Millions of children will flood the streets of our neighborhoods across the country today. It is this strange moment when we have collectively agreed that it is OK for perfect strangers to knock on our doors in masks, yell at us, demand candy, and walk away. That is one way to do community.
This morning I am less interested in this Americanized, commercialized ritual and more interested in the reason this evening’s ritual began (at least in the Christian tradition). It is the night before All Saint’s Day. It is All Hallow’s Eve. It is the evening that we remember our dearly departed and those who have passed down the faith to us.
This weekend I will preach the third and final sermon in the three-week mini-series on Worship nestled in A Deep Life. Since it is All Saints Day weekend, we have entitled the sermon “Worship Handed Down.” Here is the mind-map I created this morning to think about the sermon.
We have learned so far in this series that worship is 1. A Communal Practice (see this post) and 2. Centered on Word and Sacrament (see this post). This week we learn that worship transcends time and space.
There are three key texts:
The first text is Deuteronomy 6:4-9. This is known by the Jewish tradition as the Shema. Shema is the Hebrew word that means hear or listen. Moses is about to die and he warns the second generation of freed slaves to listen to God’s Word if they want to survive in the new world. The way they are to listen is to pass God’s Word on to their children by infusing it into every aspect of their lives, in both word and action. More is caught by children than taught to children. Our actions speak louder than our words.
The second text is 2 Timothy 1:2-9. It is a message from Paul to his protege, Timothy. Paul reminds Timothy that his faith has been handed down to him by his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. Here we see the power of family and mentors in shaping the next generation.
Finally, we see the elderly prophetess, Anna, in Luke 2:36-38 eagerly watching and waiting for Israel’s redemption—The Messiah—to arrive. How many hours have our grandparents prayed for us, hoping the Gospel would come alive in our lives.
I can’t help but think about the beautiful experience I had this past weekend as we witnessed the Confirmation of over eighty students spread over three services. Each student came forward and kneeled while parents, family, mentors, and friends gathered around them to lay hands on them and offer a blessing. This is a beautiful picture of what All Saints’ Day is all about. Each of us comes to worship to kneel before God and be surrounded by generations of those who have gone before us, centered on Word and Sacrament, to be the community of God.
Once again, Richard Rohr’s daily meditation provided a nice supplement to this study. He spoke of how we find God’s love in the face of the other. We need others, especially our parents, to bring us into the worship of God. Read the full article here. He says:
When God eases us out of God’s heart into the earthly plane, God searches for the place that is most like paradise, and it’s the mother’s gaze. In the mother’s gaze, she transparently sacramentalizes God’s infinite gaze of love, looking into the eyes of the infant. And when the infant looks into her eyes it is looking into God’s eyes, incarnate as her loving eyes.
Thank you to all the generations who have provided God’s loving gaze for us. May we continue to walk in God’s love so that the world can be healed.
In the wake of this past weekend’s horrific violence against our Jewish neighbors, it is important to note how incredibly Jewish our root structure is. We claim God’s promise to Abraham (shared by Jews and Muslims). We are equally rooted in the Shema and strive to love the LORD with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. We follow a Jewish rabbi who did not come to abolish Moses’ Law, but to fulfill it and remind the world to continue to Love God and Love Neighbor.
We grieve with the Jewish community and join hands in solidarity against hatred and violence. May we all gaze into the eyes of our mother and see the eyes of God…together.