Kyrie Eleison 11-1-15
All Saints B-15
Immanuel Lutheran, Chicago
Last Monday I received an email update from our sister, Libby Shahata, about her volunteer work at Palestinian Lutheran schools. A dear colleague invited her to his home last Sunday for lunch with his wife, 17-year old son, daughter and son-in-law who were recently married. Libby writes, “We had a hilarious ride through Bethlehem back to my place to take me home — everyone piled in the car (6 adults in a little compact car) — with his 6-foot son sitting on his mom’s lap in the front seat with his head poking out the window. They sent me home with food for the week, apricot marmalade, and a promise that I would come to help pick olives with their family in a couple of weeks. Like everyone here, their land and their fruit trees are their pride and joy.
[I noticed] He wasn’t his usual jovial self today. This afternoon I said jokingly, “come on, Salameh! It’s only Monday!” He told me I wouldn’t believe what happened. He woke up this morning to find soldiers bulldozing their way through the 8000 square meters full of one hundred olive, almond, walnut and apricot trees behind his house — his land. He said for the first time ever (57 years old) — he was afraid for his life to approach Israeli soldiers. But he did. They simply said they had military orders to build a road and a wall there. Just like that. For security reasons. [Fortunately, the work that continued all week focused mostly on his neighbors land.]
Libby asked if he planned to file a complaint. He shrugged and said he called the Palestinian Authority and they asked what he wanted them to do. He said file a complaint. They said, sure, they’ll file a complaint. Like that and a token will get you a ride on the CTA. “And we’re expected to roll over and play dead or we’re accused of being terrorists,” he said, shrugging his shoulders again — but so obviously terribly pained. He left work early on Monday because he was afraid of what his son would do when he got home and found out. Lord have mercy.”
Kyrie eleison, “Lord have mercy,” could be the theme of worship for Christians around the world today. Today, at the feast of All Saints, we hear words of comfort and compassion to dry our tears and bind our wounds. Today’s readings refer to a mountain, food, wine, and a city. The good things of God’s creation will not be obliterated when God comes, but renewed. God comes down from heaven to make a home on earth with us. God will remove the heart of stone in us and replace it with a heart of flesh. Joined together with all the saints of God in Christ Jesus, we move from grief to joy, from scarcity to generosity, from fear to courage that transforms death into life.
Kyrie eleison, “Lord have mercy.” Our prayers go with our brother, Stephen Bouman who leaves tomorrow for a week-long trip to South Sudan where he will accompany Sudanese leaders as they break ground on a Lutheran Center in Juba, the capital city. With help from the Lutheran World Federation, they are launching the first Lutheran communion in that new, beleaguered country. Stephen writes, “The civil war there has put almost a million people into refugee camps, and over fifty thousand have been killed. There is a lull now, but prayers will be appreciated. Our delegation is a leadership cadre which includes both Dinka and Nuer tribal people (they were the combatants in civil war) and will be a “peace church.” (Stephen Bouman is Executive Director of the Congregational and Synodical Mission of the ELCA) (Stephen will share his experiences of this trip with us at a special presentation of the Forum on Sunday December 6th following worship.)
Kyrie eleison, “Lord have mercy.” Today, we light candles to remember the sacred dead in honor and recognition of the fact that they are a part of us, still. We light a candles as a prayer and a plea that our Lord’s kingdom may come on earth as it is in heaven. We light candles to kindle hope, faith and love in solidarity with all those suffering loss, pain, or injustice. We light candles in celebration of warring tribes making peace for themselves and their families by building a church together.
Kyrie eleison, “Lord have mercy.” Each of us a sinner and, at the same time, a forgiven saint, is gifted by grace to carry the healing power and likeness of God to all those in need. We are God’s children, called to confront the fear-mongering powers of darkness with the joyous light and glory of grace.
I think that’s why he did it. That’s why Jesus turned and set his face toward Jerusalem. That’s why Jesus returned to confront everything we seek to avoid. He confronted the threat of physical violence. He confronted the hostility of the religious community. He confronted those who had given up hope. He confronted the death of a close friend. He confronted death itself.
“Let us go to Judea again”, Jesus said. The disciples were astonished, “Rabbi,” they said, “the [Jewish authorities] were just now trying to stone you, are you going there again?” (John 11:7-8).
By the grace of God, Jesus accounts us as Saints even while we are still sinners. Jesus confronts our fear, our pride and condescension. Jesus confronts our greed and mindless consumption. Jesus confronts our capacity to empty other people of their God-given dignity in order to justify systems of injustice that privilege us. Jesus does not back down, but calls each of us out of the stinking graves of our sin. Jesus and all the saints call us from death into life through the waters of baptism.
Kyrie eleison, “Lord have mercy.” The story of poor Lazarus is the story of our own smelly rebirth as Saints of light. Lazarus was dead in the grave. Lazarus could do nothing for himself. He could nothing but receive the power of God to give him new life. Like Lazarus the call to faith is a call to die, so that God’s power might be manifested in giving us life.
Kyrie eleison, “Lord have mercy.” We lend our voices to the joyous song of all the angels who announce God’s rule from the heavenly places. Emerging from the tomb of our former lives, we journey with Jesus casting seeds of faith. God is with us. God, together with all the saints –God together with all our departed loved ones—join hands with us now as we turn to face the uncertain future with together. In “…ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown…not knowing where we go, but only that God’s hand is leading us and God’s love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Evening Vespers, LBW p. 153).