10-30-16 All Saints’ Day

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4 The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet received in a vision. “How long, YHWH, am I to cry for help while you do not listen?  How long will I cry ‘Oppression!’ in your ear and you do not save? Why do you make me look upon injustice?  Why do you countenance tyranny?  Outrage and violence—this is all I see!  All is contention, and discord flourished.

The law loses its hold, and justice never shows itself.  The corrupt triumph over those who are righteous, and justice is perverted once again.” I will stand on my watchtower, and take up my post on my battlements, watching to see what God will make to my complaints. Then YHWH replied, “Write down this vision, inscribe it legibly on tablets so that a herald can easily read it, Since this vision will stand as a witness to the appointed time of judgment; it gives faithful testimony about a time that will come.  If it is slow in coming, wait for it—for come it will  without fail: Look—those whose hearts are corrupt will faint with exhaustion, while those who steadfastly uphold justice will live.”

 

Luke 6:20-31 Looking at the disciples, Jesus said: “You who are poor are blessed, for the reign of God is yours. You who hunger now are blessed, for you’ll be filled.  You who weep now are blessed, for you’ll laugh. You are blessed when people hate you, when they scorn and insult you ad spurn your name as evil because of the Chosen One. On the day they do so, rejoice and be glad:  Your reward will be great in heaven, for their ancestors treated the prophets the same way. But woe to you rich, for you are now receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are full, for you’ll go hungry.  Woe to you who laugh now, for you’ll weep in your grief. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in the same way. “to you who hear me, I say:  love your enemies.  Do good to those who hate you, Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you. When they slap you on one cheek, turn and give them the other; when they take your coat, let them have your shirt as well. Give to all who beg from you.   When someone takes what is yours, don’t demand it back. “Do to others what you would have them do to you.

October 30, 2016

All Saints Day: Living a Legacy

The last time I spoke with Shirley Brautigam was two days before she died. Sunday, after church I went over to see her at Bryn Mawr Hospital. She was pretty sick obviously, sicker than any of us knew. Even that day though we had a wonderful conversation. We always did. Shirley was never one to beat around the bush. She wanted to talk about everything, even when she was really sick.

She looked at me and she said, “So David, who are you going to vote for?”

I said, “Oh Shirley, let’s not talk about that today.”

She said, “Ok, how are things with the church?”

it was not an idle question for her. She didn’t ask about the church to just make conversation or to gossip. She always wanted to talk about how everyone was doing and about real issues with the church. She would apologize for having strong convictions about the way things should be, but she always let me know what those convictions were. I miss her already

 

Shirley was ready, even thankful, to die quickly, without a long period of suffering. Our scripture readings today promise justice for all who are just, a blessing for all who have lived their lives well. We know there are some who die young and many die lengthy or painful deaths that seem manifestly unfair. Donna Boswell keeps telling me that she has some hard questions for God when she gets to see him. She plans to give God a piece of her mind!

She asked me why do we pray when death is so unfair for people like her granddaughter in law, Jackie. I’m not sure I have the best answer for that, but I know that one of the reasons we need to pray is because things are not always fair in this world, we sometimes pray with instructions to or requests from God and hope that our prayers will influence God to pay attention to these unjust situations, to make our loved ones lives safer, healthier and more just.

Frankly, I pray for my mother every day with those kinds of hopes. I pray for Jackie every day too, and for any of you who are having trouble when you face sickness or sadness. So this question, why do we pray is a very pertinent one for me. It would seem that I should be very discouraged about the effectiveness of my prayer life when I see the difficulty my mother is having in her breathing and that this mother of a one year old daughter is having as she faces this life threatening cancer. Why do we pray?

Or we might ask the question more pointedly the way Habakkuk does, “How long will I cry ‘Oppression!’ in your ear and you do not save? Why do you make me look upon injustice?  Why do you countenance tyranny?” Habakkuk stands on the ramparts to challenge God – the same way Mrs. Boswell says she’s going to do. Habakkuk has already done that for us, courageously taking God to task for the violence and corruption in his world.

He is asking the question if God is simply indifferent or powerless, or if there is no God to call on in awful situations like this. None of these options are particularly appealing to us – or to Habakkuk. Elie Wiesel in his book Night wrote of his experience in a Nazi concentration camp watching a young boy hanging in agony, not dying for thirty minutes. Wiesel asks the poignant all important question, “Where is God?”

This is a deep prayer, a most profound prayer. Jesus prayed a similar prayer from the cross. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It is through and because of Jesus that we know that God understands the worst of human suffering.

Wiesel, who died this year, wrote in Night that he finally found himself answering his question “Where is God?” within himself. “God is here. God is hanging on these gallows.”

And that’s why we pray – so we can hear Habakkuk’s call to patience and we can see God in our loved ones who are suffering and in ourselves, so we can know that God is crying with us and living with us precisely in those suffering places, in those places where it is hardest for us to hold out hope. We pray to bring ourselves back to God’s loving presence and to be God’s presence – as Donna and Pam are doing in this difficult situation. I thank them for their faithfulness, and call us to surround them with ours.

 

The last time I spoke with Shirley Brautigam two days before she died, we had a wonderful talk, as we almost always did. As I was leaving her hospital room that afternoon, I stopped on the way out the door. I said, “I’ll see you later, Shirley,. I love you. ” she said, “I love you too, David.” That was the first time we had ever said that to each other and those were the last words we spoke. She was a blessing to me and to this church. Thanks be to God for her life, and the gift that she was and is to us.

This is Gods good news.

Responsive hymn: For All the Saints