All Saints 2007
One of the great joys and benefits of observing the holidays of the days of the dead is our gratefulness for our connection with them through the communion of saints, which is for the glory of God. We anticipate All Saints Day on All Hallows Eve – the eve of All Saints – and continue our worship November 1st in the feast of All Souls, or All Faithful Departed – a memorial day for remembering those who have gone before us in obtaining “those ineffable joys” spoken of in the Collect. I like to say, “It is always tea-time somewhere in the Anglican Communion” – that our bonds of affection and common heritage include this enjoyment, and that somewhere in the world someone is praying for me as I pray for you and for them.
And yet this fellowship extends beyond space into time – the saints of ages past share our hope for things to come. And we share in their hope, in their love, through our fellowship with Christ, in Christ, memorialized and brought to present life in the sacraments – the body and blood of Christ – the head of whose body we make up the members – and through and with him be all honor and glory to God, including that fellowship which is his joy – the church which is his body – the fullness (fulfillment) – of him who fills all in all.
This all boils down however to some practical behavior, most succinctly and most famously stated in the Golden Rule, the last sentence of today’s gospel reading: Do as you would be done by.
Imagine yourself a buckaroo from Paradise – that is, a cowboy from the Paradise Valley in Nevada. You raise mules. You have a day job: construction work on the interstate, building bypasses around Elko, Battle Mountain, and Winnemucca. You are on the way to work – you have about 80 miles to go. It is Sunday, late afternoon, the sun is setting slowly over the sage, and you are headed up a mountain pass about 8 miles west of Carlin.
On the side of the road, hood up, is an old car – a 1964 Pontiac Tempest. You stop. The young people inside think they have a mechanical problem. You have a simpler explanation and with a siphon hose prove it. “Yep, bone dry.” They are out of gas.
You drive them back to Carlin, make sure they get some gas, follow them to the next town, Battle Mountain, to make sure they are okay. As you leave, you give your parting benediction: “Make sure to stop and gas her up once in a while.”
To them you are an angel – a messenger of God – or someone who has followed the Golden Rule. Who wouldn’t want to be treated the way you have just treated them?
I was not the cowboy. But I was there. And I am sure glad he stopped.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
It sounds so simple – and sometimes it is.
In practice this is carried out in as many ways as the engineer’s dictum Murphy’s Law – if it can go wrong it will – is manifested in the real world. As there are many examples and applications of Murphy’s Law, so there are many of the Golden Rule.
Here is one example. For pastors and their congregations, there are issues of communication, straightforwardness and honor of each other, which come into play.
When I spoke to Greg Rickel, bishop of Olympia, four weeks ago, I asked him if I could use the 10 Rules for Respect in communication he'd introduced at his parish as rector - and he readily gave his permission.
Before I share them with you, though, a disclosure – in the form of a story.
Donald Nicholl, the English Catholic layman who taught me so much at UCSC, loved to tell the story of Gandhi and the little girl. Her mother brought her to the great man complaining of her addiction to sweet foods, and asking Gandhi to do something about it. Gandhi told her to come back in two weeks.
When she did, he took the little girl aside and in a few simple words told her how to break the habit. The mother asked, why did you not tell her this two weeks ago? Because, madam, two weeks ago I was still addicted to sweet foods myself!
In other words practicing the Golden Rule takes – practice!
So with some trepidation... here are the 10 Rules for Respect in communication between a congregation and its pastor:
10 Rules for Respect
1. If you have a problem with me, come to me (privately).
2. If I have a problem with you, I will come to you (privately).
3. If someone has a problem with me and comes to you, send them to me. (I’ll do the same for you.)
4. If someone consistently will not come to me, say to them, “Let’s go to him together. I am sure he will see us about this.” (I will do the same for you.)
5. Be careful how you interpret me – I’d rather do that. On matters that are unclear, do not feel pressured to interpret my feelings or thoughts. It is easy to misinterpret intentions.
6. I will be careful how I interpret you.
7. If it’s confidential, don’t tell. This especially applies to Vestry meetings. If you or anyone comes to me in confidence, I won’t tell unless a) the person is going to harm himself/herself, b) the person is going to physically harm someone else, c) a child has been physically or sexually abused. I expect the same from you.
8. I do not read unsigned letters or notes.
9. I do not manipulate; I will not be manipulated; do not let others *manipulate you. Do not let others manipulate me through you. I will not preach “at” you on Sunday mornings. I will leave conviction to the Holy Spirit. (She does it better anyway!)
10. When in doubt, just say it. The only dumb questions are those that don’t get asked. We are a family here and we care about each other, so if you have a concern, pray, and then (if led) speak up. If I can answer it without misrepresenting something, someone, or breaking a confidence, I will.
This is one example of how we are to put into effect the golden rule, not only to refrain from doing to others what we would not want others to do to us, but positively to treat others as we want to be treated ourselves.
The gospel lesson contains some paradoxical sayings. Jesus seems to be turning worldly wisdom on its head – give to whoever asks of you, invite beggars to your banquets, go the extra mile – and in some ways I think he is suggesting this as a revolutionary, non-violent protest action. The people of Palestine were, after all, deeply oppressed, and violent protest would lead, as it did, to disaster and destruction. What Israel held most precious, the Temple in Jerusalem, was torn down stone by stone.
Our own pretences of worldly wisdom, canniness and morality, are confounded by Jesus’ sayings – and by the reality of the in-breaking kingdom of God. Jesus is not after all selling us a bill of goods, pie in the sky, nor is he trying to get us killed – though living his way can lead to the cross. What he is doing is trying to get us to live into the kingdom, to begin to conduct ourselves as citizens of the city of God.
It looks topsy-turvy, through the eyes of the world. With the eyes of the heart opened, it is a glimpse of paradise.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Bishop Gregory Rickel’s biography and answers to search committee essay questions, Diocese of Olympia (http://www.ecww.org/inthenews/rickel.pdf)
Donald Nicholl, Holiness (Seabury, 1981)
C All Saints RCL
The Lessons Appointed for Use on All Saints' Day - Year C - RCL
Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.