Tired of Waiting – Mark 13.24-37 & Isaiah 64.1-9

November 30, 2014 – 1st Sunday of Advent

This past week in response to the Ferguson, Missouri grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown, I’ve been seeing a portion of Langston Hughes’ poem “Tired” show up in a lot of places.

I am so tired of waiting,
Aren’t you,
For the world to become good
And beautiful and kind?1

Advent is a season of waiting. We say that every year. It is a season of looking back and celebrating the birth of Jesus. It’s a season of remembering the wait for a baby to be born and the longings of people who waited for the Messiah—the Promised One—to enter the world.

Advent is a season of waiting in the other direction—looking ahead and waiting for the desires of God, for all the things Jesus told us about the reign of God, to be realized, to be made a reality not just here and there but everywhere for all people in every time and for all of creation.

“There is a longing in our hearts for justice, for freedom, for mercy.”2

That’s what we wait for in Advent.

But this week, don’t you want to say “enough with the waiting! We are tired of waiting!”? We don’t want to wait any more for justice, freedom and mercy. With Isaiah don’t you want to cry out, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down!” Come down and make things right with your justice, your freedom and your mercy! We don’t want any more unarmed black men and 12-year old boys to be killed by police officers. We don’t want any more mothers and fathers to worry about whether their children are going to come home. We don’t want people of color to feel any more, as New York Times columnist Charles Blow wrote this week, “the unsettling sense that they are under siege from all sides.”3

The early Christian community in which Mark’s gospel takes its form was a community that also felt under siege. The end-of-the-world, apocalyptic writing in the thirteenth chapter gives us a clue about that. “Apocalyptic literature is found cross-culturally among…groups that are persecuted and groups that perceive themselves to be fully disenfranchised, with no hope of affecting their future…Apocalyptic writing [like we hear in Mark 13] serves to encourage the group to which it is addressed. It urges steadfastness in the face of persecution, assures the reader of heavenly control over what appears to be a chaotic world, and offers the promise that, with the momentous entry of the divine into human history, the righteous will be rewarded and the wicked punished.”4 The community in Mark’s gospel was tired and they were weary waiting for Jesus to return as he said he would.

In this season of Advent, there is a longing in our hearts for wisdom, for courage, for comfort.5

It is an old longing.

As we have said before that Advent is a season of waiting, we have also said it is not a passive waiting. It is not watching the clock, tapping your foot, looking endlessly up and down the street for the arrival.

Advent is a season of getting ready, of preparing for the reign of God.

There has been a tiny little movement among some liturgical people for Advent to be longer than just four weeks. In a lot of ways, in the church Advent can feel like a late-coming getting-ready-for-Christmas. By the time our decorations are up and we are starting to sing the familiar carols, every where else around us has been blasting CHRISTMAS! for weeks.

Originally, as the Christian year found its form, Advent was seven weeks long. Originally, its focus was more on the coming reign of God than on the birth of Jesus. A few years ago Mark and I, after both reading about observing a longer Advent, started Advent two weeks early for a total of six weeks of Advent. It was weird—primarily because everything in the church is oriented for four weeks of Advent—and after we did it we decided we wouldn’t do it again.

But this year we’ve had a bit of an early start on Advent from the parables we’ve been preaching from in Matthew’s gospel. They’ve been about waiting. Waiting and preparing. Getting ready. The parable of the bridesmaids in Matthew 25: five of whom let their lamps run out of oil, five of whom kept their lamps filled with oil, so that when the bridegroom eventually arrived, half of them were left in the dark and half of them were prepared for the wedding feast. And Mark reminded us in his sermon on this parable that the wedding feast is an image the bible uses to describe the coming reign of God.

Or the parable of the owner who leaves his treasure to his servants while he takes a long journey. When he returns the servants who have carried on their owner’s work and done something productive with the treasure are rewarded, the servant who has only buried the treasure in the ground is castigated.

Both those parables are about preparing, keeping awake, paying attention, being watchful. There’s even a tiny one verse parable in this reading from Mark that reminds us of the parable from Matthew’s gospel. “It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his [servants] in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.” [13.34] “Each with his work.” The period of waiting while the man is away is not idle waiting, it is a time of continuing to work—faithfully and diligently.

The Langston Hughes poem that I started with has four more lines.

