Thursday, November 29, 2007

Speaking of play...

now THIS looks like fun!!

Play Date

What do kids jumping on beds and wanting hippopotamuses (not rhinoceruses) have to do with our spiritual journey? Play. It is the first thing that usually falls away from our lives when we become too busy, too serious, too rushed. We forget to play. I think it is no coincidence that one of the outstanding Christian formation curricula for children in our church is titled "Godly Play." Play is of God and from God and for God. It renews our spirits and makes joy real. I had a wonderful day off from work yesterday because I essentially played all day (as yesterday's blog postings attest!). It's not that I had less to do this week than other weeks; it's just that I decided to make room for play first. It was a great decision. When our children are young, we make "play dates" so they can get together with their friends and have fun. Maybe adults need to write in some "play dates" on our calendars as well.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Kids love to jump on beds

I want a hippopotamus

I was amazed to find this old record cover from a song from my childhood that I loved. My husband has heard me sing this song every Christmas (I know, i know, we haven't even gotten to advent yet....). Anyway, you can even purchase the song from iTunes. It's a great, fun, ridiculous children's song.

images of France

Bon Appetit!

Notre Dame et Mon Amour

Tom and Meredith celebrate their birthdays Paris style

Monsieur Frommage

St. Malo at sunset

The Seine at night

The Thanksgiving Store

For more details about the Thanksgiving Store in Paris, read my sermon for Christ the King Sunday!

Only Line 1 of the Metro ran during the strike...


Six Snapshots

As many of you also know,
today is Christ the King Sunday.
This is the King of the Jews says the sign they hang over Jesus’ head.
It is not meant as a compliment or an honor—
the sign is a joke, a sarcastic comment.
Whoever heard of a king that would let himself be crucified!
What few could understand at the time
was how different a King Jesus was—and is.

To be honest it is difficult for us to see Jesus as a King.
As Americans, we don’t really have an understanding of “king”
not as part of our cultural or political DNA.
In fact, we fought a war back in the 1770’s to rid ourselves of a king.
But as I said,
Jesus is a very different king.

I read an interesting article this week by Dianne Bergant
(“Long Live the King” in America: National Catholic Weekly)

She writes:

Probably the best known royal leader in the world today is Queen Elizabeth of England. Although her leadership role is in many ways more ceremonial than administrative, her official title is still quite impressive. She is Queen Elizabeth II by the Grace of God, Queen of this Realm and of Her Other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.

Wow! I don’t think Queen Elizabeth ever has to try to fit her name onto a computerized form.

But then we have this feast day—
which is why our hangings and vestments are white today—
known as Christ the King Sunday.
It was established in 1925
by Pope Pius XI hoping to remind people of the one true King.
No need for lengthy royal titles.

Christ is the head of the body—the Church—
writes Paul in his letter to the Colossians this morning.
Jesus became everything in all its fullness.

Travel offers us a way to experience the fullness of life
and the fullness of God in all things, in all people and in all places.

As many of you know,
My husband Tom and I have just returned
from a trip to Paris and Brittany.
Between the two of us,
we took 774 photographs.
I considered setting up a projector this morning,
having such a captive audience,
and showing you a slide show.
But I thought you might like to get home before dark,
so, instead, I am going to share six verbal snapshots with you.

So here are six snapshots from our recent trip:

Snapshot one: Patience.

We arrived on a Tuesday morning at Charles de Gaulle airport
and had no problems getting on the RER train
that took us right into the city,
only a short ten minute walk to our friend Meredith’s apartment.

The beginning of our trip—with on-time flights
and easy access into the city didn’t require any patience.
That is my kind of travel!

However, in just a few hours that all changed
as the transit workers went on strike.
And then other workers went on strike
in sympathy with the transit workers.
Moving around the city of Paris became a challenge—
a challenge demanding much patience
and considerable creative maneuvering.

It meant that when we were trying to return to our friend Meredith’s apartment
after a wonderful but very tiring day at the Louvre Museum,
we watched 7 metro trains go by--
so tightly packed with people
that neither Tom nor I could fathom
crushing our way into the already
crushing human drama.

