Saturday, November 02, 2013

Naming the blessing - for All Saints Sunday

There is a great deal of power in a name. At birth we are given a name by our parents and that becomes an identifier of who we are. It’s the means of getting our attention, engaging us to participate and giving us a place to interact with others in community. When we have a name, we have a place in a family, at school or work. Our names become a vehicle of interacting with people. Even after death, our names remain to be a point of connection and blessing that carries on well beyond our lifetime. On this day of the Saints, we honor and remember those that have died and can take encouragement from their lives of faith in God. Their lives and our lives are a tapestry woven together by God’s grace and love; in the joys and the sorrows of life.

Our names give us a place in this world, but not all of the places and experiences of life initially feel like blessing. Martin Luther speaks of the tension of living with the effect of sin, as Christians being “simultaneously saint and sinner”. Luther says more on this tension of living as “simultaneously saint and sinner”:

“This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.” (Martin Luther, “An Argument in Defense of all the Articles of Martin Luther Wrongly Condemned in the Roman Bull”)

In the sermon on the plain in Luke 6, Jesus speaks of blessings in dramatic contrast with “woes”. These pairings contrast are not what one would naturally classify as blessings -
Luke 6: 20-21 “You’re blessed when you've lost it all. God’s kingdom is there for the finding. You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry. Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal. You’re blessed when the tears flow freely. Joy comes with the morning.” (The Message)

All of God’s Saints carry stories of blessing in all the circumstances of life and death; and just as we've already spoken the names of some of these Saints, I’d like to share a few accounts of how in the midst of loss, hunger and sorrow – blessing is present.

Image found at Dreams Website

“You’re blessed when you've lost it all. God’s kingdom is there for the finding.”
Scott - A little over a month ago, my high school friend Scott passed away suddenly. He was the kind of person that was always kind, funny, and caring. When I attended Scott’s funeral I was reminded of the importance of relationships, reunion and remembering. People shared stories of how he loved to play drums in his church band, his deep love for his wife Emma and six month old son Conrad, and his gratitude to God for the forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ. Scott’s life was rich deep connections with others had created a multitude of memories and friendships. While to loss of Scott is heartbreaking, his legacy of being found in God’s kingdom is one that will continue.

In and through Christ, Scott was made a Saint.

“You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry. Then you’re ready for the Messianic meal.” Jeanne – Jeanne lived a life that revolved around the love of her family and her love of God. The joy that flowed from her was contagious. She gave of her time, resources, and energy generously. Her appetite for life was not even abated when she was diagnosed with cancer. She visited people in jail, served in her church’s ministries and taught line dancing at a community center. As she battled with cancer, she gathered unexpected strength from the bread, wine and Word offered through communion.  Jeanne invited others to join in communion with God by the courage of her last years and her faith that one day she would be fully healed.

In and through Christ, Jeanne was made a Saint.
Image found at Alamo City Pundit

You’re blessed when the tears flow freely. Joy comes with the morning. Scott and Jeanne’s stories are just two examples of how blessing and woe can be unexpectedly paired. We all have stories of saints that encourage, bless and live in a way that we hope to follow in. Today is a celebration of the lives of these saints and a call to hear, see and sense God’s presence in sharing their names and stories. The stories of these Saints may bring us to tears, but the telling of their stories is important.

Years ago, my older sister Heather passed away at the age of 15 due to heart failure. I have a memory of silence in the days before her passing. For years I wished that we had filled that time with tearful but joyful conversation. I desired that her life be remembered not for her illness, but for her gentleness – laughter – and love of God. So as you listen to this poem written in her honor, think of the Saints you know whose stories still need to be told.

This yellow leaf once was green with promise. It was connected, nourished, and alive. Hints of the fall were all around: Crisp evenings, rushing winds, and shorter days. But this yellow leaf fell in silence.  You should dance on the wind, swirl dramatically into your favorite wood, and be swept up over and over again: for leaping, laughter and your loud, love of life.There was no sound as she surrendered to the swirling water. Her story was not collected, heaped up or leaped into.

She twirled, calmly, quietly and silently; so as not to cause a stir on the surface.But the space she left behind was deep, wide, and shouted of her absence.Yellow leaf had curly raven hair, ice blue eyes, fair skin and freckles -that showed themselves when you stood close.

Silence should not claim your life. So today, I share your story and the dream of our goodbye that gave me hope to keep on living.

Yellow leaf, no more will you float in silence.

You should dance on the wind, swirl dramatically into your favorite wood,and be swept up over and over again: for leaping, laughter and your loud, love of life.

In and through Christ, Heather was made a Saint. In and through Christ, we all are made Saints.

We all have a name. We all have a story to share. When we are lost, Saint Stories show us the way. When we are hungry, Saint Stories fill us up. When we weep, Saint Stories leave us with joy. Saint Stories are not to be hidden away, but shared so that the Redeemer of Saints can be seen clearly.

Jesus message on the plain is not only a reminder of our great need for God; but a proclamation of God’s provision. We all have been lost, but are found in God’s kingdom. We all have been hungry, but God’s table is full. We all have cried in sorrow, but God has been present. On All Saint's Sunday, we light a candle not only to remember the Saints, but to also remember that God is always present. In our times of feeling lost, hungry, or in sorrow – God is with us.

Image found at Wiki Media Commons

We are both saints and sinners; but through Christ a path to faith has been lit. Jesus sermon on the plain provides a reminder of the growing edges of faith that God calls us to. Joy comes into view in some unexpected places; if the blessings are noted and named.

It is in naming our blessings; like Scott, Jeanne and Heather – that others are pointed to the direction, provision and joy that is found only in Jesus Christ. We are blessed to be a blessing to others. Your “Saint story” may be what someone needs to hear: to be found, fed and filled with the joy of Christ.   AMEN

PRAYER:Heavenly Father,Thank you for bringing us into your family. Help us to gain the strength to share our Saint Stories and be a blessing to others. AMEN.

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