Sunday, November 1, 2015

That Dangerous and Finite House

All Saints, 2015
St. Clement’s Episcopal Church

The texts for preaching:
  • Revelation 21:1-6a
  • John 11:32-44

There are four baptismal feast days observed by the church, Baptism of Our Lord; the Great Vigil of Easter; Pentecost and All Saints.  

Baptism of our Lord because it marks the occasion of Jesus’ own baptism and God’s claiming of Jesus as the son in whom God is well pleased.  

The Great Vigil of Easter, because the texts appointed for that night explore the arc of God’s work of salvation in our midst.  From the water of creation, through the Red Sea to the baptismal waters of our own deliverance.  

Pentecost, because that feast marks the gift of the Holy Spirit to the world.  It is the birthday of the church and an occasion upon which formally joining the body of Christ through baptism becomes an opportunity to observe that the Spirit continue to move in our midst and transforms the every growing and changing body of Christ in the world.

And, then, All Saints.  All Saints because it a day when we remember and celebrate all of the saints that God has placed among us, now and in the distant past. We remember our loved ones who have died and acclaim, yet again, that death is not the end of our story--rather, death is a beginning of a new life in God in Christ. And in that new life in Christ, all of God’s beloved children are saints, and a cloud of saints and witnesses surrounds us in our lives and in our deaths. We baptize on this day as a way of celebrating the union of all who have been baptized with one another and the communion of Saints.  

So, Caroline Joy and Kyle George have been (or will be) joined this day with the communion of Saints and in that joining they enter into a journey of new life in Christ.  A journey of life to life and love to love and light to light. But, it is not a journey they undertake alone--they travel with all the saints as their guide. 

The Saints of this place, and the Saints of the wider church.  The Saints in the here and the now, and the saints that have ever been.  They will not travel alone and we are asked to keep our own promise to travel the way with them.  

And, where does that way lead?  It is said that in pilgrimage we discover within ourselves, along the way, all that we might have hoped to find in sacred destination.  Or, in other words, we don’t need to go anywhere to abide with God, as God abides with us in our everywhere.  

And so, when we welcome people into the household of God we are welcoming them to what is most fundamentally true--they have always and will always live a life with God who is at home in our midst.  Our midst, the where we are right now, then becomes the holy city of Revelation.  We are, in our very nature, the home of God amongst mortals.  

And, this holy city is the culmination of Revelation--the summation of the text is the abiding of God in our midst.  Or as Leonard Cohen put it in “Beautiful Losers”, a book I don’t actually recommend, in which he describes a Saint as one who “so loves the world that he gives himself to the laws of gravity and chance.  Far from flying with the angels, he traces with the fidelity of a seismograph needle the state of the solid bloody landscape.  His house is dangerous and finite, but he is at home in the world.  He can love the shapes of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. “

And, so the Saints, in the image of God and in the way of Christ love and live within the present moment and through all eternity.  And, in that loving and in that living, give themselves over to a life lived in a “dangerous and finite house”.

What a radical yet wholly true notion, God lives with us in a dangerous and finite house.   God so loved the world...that God gave God’s self over to the depth of all that it is to be human--the pain, the suffering, the rejoicing, the loving.  And, in that sacrifice of self, there was a weeping and a knowing of the hurt that happens on the journey of the heart. 

God abides with us.

What a powerful naming of God with us--God who makes all things new, God who has made us new!   God at home with us, in the home of all creation in a  house which we create, a house which is always under under construction, and a house we will help construct.  

And, so this house of our being where God abides in our midst...what will we make of this house?  

House of prayer, house of hope, house of God...

There is a contemporary hymn that invites us to a building of this house where God is in our midst...Marty Haugan’s invitation

Let us build a house where love can dwell and all can safely live,
a place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive.
Built of hopes and dreams and visions, rock of faith and vault of grace;
here the love of Christ shall end divisions:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where prophets speak, and words are strong and true,
where all God’s children dare to seek to dream God’s reign anew.
Here the cross shall stand as witness and as symbol of God’s grace;
here as one we claim the faith of Jesus:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where love is found in water, wine, and wheat:
a banquet hall on holy ground where peace and justice meet.
Here the love of God, through Jesus, is revealed in time and space;
as we share in Christ the feast that free us:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where hands will reach beyond the wood and stone
to heal and strengthen, serve and teach, and live the Word they’ve known.
Here the outcast and the stranger bear the image of God’s face;
let us bring an end to fear and danger:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

Let us build a house where all are named, their songs and visions heard
and loved and treasured, taught and claimed as words within the Word.
Built of tears and cries and laughter, prayers of faith and songs of grace,
let this house proclaim from floor to rafter:
All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place. 
Marty Haugen. Tune: TWO OAKS

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