Wednesday, November 29, 2006

ADVENT 1, RCL texts for Dec. 3, 2006

December 3, 2006

Texts: Jeremiah 33:14-16, I Thess. 3:9-13, Luke 21:25-36
Title: Looking for a Sign

A few years ago on Thanksgiving weekend, my son David and I sat at the Kitchen table and listened to my Daddy talk about his experiences in Europe during WWII. He told us about an incident late in the war, when his company spent a night in an abandoned village. The squad had bedded down in a large, two-story house. The Lieutenant had posted guards in the doorways. About 3:00 AM the guard at the front door had walked away from his post, down a central hall to the back to get a light from the other guard. Just as he reached the kitchen, a shell exploded in the doorway where he had been standing 5 seconds before. Only 5 seconds between life and death.

Be On Guard! Jesus says, watch out, that “your hearts are not weighed down” with the “worries of this life, and THAT DAY catch you unexpectedly.” Like a trap, or a bomb.

What is THAT DAY? There is a great deal of speculation and debate about that question. Lutherans don’t dive into it too often, but many of our Protestant neighbors spend a lot of time and energy arguing between pre-trib and post-trib and pre-millennial and post-millennial and what dispensation are we in, etc, etc.
Preaching Professor Fred Craddock says that there is no need to get tied up in knots about when Jesus is coming back; that’s not the issue. The reality is,

“There will be an end to life as it now is, an end that comes as both judgement and redemption. Whether WE GO or HE COMES . . . .(life ends).

The question we face is not, when will Jesus come back?
The question is, how does the fact that none of us lives forever alter our behavior?

The Scriptures continually remind us that one day God will:
Execute justice and righteousness . . (Jeremiah)

And that we must:
Be on guard, so that your hearts are not weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and worry . . .Be alert at all times, praying that you may have strength . . to escape . .and to stand.” (Luke)

In short, we are called upon to take our God and ourselves seriously. We are called upon to recognize that life can be snuffed out in an instant and to live accordingly.

We are to BE ALERT, to stay awake, to watch out for signs of God’s activity in the world. This is a difficult thing to do in the midst of modern, secular, consumerist Christmas.

After 2000 years, we’ve sort of stopped looking for Christ to come, and we’ve settled for a pale, weak, neon lit imitation. We schedule office Christmas parties and celebrate family dinners. We buy presents for our husbands and wives and children and significant others. We decorate our homes with lights and trees and ornaments. We send out Greeting cards to people over the country and we hope that our sanity and our bank account will hold out until New Years.

The Church’s plea is that in the midst of all the Holiday Hoopla we will remember to look for Christ, to seek signs of his coming, to be alert for His presence “in, with and under” all the gifting and decorating and partying.

In our Gospel lesson, Jesus tells the parable of the fig tree. We live in a land where most of the trees die in winter and come back to life in the spring. In Palestine, the opposite is true. Most of the tress and scrubs there are evergreens. The fig tree is an exception; it alone dies in winter.

That is why it was so significant to Jesus. The fact that it died and came back to life was a symbol of faith. Even though it appeared to be dead; in the spring it sprouted new leave, proving that it had been not dead but dormant; gathering strength for a new explosion of life and fruitfulness.

Sometimes in the midst of our very modern, secular, materialistic world it’s hard to find signs of life in an old faith. Sometimes it feels like God is either dead or sleeping.

It is at such times that we need to remember the lesson of the fig tree; that it is in the middle of a world filled with physical and spiritual death that we must hold on most fiercely to God’s promise of hope and life and salvation. We must stare hard at the “dead wood,” seeking there some sign of life.

Seeing the signs of the times is a difficult task, and sometimes we see the signs, but think they are intended for someone else. A few years ago Readers Digest reported this true incident:

A man called the Maine Wildlife and Fisheries Department with a request that a DEER CROSSING sign on the road near his home be taken down. It seems that a large number of deer near his home had been killed at that crossing and the man felt that if the sign were taken down; THE DEER WOULD CROSS SOMEWHERE ELSE.

What is it Bill Engvald says?, “Here’s Your Sign.”

