Sunday, November 3, 2013

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted

Apparently there is now a piece of technology called "Google glasses" or something like that. And here I think I'm cool owning an IPad and knowing how to tell my students to "share the doc" with me. Besides I don't need those glasses right now because I've got some internal high-powered specs on, ever since June 16th. I feel like the lady from "Romper Room" who used to look through her big magnifying glass and pretend she could see everybody out there in TV land. I view life in 3-D these days.

I spent the morning with my family. No, not my biological family, but the people in Glenn's last job at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Alexandria, Minnesota. It is about 90 minutes from here; 90 minutes that have come to be dear to me. Glenn served Emmanuel twice a month for the last three years. Those of you with teenagers know that often it is in the car where the most meaningful conversations happen. And so it was for us those last few years. In the business of daily life there wasn't the quiet time to share stories of the past, good and bad, and to dream for the future. I had taken to being the driver; on the way down, so that he could meditate and finalize his message; on the way back so he could unwind and we could process the morning. The long miles of farm fields in between  led to many intimate and touching conversations and reminisces from both of us.

I knew I would attend church there today, because in our faith tradition, it is All Saints Sunday. The Episcopal church considers our hymns another way of praying. And so when the organ started playing, "For All The Saints", the "theme song of this day, I didn't make it through, "from whom their labors  rest", before the tears came.Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, we don't pray to saints to intercede for us....we go straight to the top:). We do acknowledge and celebrate those who have been martyred in the faith, known or unknown,  and they have their own feast days, including today. But our focus on this day is two-fold; first it is to recognize the "small s" (they aren't really called that) saints who have gone before us, and secondly, to welcome and pray for the newly baptized .

When I wrote Glenn's obit, I said that he "joined the communion of saints." Those were words I grew up with. I know what it means now. The Rev Linnae Haeg was the priest at E today. She and Glenn were due to mentor together, and he held her in very high regard. Her sermon spoke to how even the members of the early church didn't behave well, and yet were referred to as "saints." And how in the Old and New Testament the word "faithful" is used interchangeably with "saint." She said, "A saint is not someone who is made holy, but one who is blessed by God."

Yes.  Glenn Derby was human. Not perfect.  At all.  Even as an ordained priest, he knew his flaws; a human who made mistakes in his life, was forgiven and redeemed, and therefore blessed by God. The cycle of faith.

And this is really why that drive became dear to me. When my kids were young and he was a parish priest, he always left the house early to prepare for both services. I wasn't privy to his prayers and meditations, because I was trying to feed the pets and get the kids to church. For the last few years when we pulled up to the church in Alex, he would take my hand and pray, and his final words before we got out were always, " Lord, may I be the first one changed by the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart."

I close with the third verse of my favorite childhood hymn, from which language  you can tell that we truly are the Church of England, "I Sing A Song of the Saints of God"

"They lived not only in ages past, there are hundreds of thousands still; the world is bright with the joyous saints, who love to do Jesus' will. You can meet them in school or in lanes  or at sea, in church , or in trains, or in shops or at tea; for the saints of God are just folk like me, and I mean to be one too."
Comforting words on the journey.