for all the saints...

Today I threw away my prepared worship notes and began my message by saying:  "Many pastors all over our nation will be speaking about Tuesday's election - but not me. (The congregation cheered.) Not because I don't care or think these things don't matter - they do - but because we have been asked to practice and embrace a living that is counter-cultural. And nothing is more counter-cultural that pausing in the heat of things... to remember and honor those souls who have given us love in their day before going before us into eternal life. Today I want to speak with you about how we receive reminders of God's love and how we pass it on."

 I had opened worship with this paraphrase from John Donne: The church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that body which is my head too and grafted into that body whereof I am a member. And when [the church] buries a person, that action concerns me. All [of humanity] is of one author, and is one volume; when one [person] dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated. God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but [the Lord’s] hand is in every translation, and [God’s] hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another. As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon calls not upon the preacher only but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all… No [one] is an island entire of itself; every[one] is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were. Any[one’s] death diminishes me, because I am involved in [hu]mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. (from John Donne’s Meditation)

So we talked about our connections to one another. I mentioned the early martyrs of our faith - and how All Souls Day came into being, I shared why the psychedelic imagery of Daniel's apocalypse connects us to God's steadfast love that endures forever. And celebrated that this love is greater than tyrants and bullies, morons and despots of this or any generation. That is why, I concluded, the closing words of today's gospel from St. Luke teach us to live beyond our fears and angers - to overcome the bestial in our lives and our world - by love:

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

We remembered the two saints who have gone home to the Lord from within the church after which people came forward to record the names of those who have brought love into their lives. They lit candles and placed their honored names on a plaque that will remain up for the whole month - and when we were done it looked like this.
Today I am remembering my Mom and Dad (Betty and Jim), my two sisters (Linda and Beth) as well as loved ones from my different churches (Don and Mike in Cleveland, Dolores and Roger in Tucson, Grace and Cora in Pittsfield) as well as St. Lou Reed.  I will hold them all close to my heart when I play tonight's jazz gig and hoist a pint in their honor.

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