Advent is the time to watch for the signs of God’s presence in our lives. Once you start looking, the signs are not really that hard to see. Like the DEER CROSSING sign, they call upon us to slow down and look around, to proceed with eyes wide open to see what God has placed in front of us.

So as we enter this season of Advent, let me make a few modest suggestions, humble proposals:

Do you want to have the best Christmas ever?

Do you want to feel and experience Christ in a new and exciting way?

Do you want to wake up on December 25th renewed and full of joy and excitement at the Advent of our God?

Then, I suggest we try a few simple things:

1) Take five minutes every morning and make a Christmas list.
Not a list of things to buy, or things to do, or things you want; but a list of blessings in your life, a list of people you love and who love you in spite of yourself, a list of the signs of God’s presence in your life. After you’ve made your list, pray a prayer of thanks.

2) Take another 10 minutes and read a chapter of the Gospel of Mark. There are 21 days til Christmas and 16 chapters in Mark, so you should be able to finish it. By Christmas morning, you will e reminded of why Jesus came and of what he did for us. By Christmas morning, you will be ready to celebrate with thankfulness and praise the Coming of the Messiah, Emmanuel, God with us.

3) Pick out 5 names from your Christmas list. Pick out 5 people that you have almost lost touch with, 5 people you seldom see or speak to. Call them up or write them a personal letter or send them an email and tell them how much they mean to you and why. Thank them for being a sign of God’s presence and love in your life.

4) Perform a totally new act of charity this year. Reach out and surprise someone with the unexpected love of God. Give a part of yourself to someone in gratitude for the fact that Christ gave himself for you.

5) And finally, spend the last 5 minutes of every day asking God to come into your life in a fresh, new, unpredictable way this year.

But I must warn you to be careful. Watch out! God just might explode into your life at a time and in a way you would never expect!

Amen and amen.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Christ the King, Nov. 26, 2006

CHRIST THE KING Nov. 26, 2006
Texts: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14; Rev. 1:4b-8; John 18:33-37

In his book THE CANADIANS, Andrew Malcolm writes about Cecille Bechard. She is, “a Canadian who visits the United States several dozen times a day - - when she goes to the refrigerator or to the backdoor or to make tea, for instance. To read and sleep, she stays in Canada. And she eats there too, is she sits at the North end of her kitchen table.
Mrs. Bechard’s home is in (the province of ) Quebec and (the state of) Maine at the same time.” This is because her house was already there in 1842 when English and American diplomats sat down in London to create the official boundary line.

A citizen of one country who spends most of her time in another country, all the while staying in the same place. So it is for us as Christians. We are citizens of the United States of America. Most of our life is lived in the urgent NOW of eating and sleeping and working and playing. Most of our thinking is governed by the culture in which we live; indeed most of our opinions are shaped by being citizens and participants in the secular world.

But to be a religious person is to perceive another reality besides the one that is easily and readily apparent. To be a person of faith is to live in two worlds at the same time; to perceive the reality everyone else sees but also to see a reality which can only be seen with the eyes of faith.

Our Gospel lesson for today is the trial of Jesus before Pilate. It seems a bit strange, coming at this moment, jammed in between Thanksgiving and the Advent season run-up to Christmas. And Christ the King is a strange holy day in our modern world, in which Kings and Queens are marginal and somewhat comic figures. It is hard for us to understand what it means to call Christ a King. For us it is a difficult image because it does not evoke feelings of reverence or awe or obedience. It Justus sounds odd and antiquated.

The people of Jesus’ day had a different problem. They knew what a king was. The only Political and Social reality they knew was a world run by kings, all-powerful persons revered as gods and backed up by crushingly cruel armies. They knew what a king was.

And that was their problem. Jesus didn’t look much like a king to them, not to Pilate or to anyone else. When they looked at Jesus they didn’t see a person of power and authority; they saw a redneck carpenter who claimed to be some sort of rabbi. A man wandering around the country with no visible means of support and a bunch of loser friends.

But he had a certain charisma which inflamed the wrong sort of people, so the political and social leaders conspired with the Romans to have him executed, just to be on the safe side. And the Romans, for their part, saw no need to allow another rabble rouser to stir people up for no good reason.