I am so tired of waiting,
Aren’t you,
For the world to become good
And beautiful and kind?

Let us take a knife
And cut the world in two-
And see what worms are eating
At the rind.6

It is not just hopeless waiting as we long for the world to become good and beautiful and kind. As we long for the fig tree to blossom and bear fruit as Mark writes. As we long for God’s reign to be made fully know. There is work that must be done in the season of Advent—and through all the Christian year—to figure out what keeps the world hurting and diseased and to do all we can to root it out.

Also floating around this week following the Ferguson grand jury decision has been Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s quote, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” He said that in his 1968 speech “The Other America”—highlighting two Americas; one where there was opportunity and propensity and all that was needed for minds and spirits to grow. In the other America opportunity was not forthcoming, education was substandard, unemployment and underemployment was the norm. This was an America where “the buoyancy of hope” was transformed “into the fatigue of despair.” And so Dr. King says,

“I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the…poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”7

I only left out one word in that quote and it sounds as if it could have been written this week.

Charles Blow, in his column two days after the announcement that there would be no indictment, wrote,

“The reaction [of the black community] was about faith in fundamental fairness. It was about whether a population of people with an already tenuous relationship with the justice system—a system not established to recognize them, a system used for generations to deny and subjugate them, a system still rife with imbalances toward them—would have their fragile and fraying faith in that system further shredded.”8

That is one of the worms Langston Hughes knew was eating at the rind of the world—an unjust system where the constitutional right to equal protection under the law is denied.9

I was encouraged on Tuesday night when several hundred people gathered at 7th and Jefferson to say loudly that Black Lives Matter and then we marched peacefully through downtown all the while shouting out for justice. There were lots and lots of young people—black and white young people—who were part of the march. Perhaps that’s a little bit of the world that’s good and beautiful and kind. A beginning of the flowering of the fig tree. A little bit of the world where the reign of God is breaking in.

The New York Times had an article yesterday about St. Louis County police lieutenant Jerry Lohr. Lohr, a white officer, oversees security at the Ferguson police station. “He never wears riot gear, even when he wades into a group of protesters to answer questions, resolve disputes or listen to a stream of insults.”10 Those who have been in the streets protesting know him by name and ask for him when they want to make a complaint about how the police have treated them. Quoted in the article, Lieutenant Lohr says, “Allowing people to talk on a one-on-one level does a lot as far as building bridges. They may not agree with what I’m doing, but now they at least know my name and my face. I’m human again.”11 And reading the article it is clear that Lieutenant Lohr knows the names and faces of the protesters and they are human again.

Perhaps that’s a little bit of the world that’s good and beautiful and kind. A beginning of the flowering of the fig tree. A little bit of the world where the reign of God is breaking in.

In this Advent season there is a longing in our hearts for healing, for wholeness, for new life.12

Justice, freedom, mercy, wisdom, courage, comfort, healing, wholeness, new life…are all characteristics of the reign of God. All part of the work that is to be done as we prepare for the fullness of God’s reign—which will requires more than just four weeks..

There are lots of places where this work needs doing. Including in communities of White people. Columnist and activist Sally Kohn wrote yesterday that we who are White need to “scrutinize what race means in our society today—how implicit bias shapes everything from our neighborhoods to our economy to who gets to live and who gets to die when they’re doing nothing else but holding a toy…We don’t have a choice about which side of that equation we’re born on, but we do have a choice about whether we acknowledge the reality of bias and talk honestly—together—about solutions.”13

I don’t know if that is part of your longing in Advent but I pray it will become a longing in all of us. A longing that brings us closer to the justice, freedom, mercy, wisdom, courage, comfort, healing, wholeness, and new life in the reign of God for which we are preparing.

