Touching Souls

Preached on 4 November 2018 at Church of the Ascension, Seattle, Washington
All Saints Day, Year B

The saints have no need of honor from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs.  Clearly, if we venerate their memory, it serves us, not them.  But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by tremendous yearning.

~Wrote St. Bernard of Clairvaux in the twelfth century. (August 20th on our calendar) 1090-1153

And so, we take a day every year to remember and celebrate all the saints in every generation; names we know and those we don’t.  Most particularly we celebrate the saints who may not make it onto the calendar of the church or into our daily prayer, but who are saints, nonetheless.

Because of the busyness o four lives and because there are so many saints, today, we lump them all together for one big celebration.

We recognize that because of them, we are here.  Because of the saints, the knowledge of God has come down through the ages and around the world to reach us, here.  Because of saints, the Holy Stories were written down, and then translated into countless languages, often at risk to their lives, so we can read them now.  Because of the saints, we have our prayer book and our particular type of worship.  And the same can be said of every type of worship.

Because of saints, we have learned ways to strive for justice and freedom and peace in our world.  We care for our neighbor.  We learn to forgive, to ask for forgiveness, we learn to pray.

Because of saints, we learn how to walk with God.  Through their lives, the saints comfort us, care for us, teach us, inspire us.  They may even set our hearts on fire.

Who have been the saints in your life; whether or not they’re on the calendar or ever will be?  Who has made that difference in your life?  Who has brought you closer to God; and how?
Who sets your heart aflame for God?
Let’s take a moment to remember them and give thanks to God for their lives.

Our calendars are so full, that not only do we lump all the saints into one day, we typically lump two holy days into one, combining All Saints Day with All Souls Day.

All Souls Day is also known as the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed.  We remember and pray for all those whom we love but see no longer, as our prayer says.  While we may believe in the resurrection and the assurance that our loved ones are in the presence of God, we also experience the very real effects of the loss of their presence in our lives.  So, let’s take a moment to remember them and pray for them.

During our opening acclamation, we proclaimed together:

There is one Body and one Spirit
There is one hope in God’s call to us.
One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism,
One God and Father of all.

We are one Body, one in the Body of Christ.  We are all connected and death has no say in that.  We are one with all those who have gone before and all who are yet to come.  We are joined together with that Great cloud of witnesses, the Communion of Saints.  Their names will be our “music” during communion this morning; a reminder that they are with us, still.

And it is particularly appropriate that on this day, when we celebrate the Communion of Saints and our participation in that communion, that we renew our Baptismal Covenant and that we join with people all across this city and all around the world who are baptized this morning, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  And so, we will baptize Rupert Hudson Bartsch in just a little while.

Now, Rupert doesn’t realize this yet, but he’ll learn soon enough, that life will offer him amazing love and joy and laughter and wonderful experiences.  It also will present him with challenges and pain and heartache and failure.  Baptism isn’t a vaccination against the pain of life.

Baptism is, however, a joining with God in Christ and the promise of Christ to be with us through it all.  It is a joining with the Body of Christ, this community.

We need community to help us through.  And that means you.  In just a little bit, I will ask you to vow before God, to do everything in your power to support Rupert (and that includes his parents and his sister) in their walk with Christ.

This is serious stuff.  Don’t make empty promises to God.  It starts with getting to know Rupert (all the children, for that matter), learning the sound of his voice, growing to love him as God’s beloved child.  It’s continuing to know him as he grows and changes; as he becomes a toddler, a child, a teenager, a young adult; and always a child of God.

It’s being there with him and for him as he faces the inevitable challenges and pain of life as well as celebrating his joys and accomplishments.  It’s showing him through your own lives, not telling him, how to be in relationship with Christ: how to pray how you recognize God’s presence and activity in your life,  how to love kindness, to do justice, and to walk humbly with God.  And having the humility to allow him to show you those lessons.
It’s about caring for each other’s soul.

Listen to what Ann and Barry Ulanov write about the soul in The Healing Imagination:

Our soul is that objectively existing opening in our subjective life that knows about God and goodness and evil, about the transcendent and its reach into the ordinary, into our daily life, into everything.  The soul registers with special pleasure our experience of mystery and its source, and wants above all else to know better that source, that ultimate other in our lives.  Soul is willingness, even desire, to correspond to that other as it makes itself known to us.  The soul’s imaginings dwell on who this other is, who this God is that comes to us.
Soul asks, Who is there?  What do you want of me?  How can I be for you, be toward you?[1]

And now, it is time to ask God, to reach into the ordinary, to touch our souls, and most particularly to touch Rupert’s soul, to seal him by the Holy Spirit and mark him as Christ’s own, forever.

Just as you are marked as Christ’s own.  Forever.




[1] -Ann and Barry Ulanov.  The Healing Imagination: The Meeting of Psyche and Soul (1991)