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Blessed are All Saints, Blessed are WE.

Good morning- Let us pray: Blessed are You, Lord, Our God and Glorious Father. I come before you in thanksgiving as your humble servant. I pray for guidance and courage as I speak and, as always, Your will be done. Amen.

As I began to research and put together some notes for today’s homily- I reached out to Pastor Stacie and she said the number one thing to remember is that your first few sermons you write, you will probably have enough material for at least seven sermons. For those that know me- you can well imagine that I had seven MONTHS worth! So, I had to set some material aside for another time.

Todays Gospel has always been one of my favorites- the Beatitudes- the blessings. The following is part of a sermon from a Pastor at St. John’s in Ontario, Canada, “From Genesis to Revelation, it’s all about blessing.  From Alpha to Omega, It’s all about blessing. From death to life, It’s all about blessing. Again and again, Jesus says blessed, speaks blessed, proclaims blessed, pressing and imprinting it upon his listening disciples. On the cross Jesus asked to be blessed by the Father. Jesus’ life begins with a blessing. Elizabeth blesses the fruit of Mary’s womb. Mary calls blessed all who will receive from the one in her womb. From the womb, he knows the power of receiving a blessing, of living within it. Jesus will not cease to say blessed all his life.   In today’s gospel, according to Matthew, Jesus, having called 4 soon to be 12 disciples to teach the new ways of God, delivers his inaugural address, the Sermon of the Mount containing the Beatitudes. They reveal what Jesus is passionate about, a way of life, literally upside down in comparison to the Roman rule they lived under. Blessing the poor, meek, hungry, grieving and persecuted celebrates a spirituality of abundance in the face of a culture of scarcity. We are all poor in some way. If we are socially privileged, we are invited by God to know we are also spiritually poor, and to the extent we are aware of our need, our incompleteness, unworthiness, we create a space for growth and for deeper connection and relationships with God and each other. To know what you lack is as rich an experience as to know what you have. Both bring you into fuller communion with God and each other, increasing your capacity for compassion and solidarity.”

And let us remember that even though Jesus spoke His words over two-thousand years ago, they are still relevant today, yes, even more so. I read somewhere that when we read the Beatitudes, we need to remember that Jesus isn’t saying, “Blessed are those that “were” poor in spirit, “Blessed are those that used to mourn”, He is saying, We ARE still poor in spirit, we are still mourning. Blessed are WE that mourn.

During this time of Covid, that blessing really stood out to me: how we mourn the loss of our loved ones has certainly changed. But we also mourn our life as it was. WE have had to rethink and, at times, reinvent. WE mourn the loss of gathering as we once did. During this upcoming Holiday season- how different our gatherings will be. How we conduct our own Thanksgiving of serving the multitudes has changed. The loss of greeting one another with a hug, handshake or a kiss, the whole human connection is on hold right now and who knows when we will get it back. We mourn the loss of celebrations, from babies being born (no baby showers, etc) graduations, weddings. WE mourn the loss of jobs and the added worry of how we will make it through another month of bills, how we will put food on the table, how we will pay for medications, how we will be teachers to our children during online schooling. We mourn the loss of our loved ones that have had to die alone and have had to rethink how we gather, if we gather at all, to celebrate their lives and grieve. Rituals and celebrations marking moments in time. We mourn the loss of gathering for conversations and our connectedness. We mourn the loss of traveling freely, whether it be across town, state or out of the country. And, certainly we mourn the loss of how we used to worship.

Yes, this year has certainly made us rethink how we operate as humans, testing our wills. Yes, life is hard but we are blessed and not alone. We are given instruction on how to live during these difficult times! In Joshua 1:9 God says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Blessed are those that morn………………………Blessed are WE that mourn Today is All Saints and you were asked to reflect on your Saints, many of whom you deeply mourn their absence in your lives. Please lift up your photos of loved ones as we remember them and bless them. As we pray, say their names while Connie will play the chimes in the background.

Let us pray:  Father, we lift up before you our loved ones that have come home to you and washed by the blood of the lamb, to be made whole. And we Thank you, God, for the tremendous sacrifices made by those who have gone before us. Bless the memories of our saints, God. May we learn how to walk wisely from their examples of faith, dedication, worship, and love. Lead them beside still waters and let them take their rest in you. Even though we miss them and hold them in our hearts, we know that they are with you and prepare the way. And, Holy Father, we surround with your grace, love and Holy blessings, our Living Saints, we pray you continue to walk with them on their journey, on their Camino. AMEN!

