All Saints

IMG_5293.JPGPastor Megan offers a brief homily, reflecting on the introspection of this season, the intimacy of joy and sorrow, and invites the living saints of SMC to remember with candlelight and word those beloveds who have died in the past year.

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Seattle Mennonite Church
6 November 2016
Homily: All Saints
© Megan M. Ramer

Psalm 149
Luke 6:20-31

Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.

And this isn’t just addressed to Cubs fans…!
108 years of weeping and now you get your blessing of laughter.
But with that World Series championship,
suddenly you’re on the woe end of Jesus’ saying!
Funny, how quickly that flips.

I jest, of course, but I have been surprised by how many people in my circles,
and even in the media,
have been prompted by the Cubs’ longtime-coming win
to publicly memorialize a loved one who’s already passed on
and who lived a life without experiencing a Cubs World Series win.
I’ve seen some heartfelt and beautiful tributes to beloved Cubs fans already dead.

It’s been record-setting drought for the Cubs,
but I wonder if the memorials are also partially due to the time of year?

I feel these words of Jesus acutely in this season each year.
They comfort me and pierce me in turn.

I love Halloween and All Saints Day and the autumn in which they live.
It’s a reflective and introspective time of year for me.
Jan Richardson writes this:
“For me, these days hold an invitation to pay close attention to what’s unfolding in my life, to remember and imagine, and to discern what door might be opening for me.”
I resonate.
I also typically pull out one of Grandma Ramer’s scarves to wrap around me
thanks to our potluck today I also made several of her Dutch Apple pies,
and just this morning on my drive here,
I reflected on her legacy in my life – what of her legacy do I wish to wholeheartedly embrace,
and what do I wish to respectfully decline?

But before the reflection and introspection this season inspires in me,
I often find myself conducting a frantic mental survey.
Who in my life died this year??
Who have I lost?
Anyone really close to me or only those who were more distantly connected?

The frantic energy I inevitably feel, I think, is precisely because I sense the woe
beneath and behind the laughter.

Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.

If this year was relatively free of death and loss for me personally,
then, I have this sense, next year is less likely to be.
In this mortal life, there’s always a long line of “other shoes” waiting to drop.
Escaping tragedy this year
only heightens in me a sense that tragedy is sure to come next year.
Or the next.

Like Khalil Gibran writes in my favorite chapter from The Prophet:
Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,”
and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come,
and when one sits alone with you at your board,
remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Or, as Jesus put it:

Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
Woe to you who are laughing now,
for you will mourn and weep.

I feel this intimately at this time of year.

And I’m grateful for the gift of this season,
for this time of leaning into my and our mortality,
surrounded as we are by a culture that seems to thrive on denying it.
I am grateful for the gift of a designated time and space,
like this All Saints worship,
for naming more explicitly the sorrow asleep in my bed while I dine with my joy,
for acknowledging the intimacy that weeping and laughing share with one another.

In a sense, when All Saints Day is approaching,
and I find myself engaged in that frantic mental survey,
I already have my answer.
Because some years there is no frantic mental survey.
Some years, the previous year’s loss is so profound and so present with me
that I don’t need the survey.
I know my loss.
Some years I’m dining with my sorrow while my joy is fast asleep in my bed.

Even so – even while I have known incredible loss and sorrow –
I’ve never (yet) lost a partner, parent, sibling, best friend, or – God forbid – a child.
Some of you have known that loss.
Some of you know that loss profoundly and powerfully this very year.

Today, we create space to hold this sorrow together,
to name aloud or in our heart,
to light a candle, illuminating our path through the valley of the shadows of death,
to invoke some of the saints we carry with us,
to call on God, our Good Shepherd, to comfort us and accompany us and lead us into joy again.

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