But we were blessed, lucky—
we did not have to be home at a certain time
to fix supper or pick up children from school or get to work.
We had the luxury of letting trains pass by—
finally, after seven trains and about an hour of waiting,
we went up and out of the metro station
and walked back to the apartment.

Walking is not so bad.
You see a lot of things when you walk
As the world passes by slowly
instead of at a whooshing speed under or over ground.
It passes very slowly for me when I walk—I am slow.
(Much of the time I felt like a fat little French poodle
hurrying to try and keep up with my speedy greyhound companions.)

Twice we tried to visit St. Chappelle
only to be turned away because enough of their staff could not get there
to safely open the Church to the public.
Or were they doing some special program or renovation?

The sign on the gate was in French.
The only part Tom and I were both certain of
was that we were not getting in.

Regardless of how much I had read about St. Chappelle’s beauty
or how much I longed to see it
or how far we had traveled
or the reality that we might never be back in Paris again.
St. Chappelle was not going to be part of our visit.

Life’s disappointments, both small and large,
require strength and patience—and the ability to move on.

Be prepared to endure everything with patience—while joyfully giving thanks,
writes Paul to the Colossians.

Snapshot Two: Thanksgiving.

I missed celebrating the Thanksgiving feast here with you
at St. John’s last Sunday.
I hope it was a joyful and delicious time for all.

The first day we were in Paris,
our friend Meredith said to us,
We need to go to the Thanksgiving Store.

The Thanksgiving Store?
What on earth do they sell at the Thanksgiving Store,
I wondered.
That is really the name of the Store.
The Thanksgiving Store is a special little grocery store in Paris
that sells the foods that you can’t usually buy in Paris
The foods that spell HOME to Americans—
Peanut butter, Jello, Pop Tarts, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups,
and more.
And when the Thanksgiving holiday rolls around,
The Thanksgiving Store in Paris really gets hopping!

A can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup sells for $ 12 a can.
A can of those little fried onion rings sells for $ 11 a can.
You’ve just spent $ 23
and you haven’t even bought the green beans for your casserole yet!!

Turkey is $ 11 per pound.

But our friend Meredith was intentional and determined
that she would offer a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner
to her American friends who found themselves in Paris—
for the holiday or for longer.

She wrote in an email after we returned home
that yes, it was an expensive dinner--
but friends are “priceless.”

We cannot put a value on the people we love.
We too often forget the value of those who love us.

Snapshot Three: Saints

We were surrounded by saints in France.
There were the capital “S” saints—
as we visited Notre Dame (many, many Notre Dames as a matter of fact)--
Notre Dame meaning “our Lady”
and our Lady Mary being quite loved and revered in France
and a favorite name for churches we discovered.

We visited Chartres and St. Samson’s Cathedral
and the medieval walled city of St. Malo.

We read the history and the legends and the lives of these Saints
and we stood and prayed
in these overwhelmingly beautiful Gothic spaces—
and could not help but feel the glory and grandeur of God
in the magnificent construction done my hands and hearts
in the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries.

But it was the every day saints that also took my breath away.
Our friend Meredith who offered us incredible hospitality every day.
A wonderful reminder of the gift of a 40 year friendship.

The smiling ruddy faced man who ran the cheese shop.
The hotel desk clerk who at breakfast offered me “jus ananas”
and when I queried, “Banana juice?”
he double over with laughter in a joyful, friendly way.
It was pineapple juice.
He shared with me that banana in English is banana in French.

Those everyday saints who mercifully spoke English to us
when we were struggling
or patiently encouraged us to try to say what we wanted in French.

Stefan the accordion player who every evening sat on the bridge over the Seine
playing these lovely strains of music—
even in the rain (he sat under a big blue poncho playing away).
It was like being in a movie—we had our own soundtrack each night
as we walked back to the apartment
crossing over the bridge back to Ile de Saint Louis,
our friend’s neighborhood.

Saints are those who remind us to not believe in stereotypes.

