Monday, November 5, 2018

Beloved Saints

All Saints B, 2018, Readings can be found here

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I am well aware of what’s going on out there. Of the news and the polls, the hopes and the fears.

I can tell you, within a penny, how much our community needs in order to not just sustain our ministries, but to thrive and grow.

But, for now, let it go. Let it go, let it all go,

And, sit.

For just a moment, sit.

There is no place you need to be, but here.

No errands. No homework. No campaign trail. No work. No sports. No chores.

No kitchen to clean or leaves to rake.

Just, here.

Here. At church.

Where we will lift our voices in prayer. Where we will reach our hands so that they might be filled.

Here, where we simply need to be, in order to be enough.   

So be here, be enough, and know that you are beloved.

God doesn’t care about your grades, or about your job, or about that promotion, or about anything, other than the beautiful and amazing reality that is you. You as a beloved child of God—you don’t have to earn it, you don’t have to prove yourself, you don’t have to do anything, but be.

So, be.

Be here, here in this place and know that you are surrounded by a great company of saints--the living and the dead, sinner and saint alike. As babies’ fuss, and parents hush. Be here.

Be here. In this place that brings together the generations. Be here, in this time that transcends all time.

In ancient words and customs, in future hopes and dreams, we gather. And in our gathering all time is compressed into this time, this moment. This moment, when we remember the dead, celebrate amongst the living, and prepare a place for those who have yet to be born.  Today, the sanctuary is crowded--crowded with the past, the present and the future of this place, and of all of us, and of all those we have loved.

And, this, this transcendent and powerful moment is one in which we simply need to be, to be in the moment, so that we might be fully present to our past and our future and all those we have loved and hope to love. This moment feels like a miracle—a miracle pointing to God’s love for us in the midst of our joys and our sorrows, our laughter and our tears. God’s love, always.

Can you see? Can you see how the home of God is among us?

Among us, in this time and this place amongst these people. The home of God is among us. And we will celebrate with bread and with wine, with water and with the Spirit, God’s love and generous invitation to each of us to partake fully of the feast that has been prepared for us and for all of creation.

Can you hear it? Can you feel it? Can you sense the possibilities and the promises, the covenants and the commitments?

All come to bear in this time and this place.

And, doesn’t the church feel alive today? It feels alive because we are alive, it feels alive because we have gathered!

Gathered to baptize, gathered to mourn, gathered to share, gathered to celebrate.

Gathered together on a day the church has set aside to remember and celebrate all of the saints that God has placed among us, now and in the distant past.

All the Saints, gathered together—in a comingling of the earthly and the cosmic. A comingling because, alongside the biblical saints and the saints and martyrs of our tradition, are the saints who are saints by virtue of baptism. In the Episcopal Church, all baptized Christians are considered saints of God who have the potential to be examples of faith to others.

Transcendent indeed—and yet, so earthly when the newest saints are swaddled amongst us!

Now, I’m sure many of you know the delightful Victorian hymn, “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God”?  It is the third verse which joyfully instructs us that saints, “they lived not only in ages past; there are hundreds of thousands still; the world is bright with the joyous saints who love to do Jesus’ will. 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 me, and I mean to be one too.”

Mourning and crying have passed away, and we laugh with an off-pitch priest, singing a rollicking tune, which proclaims a joyful hope. Hope grounded in the grace that declares us, at root and at core, beloved children of God. Hope, founded in the truth we hold, that death cannot contain us and that we shall be liberated from any tomb that would keep us from the light that is Christ. So, hear this, beloved children--you are named and claimed by the God who pronounced all of creation, “good”, and brought forth the living from the dead. And, so today, we celebrate!

We celebrate, and, with this understanding of sainthood in hand, we note the remarkable nature of our liturgical actions--we’re about to make B, V and G, saints. Saints amongst saints, amongst the living and the dead, amongst the great cloud of witnesses. And, in this, they will become part of something far bigger than themselves, united to all those who have been baptized, all those who have gone before, and all those yet to come.

This moment is a miracle—for out of death comes life, and out of the tomb emerges the living, and from the binding of death we will be freed!

Amen. 

Amen.


Sunday, October 28, 2018

Forgiveness, 25B

On Forgiveness


 25B, 2018, readings appointed can be found here 

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I hold a litany of wrongdoings.

For all the goods, for all the hard work, for all the prayer, for all the sacrifices, for all the love.

I still hold the wrongdoings tight.

That thing I said.

That thing I did not say.

That thing I did.

That mistake I made.

Easily called to mind, mistakes decades past, still present in the here and the now.

I am not unique in this tendency to ruminate on misdeeds and mistakes of the past.

I am not alone in regrets or misgivings.

An expert in grudges, a devotee of revenge.

Here I am.  

And, I am not perfect, none of us are.

And, it is right into the heart of our imperfection, straight into the midst of our regrets, and frustrations, our mistakes and our misdeeds, that our Savior goes. Journeying with us no matter what, and no matter where, because the worst has been done, and the worst redeemed.

We are, as the letter to the Jesus followers amongst the Hebrews says, “subject to weakness”.

Subject to weakness—in thrall to our mistakes and misdeeds. Subject to weakness. As I reflect upon these three words, I am struck at the trap that our past can be. At the ways in which we find ourselves living according to our weaknesses and not our strengths. At the ways in which we, through our patterns of shame and blame, find ourselves serving a past that serves no one.

