Listen to our All Saints reflections and participate in our ritual here:
Reflection from Rev. Dr. Rebecca:
For our sermon time this morning, we are going to begin with a reflection, share in a ritual of remembering and song and then end with a reflection. We pray it holds you as you need to be held on this All Saints and All Souls day….
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
On Monday night, as Mt Zion Temple hosted several thousand people in memory of those killed at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, several of us from Lyndale gathered with those outside to seek to embody solidarity. As we listened along through speakers set up for us, we heard music and singing, prayers and weeping. And all of it was an act of sacred re-membering. But one story particularly spoke to me. It came toward the end when Sami Rahamim told a bit of the story of his father, Reuven Rahamim.
Sami’s dad was an immigrant from Israel who founded and built Accent Signage company in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood of Minneapolis. They made all kinds of signs but one of their specialties was creating braille signs with materials that didn’t create callouses, since callouses on the fingers of those who are blind are similar to cataracts on the eyes of those who can see. Sami’s dad, Reuven, was a practicing Jew who raised his son to practice, too.
So, when in 2012, a disgruntled employee shot and killed Reuven and four others, Sami was left shattered and looking to tradition to help him know what to do. One of the things he found was that there is a mitzvah, a commandment, in Jewish tradition, that the children of someone who has died, recite the Kaddish, the mourner’s prayer, every day for ten months following the person’s death. But one cannot fulfil the mitzvah alone. There must be witnesses to your prayers. So, for ten months, every morning at 7 am, Sami went to shul to say Kaddish for his father. And for every one of those mornings, there were elders present at synagogue to make up the minyan, the quorum of adult Jews, and to bear witness to Sami’s grief and his prayers. Those elders were the minyan-makers. And without those minyan-makers, Sami said he would never have made it through his father’s death.
Those killed in Pittsburgh were the Tree of Life’s minyan-makers. And Sami named the particular sorrow that those whose faithfulness had held the grief and practice and prayers of so many, were now gone.
As I listened to Sami’s story, I wept. For me, the minyan-makers embody the best of religious tradition and practice. I don’t want to co-opt the particular role of minyan-makers in Jewish tradition. But I want to celebrate those whose actions and practices hold, embolden and inspire others to faithful action and practice.
I think this is one of the reasons I love All Saints and All Souls day… it is a time when we get to intentionally pause together and give thanks for all of those practice and actions and words and lives paved the path on which we now roll and walk. Or whose dreaming and outrageousness and sheer brilliance made space for our quirky, bad-assed selves to be alive.
By faith they gathered. By faith they witnessed. By faith they held those who mourned. By faith they prayed and hoped and healed. By faith they claimed their beloved humanity.
I’ve told some of you this, but I’ve spent much of the last two years just raging about all that is happening in our country. And the Kavanaugh hearings were like the icing on the cake of rage for me. Along with my rage, I have been feeling lately that my heart was hardening. It almost felt like what is described in Exodus when God hardens Pharoah’s heart.
But, three weeks ago, when Maggie and Shannon fell down the stairs and Shannon fractured her skull, I knew they both could have been killed. And something broke in me. When Matta preached last week and described Jesus’ being called to Bartimeus and encountering the injustice with a broken heart which allowed him to act, I realized that is what happened for me. Somehow, my heart was broken three weeks ago (perhaps, re-broken).
Ever since, I am still angry (and I think it is righteous anger), but I am mostly broken-hearted in the ways that are drawing me toward grieving with, toward sitting with, toward crying with, toward witnessing and resisting with.
It was my broken-heartedness that drew me to sing with kindred Lyndalians on Friday at Kayla’s home. We knew that we were helping sing her into eternity, even as she is still very much with us. She sang with us, laughed with us and literally squeeled with delight in us…. All as she is preparing to die. Kayla has been a witness to so many of our griefs and sorrows. She has been a supporter of so many of our joys. How many of us have gotten a handwritten note after we’ve lifted a prayer in church? Or a hug during worship? And how many have been the subject of this prayer warrior’s supplications?
On this All Saints and All Soul’s day… may we remember that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses– faithful and flawed ancestors who have gone before us, broken-hearted practitioners of love and justice—and they are urging us to do likewise…
As a way to name and honor the saints and souls in our lives, we have candles set up and we invite you now to come forward and light a candle for those who have helped make the path for you… you may either simply light a candle, or you are invited to light a candle and say their name outloud.