Yes, we mourn our Saints that have departed and give thanksgiving for those still with us. And we are blessed in our mourning, never alone but always accompanied by God and, let’s be honest, one another. Starting with the Saints of old, Peter, Paul, Matthew and Mark, St. Athansius, Gregory the Great, Teresa of Avila, and so many more. When we gather for communion each Sunday- we eat the bread that becomes the body of Christ. We drink the wine that becomes the blood of Christ. And, we “do this in the remembrance of Jesus” with the whole body of Christ, ALL THE SAINTS, gathered at Christ’s table.

On this All Saints Sunday- we gather to remember our loved ones and others that have gone before us as well as our living saints, and it made me wonder, what types of things and rituals do we do to remember, to pay our respects, to hold on to our memories? We build altars, hang up photos, make favorite foods, burn incense and candles, lay flowers on graves, say prayers, sing songs. My father is buried up in Denver at Fort Logan. When I lived closer, I would visit as often as I could. I would take lunch – something I thought he would like. I would pick up a small cup of McDonalds coffee (his favorite), a bottle of Dasani water and a travel size bottle of Maker’s Mark (also his favorite). I would sit and have my lunch by his headstone and talk to him and his neighbors. It comforted me. Sometimes I would sing songs, not caring who else was around (poor souls!) Then, I would pray. I would pray for his soul as I poured the coffee in the ground, I would pray for forgiveness as I poured the whisky over his headstone and I would pray to let him know I had not forgotten him as I washed the headstone with the water. What do we need in those prayers to the departed? To let them know we haven’t forgotten them? To pray they remember us? To ask for forgiveness?

On this day of All Saints, as we remember our loved ones, let us also remember how we all started out, a babe in arms, perhaps baptized in this very fount. With the knowledge that Jesus is not only with us on Holy Days or when we take communion, but Jesus walks with us every single day of our lives. He is with us during the joys (birth of a baby) and the darkest days (the death of a loved one). As my favorite author- Barbara Brown Taylor puts it, “The moment we rose, dripping from the Holy water we joined the communion of saints, and we cannot go back anymore than we can give back our names or the blood in our veins”. Just last week we welcomed a child of God into the fold Emilla. She is beginning her journey as a Living Saint under the protection of our Lord and Savior- Jesus Christ.

And, who are the living Saints among us? What do they look like? They are all around us. The caretakers and caregivers; at home, hospital, hospice and even under the bridge. They are in the schools, the fire departments, the sanitation departments. They are the ones that hold together the fabric of our daily lives. They are the ones that are in the background, holding the church together during difficult times. They are the ones that have fed, organized and given their time to make sure others are not just fed but that they feel counted, loved. They are you and me.

Those that are walking on their Camino, their journey, be it an illness, mental illness, addictions; those that are struggling in any way, shape or form, standing at the precipice of light and dark. Know this does not define who you are, know that you are not alone. For it is never just about our own Camino, our own journey but for those that travel with us. For God has called us all to rise up and be the living saints. God is with each and every one of us, every step of the way.

I would like to take time here to speak of one of my living Saints. Although I don’t have a picture to hold up and show you- we all know what she looks- we all know her- some better than others. You see, it was 5 years ago this month that I spoke with Pastor Andrea for the first time in regards to volunteering for Thanksgiving and a few months later she took a chance on hiring me (a greenhorn) to help in the office. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit working through her, she managed to get me into church, become a member and become baptized in the Lutheran Faith. With her Faith, Grace and encouragement, she inspired me to fully awaken to God’s love and be open to what God has in store for me. If it were not for Pastor Andrea’s friendship and mentorship, chances are, I would not be embarking upon this new journey with God.If it were not for Pastor Andrea’s faith in me, I would not be standing before you today. And, I know that Andrea has touched the lives of many- all over the world. And, I also know that her journey is far from over because she has much work to do yet. So I give thanks for my Saint, my sister in Christ- Andrea, my friend and mentor. I give thanks and surround her with God’s love, blessings and powerful protection.

So, let us not forget our Saints, our loved ones but, also let us remember, as we carry them with us in our hearts and minds and the sadness of even the joyful memories start to envelope us, remember, THAT is when Jesus is carrying us through. Our hope in God is never wasted (Romans 5:5). He’s bringing a time with no more “winter”: a time with no more mourning or pain (Revelation 21:4). Until then, may we rest in Him, confessing, “My hope is in you” (Psalm 39:7). and remember that Blessed are WE! Amen.