So it was that he came to stand before Pilate, accused of being, of all things, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Pilate is a bit amused and annoyed by the whole thing. He can’t figure out why this guy is standing here, “What have you done?” he says. He also can’t figure out what Jesus’ answers mean. “So, you are a king. Or not. What are you talking about.”

The problem is that Pilate, and the social and political leaders of Judea, and most of the people who had been following Jesus around and listening to him preach, were aware of only one world, and Jesus was living in two. “My kingdom is not of THIS world,” he says, and in that moment he is like Mrs. Bechard, looking across her kitchen table to the “other country” where her refrigerator sits.

We are called to live each day in two worlds, two realities, two kingdoms. We cannot permanently retreat from the real world which surrounds us with its pain and suffering, its hunger and disease, its wars and violences of all shapes and sizes. We are called by God to imitate Christ and to put ourselves into the midst of the world’s need.

True story. Lutheran Chaplain in Vietnam. One night the Chaplain was in his tent when a young private came to see him. The private was newly arrived from the States and was scared , very scared, scared to death. The next day, he was going on patrol for the first time. And he was afraid to die.

He cried, he moaned, he cursed, he prayed. He wanted the Chaplain to give him a saint’s medal, a New Testament, some charm or talisman that would keep him safe. He wanted the chaplain to tell him a prayer to pray, a good deed to do, anything to keep from dying.

Finally the chaplain said,
“Look soldier, there’s nothing I can do to prevent you from getting killed on patrol tomorrow, there is no was I can promise you it won’t happen. There’s only one thing I can do. I’ll go with you

It’s important to know that Chaplains were not permitted to carry guns. And the North Vietnamese did not take American Chaplains prisoner; they executed them on the spot to demoralize American troops. He walked into the jungle unarmed and unprotected to be with the soldier in his fearful world.

That’s what Christ did for us, leaving that other kingdom to live with us in ours, unarmed and unprotected, sharing with us in our trials and temptations, our dangers and defeats. That’s why we use the Nicene Creed on this day. To remind us that “for us and for our salvation he came down from heaven.” And we are called to follow our King into that place of service and suffering.

We are called of God to struggle with the world we see all around us, to be active participants in making this world a better place for everyone. We are called to plunge into the secular now, the world, to get in it up to our necks.

But we are also called to look beyond the obvious to the real, to look past the daily to see the eternal, to look within the moment to see the mystery, to stare into the face of the truly human in order to perceive there the truly divine.
For we live in two worlds at the same time, and the trick is not to become so enamored of the one that we lose sight of the other. With Christ the King as our guide, we are called to see the hand of God moving in our midst, holding us up with divine love, pointing and gently nudging us in the direction of doing right, holding us back from danger and harm, filling the ordinary with mystery, so that like Daniel and the Psalmist and St. John the Divine, We may grab onto hope in the midst of desperate times! Amen and amen.

Peace, Delmo

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Pentecost 24, Nov. 19, 2006

PENTECOST 24 November 19, 2006
Texts: Daniel 12:1-3, Psalm 16, Hebrews 10:11-14, 19-25, Mark 13:1-8
Title: Faith in Something Bigger

Do you know who Morgan Wooten is? Morgan Wooten is one of the best High School Basketball coaches ever. In 50+ years at DeMatha High School in Hyattsville, MD, he was won about 1300 games and lost only a couple of hundred. More than 250 of his players have played college ball on scholarship, 12 of his former students have played in the NBA. When he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, he told this story:

His Grandson Nick, was asked in nursery school to name
his favorite sport.
Nick said, Baseball.
The teacher was surprised, Not basketball?
Nick said, I don’t know anybody who knows anything
about basketball.
Still a bit confused, the teacher said, But Nick, what
About your Grandfather Wooten?
Nick snorted and laughed. Oh no! Not him! I go to all
his and he NEVER gets to play!

Sometimes, we are like that about the presence of God in our lives. We see the game of life going on, and we think God knows nothing about it, or God cares nothing about it, or God can DO NOTHING about it, because, after all, we never see God get in the game.

