Wednesday, November 5, 2014

All Souls day. El Dia de los Muertos. There are days like this....


El dia de los muertos altar

All Souls Day. There are some days that start out normal and then just fall apart, bit by bit. No Stephen S at the church when I get there. So I’m running around to get set up. And then Jeremy’s substitute Adam arrives and hasn’t received the service email and I realize that it’s on my home, not work computer so I call Stephen W to bring the computer but there’s no answer. So it’s a fast cab round trip. And the computer won’t print and keeps flashing drum and people are ready for worship so we have to wing it with only my computer screen. Hard to keep calm, centered and present.

We sing a traditional hymn, Love Divine All Loves Excelling. Then begin with our scriptures. First  Psalm  34, with a response O taste and see that the Lord is good, Happy are those who take refuge in  him.. then we read Revelation 7: 9-17.
9After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10They cried out in a loud voice, saying, 
      Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb! 
11And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12singing, 
      Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom 
     and thanksgiving and honor 
     and power and might 
     be to our God forever and ever! Amen.
13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from? 14I said to him, Sir, you are the one that knows. Then he said to me, These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 
15  For this reason they are before the throne of God, 
          and worship him day and night within his temple, 
          and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 
16  They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; 
          the sun will not strike them, 
          nor any scorching heat; 
17  for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, 
          and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, 
     and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

We read Matthew 5: 1-12, the Beatitudes, as an affirmation, and I explain the difference between Matthew and Luke. How in Matthew Jesus is describing the crowds in the third person and then at the end switches to the second where he addresses the disciples.
Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

For such will be their life , our life, if we choose to follow him.

We’re at the  end of a three  day weekend .that starts with Halloween, in the Catholic tradition, rooted in the Jewish tradition, starting a holy day the nigh before…….the old sequence is Halloween,(All Hallow’s Evening), All Saints Day November 1st and All Souls Day on November 2nd.

So that makes today ALL SOULS DAY….and for our  Mexican brothers and sisters, el dia de los muertos…The day of the  dead..

What distinguishes these days?

1.     All saints… those already in heaven, those who have been lifted up by the church as saints, those who are saints but don’t necessarily have a day, those who should be and are not yet known
2.     All souls…those who are in purgatory, the rest of us…that’s why Mexicans use this day…to commune with, be in touch with  those who have gone before us.

Since Martin Luther,  these two days have been  combined, All saints/all souls…because we are ALL saints….in the  Episcopal and Lutheran tradition,  this has been a a day for lifting up names of those to be remembered.

Today we honor that tradition…and el dia de los muertos..

In Mexico, it’s celebrated with picnics  in the cemetery that treat death with a sense if humor.  In New Mexico, I remember the carts with the skeleton holding a bow and arrow. It spooked me out until I learned that the point is that you never know when the arrow will be pointed at you, so you must live your life now. Each moment as if it is your last. That I could affirm. Somehow it all goes back to Spanish culture with its passionate relationship with life and death. In communities where life is vulnerable, in places like high desert environments where life is fragile, it all makes sense to me.

Our text is from the Book of Revelation, which we read in its entirety last night.
The great multitude it describes are those who have come through the great ordeal…Though it is describing a particular moment of oppression under the Roman empire, w hat is sad is that it could be any age…, any day. Gaza, Mosul, Sudan….and African places not even in our awareness….

It is a promise of shelter…of no more hunger or thirst…of every tear wiped away…And it is the promise of Desmond Tutu, We have already won… and the African-American musical tradition…(see yesterday’s blog for a fuller discussion..)

When we gather for communion today, we will gather with brothers and sisters around the world and with everyone who has gone  before us, our ancestors in this place and all other places and times before us…and with that great crowd of witnesses in heaven. When we raise our voices, we raise with them. When we sing, we sing with them.  Amen.

Today, in our prayers, we lift up names of those who have gone before we want to have with us. I lift up my mentor and friend, the first pastor I ever worked with, Bill Wiseman. The best of what classic Presbyterianism was about. Who never stopped growing. And who allowed me to be me with him. And when  I moved on, picked up the work he had allowed me to do  because someone had to do it.

And when we have our Eucharist, we sing a traditional Holy, Holy, Holy. And our final hymn is the classic For All the Saints.

The service feels good, yet I am relieved when it is over.

After worship, someone I know from another church related context is back for a second time for confession. The first time he asked me if I heard confession, I said yes. And no. And yes. Not the traditional ritual. And I explained how I was a facilitator, not a mediator. That if he wanted the traditional ritual, which I value, I could direct him, refer him. But I don’t do that.

I listen. Reflect. Respond. I point out possible pathways to reconciliation. And we pray together. And it helps. Over the years, I’ve been asked for last rites. Exorcisms. And confession. I’ve learned to respond to what each one asks, to honor the tradition but be authentic to myself.

All Souls Day.

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