Friday, October 28, 2016

Next Tuesday

Next Tuesday is the Feast of All Saints. It is my very favorite holy day. At St. John's in Waterbury, during my 21 years serving as Rector, we developed some remarkable All Saints worship.

Here's a sermon from 2007 that might give you a flavor of all that.


          This is a joyous, wondrous, exciting, solemn and holy day.
          This is OUR Feast Day—the Feast of All Saints.
          And what we celebrate this day is like circles within circles within circles—circles never ending, swirling through eternity and into the very heart of God.
          Someone very wise once said, “Christ does not draw lines to keep people out—Christ draws circles to welcome people in….”
          The first circle, the most obvious one—the one that will take most of the time today—is baptism. Today we will welcome into the Body of Christ a   new member. Grant will be washed in the waters of God and sealed with oil as “marked as Christ’s own forever”.
          This astonishing circle encloses Grant and his family into the heart of God. God loves Grant no less right now than God will love him after the water is poured and the oil is smeared. God’s love is not bound by a little water and less oil and the words we will say. But today he will be welcomed “publicly” into the Church and proclaimed out loud as an esssential part of the Body of Christ.
          That matters. That truly matters.
          A second circle we will draw today—a second way God welcomes people “in”—is that you will be invited to receive the laying-on-of-hands and prayers for healing. God’s children are invited to seek ‘wholeness’ in the midst of the ‘brokenness’ of our world and lives. God doesn’t call us to be “good”—we are called to be “whole” and “well”—and the prayers for healing are instruments of that completeness.
          That matters. That truly matters.
          A third circle drawn on this, our Feast Day, our celebration that we are the ‘saints of God’, is that we will read the names of the members of this parish who have died since the last All Saints day, a year ago.
          You see, in the wondrous love of God, those who have died are still part of the Communion of Saints. Those we love but see no more are separate from us now but united with us in our celebration and our feast. This day holds up to God those who have died, those who journey on in this life and those yet unborn. This is a ‘thin time’ and we can draw very near to our loved ones separated by death and celebrate our connection with them.
          That’s another circle. You all have been given a candle and you are invited to light it on your way to communion and place it in some containers that aren’t out here yet. That candle is meant to be a way for you to remember those you love who have died. They are with us in the flames as we approach the altar. They are part of our celebration. This is the Feast of ALL Saints, even those who have died.
          And there, on the table in front of the bowl where we will baptize today, are the cremains—the ashes—of some of the children of God. They died and their remains were signed over to a hospital and they were cremated by a funeral home and on this day—this wondrous and solemn day—we will bury those ashes out in the Close and give our brothers and sisters a resting place for their ashes though they already rest in the heart of God.
          Some people find it a bit troubling and ironic that we baptize the living next to the remains of the dead on this day. But it is just another of the circles God draws to include us all—to remind us that in the heart of God the living and the dead are all joined together. These are thin and wondrous times. No one is left out.
          Two final circles include us and welcome us home. First, there is the bread and the wine we share—which is, I promise you, the very Body and Blood of Christ. God needs a Body in this world. God needs hands and feet and lips to speak and ears to hear—and we are it! Listen to me—WE ARE THE BODY OF CHRIST IN THIS WORLD. If we don’t do that—if we don’t carry forth when we are dismissed into the world the hospitality and compassion and love and grace and forgiveness and wonder of God—who will?
          It’s part of the deal. You are marked as Christ’s own forever and you are expected to be Christ to this suffering world we live in. You are the Light of the darkling world. You are the salt of the earth. And if you don’t do it, who will?
          Today’s liturgy is like a kaleidoscope of circles within circles within circles. And we are enclosed by those many circles. And we are the Saints of God—we are the Body of Christ—we are God bearers into the world.
          This is our day. Let us rejoice and be glad.  

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.