You may have heard that the French are rude.
We did not find that to be true at all.
What we found were that people were kind and helpful and funny and open.
We met only one rude person—a waitress at dinner one night—
my allergy to onions truly sent her over the edge!
Si je mange d’oignons, challotes, poireux, ciboulette, je morte.
Je suis tres tres tres allergique.
She didn’t want to hear it or believe it.
She adamantly refused to accept that chives were in the onion family.
I wouldn’t eat the salad which was liberally doused with chives
(I had no wish to die in France)
and she took that quite personally
She got very angry.
She was very harsh—not just to us—but to everyone it seemed--
and I can only imagine that her life must be very hard.

Either the harshness of her own life
is making her harsh to everyone around her--
Or her harshness to everyone around her
is making her own life very harsh and very hard.

She made me mad, I confess.
I had a few choice harsh comments of my own about her
that evening after dinner
(a dinner I did not get to eat).
But in retrospect, I have tried to include her in my prayers—
and to include myself
for being so quickly judgmental of her.

How important that line is in our baptismal covenant—
To respect the dignity of every human being.

The challenge is that we are called to do that for EVERY human being.
And we long for that respect for ourselves as well.

Snapshot four: Bells

The church bells ring and resonate throughout your body.
It was unlike anything I have ever heard.
I wanted to come back and have a conversation with our bell here at St. John’s
And say, Hello bell! I met your great grand-daddy!!

As we arrived at St. Samson’s Cathedral in Dol-de-Bretagne in Brittany,
a burial service was ending and people were leaving the church.
As the casket was placed into the hearse,
the bells in the tower began to ring.
And they rang and they rang and they rang.
Not just 7 times as we do before a service here,
but the bells rang and rang and rang--for ten or fifteen minutes.

We stood there, from a respectful distance on the sidewalk,
not knowing the name or the life of the person who had died,
but feeling somehow connected and bound to that person
and those who grieved his death,
connected as brothers and sisters in Christ,
connected even though our language, our culture, our customs differ--
but in Christ,
all things hold together.

Snapshot five: Worship

I attended a weekday mass at Notre Dame in Paris.
and even though the service was in French
and was a Roman Catholic mass,
it was still liturgically familiar and I was able to follow the service.

In this very busy tourist attraction of a cathedral
it is still, first and foremost, at least for some,
a place of worship.
The priest never hurried the Eucharist—
even though there was a swirl of people
touring the cathedral on the outskirts of the sanctuary.

The priest’s mindfulness and peacefulness was true gift
to all of us in that little congregation
of which I was part of that day.

Like the outer edges of the bustling Notre Dame Cathedral,
our lives will never be completely peaceful and calm—
we all live in turbulent times, personally and corporately.

But there is a quiet center amidst the turbulence.

Just as our worship together here,
our coming together here in this place, St. John’s,
in churches and synagogues and mosques and temples all over the world,
worshipping together gives us blessing and respite,
give us strength and patience,
gives us hope in our times of darkness
gives us space to offer thanks,
gives us memory to remember
the wholeness of God.

Snapshot six: Beggars

If you were to ask me to name the one thing I did not expect in France,
I would have to say the beggars.

I was especially shocked to see beggars outside the cathedrals.
It was disturbing to me at first.

But then I began to think about the beggars in the Bible.
Just as in the days of Jesus,
the place to come in contact with lots of people
was at the temple gates.
Some things do not change.

Outside the cathedrals in France
were people who were blind and begging,
people who had no legs,
a mother with a baby in her arms pleading for a few coins…

And then there was the man
standing at the doorway of Chartres Cathedral,
who upon spotting us as we approached,
began singing—in English with a thick French accent—
at the top of his cheerful lungs,
“He’s got the whole world in his hands….”

And I couldn’t have agreed with him more.
Travel opens your eyes to the enormity of God.

Travel is so full of wonderful metaphors for our life and faith journeys.

Travel shakes us up.
It makes us face new situations.
It reminds us we are not the center of the world—
not as individuals, not as Americans.
Travel opens our eyes to see the world in new ways.
Travel can be just another scrapbook on the shelf
or it can be an experience that transforms us.

