My colleague and friend Stephanie tells the story of her first night at Harvard University as a student. She had this most incredible dream. In her vision, she saw before her ancestors from generations past standing in her dorm room with her— ancestors from Africa, slaves and share croppers standing with her, grandparents known and unknown cheering her on, reminding her to just keep going, to just. It was a vision that sustained her for years to come—a vision that she was not alone in her travails but surrounded by those who came before her and those that were yet to come.
Her vision was a window into what we call the communion of saints.
We say it every Sunday in our creed-- that we believe in the communion of saints. We cherish and honor that vision. What does that mean? What is the communion of saints?
I love this line we get in our collect today that we are knit together. Knit together. Knit together by God-- that is what it means to be a part of the church. We are a part of the very fabric of this Jesus movement. We are knit together beyond the span of time stretching back to generations and going forward to generations all of us connected, all of us knit together—bigger than our own families, a cross section of all tribes and languages and people and nations and orientations and genders. That is the communion of saints. That is vision we bring with us to this day. All humanity hangs out with us here in communion—those that came before us and those that are yet to come are here with us and we are knit together in Christ.
That’s the vision. That’s the communion of saints that dances in us and with us. Those are our ancestors. And we are invited to be one with them in this body, this movement, this church of ours. Knit together. Knit together with Martin Luther, knit together with Queen Elizabeth ( I and II!) knit together with Medgar Evers, knit together with Mary the mother of Christ and Grandparents and all those we love but see no longer and all those that will come after us.
That’s the vision we share as eternal beings that make our home in these human bodies right now. Today, we bring into our fold into that knit together fabric three new little ones that will drown in the waters of baptism with Christ and rise with him as well.
Every Sunday, when we give away the bread, we say the words, The Body of Christ the Bread of Heaven.
We are not only speaking of the bread that we give away—we are speaking the reality of who we are together. You beloved are the Body of Christ, you are the bread of heaven. YOU! US! That is who we are as the communion of saints. Would if all of us looked at every human being that we met everywhere in the world that way: Body of Christ. This is how we are called to be! This is what we are called to see!
One of the words that we use in our prayers quite often is the word, Remember. Re-member—is more than mere recollection or recall—it is the act of knitting ourselves back together into this body week in and week out.
And the reality Is we can only do that one way—by being here and being part of this community week in and week out. This is the gym of our souls and we exercise eternal habits that build up our body of Christ. We do that through communion and relationship and coffee and questions and doubts and living. It all starts by simply showing up.
Many years ago, when I was a new priest, I was accompanying a faithful soul by the name of Freda on her journey to dying. She told me one Sunday at the door, “The doctors say I have cancer, but I say I have the Lord.” She was not going to let cancer define her life. Instead love was going to get the final word.
That’s what we celebrate every Sunday—that deep unending love that is so much bigger than us as individuals.
Freda told me she wanted communion at her funeral because she said, she would be there on the other side of the veil receiving communion with us. That’s the communion of saints that we are knit into. That is the picture of the eternal we cherish—our energy goes on past this physical matter and we find that we are part of this knit together hodge podge of humanity that is so much bigger than we can imagine, so much richer, so much…
That’s the communion of saints, beloved.
We live in a divided culture right now that is defined by suspicion, fear and loneliness. Loneliness if you didn’t know beloved is at epidemic proportions right now. Studies show that 20 -30 years ago, Generation X (my generation) reported that they had 5-10 friends in their circle. Today, Gen Z reports that they have 1-2 friends if that in their circle. We live in a culture that is deeply deprived of diverse community and friendship. We anxiously ponder the political, racial, economic and cultural divide that we live with.
I can’t help but believe that the very medicine we need—the antidote to all that anxiety, suspicion and loneliness is the vision of being knit together into this communion of saints. Author James Joyce once said, the church (small c) catholic is simply this: here comes everyone!
Here comes everyone!
How do we invite people into a picture a vision an understanding that they are knit into the very fabric of a community? That they are part of something so much bigger and richer and deeper than the divided suspicious loneliness of our present age?
The vision we celebrate today is that death does not define us. Love does. That we are eternal beings called on a journey to walk each other home. And that home is rich and vibrant and is a communal picture of being knit into something so much bigger than just us alone.
The vision is: here comes everyone—that is the communion of saints that know cherish love and celebrate.