And, when we serve the past, we fail to serve God in the present—“sin cripples us because it traps us in the past; never-ending resentment and guilt can shut down our natural vitality and inhibit our growth”. (Ginger Grab FOTW, 211).

Thus, the encouragement we hear today, to be subject not to our weakness but to our strength—to Christ whose experience of humanity, as base as we might be, led not to judgment but to compassion. No grudge held against us, no shame brought to bear—simply the intercession of the one whose love meets us in the midst of our greatest shame.  

Our petition is heard and forgiveness is granted.

Forgive us.

Forgive us, we say.

And the answer comes, “yes”.

Yes.

Yes.

Jesus “always lives to make intercession for us”.

And, always, the answer is “yes”.

And, in this I wonder, how this forgiveness liberates us from the shame. I wonder what it would look like to live a life defined by God’s all-encompassing compassion rather than our own all-encompassing shame.

In an essay on forgiveness, pre-eminent Anglican author C.S. Lewis  wrote,

“We say a great many things in church (and out of church too) without thinking of what we are saying. For instance, we say in the Creed " I believe in the forgiveness of sins." I had been saying it for several years before I asked myself why it was in the Creed. At first sight it seems hardly worth putting in. "If one is a Christian," I thought " of course one believes in the forgiveness of sins. It goes without saying." But the people who compiled the Creed apparently thought that this was a part of our belief which we needed to be reminded of every time we went to church. And I have begun to see that, as far as I am concerned, they were right. To believe in the forgiveness of sins is not so easy as I thought. “ (http://www.graceseattle.org/uploads/documents/Forgiveness-Essay-Lewis.pdf  )

We need to hear it every time we go to church. Every, single, time.

We need to hear it when we find ourselves consumed by anger or despair at the news. We need to hear it when we’ve been harsh to our children or unkind to a spouse. We need to hear it when we find a mistake in the bulletin. We need to hear it when we don’t like the tune or the text. We need to hear it when we meet another’s best effort with judgement rather than gratitude. We need to hear it when we’re tempted to dehumanize another human being. We need to hear it--again, and again, and again.

Forgive us our trespasses…our sins…our debts. However, we put it, we need it…desperately.

O Lord, forgive us.

I recently became acquainted with the work of “The Forgiveness Project”, a (https://www.theforgivenessproject.com/our-purpose ) a secular non-profit founded by journalist Marina Cantacuzino in 2004. The Forgiveness Project provides opportunities for people to share their testimonies, their story of forgiveness, as a means of celebrating resilience and providing an “antidote to narratives of hate and dehumanization, presenting alternatives to cycles of conflict, violence, crime and injustice.”

Forgiveness as an antidote. Forgiveness as a means of interrupting the cycle of hatred. Forgiveness as a way forward.

Forgiveness, granted.

To be clear, forgiveness requires repentance. Forgiveness requires an honest reckoning. Forgiveness requires accountability. And, in this, I want to be clear—victims are NEVER required to remain in relationship with their abuser—that is not, nor will never be forgiveness. What forgiveness is, is a means of releasing ourselves from the chains of the past so that we can experience the fullness of liberation. Forgiveness.

Consider, for just a moment, who do you need to forgive in order to be free?

[pause]

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a fellow member of the Anglican Communion, led post-apartheid reconciliation efforts in South Africa grounded in a theology of forgiveness. He summed these efforts up most succinctly in his title, “no future without forgiveness”.

No future without forgiveness…

Our future depends upon our capacity to forgive.

Wow.

This is kind of scary.

Because, if the future depends upon my human capacity to forgive…well, “Houston, we have a problem.”

But, the future doesn’t depend on my capacity—it depends upon God’s capacity. Christ, “always lives to make intercession” for those who have fallen short. And, each week, we are given the opportunity to petition for forgiveness. Forgiveness, freely given in response to our cry, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  

Which brings us to the Gospel we heard proclaimed today. Before germ theory, or understandings of genetics or the capriciousness of accident or illness—physical disability was understood as an external indicator of spiritual disease. And, it is critical that we understand this when we hear or read of miraculous healing in scripture. Those who witness healing would have seen it not just as a physical healing but principally as a spiritual purification. Spiritual purification which then allows for the individual who has experienced healing to reintegrate into the social life of the community.

So, when the beggar Bartimeus cries out “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me”, he is petitioning for restoration to community. And, isn’t this at the heart of what it means to forgive and be forgiven? The restoration of community. But, not just the restoration of community—the restoration of our ability to live into God’s call to us.

The trajectory of our journey, as enacted in our liturgy each week, moves us from: confession, the act of owning our sins so that they no longer own us; to absolution, granted not by a person but by the holy mystery of God’s love for us; and into the tangible enactment of reconciliation, the peace given to our neighbor. As a community, we liturgically enact the mercy, justice, love and forgiveness of God every single week. And, we do so in order to respond to God’s call to us as both a corporate body and as individual, beloved, children of God.

Confessing, forgiving, and restoring ever single week.

I wonder, what it would mean for us to take that liturgical action out into the world? What it would mean to own our faults, forgive each other, and live our lives in such a way that we constantly point towards reconciliation—not because we are perfect but because we are forgiven.

So once again, I ask, who do you need to forgive in order to be free?


Amen.  












Beloved Saints

All Saints B, 2018, Readings can be found here +++ I am well aware of what’s going on out there. Of the news and the polls, the hop...