Sunday, November 1, 2020

All Saint’s Day


Pastor Scott Landis

Matthew 5:1-12

“For all the saints – who from their labors rest, who to the world their steadfast faith confessed, your name O Jesus be forever blessed. Alleluia! Alleluia!

I love singing that song and hope you did so just now at home.

All Saint’s Day very rarely coincides with Sunday worship, and today we get to experience the gift of that convergence, so I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to make it the focus of my message – and in a virtual way, give us the chance to “talk story” on this unique day.

Instead of staying in the sanctuary for my message, I decided it would be appropriate to come outside and sit among the saints in our cemetery. And since we are worshipping virtually it is very easy for me to bring you with me so that we can sit together in this peaceful setting with all the saints surrounding us – some buried in this sacred ground beneath me, others in the columbarium next to me, and still others whose ashes are scattered in the ocean right behind me. So, as I begin, I want to pause for a moment just to let that whole idea sink in, and the beauty of this place fill your heart and memory. Imagine, for the moment, in the silence of the next few moments that you are sitting here with me in this sacred place and the saints from the past have joined us.

[Pause for a time of personal reflection]

Perhaps you have a personal connection to this cemetery. Maybe a loved one is buried here OR maybe you can relate by seeing in your mind’s eye a place where a loved one of yours is interred elsewhere. It’s important to remember those who have preceded us. So, I want to draw your attention to one of the historic graves here. It’s the grave of someone none of us even knew. It’s a place I come often to re-read its inscription and wonder about her life. It says:

Beneath this stone lie the remains of an ancient Hawaiian discovered in December, 1974 at the Wailea Resort project by an archeological team from the Bernice P. Bishop Museum.

Near an altar-like structure, and excavating two-feet down, the team found a seven-foot long canoe. Inside, were the bones of a woman guessed to be 35 or 40 years of age. Because of three combs found in her hair, it was concluded that the woman lived in Hawai`i’s historic times.

Her bones were moved to Mākena in 1975, and reburied here in a simple and dignified ceremony, with prayers led by the Reverend Tyrone Reinhardt.

That’s all we have – but who was she? What was her name? What was she like? What were her dreams? Did she have a family, a partner, children? My fantasies tend to run wild as I think of the gift of her life – AND the iconic nature of her grave almost begs me to peer into my own life as I remember those whom I have lost – a mother, a friend, a partner, a granddaughter. This grave tugs at the memory of those in my life who are now gone. [Pause]

I recently wrote an article for our newsletter Ka Hā A Ke Akua. I focused my attention on this peaceful place which I frequent and noted something that former President Jimmy Carter wrote about in his book, Living Faith. Carter called our attention to what he described as “the little dash line in between” the date of our birth and death. “It’s that little line,” Carter noted, “it’s there that is written the story of our life.”

In the article, I invited you to reflect on the “little dash line” that is your life. What comprises that line? What will people remember? But today, I’d like you to recall the little dash line of someone else – a saint or saints in your life.

In these next few moments of silence, honor, and gratitude, I ask you to think of a beloved in your life – someone who has influenced you in deep and profound ways. What about that person(s) do you need to recall now and offer God gratitude for their life? Take these next few moments to reflect and to offer your deep “mahalo” for the gift you have been given – whether this person is alive or even as you mourn their death.

[Pause for a time of personal reflection]

In our gospel lesson today, we read these words known as the Beatitudes or Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Listen to them once more. See if you hear them differently in light of All Saints Day, our current pandemic, and as we stand on the eve of the election. You may want to close your eyes as you hear these familiar words once again:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for great is your reward in heaven.

This is an interesting time in our lives. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the noise that surrounds the events of our day. So, I wanted us to slow down for a moment, to invite your reflection, and to provide an opportunity to recall the blessing others have been in your life.

But we are eventually called to leave the cemetery. While it is a wonderful place to come and reflect and pray, it does us no earthly good to remain here. Just like Mary, and the other disciples on that first Easter morning, we have work to do. Having remembered our blessings and offered our sincere gratitude for the gifts given through the lives of our loved ones – we are called to go out and be a blessing to others as we embrace the gifts and graces that they have imparted to us. [Pause]

In the grand scheme of things, our time on earth is relatively short. It is important, during that time, to realize that we live and move and have our being amidst a much larger `ohana – some present, some past. And, each one helps to shape who we are – blessed to be a blessing. One day we will all be together again. A longing we know a whole lot more about given our current situation. So, I thought it fitting to close with a song reminding us of the blessing which will one day be all of ours as we prepare to go out and serve.

I invite you to close your eyes once more. As we listen to words of a beautiful song that becomes for us today – our longing and our prayer.

[Closed with Aloha Oe]

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