It is important that we do not travel our faith journey as tourists only,
as sight seers.
We are called to live into the fullness and holiness of the life that God offers us.

Christ the King.
Christ as the head of the body—the Church.

In our Episcopal Catechism of Faith,
in the section about the church,
the question is asked: Why is the Church described as holy?

The response is:
The Church is holy, because the Holy Spirit dwells in it,
consecrates its members (that’s you and me)
and guides them in God’s work.

Indeed, travel can open our eyes to the holy.
The even better news is this:
coming home
offers that same immense gift.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


We are home from our trip to Paris and parts of Brittany. This photo is one of the gargoyles at Notre Dame in Paris. Tom and our friend Meredith climbed the tower to take photographs and get up close with the gargoyles while I went to mass inside the Cathedral. I was amazed at the purposeful, peaceful way the priest presided at the mass with hordes of tourists circulating around the outer aisles and edges of the church. The service was in French of course so I only understood a few words here and there. Still, it felt very right to actually worship in this place rather than only sightsee.

I will write more about this trip later but wanted to at least get one photo posted now before heading to bed to catch up on sleep and do a little jetlag recovery.

Bonne nuit!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sermon for Year C Pentecost 24 Proper 27


As many of you know, I have just returned
from our annual Diocesan Convention.
St. John’s was well represented this year.
I was there.
Susan Pearce and Michael Pearce served as our delegates.
Roger Watson and Larry Thompson served as alternates.
A beautiful courtesy resolution was read in honor of Jean Weinhauer
Bishop Weinhauer was very lovingly remembered.
All of the vocational deacons in our diocese were asked to stand
The Rev. Morgan Gardner at the podium said,
You are standing here today because of Bishop William G. Weinhauer.
There was only one vocational deacon in the diocese
when Bishop Weinhauer was installed as bishop.
Now…well, there were more than I could even count.

Larry Thompson was elected as one of 4 lay deputies from our diocese
to attend General Convention in 2009.
I was elected as an alternate for the clergy deputation.
That means that Larry is going for certain (God willing)
and I am asked to be prepared to go
should a member of the clergy delegation be unable to attend.

And for the Friday evening Eucharist at Convention
Michael was the crucifer.
Roger was a chalice bearer
Margaret King was an usher.
And word has it that Susan and my husband Tom were seen
doing the old dance “The Locomotion”—
right there in the chapel at Kanuga!

Don’t worry—it was part of the Rev. Claiborne Jones’ sermon--
about our need to move, to loco-mote, to different places
to help us see Jesus more clearly.

The theme of this year’s convention was “Be Doers of the Word.”

Be doers of the Word.

I think that most of us really want to be doers of the Word.
But it is not always easy.
There are many things in this world, this culture that distract us.

During the many, many reports and prayers and reflections and songs
and sermons and social time
during all this,
I kept thinking about our gospel reading this morning.

Jesus is confronted by the Sadducees.
Now the Pharisees and the Sadducees were the primary groups
of the temple authorities.
On most things they agreed—especially their dislike for Jesus—
but the one issue on which they did not agree was resurrection.
The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.

I remember that in seminary I remembered this distinctive difference
by thinking they were “sad-you-sees”
because they could not believe in resurrection.
Sadducees also only used the first 5 books of the Bible—the Torah.
Worthy books, indeed.
BUT…those 5 books—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy—
were their laws and their lives. No wiggle room.

They confront Jesus with a trick question.
And folks, Jesus is no fool.
He knows it is a trick question.
It probably was not the first trick question that had ever been posed to him.

According to the law in Deuteronomy (25:5-6)
if a woman without a child is left a widow,
it is the duty of her former husband’s brother to marry her.
The purpose of this is primarily for her to a bear a child—
which will be considered the heir of her dead husband.
Now this seems very strange to our 21st century minds.
but bearing sons, heirs, were everything in that time period.

So the Sadducees pose a really ridiculous question to Jesus.