* * *
1  Found in Jonathan Scott, Socialist Joy in the Writing of Langston Hughes, (Columbia, University of Missouri Press, 2006), 219. I saw the poem fragment on facebook and on a sign at Louisville’s “Black Lives Matter” march.
2 Hymn text by Anne Quigley, “There is a Longing in Our Hearts,” (c) 1992, Anne Quigley.
3 http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/27/opinion/charles-blow-fury-after-ferguson.html, accessed 29 November 2014.
4 “Apocalyptic” in The Access Bible, Gail R. O’Day and David Petersen, eds., (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), New Testament 72.
5 Quigley.
6 Scott.
7  “The Other America,” Grosse Point High School, Michigan, March 4, 1968, http://www.gphistorical.org/mlk/mlkspeech/, accessed November 29, 2014.
8  Charles Blow, “Fury after Ferguson,” New York Times, November 26, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/27/opinion/charles-blow-fury-after-ferguson.html, accessed November 29, 2014.
9 My friend Scott Clark posted this on his Facebook feed on November 25, 2014: “I’ve noticed several commentators invoking “the rule of law,” as if saying that phrase should silence disagreement with the Ferguson grand jury’s inaction. It’s important to remember, though, that the “rule of law” includes the constitutional right to equal protection under the law. It includes the right not to be deprived of life and liberty without due process of law. It includes the right to speak in opposition to the unjust decisions and actions of public officials (including grand juries and police officers). If we are serious about the rule of law, we will work to fix a legal and law- enforcement system that is failing young men like Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin and their families. They deserve so much better than this. #blacklivesmatter”
The Courier-Journal ran an article on November 18, 2014 that noted blacks are arrested at a higher rate than white in Louisville.http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/2014/11/18/study-black-arrest-rate-higher-across-region/19249311/
10  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/28/us/officer-defused-eruptions-as-crowds-grew-volatile.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C{%221%22%3A%22RI%3A7%22}, accessed November 28, 2014.
11 Ibid.
12 Quigley.
13  http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/11/28/what-white-people-need-to-know-and-do-after-ferguson/, accessed November 29, 2014.

The Greatest Risk of All – Matthew 25.14-30

November 16, 2014 – 23rd Sunday after Pentecost.

Remember that this is a parable. And parables have many meanings. And, because it is a parable, we are going to hold that meaning loosely because it is not the only way to understand the parable.

This is the third in a series of parables Jesus tells about how to live when the time of his return is unknown. In Matthew’s gospel, Matthew is telling stories about Jesus—who, by the time the gospel was written, has already ascended into heaven, and the early Christians are wondering when Jesus is going to return. So these parables of Jesus are told to help the early Christians get through this time when they thought Jesus would be returning but that hasn’t happened.

Today, for many of us, this is not a particularly motivating theological concept. Maybe another way to think about Jesus’ return is: when will the world be as God intends it? When, as the book of Habbakuk says, will the earth be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea? [Hab 2.14] When will what we long and pray for—God’s justice and joy, love and peace—be a reality? Not just in fits and starts but in all times and all places? Paul says “now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we shall see face to face.” [1 Cor 13.12] When will that be?

Those early Christians had similar longings, only they were located more directly in the person of Jesus because that is who they had most recently known and in whose life and actions they had seen the presence of God’s justice and joy, God’s love and peace.

So in that time of waiting—for the fulfillment of all that Jesus embodied—what were they to do? Get back to life as usual as if Jesus hadn’t ever shown up? Gather with others on a mountain top and wait for the return? Or something else?

The question is the same for us. In this in-between time when the world is not yet as God intends for it to be, what are we to do?

In the parable, a man goes on a journey for a long time. Before he leaves, he entrusts his wealth to three of his servants. He leaves them with eight valuable coins—the NRSV calls them “talents.” A talent as it’s used in Matthew’s gospel is a hunk of money; about the salary a laborer would earn in fifteen years of working. What he entrusts to them is the total earnings of a laborer for about one hundred and twenty years of work—which of course no laborer would actually even earn because they would be dead by then.

Did you notice the master does not give instructions? There’s no conversation recorded in the story about what the master tells the servants to do while he’s gone. But they each move ahead with what they assume is the right thing to do.
The first servant leverages the five talents he was given into ten. The second servant leverages the two talents he was given into four. The third servant buries the one talent he was given in the ground.

Now think about doubling seventy-five years worth of wages—that’s what the first servant does. John Buchanan, who was the pastor for many years of a large Presbyterian church in Chicago, with a number of members in the wealth management industry, explored with them what you have to do and the risks you have to take to double your money. “If your investment has a guaranteed interest rate of 5 percent” you will double your money in fourteen and a half years.1 If you want to do it faster than that, your risk rises exponentially. “In the world of venture capital, only about one out of four or five—some say one out of ten [investments]—makes it. The other [five to nine] times you lose—everything.”2

Now the story doesn’t tell us how long the wealth owner was gone. “After a long time” he returns. We don’t know if that’s at least fourteen and a half years so the money could double without an enormous amount of risk or if the first two servants took some big risks and came out lucky with their investment doubled. Either way, the master is pleased and he invites them to a celebration. (And we might recall the wedding banquet of the parable Mark preached on last Sunday. As well as the wedding banquet in Matthew 22 from last month. The wedding banquet being a theological image for the “fully realized reign of God”3—which is another way of saying what it looks like when Jesus returns.)