Our Old Testament and Gospel lessons today are about the art of having faith in a world gone mad, they area bout seeing God’s steady hand in the midst of the wild whirlwind of life.

Each is an example of APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE. Many times, people misinterpret and misuse this material to make predictions about the future and to frighten people about the present.
APOCALYPTIC is intended to be a reassurance to us when we go through hard times and God seems so very far away.

Daniel was written at a time when the Jewish people and the Jewish faith were in a difficult position, a tough spot. They were being oppressed and persecuted, and they were asking serious questions about why was God doing this to us. Was God dead, or did he simply not care? The book of Daniel was written to give hope to nearly hopeless people, to give faith to a people who had almost lost touch with God.

The Apocalyptic section of Mark was written a number of years after the death of Jesus. It too was written to a people who were in a bit of a spot,
a community of faith which was being oppressed and persecuted. It too was written to give them hope and faith in God and the future.

I talked to a pastor friend recently who is in a bad space in her life. Her marriage fell apart, her best friend is dying of cancer, she’s having trouble getting a building program started in her church. Then last week, she found a lump; it could be cancer, she doesn’t know. AS we talked on the phone, she said to me:

I’m still preaching faith, I’m still believing faith.
I’m just not FEELING it.

For her, and for many of us, it’s hard to feel that God knows anything about the stressful game of life, as far as we can tell, God just sits of the bench and never gets in!

No wonder the disciples look at the magnificent and beautiful temple and get excited about it’s size and beauty. Here’s something you can bank on, they think. Here’s an institution that’s solid as a rock (pun intended). This monument to man’s ingenuity and power can assure us that we have things under control, that we are large and in charge.

Sometimes now when I’m watching a movie set in NY City, I’ll see the Twin Towers in the skyline shot. It’s a jarring moment. They were a symbol; of Beauty and Architectural and engineering ability and financial strength, and none of us could imagine anything happening to them; but something did, something awful and frightening.

All of us can remember where we were when it did. I was in the pastor’s office at Brook Hollow Baptist Church in Nashville. The secretary alerted us that something was going on and we scooted down the hall to the Youth Room and the big-screen TV. And watched the scene unfold in the surreal surroundings of mural-covered walls and a ping pong table.

The Disciples could not imagine the Temple being destroyed, but it was and only a few years after Jesus talked about it. They looked to the Temple for strength, and Jesus reminded them that the Temple was just a building.

Back in the late 50's, Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks did a skit on television called the 2000 year old man. Reiner played a newsman interviewing Brooks, playing the old man.

NEWSMAN: Well, did you always worship THE LORD in your village?
OLD MAN: No, at first we worshiped this guy in our village named Phil.
NEWSMAN: You worshiped a guy named Phil? Why?
OLD MAN: Well, he was bigger than us, and faster than us, and he was mean, and he could hurt you, break your arm or leg right in two; so we worshiped Phil.
NEWSMAN: I SEE. Did you have any prayers in this religion?
OLD MAN: Yeah. Want to hear one?
NEWSMAN: When did you stop worshiping Phil?
OLD MAN: Well one day we were having a religious festival. Phil was chasing us and we were praying (PLEASE PHIL NO! PLEASE PHIL NO!) AND SUDDENLY A THUNDERSTORM CAME UP AND A BOLT OF LIGHTENING STRUCK AND KILLED Phil. We all gathered around and stared at Phil for a while, then we realized:

That is the message of Apocalyptic literature: there is something bigger than Phil, bigger than the evil in our lives.

And that something bigger is God. That something bigger is Grace, that something bigger is Love, that something bigger is Faith, that something bigger is coming, that something bigger is coming soon, that something bigger and better awaits us in God’s tomorrow.

For God is in the game, very much in the way Morgan Wooten is in every game his players play. God is involved in the pain and suffering in our lives, God is bigger than those things which haunt and frighten us, God IS and that is enough, more than enough.

One of the most popular Thanksgiving hymns is Now Thank We All Our God LBW#534. It was written by a man named Martin Rinkhart in 1607.

