Fra Angelico: All Saints (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
This coming Sunday we will hold our annual “All Saints” worship service. “What is that?” you may be asking? Is it for me? Is it for my family? I hope the following post helps.
Back in the mists of time when most Christians in the northern and western parts of Europe were Catholic, we all followed a calendar of Feasts and Holy days (holidays), which included the following:
- October 31 “All Hallows Eve” (or Hallowe’en)
- November 1 “All Hallows” day – or All Saints Day.
- November 2 “All Souls” Day.
Feast days always began at the evening of the night before the feast (hence All Hallows Even(ing) = Halloween). In Ireland and Britain (and perhaps other European countries too), a tradition began over 1000 years ago to gather in the church yard on the eve of All Hallows to ask God’s blessing and protection from evil in the world. Often people would gather wearing costumes depicting saints or evil spirits, and they would act out the battle between good and evil around bonfires…….. (Can you see in this the seeds of our modern day ghouls, goblins, and nun/monk Hallowe’en costumes?!!)
Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
In Spanish speaking countries there is a similar tradition – el Día de los Muertos –
the day to honour the dead. Families will gather at the graves of their dead, often decorating them with sugar sweets and flowers, and with a time for praying that the dead be “blessed” by God with the rewards of Heaven.
At Cedar Park United we are part of a Christian tradition that believes that God’s love is so eternally limitless, that the souls (or the essence) of those who have died are still held in God’s limitless love, and that these bonds of love outlast life and death. So we gather on the Sunday closest to these festivals of remembrance and we light a candle for our loved ones who have died, but who still live on in memory and love. As the light of these candles grows, they cast the light of God’s love, and ours into the darkness of grief. It’s really not easy to explain, that’s why death and love and remembrance remain a deep, holy mystery. This is the day we simply sit within the mystery, together. And it is beautiful. And you are welcome to come and be with us.
See you Sunday.
Our Fall season of Midrashing the upcoming preaching texts has started. You can find the handouts on the blog by clicking on the page (top of the screen) called “Midrashing Mark”. Each week following the ‘in person’ sessions at Cedar Park United, you’ll be able to find the session hand-out.
I am deep into the biblical text for tomorrow’s sermon. It’s Luke’s third of four resurrection stories. (Luke 24:36-48). In this one, Jesus joins a group of fearful disciples, and they are scared witless! They saw him die, and they saw him buried, and yet here he is! He speaks to their fear of the impossible by saying ” See Me. Touch Me. I am real.”
Those words, yet again, took on new flesh, as my hand reached out in greeting to Najah, Sa’ed and their eldest son Alhareth. No longer names in my prayer journal, no longer photographic images on our church announcement screen. I see, I am blessed to touch in greeting, and they are real. And so are we, to them.
Another Easter Day, another dawning of hope, another small victory for justice, another triumph of fidelity and love. Let’s shape the world this way, yes?
“What will you do to notice New Life, what will you do to choose to do to witness to God’s Dream for new life?” A few days ago I posted on Facebook a short piece about the gift of time. I had another gift of time on Wednesday afternoon to go down to Larpenteur Avenue, not far from the Luther Seminary Campus, and to put my own feet on the ground where in July 2016, a teacher’s aide was shot and killed by a police officer during a traffic stop for a side-light violation. Philando Castile. I don’t even begin to understand the deep racial divide that afflicts the United States, but thanks to one of my doctoral colleagues, Laurie Pound Feille, whose thesis was about race, privilege and the long work of confession and reconciliation, I have become more aware of the pervasive, blinding effect of “white privilege” that I have without knowing it. I am white= I have the privilege of thinking this story has nothing to do with me, that the grief of his girlfriend has nothing to do with me, that as a white Canadian, shootings in the US have nothing to do with me.
Except that it’s time I realized that it has everything to do with me. So I took some time, and I took my body and I stood there, uncomfortable, gripped with a feeling somewhere between guilt, shame, sadness, and anger that this narrative is still being played out, both sides of the border, every day of the week. I left with no peace in my soul at all. And that is good. It was a momentary dismantling of my privilege, which needs to be followed by many more if I am to be part of the healing, rather than the hurting. The New Life this simple column of wood speaks to, is not easy at all., but it is a New Life to which God is calling me/ us.