The third servant was scared. He feared the anger of the master and did not want to risk losing anything. He buried the money entrusted to him in the ground. That’s the first century equivalent of hiding it in a mattress. And when the master returns, he’s met with the anger he expected. The master expects that he should have done something—at the very least taken the money to the bank and earned a percent or two or interest.

Now I wonder what if there had been a fourth servant in the story? And the fourth servant was also entrusted with some money while the master was away. And the fourth servant took a risk like the first and second servants, hoping to double his money. But instead he lost money and came back with less than the master had entrusted to him.

Now if the parable is only about money and only serves to reinforce the economic injustice that those who have money get more and those who have little money have even that taken away from them, then if there was a fourth servant who risked the money and lost it, he’s probably in big trouble with the master.

But remember the context of this parable is what followers of Jesus are supposed to be doing while they wait for Jesus to return.

So what if the parable is not ultimately only about money but is about how we live our lives—how we are to spend ourselves on behalf of the realm of God—then I wonder if the fourth servant would be rewarded for taking a risk for the sake of the gospel? We don’t know. But I wonder about it.

And in wondering about the addition of a fourth servant in this story, I suspect that if the fourth servant only saw God as harsh and angry, and was only fearful of God’s actions, then that servant would not have taken a risk. As I think about how this parable is also about us and where we are in this parable, I wonder how the first and second servants imagined God? Did they think of God as gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love? [Exodus 34.6; Psalms 86.15; 103.8, 145.8; Joel 2.13; Jonah 4.2] Did they know God “as one who bestows gifts abundantly…[offers] freedom to respond with loving responsibility, and rejoices in…[faithful action]”4?

And did that conception of God shape their decision to take a risk to do something that potentially could have a great return?

Pastor Lindsay Armstrong writing on this passage says, “What we think about God and do in response…is neither trivial nor incidental. We have real choices and power, with genuine consequences resulting from the ways we use our freedom.” (Remember, the servants were all given freedom to decide what to do with what was entrusted to them.) “What we do or fail to do shapes this world and our lives.”5

What if this parable is really about how we live? And living involves taking risks. At the end of chapter 25, Jesus is headed to Jerusalem where he will be killed. He, too, knows risk. The risk of losing his life.

One of my favorite parts of the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is from the first chapter that talks about the calling of the church. What is it that we, the church, the body of Christ, are supposed to be about? The Book of Order says, “Christ gives to the Church all the gifts necessary to be [Christ’s] body.” That is, what we need has already been given to us. “The Church strives to demonstrate these gifts in its life as a community in the world: The Church is to be a community of faith, entrusting itself to God alone, even at the risk of losing its life.”6 The rest of that section about the Church’s calling is inspiring to me but this notion of entrusting ourselves to God alone, even at the risk of losing our life is a powerful reality for me. I remember discovering this for the first time in my seminary polity class and thinking how crazy it was for an institution—which by definition means an organization committed to perpetuating itself—to put in its constitution that it is more important to entrust ourselves to God than it is for us to survive as an institution. I remember saying to my classmate sitting next to me, “Do people know this is in its constitution??”

So here we are in our New Beginnings assessment and the small groups are about finishing up their conversations and in January the small group leaders will gather with Mark and me to listen to what they heard you saying about what it is God is calling us to do and be in this time and place.

I have heard a few of you say your fear about the New Beginnings process is that we’ll go through it and then do nothing.