Read (sing) with me the first line:

Now thank we all our God,
with hearts and souls and voices.
Who wondrous things has done,
in whom his world rejoices.
Who, from our mothers’ arms
has blest us on our way,
With countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.

As you contemplate those words, think about this:
that very year, 1607, more than 6000 people in Rinkhart’s
village and territory had died in an epidemic,
including Rinkhart’s wife and children.

Either Rinkhart was heartless and a bit crazy, or he was in touch with a deep sense of faith in the God of the future, the God whose promises are ever sure, the God who will awaken us and bring us safely into the heavenly places.

Amen and amen.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Pentecost 23, November 12, 2006

PENTECOST 23 November 12, 2006

Texts: I Kings 17:8-16, Psalm 146, Hebrews 9:24-28, Mark 12:38-44

Several Years ago, this story was on the Paul Harvey Radio program. The Butterball Turkey Company had established a “hotline for the holidays” for people to call in with their questions about preparing Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys.

One woman called in and asked,
"I have a turkey in my freezer that’s almost 20 years old. Is it still safe to eat?"

After a long pause, the hot-line operator said,
"IF, and this is a very important IF, if the turkey has been kept continuously frozen at or below 0 for the entire time, it will be safe. BUT, after all that time, it will also be tough and tasteless."

The caller replied,
"That’s what I thought, I’ll just give it to the church."

Too often, too many of us are guilty of a similar attitude toward our stewardship, giving God our leftovers and those things which we no longer want. Today, we have read Bible lessons about two widows, both of whom were poor, and both of whom were generous with what they had.

The Gospel lesson, the story we4 know as the widow’s mite, was a little tough on Pastors and other official church folk.

-Beware of scribes, who like to walk around in long robes
Well, I wear them during service, but I don’t walk around in them, much.

-and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces,
Okay, I do like it when people in grocery stores and restaurants call me Father or Reverend or Padre and treat me a little extra nice.

And to have the best seats in the synagogue -
well, I don’t know if it’s the best, but its bigger and its

And places of honor at banquets -
What can I say, I like to eat!

They devour widow’s houses and for the sake of
appearance say long prayers,
Okay, I’m clean on these two, I’ve never tricked a widow out of her house, and I’m infamous for short prayers, not long ones, so perhaps I’ve escaped the “greater condemnation” by a narrow margin.

Whenever we contemplate a biblical story, one of the most important things we can ask ourselves is, "With whom do I identify, who in this story feels like me?"

Of course, none of us would like to think we’re like the scribes, making a big, loud public display of our religion; in particular, none of us wants to look like a hypocrite.

And we all want to believe that we’re like the widow, doing all we can with what little we have. Most of us, most of the time, hear the Widow’s Mite story and think it means something like this:
"See, it’s not HOW MUCH you give that matters, it’s the spirit with which you give that counts. A little bit is just as important as a lot."

That is true, as far as it goes. But most of us miss an important point here, Jesus did not say that the widow gave all she could afford; Jesus said she gave all she had.

Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. Far all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.

Truth be told, most of us, myself included, most of the time, give out of our abundance.

We give what we think we can afford to give without seriously affecting our standard of living.

What Jesus points to in the widow is another thing entirely; her total commitment of everything she has, all her resources, “all she had to live on” to the Kingdom of God.

At root, this story is not so much about giving and generosity as it is about TRUST IN GOD.

That is why the Hebrew story of Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath is read with the story of the Widow’s Mite in the appointed readings for today.

These two stories are not only about widows,
they are about putting your complete trust in God.

The Widow of Zarephath also gave all she had. She shared with the Prophet of the LORD the last of her food in a time of famine. Yet, when she did, she discovered she had enough,enough at least to keep going, day by day; the jar of meal and the jug of oil having in them each day enough for that day’s needs.

This is the way God operates. This is the way God provides for God’s people. Remember the manna from Heaven, the bread upon the ground provided to the Israelites as the went from Egypt to the Promised Land?

If they took more than they needed for the day, the extra would rot before the next morning. It was a lesson in trusting God to provide each day’s needs.

