Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tragic Bemusement

He is so young,
And death is such an abstract,
Yet terrifying concept
And he wonders why we "no come back" like Jesus

He suggests moving
To "make room"for more people
As a means of escaping death
And achieving immortality

Concerns over a beloved Uncle's
Exercise habits
As he explores the reality
Of three dead grandparents

He is a boy who wept last week
Out of fear
That God, the immortal,
May have been bitten by a meat eating dinosaur.

Such concern.
And my heart breaks
That his will one day be broken
And I pray that it is when we are all

Very, very, very, very

(Yesterday I officiated at a funeral in which the 60-something "baby boy" of the deceased could not speak for weeping…and it was then I bit my lip to hold back tears)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Sermon for All Saints (and a bit of a homage to Lesbia Scott...the unfortunately named author of my next door neighbor's favorite hymn)

All Saints Year C, November 3, 2013

I am well aware of the stately elegance and grace--the amazing harmony and hymnody which we are privileged to enjoy as we worship God in this place today.  

When I spoke last week with the organist/choirmaster of a church I served in Ohio, I told him about the music that the choir was working on for today.  His response,

“Durufle, they must be good”.  

The choir’s diligence and dedication aptly demonstrates to me the amazing effort that goes into creating worship meant to glorify God.  The music, in its beauty, serves as a reminder of the gifts that God has given and the interwoven voices an effective symbol of how the many parts of the body become one for a greater purpose.  The body of Christ.  And, one of the greatest joys I experience celebrating with all of you is the opportunity to blend my voice with those surrounding me and in that blending finding a whole that feels wrought through with beauty.  

The blending of voices in music is sort of like the stained glass windows--a single piece of colored glass holds little meaning, yet when combined with so many others something much greater than the single shard is revealed.  

Music allows us to experience the divine in powerful ways.  Rich with theology, deeply woven with scripture--music gives a shape and structure to our worship that continuously amazes me.  And, it seems only fitting that we continue in that vein by offering up more music.  Now, no one has ever accused me of glorifying God with my musical aptitude, so, please humor me for a moment.  And, if you have pity on me, join in...(it’s in the hymnal, 293)

I sing a song of the saints of God,
Patient and brave and true,
Who toiled and fought and lived and died
For the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,
And one was a shepherdess on the green;
They were all of them saints of God, and I mean,
God helping, to be one too.

As I was reflecting on this feast day of All Saints, I found myself expounding in a dozen different directions.  The powerful witness of those who have gone before, the instructions for how to live a Christian life we find in the beatitudes today, 

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you...Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Then there is the letter to the Ephesians in which we are reminded that we have inherited hope and as inheritors of that hope we are called to give praise to God through our love for all the saints.  

Or, if I were to be bold...an exposition on how the author of Daniel uses the imagery of the four kingdoms to introduce a greater kingdom still--the kingdom of God which surpasses all powers or principalities.  A kingdom in which all earthly divisions cease and we all serve the same God and the broken, factionalized world becomes one.  

Esoteric stuff, and words like orthopraxic and orthodoxic were typed and deleted and typed and deleted.

Deleted, because it became clearer to me that what we celebrate today is quite simple.

Yet, like many simple things we have cloaked it with words and visions, with complex meanings and intricate steps.  

And, in the midst of my sermon prep, while chatting with my next door neighbor

She asked...”are you going to sing my favorite hymn?”

They loved their Lord so dear, so dear,
And his love made them strong;
And they followed the right for Jesus' sake
The whole of their good lives long.
And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,
And one was slain by a fierce wild beast;
And there's not any reason, no, not the least,
Why I shouldn't be one too.

Of all the hymns, this one a favorite?  Simple and childish.  Lending itself well to silly faces and hand motions.  This hymn?  The one that upon hearing just once gets instantly stuck on repeat in our brains?  

This is a hymn that inspires giggles, yet it speaks (sings) truth in a way that I think belies its simplicity.

As Christians we are called to love a God who loves us.  

It is this love that strengthens us.

And it is the witness of Jesus that inspires us to act justly, and rightly in the world.

And, it is not reserved for just a select few to live and act justly, with love and mercy and compassion...but to all who believe.  

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.

What a powerful image, a world filled to the brim with saints.  With people emboldened by God’s love and being the hands and feet of Jesus in the world.  

Saints have been, and are and will be.  People continue to do God’s work in the world.  We are not alone in our mission or our ministry.  

Today we not only declare our own participation in this joyful community of saints, but we also celebrate those who have given witness, those who have inspired us, those who have loved us, those who have lived the word of God in the world and those who have given their entire selves and carried the cross at great cost.

So, it is only fitting that today is also the day upon which we will be dedicating the new Pew Bibles, many of which have been given in memory of some of our own communities saints, as well as our new processional cross.  

Words and lines intersecting into something beyond any page or forged metal part.  Words and lines that when joined to our lives transform us and all we encounter.  Words and lines--defining, liberating, declaring and empowering the joyous community of saints of which we are but a part.  

It is written that,

Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Let us pray.

O heavenly God, whose blessed Son taught the disciples in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself: Accept these Bibles which we dedicate here today, and grant that we may so diligently search your hold Word that we may find in it the wisdom that leads to salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

It is written that, 

We will glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is our salvation, our life and our resurrection.  

Let us pray.

O gracious God, who in your mercy ordained that your Son should suffer death on a cross of shame: We thank you that it has become for us the sign of his triumph and the banner of our salvation; and we pray that this cross may draw our hearts to him, who leads us to the glory of your kingdom; where you live and reign for ever and ever.  Amen.