If one of the messages of this parable is about living our lives and risking what we have and who we are in service of the good news of the Gospel, then the greatest risk, says John Buchanan, “is not to risk anything, not to care deeply and profoundly enough about anything to invest deeply, to give [ours hearts] away and in the process risk everything. The great risk of all, it turns out, is to play it safe, to live cautiously and prudently. …digging a hole and burying the money in the ground…Jesus’ warning is that the outcome of playing it safe—not caring, not loving passionately, not investing [ourselves], not risking anything—is something akin to death, like being banished to the outer darkness.”7

In this parable, “Jesus invites us to be his disciples, to live our lives as fully as possible by investing them, by risking, by expanding the horizons of our responsibilities. To be [Jesus’s disciple] is not so much believing ideas about him as it is following him. It is to experience renewed responsibility for the use and investment of these precious lives of ours. It is to be bold and brave to reach high and care deeply.”8

It is my prayer that this is how we will live not only as individuals but as a congregation as we continue our discernment of what God is calling us to do and be in this time and place.

* * *
1. John Buchanan, “Pastoral Perspective – Matthew 25:14-30,” Feasting on the Word – Year A, Volume 4, reds. David L. Barlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011, p308.
2. Ibid.
3. Thomas D. Stegman, “Exegetical Perspective – Matthew 25.1-13,” Feasting on the Word – Year A, Volume 4, reds. David L. Barlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011, p285.
4. Stegman, p313.
5.  Lindsay P. Armstrong, “Homiletical Perspective – Matthew 25.14-30,” Feasting on the Word – Year A, Volume 4, reds. David L. Barlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011, p313.
6. F01.0301
7. Buchanan, p310-312.
8. Ibid., p312.

With All the Saints – Matthew 5.1-12 & Psalm 34.1-10, 22

November 2, 2014 – All Saints Sunday

Introduction: The two readings this morning are two of the readings assigned for All Saints’ Day—which was yesterday. Psalm 34 affirms that God hears and responds to the cries of God’s people. Matthew 5 is the beginning of Jesus’ sermon on the mount. Each statement in this portion of Jesus’ sermon has both a present and future and a blessing God grants to all the saints. Because I usually preach pretty directly from a scripture passage, I want to say the sermon comes from the theme of All Saints’ Day rather than either scripture passage.
READ Matthew 5.1-12

Who is a saint? A guy who plays football for New Orleans? Mother Teresa of Calcutta? St. Francis of Asissi? Someone who helped you move your belongings from one end of the country to another? The person who taught you how to pray? Your confirmation class mentor? Your colleague who picked up an extra assignment at work so you could leave early to go away for the weekend? The unknown person who put an extra quarter in your parking meter?

Yesterday was All Saints’ Day. It’s always November 1 and it always comes right after Halloween. Halloween is assumed to be the more ancient of the two observances but the two are linked. Halloween’s roots are in festivals that commemorate the spirits of people who have died returning to mingle with those who are living. In some cultures this is called the Day of the Dead. An extra place might be set at the table for the dead who would return for a meal with their family. Masks might be worn and bonfires lit in order to scare away the evil spirits who are returning. And before there were pumpkins hollowed out, there were turnips carved to hold a candle inside—also to keep the evil spirits away. Some scholars see Halloween or the Day of the Dead as ways that people confront the power of death with humor and ridicule.1

One day you have Halloween and the next day you have All Saints’. It’s sort of a “on the one hand…and on the other hand” kind of pairing. On Halloween we confront and make fun of what scares us about death. On All Saints’ Day we remember and give thanks for those who lives are a witness to the power of God at work in them.

All Saints’ Day, established by Pope Gregory III in the 8th century, was originally a day to commemorate martyrs—those who were killed for their faith. Later the celebration was expanded to become a day of remembrance of all the saints—not just those who were martyrs.

Saints were understood to be Christians who through their good works had achieved merits over and above what they needed for salvation—like getting extra credit in a class—and the Catholic church, having recognized those good works canonized them as saints.2 In the late middle ages people began to believe that the saints, with their extra merits, could transfer some of their good works to those who were in need of them—those who didn’t do so well in class—for salvation.3

In the 11th century, the Abbot of Cluny in France, reflecting upon All Saints Day and its focus on those who were already in heaven decided there should also be a day to remember those who had died but who were still lingering in purgatory. This day would be a day of requiem masses to assist the souls of the dead in moving from purgatory to heaven. This day became All Souls’ Day and in the Catholic church it is observed on November 2. So we end up with a trio of days: Halloween, All Saints and All Souls.

Of course at the time of the Reformation, the reformers rejected All Souls’ Day because the notion of purgatory was one the reformers claimed was an error of the Catholic church at that time. (Which helps us understand why in Protestant churches we typically give thanks to God for the life and witness of people who have died but we don’t pray for those who have died.)