What Jesus notices and comments upon with the Widow is not the size of her gift, but the fact that she gave her all, trusting that God would provide for the next day.

This is the Biblical Principle of God’s economy, this is the way God always works.

God’s promise if not:
If you return to me a tithe, I will make you rich.

God’s promise is:
If you commit to me your all, I will provide for your needs.

These stories are not so much about finances as they are about the relationship of trust we are called upon to have with God. We are called to abandon all and cling to Christ and the Cross. And, we must admit, this is hard for us, we like to hedge our bets, hold a little something back, play it safe.

A couple of years ago, a college student went into a camera store to have a picture enlarged. It was a framed 8x10 of the young man and his girlfriend. When the clerk took the picture out of the frame, he read the writing on the back:

My dearest Tommy, I love you with all my heart. I love
you more and more each day. I will love you forever and
ever. I am yours for all eternity. With all my love, Diane
PS - If we ever break up, I want this picture back!

Our Bible stories today call us toward making a complete and total commitment of ourselves to Christ and the Kingdom of God. We are called upon to make all that we are and all that we have available to the work of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ into all the World.

And the Gospel, the Good News, for us today is that we can make that leap, that commitment, with full confidence in God’s promise to provide our every need, from here to eternity.

Amen and amen.

Friday, November 03, 2006

All Saints Sunday

Isaiah 25:6-9, Psalm 24, Revelation 21:1-6, John 11:32-44

Well, as you may have guessed after my last post, things went very badly very quickly for Jean Hollowell, my mother-in-law. She died on Monday afternoon, Oct. 23.
Her funeral was last Thursday, which is why I didn't post last week.


I have in my thirty years as a pastor lost count of the number of funerals I have conducted, probably in the range of three or four hundred. And at every one I have assured the family of the promise of the resurrection, I have preached it, I have counseled it, I have prayed it, I have believed it.

Three years ago, when my Daddy died, I walked up to the coffin and saw him there, waxy and still, cold and formally attired in white shirt, tie and dark suit; and I
stood there a moment and all I could think was "I sure hope it's true, this resurrection business I've been preaching all these years. I really hope it's true."

That's where I found myself again last week, hoping it is true. There is a vast difference when the "dear departed" is one of your own, connected with you through blood or marriage or other deep commitments in ways that mean "until death do us part" to a degree the law can't impose or disentangle.

What I knew in the moments that I stood before those coffins, knew for a hard, cold fact, was that my Daddy was dead, my wife's mother was dead. Their bodies have ceased functioning. They will be encased in the ground to slowly, oh so slowly, rot away, and I will never see them again. These are the facts. The hard, cold, empirical facts.

The hope of the Gospel is that God has somehow reversed that, temporarily with Lazarus, permanently with Jesus, and, so the story goes, permanently with all of us.
And I believe that promise. I don't know what it means, I don't know how it works, I can't hold forth on what a resurrection body will be made of, or what the streets of heaven are paved with, but I believe the promise that beyond this life, there is another existence with God, and that the way to that existence has been cleared by Christ.

In the meantime, the life of faith is lived in that space, that emotional space, before the coffin of a loved one. We carry on between what we know and what we hope; poised between the cold hard facts of death and the bright shining promise of eternal life. We live out our trust in God in the ambiguous territory between what can be proven and what can be believed. All the most important words: freedom, love, compassion, sacrifice; are no more provable than resurrection. In a purely rational world, none of them make sense.

So we carry on, each day creating a faithful balance between what we know and what we hope. We know people die, we hope in the Resurrection; we know people sin, we hope for redemption; we know people get sick, we hope for healing; we know the world teeters on the edge of destruction, we hope for a new heaven and a new earth. Amen.
peace, Delmo

Here's the sermon I came up with, it reflects none of the above explicitly.


TEXTS: Isaiah 25:6-9, Psalm 24, Revelation 21:1-6a, John 11:32-44


Today is All Saints Sunday. An interesting Holy Day on the Church’s Calendar. It is the Christian equivalent of the Ancient Greek “Altar to an Unknown God” to which Paul referred in Acts.

