All Saints’ Sunday

A number of years ago, a woman named Sara Miles wrote a memoir called Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion.  It was about her experience of coming to faith. She had grown up in a family of atheists. But she was a journalist who was by nature curious, so one Sunday morning when she was walking by a church in San Francisco, she went in and sat down to see what was going on in a worship service.  It was a church that practiced open communion, and she found herself transformed by receiving the sacrament. She shared her experience saying, “I think what I discovered in that moment when I put the bread in my mouth and was so blown away by the reality of Jesus was that the requirement for faith turned out not to be believing in a doctrine, or knowing how to behave in a church, or being the right kind of person, or being raised correctly, or repeating the rituals. The requirement for faith seemed to be hunger.  It was the hunger that I had always had and the willingness to be fed by something I didn’t understand.” 

God created us as beings who need to be fed, who have yearnings that emanate from within us that inform us of our need. Our hunger tells us we need physical food. But we also have a hunger to feel connected with others, to be in communion with them because God made us to be relational beings. To have needs is not a bad thing if there is plenty available to meet those needs. When we come to a dinner table with our stomachs already full, we might enjoy just a taste of a delicious dish. But when our hunger is met with something delectable, particularly in the company of those we love, it is fulfilling in more than just the physical sense.  

This first Sunday in November is when we observe All Saints’ day. During our 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. worship services, we will, with grateful remembrance, name those from our congregation who have died in the past year. Our once-a-month Evening Worship at 5:00 p.m. that is geared for all ages will focus on the sacrament of communion. During our congregation’s 150th anniversary celebration, we have been aware that we stand on the shoulders of people of faith who preceded us. In a mystical way, we are still in communion with them. In the Apostles’ Creed, we affirm our believe in the communion of saints. That term is not limited just to those who have been beatified by a particular part of the church like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Teresa of Calcutta. We’ve known other people that get referred to as saints because they are so generous with their time and assets or because they are extraordinarily patient around difficult people. But what the word ‘saints’ refers to as used in scripture and in the Apostles’ Creed includes all people throughout time who have been made holy by Christ’s redemptive work. That includes people with plenty of spiritual inadequacies like you and me. It also includes those who have preceded us in earlier generations.  

heavenly banquet table 2021 smWe hunger for bread, for connection with God, and for connection with other people of faith, here and beyond. I want to share with you imagery of the afterlife. I’m not sure of its source. In this image hell is portrayed as people being eternally seated at a great banquet table of sumptuous foods, yet none of them are able to bend their elbows, so they can’t indulge themselves of the tantalizing feast. Heaven is portrayed in much the same way. There is a great banquet table filled with delectable delights. Here too, the people are unable to bend their elbows. Yet because they understand that they can feed each other, the banquet becomes heavenly.  

Come this Sunday to have multiple hungers addressed in hopes that the Last Supper becomes the Lasting Supper. And for those whose old-fashioned clocks don’t automatically reset, remember to ‘fall back an hour.’