Well, I guess there’s a predictability to this post: how did I witness resurrection today! How did I choose to witness to new life? I got to witness to the life of God alive in the life of Cedar Park United as I shared (the official word is “defend”) my thesis, through a presentation to those assembled to adjudicate. I got to speak about your willingness to risk, and dare, and your willingness to let me do likewise, to open up the Bible, not as a dusty ancient book, but as a library of witnesses speaking through the centuries to us of the loving faithfulness of God, the Dream of God, and the call of God to us to be life-affirming, justice-seeking people willing to walk together the Way of Jesus. I got to talk of how far we have come on this journey together. I got to talk about how amazing it has been to share Scripture through “midrash”, turning and turning these ancient texts, until they become real, and shape our own lives. I got to do all this, and it was a 2 hour experience of intensity, thoughtfulness, but above all, of the “power of God working in us (all) more than we can ask or imagine!”
It certainly helps me to add the hallelujah at the end of this short post: I passed “unconditionally.” Am I relieved? Of course! But more than relieved, I am so grateful that I “did you proud,” Cedar Park . Thank you!
Are you a glass half-empty or half-full type person? I ought not to be counted among the world’s optimists, at least by natural inclination – I resonate more with Eeyore than Piglet! I have come to realize over the years, that there’s at least some wiggle room in life to choose my response to the circumstances I find myself in. And sometimes I have to choose to be hopeful, or choose to be grateful, or choose not to let anger take over. A tiny thing in the grand scheme of things, but for 266 households in Beaconsfield yesterday afternoon and evening, the power went out. I had things to do on my computer, my cell phone was low on battery life, and I could feel the ire rising…and then I remembered this Resurrection Project. “What will I choose, in this situation that brings life?” Goshdarn it, I preached it, I’d better practise what I preach!
So I chose to phone a colleague to plan a life-giving event with the remaining battery power, and accepted an invitation to supper. I chose to stop en route to be amazed at the ice sculptures along the lakeshore, and had a delightful conversation and relished the baked fish, and joined friends at the pub afterwards. That’s Resurrection living, and it was more than I could have asked or imagined….
“When you start living resurrection, it changes the way we see the world, it changes us.
At first you feel like an utter fool for the risen Christ.
Our first attempts to see life, and hope,
and healing and generosity,
where the world sees only death and despair,
and pinched fearfulness,
can feel foolish,
we’re clunky and diffident at it…… but……”
Every day from now til Pentecost I’ll be posting to this spot, my observances, noticings, and choices to live Resurrection here and now. I’d love it if you were to send me your own stories to include here. Let’s do this!
Way back when in another chapter of my life, when I taught history in a boys’ school in the UK, I remember one young boy for whom English was not his first language, apologizing to me for the brevity of his homework assignment. “I’m sorry, Ms Jones, but I’m all writed out!” I’m not sure how compassionate I was to this young man who had to work harder than his classmates to complete written assignments, one after the other, in English, History, Geography, and who knows what else… my assignment was one too many, poor kid!
As a parent I remember those days when my own children were “all writed out.” I was a wee bit wiser, and would agree with them, and suggest a complete change of activity for an hour or so – a run to the park with the dog, a quick game of pickup basketball, a game of twister, anything to give the writing brain and hands a break.
That’s my excuse for almost silence on this blog for the last ten days…. I’m all writed out! The spare time of my last fortnight (two weeks, sorry!) has been consumed with writing up the last appendices, proof-reading an extensive bibliography, writing abstract, acknowledgments, and executive summaries for my D.Min. thesis. While I’d much rather have been writing creative, pensive pieces here, “I’m all writed out.” So, come back here in the next few days and you’ll find links to the writing of others who aren’t so “writed out”, and who have been provocateurs for my own spiritual journey this Lent.
And thank you for being more patient and understanding than I may have been to my former student!