The Greeks had altars to 100's of gods. They were afraid they might have left one out, so they built an altar to an “Unknown God” just to make sure they didn’t make some minor, obscure god mad, and thus get punished for failing to worship a god they didn’t know about.

In the early days of the church, people began to remember those who had been especially devout and holy and who had died as martyrs for the faith as “Saints,” persons already in heaven and able to hear prayers and help out those still living.

By medieval times, the church calendar was filled with Saint’s Days honoring all the offici8al Saints of the Church. And ALL Saints Day was an attempt to cover their bets, like the ancient Greeks, by giving a day to ALL SAINTS, to make sure no one was left out.

After the Reformation, the Protestant Churches (the Lutherans, the Church of England, the Reformed, The Presbyterians, etc) changed it to a remembrance and celebration of all Christians, ALL SAINTS, past, present, and future with whom we share communion in the universal, “catholic” church. It is especially a day to remember those in the local parish who have died in the last year.

For me, All Saints is a reminder that; as important as the future is; and as all consuming as present problems can be; the past is important too. In many important ways, William Faulkner was right when he said, ”The past is not dead. It is not even past.” Or as Dr. Bernard Boyd said in New Testament Class at UNC,
“Christianity and Judaism acknowledge the ISNESS of the WAS.”

I am an acknowledged Luddite. Technology befuddles me. I still carry a fountain pen, my watch has a dial with numbers and a big hand and a little hand. I can’t program a VCR or anything else. To me, a computer is a fancy typewriter and I treat it like one. Often times even simple technology defeats me.

For instance, passenger-side rear-view mirrors. I am sure someone will explain this to me after service, but for the life of me I can’t figure out why they put mirrors there designed to deceive us.

It happened again last week. I was rushing up and down I-40, three limes last week, shuttling between here and Goldsboro. I looked in the outside mirror, plenty of room to move into the right lane. I slide over, horns blare, brakes screech, and I glance back over my right shoulder. Even with my rear bumper in the right lane. Looking in the mirror, it seemed far behind me.

Then I read the fine print, the fateful words. Objects in mirror are closer than they appear. Why do they do that? I fumed.

Since I am stumped by technology I, of course, could not come up with an answer, so I commenced thinking about thinks I do understand, philosophy and theology and such.

“Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”
“The Past is not dead, it is not even past.”
“The ISNESS of the WAS.”

A few years ago, I went to my 30 year High School reunion. There I ran into my old running-around-with buddy. Red.Our lives took different paths after High School. We hadn’t seen each other in 25 or thirty years. He was drunk, he is a drunk. He’s divorced after many years, his wife got everything, etc. etc.
He put his arm on my shoulder and cursed God and said, What kind of God makes old men pay for young men’s mistakes? He was still living with his past, all of it, and was unwilling to let God redeem it or heal it. Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.

On All Saints Day, we celebrate the positive side of this truth.

In Spirit, we are as close to the Cross as the Disciples.

In Faith, we are as connected to Jesus as his friends.

In Christ, we are as much a part of the Resurrection as Mary and Martha and Peter and John.

Christianity is an historic religion, rooted in a true story that happened at a particular time in a particular place involving a real Jesus who suffered real torment and died a real death on a real cross.

But Christianity is not just History, it is not yesterday’s news. The Study of Scripture is not the study of Ancient Wisemen in order to learn the wisdom of the past and apply it to the problems of the present. It is partially that, but it is so much more. Christ and the Cross transcend time and place in such a way that when the Bible is read in the midst of believers, Jesus is here speaking to us.

When we celebrate the Sacrament of the Altar, participate in the Eucharistic Assembly, receive the Bread and Wine as his Body and Blood, Christ is really present here with us, and we are really present in the Upper Room at the Last Supper and at the Mountaintop feast where every tear is wiped away and death is swallowed up. We are in Old Palestine and the New Heaven, all at the same time.

Objects in Mirror are closer than they appear.

The Christ of the past is not dead, he is not even past.

He lives, and because he lives, Ray and Jean and May all the Saints live also,

“And he will destroy on this mountain,
The shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations,
he will swallow up death forever.”

Amen and amen.