Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sermon for Year B Feast of All Saints


I recently read this Yiddish folktale:
An old man sat outside the walls of a great city.

When travelers approached, they would ask the old man,
“What kind of people live in this city?”
The old man would answer,
“What kind of people live in the place where you came from?”
If the travelers answered,
“Only bad people live in the place where we came from,”
the old man would reply,
“Continue on; you will find only bad people here.”

But if the travelers answered,
“Good people live in the place where we came from,”
then the old man would say,
“Enter, for here too, you will find only good people.”1

I love this story.
I think it says a great deal
about how we see the world
and how we live in the world.
Do we look around and see saints?
Or do we look around and see sinners?
It is a question we each must answer for ourselves.

But even for those who see the world through sin-thick glasses,
there are still usually a few people that they, too,
will lift up as saints.

Today we celebrate the Feast of All Saints.
It is one of the major feast days of our tradition.

Today is also the day
we will inter the ashes of George Doellgast
in the Memorial Garden here at St. John’s.
I think if you read the insert in your bulletin
you will see why George is, indeed, one of God’s saints.

Our opening collect today says,
we are “knit together” in one communion.
We are knit together.
That’s true you know.
Even for those we love but see no longer,
    they are still so connected to us.
No dropped stitches.

Do you know about our Prayer Shawl ministry here at St. John’s?
It is what you see here in front of our altar today.
These shawls are knitted--knit together--
and while they are being knitted,
the knitter prays.
And when they come to me,
I pray.
And when they are ready to go out into the world,
to wrap themselves around someone who is sick,
or suffering or hurting in whatever way,
I bless the shawl and off it goes.
The love and prayers and blessing in each shawl
    offers something tangible that says,
“Indeed! We are knit-together--
not just in yarn--but in our lives, in our spirits.”

We ARE knit together.
As the prophet Isaiah says,
God will wipe away the tears from all faces.
How does that happen?
Does some giant hand come swooping down
out of the clouds with a gigantic hanky to wipe our tears?
(At least I have never seen that.)

But I have seen many of you wipe away the tears
of someone you know is hurting and heart-broken.
Because we are knit-together.

The saints of God are knit-together
and it is a beautiful sight to behold.
Just like these beautiful prayer shawls.
Just like the beautiful flowers on the retable.

Just like the beautiful life George Doellgast lived
and continues to live in the memories of those
who loved him so.
Who still love him so.

Our gospel reading today is the story of Jesus
bringing Lazarus back to life.
It is a story of Jesus coming and freeing
Mary and Martha from despair.
The stone is taken away
and Lazarus is raised from the dead.

Raising someone from the dead seems impossible.
But  we weren’t there.
We don’t know what really happened.

But we have all been here in this world
when someone we love has died.
I have never seen Jesus show up as a man in sandals
and a long robe or a greeting that says,
“Hey there! My name is Jesus, Son of God...”

But I have seen Jesus show up.
Jesus shows up in the faces and hearts
and hands of those who are knit together.
This where we see the glory of God.

In the communion of saints that still live
and still love
that still care and care for one another.

The scripture tells us that when Jesus arrives
he is greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.

This is the teaching for us.
When we are greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved
it is time to move stones and to unbind those who are in despair,
those who have suffered loss, those who barely have the will to go on.

It is because we are knit-together
that we are disturbed and deeply moved by the suffering of others.
We don’t even have to be there in person--
   we can hear about it, or read about or see it on television
   and we are disturbed, concerned, and hopefully, moved to action.

After the storm Sandy
A friend of mine in NYC was without electricity or water.
A few days later power was restored to their block.
They had lights and water.
So they decided to have a party.
Not to celebrate their own good fortune
   but to try to use their good fortune to move some stones for others.

This is the invitation they sent to friends and members of their church:

All are welcome tonight to come by for dinner. ..we are calling this a "come shower/do some laundry/wash dishes/fill up buckets/[charge your cell phone /bring any food and drink you want to share and we will have a chance to gather for We also have a guest bedroom available...All are welcome anytime, and dinner will be around 6:30. Additionally, I continue to pray constantly for you all. May we all have the comfort of God's Peace.

They posted a beautiful photo of their two year old son
stirring up a bowl of brownie batter.
Regardless of our age, young or old,
we care about one another.
We want to be part of God's party.
We who are knit-together.

We who are knit-together
are here on this earth at this time
to care about one another,
to love one another.

We are knit-together in one communion.
It is precisely why we share a common cup,
why bread is broken and placed into our hands.
Broken--because we all,
at some time or many times in our lives,
are broken.

But we are put back together in community
and in communion.

We don’t celebrate the Eucharist by ourselves.
We come forward together to the table,
just as God’s saints have done for generations.
And they are all right here with us,
kneeling and standing beside us,
every time we reach out our hands.

We are put back together
through our communion with God and with each other.
We are knit-together.

We are knit-together
so that our eyes will see the saint that lives in each of us,
so that our hearts will forgive the sinner that lives in each of us,
so that our lives, our actions in this world,
just might really create a new heaven and a new earth.

Because sooner or later,
we all reach the end.
Our own time of sainthood.
We all reach the point when we have to say,
“It is done!”

It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega,
the beginning and the end.
It is done.

The beginning and the end are knit-together.
We are knit together with all the saints of God
and my, oh my!
What a beautiful sight to behold!  AMEN.

The Yiddish folk tale was found at this site: Wisdom Story 126,

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