While we don’t observe All Souls’ Day, we Reformed Protestants do celebrate All  Saints’ Day right along with Roman Catholics—although our understandings of being a saint are different.

So for All Saints’ day, who are we going to call a saint?

I want to go back to Pope Gregory III who started with the designation of a day to commemorate the martyrs. In the Christian tradition, we think of a martyr as someone who is killed because of their faith. (Or colloquially, as someone who puts a lot of drama into their suffering.) But the English word martyr comes from a Latin word which come from a Greek word that means “witness.”4

In the Reformed understanding, a saint is someone who bears witness to the presence of God. Another way to say it is a saint is someone in whose life you see the light of God. A saint is someone who has been a mentor, an example, an inspiration, a teacher in your life and life of faith.

Presbyterian pastor Don Stake reminds us that the word “saint” as it’s used in “the New Testament refers to any or all of God’s people.”5 It’s not used to describe exceptional people but to describe the characteristic of being part of God’s family. “A saint is someone claimed by God to belong to God forever.”6 Which I hope makes you think about baptism. In our baptism we are claimed by God and made members of the body of Christ. In our baptism we are joined together with all the other saints who belong to God—people “in every land and of every language” and every culture. We are also joined with “the saints of the past, those faithful ones who have gone before us…[They were as we are] claimed by God to be God’s own people forever. So we find ourselves in their company too, all part of the great ‘communion of saints.’”7

In the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving in the communion liturgy, we pray with “all the saints of every time and place, in heaven and on earth, joining our voices to forever sing God’s praise” (you’ll hear me say that today at the table) and we sing “Holy, holy, holy.”

“The faithful in this life and those in the life of the resurrection are joined together by God, whose love, presence and action are not limited by time and place”8 says Presbyterian pastor Barbara Hedges-Goettl.

Now I can’t explain that to you precisely. How we are in the company of the saints of God who have lived and died and now live eternally with God. I can only bear witness to it. And hear you bear witness to it as well.

We “find support and encouragement in remembering those who have gone before us in faith, from biblical figures to heroes…of history on down to our biological ancestors and current friends, [mentors, teachers] and relatives. We turn to these ‘saints’ to perceive the God of history working in and through frail human beings like ourselves. [And] we give honor to the presence of God in them, and we learn from them.”9

“When we celebrate God’s involvement in the lives of the saints, we reconnect to the work of God not only in their lives, but in our lives as well. We proclaim God’s involvement in the particulars of human life through the bodies and actions of particular people in particular times and places.”10

So who are the saints in your life? Who has guided you on your journey of faith? In whom have you seen the light of God shine? Who has shown you that the light of God shines through you? These saints may be alive and very present in your life or they may have died and their spirit lives on through you.11

And here’s what’s often harder to imagine: For whom are you a saint? As you have been inspired and taught and blessed by others, for whom are you an inspiration, a teacher, a blessing?

As we come to this table, and as we dedicate our financial pledges for the coming year and as we talk and pray together in the New Beginnings small groups about what God is calling us to do and be in this time and place, we do so accompanied and surrounded by all those saints—including those who have been fed at this table and made their financial pledges and talked and prayed together about what God was calling them to do and be in their time and place. So let us give thanks for one another, for those who have been mentors and guides to us and for all the saints, in all times and places, with whom we join in blessing God.

* * *
1.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween, accessed 1 November 2014. (Portaro, Sam (25 January 1998). A Companion to the Lesser Feasts and Fasts, Cowley Publications, p 199.)2. Task Force on Daily Prayer, “A Calendar of Commemorations,” Call to Worship, 47.4, 3.
3.  Craig Douglas Erickson, “Reformed Theology and the Sanctoral Cycle,” Hungryhearts, Winter 2003.
4. Oxford English Dictionary, “martyr.”
5. Donald W. Stake, “Being with the Saints,” Call to Worship, 47.4, 77.
6. Ibid.
7. Stake, 78.
8.  Barbara J. Hedges-Goettl, “The Communion of Saints: The Communion of the Body of Christ and the Resurrected Body,” Call to Worship, 47.4, 83.
9. Task Force, 4.
10. Hedges-Goettl, 84.
11.  Megan Cochran, “Work of Our Hands: Carrying the Saints with Us,” Call to Worship, 47.4, 69.