When we are done lighting candles, Mary and Mindy will lead us in a song to bless the light and the lives—of the Tree of Life synagogue and our own.
Reflection from Rev. Ashley:
To the Saints (by Rev. M Barclay):
How do we say thank you?
To you who
To you who showed us
what incredible things
humans are capable of
under the most
challenging of circumstances.
We kneel to your courage.
We pray to acquire your faith.
We praise God,
the Divine in you.
Are you with us still,
in these days of grief?
Are you companioning us
in this long journey to justice
at the vanity
of it all?
Will you tell us your secrets?
Whisper softly in our direction
about when you wanted to quit,
when you got tired,
when you weren’t sure
if any of it mattered
or if it was worth
What kept you going?
Was it your own prayers
to the saints
who went before you?
Did you long to make them proud?
Was it seeing God
in your people
yearning to live
Was it us – the future ones,
More important than your answers
is simply your assurance that
you asked the same questions
as our budding prophets today
and kept living love
Lovely Lyndalians, Rebecca rooted us and we have been remembering those from whom we come. My task is to speak of the rising, speak of the ones Rev. M Barclay calls in this poem, the future ones – both us now and those after us.
Whenever new people join our community here at Lyndale, we all say a covenant in which we make a series of promises to each other and to God about how we will strive to live together. One of my favorite parts is this, the response of gathered members to the new members:
We welcome you with
joy into the life of this community.
We promise you our friendship and our prayers
our faith and our doubts,
our hands and our hopes,
our laughter and our tears,
as we share with you the cost and the joy
of being a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth.
By the power of the Holy Spirit,
may we continue to grow together,
rooted and grounded in the love of God.
We were talking about this covenant at a church Council retreat over the summer and our ever-wise member Robert Frame told the story of his own hesitance to join Lyndale because of this covenant. It took him awhile to join Lyndale formally because though he felt he could join the community as it existed in the moment, he didn’t know how in the world to covenant with people he hadn’t even met yet. It took me a minute to wrap my head and heart around what he was saying because I had never thought of it that way. But of course. When we join Lyndale, we are also promising we will say the words of response to the future members of Lyndale – our own future ones:
We welcome you with joy into the life of this community.
As I have sat with Robert’s hesitance and questions, I have grown to love them more. He is pointing with his questions to one of the core spiritual challenges of life, whether in spiritual community or family. How do we love the people we can’t even imagine yet because we don’t know them? Or they haven’t been born?
Sometimes its easy. I was feeding our baby at 4:30am this morning. The time change messed with all of us. And as I held her in the dark, her warm little body snuggled against me, I thought about how I had no idea before she was born what it would be like to be her mom. I trusted the saints of moms past – biological and non-biological – that I would love her. But the kind of love that propels me out of bed at 4:30am and washes me with joy in her little snotty presence even then is beyond my imagining of what was possible.
But what about everyone else? What about those we don’t know who aren’t destined by evolution to be cute beyond our imagining? We are talking about this today, All Saints Sunday, because I think the secret here is that we must cultivate saintliness in ourselves. And by saint, I don’t mean the opposite of sinner. I don’t mean flawlessness. I mean saint in the sense of our scripture, of witness. The saints are the “great cloud of witnesses.”
The spiritual practice of sainthood is the spiritual practice of witnessing. In particular, of witnessing the Divine in each other, each and every other. And that requires trusting God enough to believe there is indeed God within each of us, even when we don’t want to see it.
Thank goodness the saints before us gave us an exercise to strengthen this muscle of witnessing. It’s called communion. Communion is the remembrance of the sacred supper Jesus held with his spiritual community on the night before he was arrested and killed by those who couldn’t see his Divinity, who refused to see his Divinity. It’s an ordinary supper of bread and wine. But in that ordinariness is also the extraordinary. Jesus tells us, When you eat this bread, remember me. When you drink of this cup remember me. And what I hear in those words is a call to remember not just Jesus in the particular, but Christ, the divinity incarnate in each other. When you eat this bread and when you drink of this cup, remember that God dwells in you too just like in me, in the person next to you just like in me, in the person you don’t know yet who will find her way through the door of your spiritual community.
May we look for You, holy one, in the ordinariness of bread and wine and each other. And when we see you, may we pause long enough to witness. May we become your saints through practice each day.