Feast of All Saints and Souls, November 2, 2014 Holy Wisdom Monastery
Revelations 7:9-17; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:;1-12 Patti La Cross
Today’s worship has so much to take in! Truly evocative selections from the scriptures, and much ritual to follow.
Did you get some lift, just following the image of a global, victorious, massed robed choir of praise singers? Did you sense that we briefly joined their ranks for Psalm 34?
Singing is one image of the kingdom of God that we find coming through the Epistles in descriptions of early gatherings of followers of Jesus’ Way. I imagine these first Christian gathering furtively, in one another’s homes
I picture them arriving anxiously, looking to see if they had been followed;
Checking to see that none of their group had been detained on the way.
What sweet relief to raise their voices; to focus their breath in praises the God of Jesus.
Is there greater companionship than singing to see us through?
One of the things that moved me deeply in reports of besieged Syrian communities in the early years of the war was to hear about nightly gatherings in the city of Homs. There residents met furtively to write and share songs of protest, satire, and hope. Many of these were posted to YouTube in 2011, 2012.
After a time, emboldened by the singing, these cells burst out and took their music to the street protests:
“It was a combination of both a physical and a psychological reaction. Singing and dancing are manifestations of what many Syrians describe as a much broader cultural flowering… In a country where people often considered themselves dour and habitually too cowed by an oppressive government to mock it, this is a major cultural shift.”
said a young actor, describing how he had cut loose at his very first demonstration in Damascus
“As a society, we were united by fear. We were never unified by mutual sentiment, “Now is the moment when the day and the night have met,” Mr. Muhammad said. “It is the beginning of life as human beings.” (New York Times interview)
From Syria to Africa and Haiti, through the Americas and from the Great March for Jobs and Freedom on Washington, to this space, music, like it’s counterpart, silence,
creates a space in which we meet God.
If you are one who has gathered to sing with someone facing death, you know the power of this. There can be no better prayer or sendoff, than to summon the best of past shared times, to be present when words fail, than to sing familiar songs – gentle or raucous- through tears or giggles.
We sing what we believe: that God is our safe home; that life is our gift;
that love is our birthright and our reason to live, to work, to witness, and to birth children.
Painfully and recently too often we sing to commend our loved ones into the fullest embrace of God’s Mercy.
The Beatitudes tell us not to avoid mourning nor those who mourn, because sitting with the mystery of death gives us access to God’s mercy in ways otherwise unfathomable.
Today we place ourselves and our beloved dead in that Communion of Saints bursting barriers of time and space, and We are One.
Whenever start a song to welcome, to calm our fears and one another, in gratitude for the lives and witness of those who precede us, to exclaim in awe for the moment, or for the planet, we are given courage to keep going and express our commitment to each other.
The Saints’ singing isn’t put off for some future, high heavens revelations image.
We sing God’s praise though we mourn, and as we fight for justice. We might quietly sing in consolation or boldly in the street, sweetly around a shared table in our own home, and in solidarities that cross the globe.
As our singing itself brings joy, so it helps birth the kingdom of God.
TODAY the Throngs in White, that glorious Communion, increases in number and joy as we baptize William into our faith community. Take a moment to ponder the pledge we each make when we assent to witness to and support him and his family on their way. We step up, not a cell of resisters in hiding, but a public and increasingly fearless assembly proclaiming our freedom and seeking our full humanity in Jesus Christ.
This week, consider using the Beatitudes with some familiar tune in your own prayer times. Make these simple reminders of where God dwells an accessible file in your prayer folder. Ponder them on your commute; paste them on the mirror in your home, to remember this:
God dwells fully with those whose poverty of spirit, whose loss and grief, whose public witness for justice makes them vulnerable and who cultivate mercy in their lives.
Let us stay close to those precious of God. If you don’t know where they dwell, take a moment of silence to get oriented. We have the Beatitudes as our coordinates, for your Mapquest or GPS. Stay alert in your search! God’s beloved are out there, and will help us find our Way to Jesus.
For right now, we sing our way to the Baptismal font and renew with William and his family and godparents this Journey we share. Peace be the Way!