Less than thirty-six hours ago, people with whom I work—people with whom I serve—were lying face-down on the ground as bullets ricocheted through the air. They had come to the corner of Broadway and Coal to be part of an outreach fair serving people experiencing homelessness. An ordinary Saturday morning. A festive day. Kids playing, moms keeping track, old men telling stories, agency folks trying to make connections with people who live on the streets. Then all hell broke out. Moms threw themselves over their children; agency people up-ended their tables and hid behind them; vets heard echoes of other battles in other places at other times. A community of need; a community of woundedness; a community of fear.
The chaos spread across this part of the city. At 4th and Montano—not even a block from St. Michael’s—again shots were heard. Gunshots punctuating the silence of this place. Violence encroaching on this sheltered space. Lives disrupted; plans upended.
In the midst of it all, the cross, the table and the pictures gracing our ofrenda.
Today, we celebrate Dia de los Muertos. Today we celebrate the great feast of All Saints—a day that calls us together in communion with those who as our prayer book puts it, “we love and see no longer.” Today is a day when we come together as stranger and friend, living and dead, ordinary and heroic in one great communion of saints. Today we come together in brokenness and hope.
Today we remember saints who have gone before us and saints who share our days and lives. We look at their pictures and we remember the good times. The laughter we shared, the hopes we nurtured, the memories we made together. And yet we know that their lives, like the lives of the people lying flat on the ground on the corner of Broadway and Coal, were lives touched not only by joy but also by sadness, disappointment, failure, and grief.
There’s something else we see in the lives of those who have gone before us and in the lives of those sitting right next to us in the pew. We see God’s grace at work. God’s grace at work in things little and things big. A hand extended. A kleenex pulled out of a purse. A wink. A nod. A look of understanding. An arm around the shoulder. A pat on the back. We see God’s grace at work in stories told and in lives unfolding. Stories of courage in the face of hardship, of hope in the midst of despair, of laughter when things are falling apart. God’s grace at work in love growing, in relationships weathering, in kids branching out in their own way.
Before Jesus speaks to his disciples and those gathered with them, he looks out upon the crowd that has followed him. He sees their weariness; he notes the weight of the injustices they bear; he hears their cries of pain; he sees the hollows in their cheeks; he knows the hunger in their bellies.
I can imagine him taking a moment to take it all in. I can imagine him holding the crowd in silence before God. Then he looks again and says to his disciples and to those within earshot,
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Blessed are you….”
We who weep, we who mourn, we who are hungry, we who are afraid, we whose lives are marked by violence say to Him,
Gather us in, the sad and the wounded,
Gather us in, the poor and the proud
Gather us in, we who are fearful
Gather us into your heart filled with love.
For here, in this place, new life is streaming
Here, in this place, all darkness is vanquished
Here, in this place we grow in your love.
Gather us in to mend and to heal
Gather us and hold us forever
Gather us in and make us your own.