They say so what happens if the woman’s husband dies
and she marries his brother but the brother dies
and she marries the next brother and that brother dies ….
Well, you get the idea. 7 brothers. 7 marriages.
The Sadducees want Jesus to say
who the woman’s husband will be in heaven—
if she was married to all seven brothers here on earth?

Jesus just refuses to be distracted by the question.
He speaks first about the resurrected life.
He doesn’t say heaven is like this or that;
he simply says the resurrected life
will not be a mirror of life here on earth.
The resurrected life is beyond our imaginations.

Then Jesus addresses whether there is resurrection
And he sides with the Pharisees.
He argues from the Torah (Jesus knows his audience) that God is a living God.
The God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob…
In today’s world
we would also let Sarah and Hagar
and Rachel and Rebecca and Leah claim God as well.
God lives on throughout the lives of each generation.
Resurrection does not depend on us or our actions.
It doesn’t even depend on Jesus’ resurrection.
Resurrection is simply part of who God is.

Bishop Taylor shared a wonderful story about Chartres Cathedral
in his Friday morning address at Convention.
Many of you know that Tom and I are leaving tomorrow morning for France.
We have a good friend who is living in Paris and she has invited us to come
And the lure of a free apartment in Paris
And bargain price round trip tickets on US Airways,
cinched the deal.
So we will go to Paris and to Chartres and then to Brittany
where I will do some research
for my postgraduate studies in Celtic Christianity.
So my ears perked up when I heard the Bishop tell this story.

The first church at Chartres was built in the 4th century.
In 858 the Vikings invaded and that church was destroyed.
Late in the 9th century, Charles the Bald gave the people of Chartres
A cloth, a relic, that was said to be the swaddling clothes
That Mary wrapped the newborn baby Jesus in.
The relic so inspired people
That a beautiful new Cathedral was built at Chartres in 1194.
Then there was a terrible fire.
Three priests grabbed the relic and went down, down, down
into the crypt beneath the ground under the Cathedral.
Three days later
the priests emerged with the cloth in tact.
The cathedral had burned to the ground.
The priests were safe.
The relic was safe.

The people celebrated and committed to build a new cathedral—
bigger, taller, more windows, more beautiful.
And it was done.
That cathedral stands today.

The message of this story is that when storms rage on the surface,
when everything in life is burning up,
Go deep.
It is there that you will find God.
This is exactly what Jesus is doing with the Sadducees.

The silly question is the firestorm they are setting to burn Jesus out.
But Jesus holds on to the same truth we hear from Job today:
I know that my redeemer lives,
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth
and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
then in my flesh—in my awakening,
I shall see God…

When things are disturbed on the surface,
Go deep.
When life is falling apart,
fall into the arms of God.

This is what Jesus does over and over.
This is the model he gives us for our own lives.
For our life as the church,
For our life as a human beings.

When things are on fire on the surface,
Go deep.

How do we do that?

Bishop Taylor suggests three ways.
First of all, prayer.

We are called to cultivate our connection with Jesus through prayer.
Every Episcopalian needs to own a Book of Common Prayer.
This is not just a book for Sunday services.
Our Prayer Book is a true gift.
Bishop Taylor asked us to use our Prayer Books every day.

This is not an order or an edict,
It is a way of transformation.
And perhaps, through the grace of God,
it is the way to transform the world around us.
Prayer is the widest path to going deeper in our relationship with God.

If you don’t have a Book of Common Prayer,
I can tell you where to buy one.
If you can’t afford a Book of Common Prayer,
speak to me and we will work it out.
(With God and the Rector’s Discretionary Fund all things are possible!)

Secondly, Bishop Taylor said be intentional.
Be intentional
about practicing our faith in our daily life.
We can do this in many ways—
Kindness, hospitality to strangers,
Forgiveness, reconciliation, tithing.
Outreach, mission, listening to each other.
Listening for God in our lives.

