I love that we’re never alone on All Saints' Day.
I love the way we fill this space with the names of saints known and unknown—those officially canonized and the unofficial ones too. This particular litany of saints moves me to tears. Something about remembering the Wesley brothers alongside Duke Ellington alongside Medgar Evers and Jonathan Daniels and Oscar Romero alongside people’s grandmothers is exquisite. We’re never alone on All Saints Day. We see and know the true meaning of being blessed as we name Felicity, Mary, Hugh Latimer, Martin Luther King, and grandma.
We are blessed.
How different and distinct this is from the boastful ego filled ways that we can instead say, “I’m blessed”.
I’m Blessed usually means I HAVE IT ALL together: money, power, privilege. I’m Blessed.
This is a far cry from those we lifted up as blessed in our litany today, a far cry from what Jesus names as a blessing in our Gospel appointed for today.
Jesus gives power to people that are usually powerless. He calls us to be together in our suffering instead of being alone and invisible . There is power in gathering, power in naming our pain, power in saying the names of those in the struggle. This Gospel called the Beatitudes has the tools we need to dismantle the empire.
Maybe we know this in small ways, but I am holding a curiosity—what would it be like to really open the door to this concept of blessedness?
Could we let ourselves off the gallows of our empire’s expectations just a little bit? Could we loosen the noose of the rope around our necks?
I like the way Eugene Peterson’s the paraphrase The Message spins the beatitudes—he writes, “Blessed are you at the end of your rope—with less of you, there’s more of God.”
A few weeks ago, a favorite living saint of mine, Dr Catherine Meeks said something that just blew my mind. Dr. Meeks is the Executive Director of the Absalom Jones Episcopal Center for Racial Healing in Atlanta Georgia. As an African American Woman who grew up in the Jim Crow South, she is teaching our church how to reckon with racism. Here’s what she said that was a real game changer for me: if the church wants to heal from racism, we have to stop trying to pretending like we have it all together, have all the answers and everything is perfect. We are not perfect, and it is a blessing to come to church broken.
Oh my God. Can we do that, church?
I wonder: What it be like for us as church to name and claim that we do not have to have it all together, that we do not have to come church and be perfect or look perfect. We can come to church and fall apart! We can even FAIL.
Maybe we need to fall apart because according to Jesus—that’s the blessing.
I was so encouraged last week when Alison Feigh was here that people last week named their elephants in the room-- so much pain, so much grief among us. I am so glad that all that pain came out. Why?
Because-- Blessed are those who mourn for theirs is the Kingdom of God.
Its time that we change our theology and practice, church.
You have it heard it said practice makes perfect but truly I tell you, Practice makes beautiful, church —practice gives light to our brokenness & beauty. We practice beauty together—not perfection.
Ever notice that scripture tells dark gruesome tales? Abraham almost slaughters Isaac. Joseph’s brothers are so JEALOUS that they sell him into slavery. Jesus dies on a cross. We don’t turn away from the pain & woundedness in our narrative-we reckon with it. Jesus reveals to us that facing our painful narrative helps us to live fully.
One of my favorite saints and theologians Julian of Norwich writes, “First the fall, then the recover from the fall and BOTH are the mercy of God.” BOTH are the Mercy of God.
We are invited to imperfect and not have it all together.
That’s who we are called to be, church: not perfect happy people. Leave that to the empire. Because the reality is living with that brutal way of violence of perfectionism leaves us utterly alone.
It is the opposite of good news. It is a tool of oppression and domination. Let’s stop living that way. Let’s stop pretending and being unreal. If we are free to question then we are free to be question the empire too I’m only blessed when I have it all together?
NO! WE’RE BLESSED TOGETHER in the mess in the struggle to be real. We are never alone on All Saints Day.
Blessed are you when you are a hot mess and can show up here and be real: with questions and tears and pain. Showing up here and being real means, we are never alone. We can be surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses in realms of the living and those beyond this realm as well.
Assembled people of God, beloved congregation of Ascension: Be who you are: if you are joyful, be joyful! If you are in pain, be pained. Cry if need be. Fall apart. Dance. I promise—we will help put you back together. You don’t have to be perfect. Offer questions and pain and authenticity and vulnerability in equal measure.
Choir: You do not have to be perfect either. Liturgy doesn't ask us to be perfect. Rather, Liturgy asks you to lead us. Lead us together in praising God. Lead us in song. Lead us in the communal act of joining our voices as one church, one united community, the Body in Christ. We need you to lead us and embody this deeper wisdom of liturgy. Any imperfections that arise are a result of showing up with humility, as our imperfect selves. What we view as imperfections can be transformed, through Liturgy, into moments of exquisite beauty.
Beloved ones of Christ: I won’t be perfect. I promise you this as your Rector, I will disappoint you. I will strive to do my best and when I don’t get it right, I will express regret or say, I’m sorry. I will take my sabbath seriously because if I don’t, I will be no earthly good to equip you for your ministry in this broken world. I promise to say my prayers daily and show up and be present and hold spiritual space for you. I will not be your friend, but I will love you as your priest. There is a difference and the covenant that I hold with you in this spiritual space. I will have a shelf life as your Rector--a beginning which is where are now, a middle and an end: I will do my utmost to discern where I am in the life of that call so that I do not overstay my welcome and so that I equip you, the saints, to do the work being of blessed. I will learn from all that you offer as the Body of Christ. What a blessing we are together.
We are never alone on All Saints Day.
We are Blessed together.
Thanks be to God for that! Amen.