As meaningful and exciting as everything happening this weekend, observing All Saints Day (for me) will be the apex. Over the years, it has become the high point of my worship year. I usually cry throughout the service. Sometimes I even have tears rolling down my cheeks. But why?
Thomas Lynch is both a poet and an undertaker, a rather unusual vocational combination. But hey, it works for Lynch, so who am I to knock it! He has written a wonderful little book entitled, The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade. It’s part autobiography, part comedy, and full of stories about the challenges of growing up in the home of a funeral director. It almost reads like something Garrison Keillor would write. Very entertaining. I highly recommend it. I mention Lynch’s book because he makes a very powerful statement in the book. He says, “Where death means nothing, life is meaningless…We remember because we want to be remembered.” And that, my friends, is the very essence of what this beginning of November feast – All Saints – is all about.
So during Sunday’s All Saints Day worship, we will remember the saints who have gone before us through the Christian metaphors of requiem and sacrament. In a requiem (the Latin word for “rest”), according to the deceased preacher Peter J. Gomes, “we invoke eternal rest upon the dead, remembering that while they were here they worked and played, they prayed and suffered, lived and lusted, but in death they now ‘rest from their labors.’ A hymn says, ‘we feebly struggle, they in glory shine.’”
Dr. Gomes continues with his wonderful words of wisdom: “Rest is not the absence of work but rather the presence of joy in which work is no longer necessary, for what is work after all but to keep us amused and distracted while living? To ‘rest in the Lord’ is to find at long last that peace which the world tries to sell but which it can neither give nor take away, that peace which indeed passes merchandising and understanding, that peace which is also not a negative, not merely the absence of stress, but the discovery of all that to which we have aspired, the reunion of the creature with the creator.”
In true Disciples’ fashion, the table of our Lord is paramount as we observe and celebrate of All Saints Day. For it is at the communion table that the resting dead and the living experience reunion in the sure and present hope of life eternal. “Blessed are the dead who from now on die in the Lord…they will rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them” (Revelation 14:13).
Let’s share tears of joy and remembrance together this Sunday.
Chasing Rabbits...REQUIEM “They will Rest from their Labors…”
There is an old and beautiful tale of a rabbi’s child who was inclined to wander in the forest. Over time, the father became concerned and asked the boy why each day he ventured into the dangerous woods.
The boy answered his dad saying, “I go there to find God.”
“Well, of course, that’s a fine thing,” the rabbi reassured his son. “But, don’t you know that God is the same everywhere?”
“Yes,” said the boy, “but I’m not.”
This story reminds us that our searching and experience of God changes as we find ourselves in various places – spiritually, emotionally, and physically. The important thing to remember is that while God is immutable, we change. We are continually changing through this shared journey called life. It also reminds me that I can choose to be a different person today (and tomorrow) than yesterday. It seems important to me, then, that we are supremely honest with ourselves as we determine the values that we choose to guide our life. Rev. Dr. Maurice Boyd, one of the great preachers of the 20th century, once invited his congregation to consider the following “realities” when developing a credo for life. These realities are too good not to share. Enjoy.
If what you are after is first and foremost power, you’d better forget about love.
If you insist in putting yourself at the center, you’d better get ready for a life of loneliness.
If you are a gossip, don’t be expecting confidences.
If you view life as essentially a quantitative proposition, you’d better keep your averages up.
If you think life is a race won by the swift, you dare never slow down.
If you think the fight goes to the strong, you’d better never relax.
If you love life in the fast lane, don’t even think of setting your heart on anything that takes time.
If what you are seeking is security, then you’d better forget about genuine ecstasy because you can’t have both.
If you honestly believe that life is a rat race, don’t be surprised if you don’t find any dignity in it.
If you’re primarily interested in justice and not in mercy, you’d better never make any mistakes.
If you are ruthless on the way up, don’t be looking for tenderness on the way down.
Glad to be your pastor… DON
Chasing Rabbits...An Inside Job
Anything mechanical is not my cup of tea. Renee has come to know and love me as an “idea type of guy.” All that to say, I am a mechanical moron! Give me a book or something to be written, and I have found my niche; planning or creating something, I’m happy as a hungry flea on a hound dog! Anything else…I make no promises! Chainsaws? Absolutely terrify me. Hammers, screwdrivers, pliers, etc.? Gave them up for lent many years ago and never reclaimed them!
Which makes it even more surprising when, while channel surfing late at night a few weeks ago, I became enamored by reruns of the television hit, Extreme Makeovers: Home Edition (not to be confused with the Extreme Makers – plastic surgery, wedding, or weight loss editions!). Despite being a confessed mechanical moron, I am deeply impressed with those people who have wonderful mechanical skills and know how remodel homes, exterior and interior. Perhaps a tad more than “impressed.” Okay, I am downright envious on them!
With those remodeling masters from Extreme Makeovers fresh in my thinking, this challenging piece of dialogue from Noah benShea’s clever book Jacob’s Journey came to mind:
“All of us are magicians,” said Jacob. “With great skill we shift who we are as if we were peas under walnut shells. Soon, we ourselves have no idea where we are hidden. Soon, pride in our camouflage causes us to become caught in our own slight of hand.”
“Well,” said the young man, “at least I’m not old like my grandfather. He sits with his chin resting on his cane, doing nothing for hours. I have my whole life ahead of me.”
“You do have your whole life in front of you,’ said Jacob, “and yet life is an experience not only of breadth, but of depth. As you grow older, the game of life goes inside, making room for memory. The interior life is no less real, and in some ways more private, more ‘yours.’”
“But,” said the young man, “what do you think my grandfather spends so much time thinking about?”
“Maybe he is thinking about you.”
“Yes,” said Jacob. “Maybe he’s worried that his grandson is living only on the surface of life, and he wonders when you’ll come inside.”
Spirituality is bi-directional. Most certainly, spirituality looks ‘up’ to our God, but authentic spirituality invites – no, demands – we journey within, to the inside, and consider the possibility of doing some divine remodeling. SELAH (stop and think about it).
Glad to be your (transitional) pastor. DON