We have to set our priorities of what is important to us.
I have a sister who is six years older than I am.
She took piano lessons and was quite good.
I could not wait until I was old enough to take piano lessons.
Finally the year came.
Mrs. Page.
I was so excited. I wanted to be a fantastic pianist.
There was only one part of the equation I had not countered on.
You have to practice.
You have to be intentional about practicing.
I wanted to just sit down on the bench and play magnificently.
Hmmm…it doesn’t happen.
And I can’t play much beyond a first year piece on the piano.
I think I peaked with the tune “Two Frogs”.
I was not intentional about practicing the piano.
It wasn’t a priority for me.
I only wanted it if it could happen like magic.
Few things that are meaningful in our lives are like that.

Just as we have to be intentional about learning a sport
Just as we have to practice to learn to play a musical instrument
or learn a language or master driving a car,
Just as we have to make our marriages and our friendships a priority
if we expect them to deepen and endure,
we need to give that same intentionality to our spiritual lives.

We have to make some choices on what really matters most to us.
And then give our time and energy and passion to those things—
Not all the other things that scream for our attention,
that distract us, that trick us and trap us.

We are called to go deeper in our understanding of our faith
so we know who we are,
so we understand why we are here on this planet.
so that when the fires are raging in our lives or in our church
or in our world,
We can find our the way to the door that opens
to go deeper,
so not to lose our focus on what really matters.

And lastly we need to pray for bigger hearts.
Hearts that will lead us from despair to hope.
Hearts that will guide us from a theology of scarcity
to a theology of abundance.
Hearts that are big enough to include everyone at the table.

Our Old Testament reading is from the book of Job.
You may know that everything horrible happens to Job—
He loses his livelihood, his health, his family, his friends—
But there is one thing he does not lose.
He does not lose his faith.
If I had to give you a simple definition of faith
I would say that faith is believing, really believing,
That God loves you no matter what.

It is as difficult to imagine the immensity of God’s love
for each one of us
as it is to imagine what the resurrected life will be.

Job never loses his belief that God loves him.
He never stops loving God.

It’s not that Job is some superhero of faith.
Job is just a man who already had a relationship with God.
A relationship built over time, through practicing his faith.

Job had spent a lifetime cultivating a deep relationship with God—
long before he “needed” it.

Job understands that when the fires are burning on the surface of his life,
there is a deeper place to go…a place where he will find God.
He doesn’t let all the horrid things happening to him
distract him from what really matters, from the truth that he knows

I know that my redeemer lives, says Job.

God is a God of the livinig says Jesus.

When the fires burn on the surface,
go deep, says Bishop Taylor.

As we heard in the letter to the Thessaonians,
May God direct our hearts to the love of God
and the steadfastness of Christ.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Children's Space at St. John's

We just added a Children's Space at the back of the church. I had seen this done in a number of parishes in Wales, Scotland and England and since we had this lovely wide space at the back, and no nursery at this point, it seemed like an easy way to help families with young children feel welcome.

There are two rocking chairs and some baskets of books (some for very young children and some for the older chidlren in the congregation). Each week there are coloring pages and puzzles that relate to the gospel or something about our Episcopal worship in ziplock bags with colored pencils and crayons. Children can do these in the Children's Space or take them to their pews.

We added a colorful rug and a small table with puzzles (Melissa and Doug are now doing a whole series of puzzles based on Bible stories--I especially like the one of Jonah). There are some simple toys--the criteria was that everything in the area has to be able to be easily cleaned with a clorox wipe or thrown in the dishwasher for sterilizing (I learned this working in children's museums for 15 years).

The Children's Space has been well received its first two weeks. A parishioner was here on Sunday with his very active three year old grandson and he seemed very happy throughout the service. Isn't this what we want? For children to feel comfortable and welcome and happy coming to church. We want it to feel like the home we hope it is for them.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Sermon for All Saints Sunday 2007


Today we celebrate All Saints Day .
All Saints Day is one of the principal feasts of our church.
In other words, it is a big deal.
It is such a big deal that when the official date of November 1st
doesn’t fall on a Sunday
we transfer the celebration of All Saints Day
to the Sunday that follows.

