Here we are, in the Season of the Saints. It's that time of year when we observe All Saints Day, All Souls Day, and el Dia de los Muertos, when we give special attention to those lovers of God who have showed us the love of God active in our world.
I love this time of year and the traditions that allow us to remember and celebrate those who have gone before us-like naming the past year's deceased at the communion altar in church, or creating a Day of the Dead ofrenda (altar) with marigolds, photos and mementos of loved ones now gone.
I've just picked some orange marigolds from my garden, and lined them up on the bookshelf in my study. They light up my gallery of saints living and dead, a wall of family photos and mementos. There are grandmothers and grandfathers on their wedding days, stiff and starched and Scandinavian. There's a Valentine from my grandfather postmarked 1914, my grandma's embroidered handkerchief from her wedding day in 1915. There's my Dad in a long white christening gown, and my parents at Columbia Teachers' College, New York City, summer of '42, sporting their new wire-rimmed glasses.
And there are newer pictures: our own wedding day, two young kids giggling with mouths full of cake, and my son at his first Christmas, wearing his Peace on Earth t-shirt, and the newest addition to the wall, my son and daughter-in-law on their wedding day. It's a communion of saints on that wall, linking me to the saints of the past, the present and the future.
That ongoing communion from past to future is what comes up for me when I read Sunday's text from Luke. We have something of a debate here in Luke about the afterlife. The Sadducees, keepers of the temple and its codes, are quizzing Jesus. They were, one could say, literalists. Unlike the Pharisees, they did not see that the text could be interpreted or discussed, nor they did not believe in any kind of resurrection. They are attempting to stump Jesus with their riddle about the afterlife.
Jesus answers their riddle in language they can hear: he starts with their scriptures, their stories of belonging and identity. He reminds them of Moses and the bush. He reminds them that the Lord God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God is the God of their ancestors, a part of their ancestors then and even now, still. God is a God of the living, he tells them. Resurrection, he is saying, has nothing to do with a continuation of the rules we keep, rules like the ancient code of marriage that ensured a family heir for a childless brother.
So he takes their question about the particulars of life after death and turns it into a large answer about the life of faith, resurrection faith, lived right now. The life of faith--a life with God at the center, a life that matters to the living--is not determined by the right rules or literal laws or any of the lines we draw to circumscribe ourselves, to define our existence or our allegiances.
The life of faith, Jesus says, is determined by living relationships. The patriarchs--Abraham, Isaac, Jacob--the matriarchs--Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah, Leah, Rachael--are alive to God, he tells them. "God is the God of the living. We are all alive to God."
It is in the flesh-and-blood relations of our lives that we make our hope in the resurrection. It is in the way our lives touch each other, the way we are alive to each other that we touch God.
I keep that in mind as I look at the pictures on my wall, and I keep that in mind as I watch the debates right now about Medicare and Social Security and Obamacare, and the rhetoric that pits one generation against another. We are all alive to God. It is in the way our lives touch each other, the way we are alive to each other that we touch God.
Echoes from the Edge
By Amanda Henderson, 2012-13 Beatitudes Fellow - November 4th, 2013
Amanda is currently in South Korea for the World Council of Churches. As she moves through her journey she shares snapshots of how God is at work in culture, community, and conversation.
"On the flight here I wondered: Why am I going to Korea, what do I hope for from this experience?
I go because every yes to adventure has widened my perspective. Every yes has led to ideas, understanding, and opportunities I couldn't have previously imagined.
Each yes has deepened my connectedness with people from around the world who seek to understand God,
to live into God's rhythm in the world,
to build beloved communities,
and to actively support ecologies of life for all people.
I wonder: What is stirring on the edges? Where is God moving in the world in unexpected ways? How might I, and the communities I serve, engage this movement, grow, and play as we seek life together?"
"Yesterday we heard from Seong Won Park on a movement in South Korea to live into a theology of life called Oikos theology.
Park names the need to transform our theological frameworks in order to respond to the vast current needs.
We need to engage new knowledge systems focusing on sustainability and transformation of hearts and systems.
Theology must be grounded in an understanding of our ultimate connectedness and relationship with all of life.
In my context-an incredible urban church in Denver-how are we living into a theology of life that sees ourselves as connected to each other, connected to the surrounded community, and connected to the world?
How does this shape the way we live and serve?"
Follow more of Amanda's reflections of church, culture, and conversation on her blog:http://kulafive.tumblr.com/
Amanda is Associate Minister at South Broadway Christian Church in Denver.
Finally, the Poet
By bell hooks, in Appalachian Elegy - November 4th, 2013
hear them cry
the long dead
the long gone
speak to us
from beyond the grave
that we may learn
all the ways
to hold tender this land
hard clay dirt
rock upon rock
strong green growth
will rise here
trees back to life
pushing the fragrance of hope
the promise of resurrection