A reflection by the Rev. Crystal Karr...
O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you, I will praise your name; for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. For you have made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin; the palace of aliens is a city no more, it will never be rebuilt. Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you. For you have been a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress, a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat. When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm, t he noise of aliens like heat in a dry place, you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds; the song of the ruthless was stilled.
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain. The Moabites shall be trodden down in their place as straw is trodden down in a dung-pit.
Many of us will be celebrating All Saints Sunday tomorrow. It is the day in which we honor our dead—the saints who have lived among us, fellow believers, teachers, leaders, and inspirations of faith. We share their stories, remembering how their faith touched our lives and helped us to go a bit farther along our faith walk. It is a time in which the scriptures take the form of flesh and blood as we tell the tales of grace lived out, love taking human form as we remember one of our beloveds who taught us how to live more like Christ—lending a hand, offering a shoulder to cry upon, practicing grace and forgiveness in the most difficult of circumstances. It is a day in which we practice resurrection as we reflect and remember, and are inspired to live out of the hope and love gifted to us by those who have passed on.
I love how on this day, the scriptures we read leave the page and jump into our lives. My Aunt Susie died last week. She’s not the average church woman, not a traditional pillar of faith by any means. She would rather sit in a bar smoking and drinking with the guys than spend any time in church at all. Yet, she taught me that believing in something didn’t mean a damn thing unless my life reflected what I believed. My rough spoken, hard living Aunt Susie taught me that the scriptures I study take on flesh and blood in this present life, and if they don’t, well then they don’t mean a damn thing.
Susie lived in my grandparents’ farmhouse on the outskirts of town along a bend in the road. Between the bend in the road and the steep drive rarely did anyone pull in to turn around or ask for directions. Yet one day as Susie was at the back of the house, someone knocked on the door. I nearly jumped out of my skin. I cautiously approached the door, having learned at school to be afraid of strangers. I looked through the glass to see a raggedy bearded man standing there. Just when I turned my head to call for Susie, she was standing there and barking at me to open the damned door. She invited him in; he wanted a glass of water. She sent me to get the water. He drank it and left.
“Did you know that guy?”
“Then why did you invite him in?”
“He might have been Jesus.”
Susie didn’t need someone in robes telling her what was proper. She didn’t want to hear about sinning and combating evil. She wanted and needed to live out the Gospel as best she could, without words but with deeds. I learned from her that day, that I need not be afraid of strangers, they might be Jesus. As I grew in faith, I discovered that Jesus, the Christ, a spark of divine, lives within each of us, every human being on the face of the planet. It is my job to recognize that spark and treat each one with the same love and compassion I would offer to Jesus.
Like my Aunt Susie, sometimes I do so masterfully while far too often I fail miserably. Yet, it was Aunt Susie who taught me that living out the Gospel is a must for my faith. If sitting in a pew on Sunday mornings is where it begins and ends it is worthless. I worship a God who promises to care for the poor, the needy, the distressed and thus this is part of what I do as well. I do not honor my God if I turn a blind eye to those in need; offer a cup of water to the Christ before me.
Too often Christianity is presented as a promise of life after death---as in Revelation 21:1-6:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.
We take courage and assurance with the promise that God will set all things right, that one day our tears and sorrows will be wiped away. However, that is not all of our Christian faith. If we look to another of today’s lectionary scriptures, Matthew 5:1-12 we find a blessing on those who are struggling, not just for their afterlife but for their life on earth. Throughout the New Testament Jesus says, “The Kingdom of God has come near.” The Kingdom of God is here and now if only we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear, and each day we have the opportunity to participate in making the Kingdom of God present in this life on earth. We have been invited to participate in creating God’s justice on earth. We have been invited to offer a cup of water to the Christ before us. We have been invited to make the scriptures put on flesh and blood. We have been invited to inspire and lead others who may be younger in the faith and encourage them upon their journey. Perhaps one day, they will be celebrating and resurrecting you through stories and remembrances of your life, your love, your faith that so embodied and made real the love and grace of God that it helped them to believe, to live as though their faith mattered and made a damn big difference.
May you be blessed to see, hear, and participate in the Kingdom of God this day and every day. Amen.