ALL SAINTS: This is the week we celebrate All Saints and All Souls. I like to think of them as capital "S" and small "s" saints and souls. Those whose names we know and about whom stories have accumulated (more and less legendary) and those who have changed the world but whose name we will never know or who are known only to us personally. Famous Saints: like St. Francis - who by his actions called the church back to holiness of life, Martin Luther King, Jr who had a dream and died for that dream, Mary Magdalene who became the first witness to the Resurrection and Apostle to the Apostles, (as she is called in the Orthodox tradition), St Patrick, who learned the love of God while enslaved and came back to his captors to witness to that love. The less well known saints like the teacher who said the word that encouraged us when we thought we couldn't learn something. A neighbor who took us in when we came home from school and no one was at our house. The coach who taught us the "trick" that helped us understand how to catch or hit. The Sunday School teacher or church camp leader who showed us the wonder of God, not just the rules. Many of the more well known saints changed the course of history by being willing to stand up or in the case of Rosa Parks - sitting down. She was tired - not from a hard days work but tired of being told she had to give up her place because of the color of her skin. Her action came at a time when others had been arrested and humiliated before her - but suddenly every one was tired and joined the bus boycott. It was that critical moment in time when she made her choice.
Our readings, click here include a picture from Revelation of all the saints gathered around God, sheltered and cared for by the Holy One, with all their tears wiped away by God. It is an image to sustain those who work for justice and resist oppression, like the images that can be heard in the song Lift Every Voice and Sing.
Lift every voice and sing, till earth and Heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.
Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet,
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered;
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
Thou Who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou Who hast by Thy might, led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee.
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee.
Shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand,
True to our God, true to our native land.
The first letter of John speaks of being children of God in the here and now as well as the future. Our lives show whether or not this is true. It is the actions not the words that are the proof. St. Francis says our lives may be the only Bible someone ever sees. Gandhi said he believed in Jesus -it was Christians that disproved Christianity.
And our Gospel is the well known beatitudes or Sermon on the Mount. It reveals our true state - blessed. Created in the image of God and with the potential to reveal God. The brokenness of our true state - poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness (right relationships), comes in the first 4 lines, yet we are still blessed and will receive a way to return to the fullness of our creation. Shocking when you think our usual use of the word "blessed" - as in, God blessed me when I was saved from the wreck, or when we are rich and happy -we are blessed. Here it is in our brokenness we learn that we are also blessed.
Sainthood - to which we are all called - the early church called all Christians - saints, is our created being - mercy, pureness of heart, peacemaking, are signs of this whenever we act from our image of God self.
Living out our call is not without a price - as most saints discover, put downs, social ostracism, and even death have awaited those who follow the crucified one. Does not really sound like Good News - but our end is not in death - social death or real death. We are promised life and that promise carries us through to stand or sit to make this world all that God desires. AMEN