The reason for this is simple—
we don’t want to miss this celebration--
this celebration which reminds us
how connected we are to one another
and how connected we are to God.

As early as the third century,
the Church has designated a single day to commemorate
the martyrs of the church,
those who were willing to die for Christ—and did.

In our modern church,
All Saints Day commemorates not only the martyrs,
but all God’s children, both living and dead,
who have led and strive to lead
good and faithful lives.

We all form “the mystical body of Christ”,
as we heard in today’s collect.
That means that you and I, as people of God,
are connected to one another,
and we are connected to all God’s people who have gone before us
and all God’s people who will come after us.
That makes us one BIG (!!!) family. All saints.
I sing a song of the saints of God…
We sang that song as our sequence hymn last week
And we sang it again today.
We sang it last week because we were dedicating our new children’s space—
a special area for our littlest saints.

We sing it this day
because we celebrate All Saints Day—
and we celebrate Justin’s baptism--
plus it is just worth singing again.

Listen to these words—
They lived not only in ages past
There are hundreds of thousands still…

The hymn continues…
You can meet them in school or in lanes or at sea
In church or in trains
Or in shops or at tea…

The first time I ever heard this hymn I laughed.

I laughed out loud.
The words just struck me as funny=--in a delightful way—
It sounded more like a Dr. Seuss book than an Episcopal hymn!

But don’t you just love it that we can walk out of our house on any given day
and bump right into a saint—
At school or in the grocery store or
or having a cherry limeade at Sonic.

And the wonderful closing line of that hymn…
…and I mean to be one, too.

I mean to be a saint, too.
God wants us to dream that.

It is why we renew our baptismal covenant on All Saints Sunday.
It is why this Sunday is set aside
as one of the Sundays when baptisms are encouraged.
When I spoke with Justin about his baptism
I told him that I believed in God’s eyes
he had been a saint from the moment of his birth
But today, with his baptism here at St. John’s,
we are going to make it official!

The promises we make in our baptismal covenant
are our guide to becoming true saints of God.

We renounce evil.
We renounce everything that draws us away from the love of God.
We put all our trust in God’s grace and love.
We promise to look for the face of Jesus in every one we meet.
We promise to strive for justice and peace.
We promise to respect the dignity of every human being.

These are BIG promises.
We need a BIG day like All Saints to hold the enormity
of our baptismal covenant.
When we say those words
I can just imagine Jesus flying a plane across the skies over St. John’s
And skywriting the words,
WOW! Did you hear what you just said!!??? WOW!!

Our gospel reading today is from Luke’s gospel.
This scripture text, as well as a similar text in Matthew’s gospel,
Is known as the beatitudes, the blessings.

Luke has 4 blessings and 4 woes.
We all know what a blessing is but maybe you are wondering,
Just what is WOE?
Woe is like saying “You are so out of luck.”
The woes are the dark side or the reversal of the blessings in Luke’s gospel.

The blessings Jesus gives in Luke’s gospel are all for those who live difficult lives:
The poor
The hungry
Those who weep
Those who are rejected, hated, excluded.

Then Jesus places woes on those with lives we would see as easy (and desirable):
The rich
The full
The laughing
The accepted, those people speak well of.

When we first read or hear Luke’s four blessings
We are likely to say, Good!
I’m glad that God loves the poor, the hungry, the weeping, the rejected.
They need God’s love.

But then come those woes.
And we are likely to say UH-OH!
Because the truth is, for most of us,
we sound a lot more like the people of the “Woe to you”
than the “Blessed are you” people.

These blessings are not meant to exalt poverty or hunger or grief or victimization.
They are not virtues we are to seek.
This is Jesus saying, bad stuff happens in this world.
Bad stuff happens to good people.
Life is terribly hard for some of God’s children.

And neither are these woes meant as retaliation by God.
These woes are not revenge against the rich or those with enough to eat
or those who are happy
or those who are respected.

