Tuesday, November 01, 2005

"God Makes No Mistakes"

In the German Evangelical tradition of the churches I pastored, they observed a Tötenfest on the Last Sunday of Pentecost. Like Samhain and All Saint's and the Dios de los Muertos, it was an occassion for remembering the dead. Unfortunately, whatever traditions surrounded the observance had long since withered away, perhaps a victim of the Protestant aversion for ritual, so I had to create my own. At one church, we had two bells in a tower within the tiny chapel: a regular bell, and a muffled funeral bell, and I could have that one ring as I read the names of those who had died in the past year. At other churches, without bells, I could light a candle as each name was read.

Around this observance were prayers, often the very long prayers favored by the German Evangelical church. The purpose, however, was always the same: to join each of us as a community in the communion of saints that is in time and throughout time and outside of time. And it almost always included these words from the Revelation to John: not words about calamity and "apocalypse," but words of revelation about what is really behind the seeming chaos of creation and human existence. Two of the scriptures for All Saint's Day:

Revelation 7:9-17

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."

Matthew 5:1-12

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: “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 those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Christ is before you, and peace is in his mind.

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