God’s world about us.
These past weeks, I’ve had the good fortune to participate in two separate and diverse groups. The groups include Christians, Muslims, and Jews, Black, and white, women and men, young and not so young. I’m in awe of these groups as they share with such vulnerability and candor. These fine, faithful believers teach me much and remind me especially of God’s generosity of spirit, grace, love and mercy. We may not all believe in the same protocol for a saving relationship with God. At the same time, we all believe in a one true God who comes into our lives, calling us one to another in love. As we share what we believe, the more we learn, the more the great cloud of witnesses spreads. If you are invited to be in dialogue with someone different from yourself, do it. It’s not easy work. But, engaging in a relationship with those who are not like us is oh so worth it. It may be as simple as a brief conversation while standing in line at the grocery store, or while picking up your child at school, or through a collegial work relationship.
On Sunday we’ll celebrate All Saints and those heroes of the faith with 8:30 a.m. Rite I and 10:00 Family Worship as well as Celtic Worship at 5:30 p.m. We’ll hear from guest brass musicians Sam Woodhead, Jim Edwards and bag piper Gary Hall. We’ll sing “I Sing A Song of the Saints of God” and remember those who have gone before us into the great cloud of witnesses in the past year. Should you have names of those beloved you’d like to have read, please, let me know. Kids will want to remember to bring their coins for Christ to drop in the buckets during the offertory to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. Following 10:00 a.m. worship, we’ll enjoy a feast and bid farewell to our beloved saints, Mike and Nancy Dickerson, as they head onto their new home in New Mexico. We’ll reflect and remember, those saints, “you can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea, in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea, for the saints of God are just folk” like you and may we all mean to be one too.
With grateful thanksgiving for you, good saints,