Chewing On the Word
All Saints, Cycle C-16
Immanuel Lutheran, Chicago
who walked with us,
[the candles we light is] is a prayer.
who have gone ahead,
this [All Saints day] is a blessing.
who touched and tended us,
who lingered with us
while they lived,
[these songs we sing are] a thanksgiving.
who journey still with us
in the shadows of awareness,
in the crevices of memory,
in the landscape of our dreams,
this [worship] is a benediction.
(Adapted from the Poem by Jan Richardson, “For Those Who Walked With Us.)
As you listen, and as you move through this week, who lingers close in your memory? Who walked with you in a way that inspired and made possible the path you travel? Remembering our ancestors in faith taught us that on days like these, the veil thins not only toward the past but also toward the future, how are you walking through this life in a way that brings honor and well-being to those who follow?
This day makes me mindful of my dad. My dad was born at home on a dairy farm in Sykeston, North Dakota in 1938. He was the third child and the oldest boy born to a family of nine children. Farm life made him frugal, self-reliant and good with any tool you can name. I was always proud of all the things he could do.
Dad was a world-traveler who had never ventured beyond the state lines of North Dakota before he was twenty. As professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University, he was a respected teacher and lecturer, but he never felt comfortable standing in front of a group. He was an enthusiastic conversationalist and somehow, also a man of few words. More than most people I know Dad lived what he believed. Our house was one of the first in Ft. Collins to have solar panels on the roof. He was cosmopolitan, but somehow still pleasantly unrefined.
We lost my dad suddenly in a hiking accident in June of 2006. Yet I am comforted today knowing he is with us now, among the company of all Saints who gather with us at the Table to feast on the body of Christ.
St. Paul writes, “And [God] has put all things under [Christ’s] feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:22-23) The Eucharist offers Christians the message in condensed form so we can struggle with it in a very concrete way. You cannot think about such a universal truth logically; you can only slowly digest it! “Eat it and know who you are,” St. Augustine said. Any good nutritionist will tell you, ‘You are what you drink and eat.’
Only slowly does the truth become believable. Finally the Body of Christ is not out there or over there; it’s in you—it’s here and now and everywhere. The goal then is to move beyond yourself and recognize that what’s true in you is true in all others too.
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. Slowly, little by little and sometimes, all at once, you and I are the second coming of Christ. We do God’s work with our hands. Together, we become a living sanctuary of hope and grace for others to take shelter and to grow with us in belonging to Christ.
“Participating in Christ allows you to know that “I don’t matter at all, and yet I matter intensely—at the same time!” That’s the ultimate therapeutic healing. I’m just a little grain of sand in this giant, giant universe. I’m going to pass in a little while like everyone else will. But I’m also a child of God. I’m connected radically, inherently, intrinsically to the Center and to everything else…You need never feel lonely again.” (Richard Rohr, Daily Meditation, You Are the Body of Christ, 10/28/16)
Belonging to God’s family brings both profound comfort and a radical challenge to be the Body of Christ in some small but real way. We heard Jesus tell us to turn the other cheek. Let them take our coat and even our shirt. Give to everyone who begs and don’t ask for your stuff back even after someone takes it. I suppose these are things we might do for those whom we love most dearly—for the closest members of our family or maybe for our best friends. (Luke 6:27-30)
Belonging to the Body of Christ means extending the circle of God’s generous, self-sacrificing love to include both our enemies and ourselves. We do this because it is the only way to bring peace between peoples and to restore the earth to proper balance. This is what salvation looks like. Jesus showed us the way to abundant life by walking to and through the cross.
In the faith-filled struggle to be born again as living members of the body of Christ we are joined today and every day with a great cloud of witnesses, including those whom we have loved and lost. Together in mystical communion, Christ Jesus is our rock, our fortress, and our might. The Lord is captain of the well-fought fight. (ELW # 422)
Take it in; chew on this. By our baptism and at the Eucharist, Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit invites you today to join the ranks of saints of every time and place. One holy and eternal majesty, one holy and incarnate Word, one holy and abiding spirit, one God of all, in with and under all that is dwells within you now and forever. Therefore go in peace and serve the Lord.