Jesus is telling us is two things:
One: our position in life, our position in the world,
can change in a heartbeat.
Two: we are all connected, one to another, as children of God,
And if some are hungry and heartbroken and hurt
then we need to understand that part of our work in God’s world
is to reach out to those who are suffering.

In Jesus’ time most folks thought if things were going good for you,
it was because God was pleased with you.
And if things were going badly—if you were sick or poor—
then God was angry with you.

But Jesus says over and over to us,
that is SO not true.

God’s ways are love and forgiveness, and grace.
The saints of God are the tangible presence of love and forgiveness and grace
being lived out in this world.

All Saints Day is a wonderful time to reflect on our blessings,
to think about the saints in our lives
those who have rescued us from woe, from sorrow, from disaster.
Those who have been the face of Jesus for us.

I want to share with you three of my saints.

My mother is one of my saints.
As a teenager, I used to roll my eyes at the way she waited on my father.
I wanted her to be liberated!
Then I grew up and began to see that what my mother did for my father
was done out of pure love.

My mother was a very strong woman
but when my father died,
when you lose the person who has been the love of your life
for over 50 years,
your heart aches.
In my mother’s weakness, I saw her deepest strength—
her immense capacity to love.
Blessed are you who weep now.

I met another saint on my first mission trip to Panama.
His name is Daniel.
He was a teenager at the time.
I was part of a group of seminarians
who worked with a group of Panamanian Episcopalians
to help renovate the chapel
at their youth camp.
On our last day there,
we were getting ready to leave,
and those of us heading back to the States,
decided we were going to throw away
our old tennis shoes we had worn all week.
We had purposefully brought our oldest, rattiest shoes for that week of work.
Our shoes at week’s end had paint, cement and a lot of dirt covering them.
Not something we wanted to pack and bring back home with us.

As we were changing shoes, getting ready to toss our old ones in the garbage,
the man from one of the Panamanian Episcopal churches
who had coordinated the work week came up to us
and asked us if we would be offended
if he gave our shoes to some of the workers there.
We were a little embarrassed,
but said, no, that was fine.
Daniel was one of the workers who had been selected to
receive a pair of our shoes.
When he came over he was so excited.
When I looked down,
I saw that his own tennis shoes were tied onto his feet
with a pair of shoe laces.
The bottom had long ago come apart from the top of the shoe.
He had worked all week in those shoes
And I had worked right beside him --
and I had never even noticed.
Blessed are you who are poor
for yours is the kingdom of God.

Remember that hymn I sing a song of the saints of God?
I told you it made me laugh when I first heard it.
That hymn also made me cry once.
It was one of the hymns sung at a burial service for my friend Tori
who died of cancer when she was 34 years old.

Tori did not pick that hymn for her burial service
because she felt SHE was a saint--
She picked that hymn
because she felt one of the gifts she received from her illness
was having her eyes opened to all the saints who surrounded her.
Her husband, her friends, her sister, her neighbors, the doctors and nurses.
Tori even included their dog Daisy among her saints.
Daisy would come up and lick Tori’s face
just like Tori was a puppy who needed special care.

Why do we celebrate All Saints Day?
As a reminder:
To remember those we love but see no longer.
To remember the saints that are still with us every day.
To inspire us to be one, too.

There are a myriad of wonderful saints throughout the history of the church.
They all belong to us.
But there are a myriad of saints right here, too.

I look out on this congregation of St. John’s
and it is not just John who is our saint---
there is Saint Sheila and St. Roberta and St. Anne and St. Stacy and
St. Susan and St. Chris and St. Eddie and St. Sandra and St. Joe…
…and on and on and on.

The saints of God—right here in front of us,
right here beside us, right here behind us,
right here all around us.

As my grandmother would say,
If you threw a stick, you’re bound to hit one.

I am NOT advocating throwing sticks—certainly not in church!!!
I AM advocating that we open our eyes
and see the saints that bless our lives everyday.
I AM advocating that we strive to live into our baptismal promises:

For the saints of God are just folk like me—and YOU--
And we mean to be ones, too.

And there is one among us today,
who really means to be one, too.

So let us gather at the font now and baptize Justin…