|Posted by Baltimore Lutheran Campus Ministry on November 3, 2020 at 12:00 AM|
Blessed All Saints Day! It’s a little different this year, but at least we still get to joyfully remember those who rest in God. We’ll miss our traditions. I’ll miss them, too. For the past 8 years, All Saints Day has meant gathering at the table with my students. If we could gather in person this year, we’d be setting out the tablecloth that we’ve been adding names to for the past 8 years- the names of those we have loved who have died in the faith. And we’d light our battery-operated, campus approved candles. And we’d tell stories of those we had loved. And we’d eat together as family with them and remember the resurrection promise given to all of us. Because it’s a joy to know that in the family of Christ, we are knit together and still connected to those we have loved who have gone before us.
And I love that part of All Saints. And yet, this year, right before Election Day, I have been drawn to another aspect of All Saints. This year, when fear and division feel like they are taking over. When we have no idea what the future looks like. When folks on both sides of the aisle feel like the world as we know it will end with this election.
This All Saints Day, I’m remembering for the reason that All Saints was created. It was created to honor all those who had been courageous in following Jesus who didn’t have individual days to honor them. So that these “ordinary saints” would not be forgotten and that their witness could continue to strengthen us. So I’m deeply grateful this year for the opportunity to be connected to the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us. To remember that God has bound us together with those followers of Jesus that we have never met and whose lives utterly amaze us.
You know- the folks who saw that new life in Jesus so clearly that they risked their lives to follow. Who clung to their trust in Jesus even when it meant persecution. Saints who were willing to choose peace in the midst of violence for the sake of following in Jesus’ footsteps. Or those who devoted themselves to lives of prayer and guided others in the faith. The folks who spoke the unpopular truth about sin and evil and were killed for it. And those who chose forgiveness and mercy toward their neighbors rather than keeping themselves safe in order to witness to the way of Christ.
Folks like Dirk Wilhelm, a Mennonite in the 16th century who was imprisoned for his faith and awaiting execution. As he was escaping from prison, he crossed a frozen pond and the guard chasing him fell in. And Dirk returned to help the guard, following Jesus’ call to love his enemies. And the guard took him back to prison where he faced death.
Or folks like Dorothy Day who was so convicted by Jesus’ call to care for the vulnerable that she spent her life welcoming the poor in hospitality houses and advocating for those in poverty.
Or folks like Brother Juniper, a monk in the 13th century who gave what he had to anyone who begged and who finally had to be commanded by his superiors to stop giving away all his clothes!
This year especially, I’m grateful to remember that people like this were a part of the world and that by the grace of Jesus, they are family to me, to us! That they are OUR heritage, our history, OUR great tradition of what it looks like to follow Jesus in this life.
With all that is broken in our own world- today we get to look back and see the beauty of a life lived in the love of God. And we get to learn from a community that has walked through darker times than these by the light of Christ. And we get to let them hold a candle for us to point the way ahead.
All Saints Day lets us sit a moment among those who have made it through the great ordeal. Through times when everything was falling apart. We get to gather with these courageous siblings in the faith who now sit at the feet of Jesus. And we get to see them, just like that vision we heard from Revelation, sing praise to God continually because their songs of sorrow are finally dried up. We get to hear their songs of hope and love so that we’ll have the strength to try again to reach for righteousness and peace and mercy like they did.
But it’s not just the songs of our ancestors in the faith we hear today. This morning we also hear the song that Jesus sings to us in perhaps our more ordinary lives of trying to follow. “Blessed are the merciful, he says. Blessed are the peacemakers and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. I see your work in following after me and I rejoice in it. Even when there’s too much wrong, and too much broken and too little hope. Even when our work doesn’t seem to be enough, Jesus says, following my way of life matters. I see you, Jesus says, and the work you try to do and the love you seek to show. And truly, you are blessed are you when you walk in my way.
In the moments when we try to give what we have away so that others can have enough, God rejoices, even though everything isn’t fixed. When we risk including someone who makes us uncomfortable, or call for justice for our neighbor or when we risk working for peace when it makes us unsafe, Jesus says, “You are blessed in your work, because it is my work you’re doing.
When nothing seems stable around us, we get the blessing of knowing that feeding our neighbor and protecting them in the storm matter, even if it doesn’t seem like enough. We get to hear that holding onto hope for our neighbors when they are too weak to do it themselves matters. And that a life of peacemaking and mercy and eagerly reaching toward righteousness is seen and blessed by God. And that even our effort to see the best in others- to remain open hearted and kind to our neighbors who drive us nuts- is noticed and blessed by God. For the pure in heart shall get the gift of seeing God’s goodness.
Our work of following Jesus matters. Even if the world seems to be falling down. And not just that, people of God. It’s not just our work that is blessed and seen. It is also our weakness. Jesus promises that our suffering- that may seem so small and pointless- or may seem endless and hopeless- is bound up in the healing that is Jesus’ love. And that our mourning will end in the comfort and hope of God. And that the kingdom of heaven- the place where God is in charge- is the inheritance of all those who are weary and despairing right now. One day we will take our place in that great gathering at Jesus’ feet when our songs of sorrow are swallowed up in love.
So, beloved people of God, before the rest of this week, we get to take a moment to breathe. And to sit down with our family in faith- from all times and places- to be encouraged by their witness. To remember the beauty of following Jesus even in dark days.
And we get to take a moment to glimpse what will be in God’s future- a place where hunger and weeping are swallowed up in love. We take this moment to stop and hear the songs of the saints so that we can face these days with confidence and hope. Not hope in an election- but hope and trust in a God who holds us.
A God who blesses our acts of mercy and work of peace-making, and our loving humility. A God who blesses us in our mourning and grief and worry. Our God who strengthens us for the journey ahead. And our God who joined us to a great family of faith who will continue to embody forgiveness and mercy and truth as we run the race that finds its end in the love of God.