Link to Marie Howe poem, “My Dead Friends:” https://poets.org/poem/my-dead-friends
Isn’t this the most wonderfully
personal public intimacy —
All Saints’ Day I mean.
We create this moment in time,
one spot in one place,
with other people,
when we are surrounded
by personal saints who entered
left profound and lasting
influences and love,
and then left us —
always, we think, too soon?
It is such a soft moment, isn’t it?
Grief and gratitude intermingle
with fond memory
to give us back those saints
if just for a moment.
Here they are — with us.
Take a deep breath,
maybe even close your eyes
and see and feel this sanctuary full
of so many wonderful people
who we keep with us over time.
Take just a moment to welcome them in,
their presence in our memory
“I have begun,
when I’m weary and can’t decide an answer to a bewildering question
to ask my dead friends for their opinion
and the answer is often immediate and clear…”
That Marie Howe poem
is so straight forward and matter of fact
and yet captures something
so thin and vaporous.
There is an old values-clarification exercise
I used to invite people to do,
those who came to see me
for help with an issue
they were struggling with.
Imagine, I would invite,
that you have a board of directors
for your life — people whose vote
would be meaningful and influential
even if not the final say.
Pick three or four of five people
who have influenced you —
people whose love blessed you
or whose example amazed you
or whose quiet presence always comforted you.
Once they had the image
and people in mind,
I would ask if anyone was missing
or needed to be replaced.
Then I would invite them
to have their “board” discuss the issue at hand.
Sometimes it worked
sometimes it didn’t
but my point today is that
we all have one:
a group of folks who speak to us
even beyond the grave
because we know what they would say
or we can even hear them say it.
They join, at least the helpful ones,
the angels of our better natures.
They become, inside us,
the board of influencers who help
guide and comfort,
challenge and strengthen us
to live with greater integrity.
I am too Protestant
to have saints with a capital “S.”
I like what The Episcopal Church does
and names historic figures
who deserve special attention for what they did
or how they lived,
and give them a day on the calendar.
There is no spookiness and smoke
surrounding them. Just folks
like we have folks,
who guide and comfort us.
So what I would like us to think about
is what a force multiplier
saints with a small “s” are.
We have approximately fifty people
in our micro-church here on Castle Street
and an additional hundred to two-hundred
who connect with us online.
But that is not all.
We have saints.
We have everyone here, now, in this place,
and with each of us
are those who have come before
and shaped us
and taught us
and imbued us with love and wisdom.
They are part of us
and they are force-multipliers
for any small group of people
who aim to be agents of God’s love.
When someone questions
the value of a micro-church
I tell them that any community organizer
would love to have fifty people
who invest money and time
in a common mission.
With that size group
a good community organizer
could change a neighborhood,
maybe even a city.
And while that is not our mission
or our aim,
is full to the gills
with saints squeezing through our pores
with wisdom, love, commitment,
for us to live our lives
and empower our ministries.
I think that’s pretty cool.
I’m going to ask Lisa to play
a brief interlude just now
and invite us all to take this time
to gather our saints —
bring them to mind,
offer up thanksgiving for them,
touch our grief with the balm of gratitude
and just hold our saints for moment.