Full Order of Worship for the reflections below: Bulletin-11-06-2022 YC All Saints
Children’s Moment: Two puppets, an older grown-up one and a smaller two-sided puppet. The grown-up comes along and asks how the youngster is doing. One one side, all blue and sparkly, the puppet answers “Fine!” The grown up puppet responds, “Fine, you say? Tell me a little more…” So the younger one talks about seeing beautiful fall leaves in the garden, but then stumbles over where the garden is, exactly; the child then says, “Actually, I’m all mixed up. My grandma died.” Older puppet: “Oh, were those colored leaves you were describing in her garden?” Child puppet nods. “You say you are all mixed up. Do you mean your feelings inside?” Child puppet nods. Turning the child puppet over to reveal the other side, which is in dark multicolored hues, grown-up puppet continues after a moment of silence, “I can remember a time when I had all mixed up feelings inside. It was like I had a mix-mash of sad, mad, confused, and maybe some others. Do you think you have some of those?” Child puppet nods, “Yes, those and some others. She was always so nice to me. I want to be like her when I grow up.” Grown-up: “What an amazing thing! I have wanted to be like my grandmother, too.” She was very busy with many things, but always seemed to have time for me. Sometimes, I got to work in her garden with her, and I fed the birds.” Child: “I think she must be happy now with God. But why is it so hard and sad for me?” Grown-up: “That is a very good question. I imagine it is because in your own heart, you have always known that she loves you, but now she isn’t there to show or tell you. It sounds like you loved her, too.” Child nods; “Yes.” Grown-up: “Do you know, I think love keeps going, even when the ones we love aren’t there to show or tell us anymore. I think love is something we can hold onto in our hearts for all time. I still remember my grandmother; and her garden, and the birds. What do you think?” Child: “My grandma baked yummy cookies for when I was sad. Maybe I’ll ask Dad to bake some for us, to help us remember. He probably feels mixed-up sad, too.” Grown-up: “What a marvelous idea!”
Let us pray:
May the words of our mouths and the meditations of all our hearts guide our understanding, O Holy One. Nurture us we pray, as we grow into who you would fashion us to be. Amen.
Who are the saints that have accompanied you in the life of faith?
What makes them a “saint” in your eyes? Have you taken the next step to emulate them in your own life? Is anything standing in your way? I offer these questions for your reflection. Let me tell you a story or two.
One of my best friends and college roommates, Matthew Sailey from Myrtle Creek, Oregon, was a deeply spiritual person of dedicated Christian faith. Not to a specific denomination or church, but to Jesus in a very personal way. He has appeared in two of my dreams, both of which occurred after his death in the first year we were in graduate school together – he on the east coast for music theory, and me on the west coast for elementary education. In one of the two dreams in which he appeared, I asked, “What are you doing here?” He turned and looked directly at me and answered my question from beyond the grave, “I don’t know.” In that moment I had a sense we both knew he was dead, I was alive, and somehow through the veil between this worlds-realm and the next, in God’s mystery we were communicating. It was a moment I have treasured ever since.
Even to this day, I still do not grasp why or how we were able to speak to one another. But it was incredibly poignant to realize and have confirmed that there is something else beyond what we experience now in the flesh. That existence, like our own, is held within the mystery of God’s all-encompassing love.
Who are the saints that have accompanied you in the life of faith?
Why do I call Matthew a saint? Because his very life, before and after death, has affected my own. His light, his example, his friendship, his spirit have touched mine and in some way reminded me not only who I am but to Whom I belong. Somehow, in the Divine Mystery, we are both held in God’s eternal now.
My second story is perhaps more normal for most of us to experience: The passing of a beloved older member of the family. My grandmother, born just 49.1 miles west of here at the corner of 4th Street and Hwy. 101 when it was a gravel road, passed away in Salem at 96 in her graduating care apartment home with family present.
Unfortunately, I was away at the time, but her example, both in living fully and in struggling through her last couple of years of life, has also been a light and an example to me. She was tireless in her support of my grandfather’s work as a forester, in raising her family of three, and when younger, attending her mother’s church, First Presbyterian of Newport.
She met my grandfather in college chemistry lab here in Corvallis, and eventually married and followed him wherever his career path took him. Through it all she showed the strength of heart, mind, body, and spirit that flowed from our pioneering ancestry. They eventually settled in Roseburg, Oregon, and I was privileged to be able to spend weeks at a time as a child and youth drinking in their presence and stories, and fostering my love of working outdoors. In a sense, these ordinary saints contributed mightily to who I have become.
Now here is an amazing thing. Jesus is not ordinarily called a saint. But the way in which he enacted the love of God through his ministry, his acts of healing and compassion, his friendship and teaching echoes in a very real human sense, exactly what I just described through my own journey of faith and life. Only, the sphere of influence that Jesus exhibited rippled outwards in a much larger circle through ancient Judaism – and eventually sparked a spin-off faith of its own, which we know call Christianity. That is a powerful witness.
Each of us are heirs of ordinary saints – people either from within our families, or in cases of broken nuclear family relationships, from outside our families – heirs of saints who have led you through or to your faith. But that is not all. Each of us also has the potential – no, the gift – to become ordinary saints for those who will come after us. What kind of saint will you be? In the larger communal sense, what kind of witness will each of you, members of this particular community of worship and practice, become?
At today’s crossroads of faith and witness, worship and practice, you have the gift of re-imagining what you will become. Make the most of it friends, for who knows in the future who will look back and say, “Let me tell you a story about an ordinary saint…”
May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.