TRANSCRIPT OF THE NOV. 1, 2020, SERMON
BY REV. JEANNIE HIMES
When we lived in Kansas City, there was an import store in our neighborhood that would create an “offrenda” each year for All Saints/All Souls day. (dia de los muertos)
An Offrenda, in Latin American culture, is an altar of remembrance of the dead: Loved ones, family members, who are deceased. These altars include personal items, photos, candles, favorite foods, and often skeletons placed in everyday scenes, as if they are in real life places.
The image is that the dead are among us still, part of our normal everyday lives.
I read what one of the store owners wrote about this, this year. Creating her offrenda and lighting her candles, she had mementos of family members, friends, and even a deceased pet. She said “I felt surrounded by love and so much gratitude.”
I couldn't help but think of the image from the Harry Potter stories, of him seeing the images of his deceased parents. When the images came to him, he did not feel fear or dread, but felt surrounded by love and strength.
On All Saints Day in the Protestant church, we remember those who have passed on. Not to renew our mourning, but to think of them as surrounding us, being among us still, in love and strength. Our “great cloud of witnesses”. A part of our living.
On All Saint's Day we also read the scripture we call “the beatitudes”, from the Sermon on the Mount (if Matthew's version) or the Sermon on the Plain (if Luke's version).
Blessed are those who are poor in spirit, who mourn, who are meek, merciful, pure in heart..........
Several of the newer versions translate the term that is sometimes “blessed” as “happy are...”
Hear the version, from the Common English Bible. (Matthew 5:1-12)
5 1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up a mountain. He sat down and his disciples came to him. 2 He taught them, saying:
3 “Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
4 “Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.
5 “Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.
6 “Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full.
7 “Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.
8 “Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God.
9 “Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.
10 “Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
11 “Happy are you when people insult you and harass you and speak all kinds of bad and false things about you, all because of me. 12 Be full of joy and be glad, because you have a great reward in heaven. In the same way, people harassed the prophets who came before you.
Happy are... and then a list of not-so-happy things. Things that do NOT make us feel happy: hopelessness, grief, humility, harassment.
Happy are the hopeless, the kingdom of heaven is theirs. (poor in spirit – other versions say)
The original words did not mean “discouraged” but more like the opposite of proud or boastful.
Theirs IS the kingdom. Not “will be”, but present tense. Theirs IS the kingdom.
Happy are people who grieve.
Mourning in scripture does not always imply death, but loss. Loss of nation, loss of home, loss of peace and prosperity.
Only those who care deeply feel the depth of this kind of grief. Feeling sorrow without trying to escape it, but knowing it as one living among us, as part of our everyday lives.
Happy are people who show mercy – they will receive mercy. But this implies being in places where mercy is needed. And such places are not happy-go-lucky places to be.
Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous. If by “righteous” we mean those sho do the things Jesus asked – feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, clothing the poor, welcoming the stranger – then that puts a new swing onto it, doesn't it?
Happy are those who are harassed for doing justice, for loving kindness.
Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber says, in regard to the Beatitudes:
This is a proclamation that God is there in the abandoned places of human despair even when we suspect that God is only in glory and triumph.
Happy are people who walk nto places that don't feel blessed -
because you find God there.
Not in places of glory and triumph.
God is in the abandoned places, where real people live their everyday lives.
Thanks be to God.