Of Hope and Memories: Together in the Communion of Saints

In the name of the One who wipes every tear from our eyes—sometimes with a song, sometimes with a touch, and sometimes with a word of encouragement.

Here we are. Together again.  Together with one another; together with those we love but see no longer; together with all the saints and with all that reflects the touch of our Creator.  Here we are—the Communion of Saints bound together through and in our sainting.  It feels good to be together—it feels good to be together in times such as these—Times that challenge us to find hope amidst that relentless stream of stories of hate crimes, mass shootings and everyday nastiness.  Times that underscore our deep need to live and move and have our being right smack dab in the center of the New Jerusalem!

We gather today on this great feast of all saints bearing in our hearts our memories, our fears, our doubts about the future and about the present as well.  We come together with our hopes carefully tucked close to our hearts lest they break and crumble and get swept away.

And that’s the danger of these times isn’t it—the danger that our hopes might get swept away; the danger that our hearts might break.  And yet it is in times like these—times of deep darkness that that community of memory and hope, that Communion of Saints,  surrounds us and protects us and keeps us afloat just like those round orange life preservers you find on boats.  The Communion of Saints cobbled together out of memories and stories all the while pointing the way to hope.

Memories from our own lives and the lives of others; memories that sustain and encourage. Memories of those times in which we wondered if we would even make to the break of another day; and memories of when we did make it through to another day; memories passed down from those we love but see no longer:  stories of struggle and survival that now inform our lives;  stories of people we’ve never met—people from a different time, a different place—who in the face of extreme hardship managed to care deeply for one another and to live with courage and hope: stories of parents bidding farewell to their children, giving them a kiss as they see them off to at least the hope of a better life in a distant land; stories of mothers holding their children close and singing softly as bombs fall around them; stories of kids planting seeds and seedlings thus making the world around them more beautiful and the air cleaner.  People leaning into hope.

These last few weeks have been hard for all of us.  The pipe bombs, the bullets, the words of hate that threaten to saturate our airwaves, the racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, classist and misogynist acts that have come to mark the lives of people we know, people we love, people who share the air we all breathe.

Last Sunday was particularly hard for me.  I suspect I was not alone in that.

In the afternoon, I made my way downtown to the Gathering Against A Week of Hate.  By the time I got there, a small crowd had formed in front of the Holocaust and Intolerance Museum on west Central—a crowd of Muslims, Christians, Jews, and many others.  Old and young.  Prosperous and not so prosperous.

Introductions were made, short speeches given, stories told, prayers offered.  What moved me most and what has sustained me most this week was the story a native woman told.  I’ll try to do it justice.

She told the story of young boy caught in the grip of the Holocaust.  He and many others were standing in line—a line leading to certain death.  Something was holding up the process, so the boy stepped out of line.  And then he did something truly extraordinary.  He went from person to person, reaching out his hand, touching them, greeting each person with a vision of their future—for one a future of teaching grandchildren to read, for another watching her daughter give birth, visons of young men grown old.  All visions of hope.  As that young boy made his way down that line, people began extending their hands to him—blessings given and blessings received.  Somehow everything stopped.  The folks standing in that line were turned around and sent back to the line of life.

That story, the telling of it, and the group gathered to hear it have helped me through this last week.  Memories drawing people together in hope.  Memories spurring people on. Building a community of people linked to and sustained by hopes from the past while at the same time supporting one another in their struggle for justice and their acts of kindness. Kind of like the Communion of Saints.

This is my prayer this morning:  Let this Great Feast of All Saints, this festival of memory and hope, this poignant gathering of those who saint–both the living and the dead, both the present and the absent be for us an invitation to join together in the building of the New Jerusalem–not one built with stones and mortar, not one bound by the limits of time and space–but a living, breathing, caring Communion of saints at work in their sainting–the New Jerusalem built with the living stones of ordinary people like you and me loving and caring for one another and the world in which we live.

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