Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent Sunday, 2008

November 30, 2008 Advent Sunday (RCL, Year B)
Isaiah 64: 1-9, I Corinthians 1: 1-9; Mark 13: 24-37

The first morning of the year, dawn and sunrise . . . the first morning of the world . . . the new world . . . the day stretching out before us in a mysterious openness, full of hope and possibility, unpredictability, and at the same time hints of a darker tone, a premonition of danger, out at the edges. But all ahead of us, potential, the prospect of glorious victory or catastrophic defeat, winning and losing. The first morning of the year, the first morning of the world, the curtain rises: Advent Sunday.

As I have often said, I am descended myself from a long line of Northern European introverted males, well practiced in the fine art of the suppression of deep emotion. All the heated passion of a Scandinavian. And on this first morning a temptation to minimize, to avoid, to suppress. Roll over and go back to sleep.

But the alarm comes. “Hark! A thrilling voice is sounding.” And from a place deep within we are lifted into the morning. “Sleepers wake.” And the evasions and defenses of our lives are surrounded and embraced and overcome by his new advent. Ready or not, there is light at the horizon, and the stirring up in us of a sense of ourselves that is new and fresh and ready for something more.

And there is for us here, and we hardly can tell where it came from, how we came to feel it, a sense of a profound yearning. A yearning. An anticipation stirring down in the foundations of our hearts, beneath all the things we want or crave, our deceptive appetites. I found myself thinking of what I think is my favorite Psalm, Psalm 84, not the one appointed for this morning in our lectionary, but deeply familiar and true to the spirit of this Advent, a poetry to lift in song something almost unspeakable. How lovely is thy dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yea, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.

“My soul longs, yea, faints for the courts of the LORD.” Where does that come from? That breathless longing? What does that mean—in this world of financial meltdown and sudden economic dislocation, terrorism, war and rumors of war, fragmenting churches, fragmenting societies, fragmenting nations? This longing of Advent, this sense of a space opening up in us that can be filled only by his presence, his blessing.

So Isaiah, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence.” All of us together, like the Christians of Corinth, discovering in our yearning for him a richness beyond anything we ever expected. As Paul says to them, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge . . . so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end.”

The story begins anew. Early morning, Day One. As the old dorm poster had it, “the first day of the rest of our lives.” Bethlehem, Gethsemane, the Cross and the Empty Tomb and the Upper Room, the outpouring Holy Spirit—the whole story, ahead of us, again, for the first time. And the spiritual discipline of this season—a little more challenging for us Northern European introverts, but so for all of us—not to turn away, but give ourselves up to it, to allow it to enter us: the mystery of our yearning for his presence, to sustain our lives, and to bring us from our wanderings to the home he has prepared for us.

So simply to say: Happy New Year, on this Advent Sunday. As we hear the Word, as we know the spiritual benediction of his offering at the Holy Table, as we go forth into the world in his name. Carrying within us this yearning, as the Holy Mother carries within herself the Holy Child. May there be in this day, this Advent, and all the new year ahead, the richness of his forgiveness and healing, a renewal of life, and always, his blessing.

Bruce Robison

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving, 2008

November 26, 2008 Eve of Thanksgiving Day

You read the papers these days or catch the evening news, and for the last couple of months anyway it’s been all economic crisis, all the time.

We’ve become a nation of experts, talking about subprime mortgage-backed securities and credit-default swaps and the collapse of the international monetary system in casual conversation at the water cooler. The President-elect has announced about thirty-five new panels, think-tanks, and advisory groups to work with him on these issues, and I expect my phone to ring any minute now with word of my appointment to one of them. After all, I took two Econ courses at Cal, back in the early '70's . . . .

And there is more generally this undercurrent of anxiety, and not that deep under the surface. A friend recently told me that he had planned to retire next year, and he and his wife had their itinerary of travel all worked out--but that his 401K had taken such a beating in the past three months that he figures now he’ll need to work for at least five more years. And another friend talked to me yesterday about how she was dealing with having been laid-off from the job that she had so deeply loved. And wondering what to do next.

Hard times. Kind of scary. I’ve been thinking lately about the stories my dad would tell about his growing up during the Great Depression. Used to seem like ancient history. But maybe things to learn there for us now. He was even back in the 50’s and 60’s always wanting to impress upon me and my sister that there were so many things that we simply would take for granted, that we shouldn’t take for granted. And mostly I think this sense that it would be so easy in the midst of material prosperity to lose sight of the things that turn out to be most important. Certainly relationships, family, friends and neighbors, caring for each other. And the deeper sense of God’s presence and care for us. Not as a God who is always showering us with goodies, but as one who helped us to know and live on a stronger foundation.

There is a lot to give thanks for, even in unsettled times. And we would highlight then the first sentence of the gospel reading this evening, on the Eve of Thanksgiving Day. Jesus to his friends. “Put away anxious thoughts.” Easier said than done, of course. And which doesn’t mean live in denial, which doesn’t mean forget about careful planning and responsible stewardship, which doesn’t mean “eat, drink, and be merry” until the last of the seed corn has been consumed.

But to remember where we are called to put our trust. In whom. Our confidence. Our hope. Not in material things. Not in political programs. Not in popularity or prestige. But to put our trust, our confidence, our hope, in the One above all others who is faithful. The old saying from the 12-Step movement always wise, but especially in times like these: “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

We're all of us in different places this evening, as we would note that in terms of our care for one another, our sensitivity and awareness of need. And in all that, above all that, to know that this evening and always, as we are fed at his Table, we are secure forever in his love. And bound together, one to another, in his love.

So, may this day, however we observe it, be a day most of all of Thanksgiving for that.

Bruce Robison

Sunday, November 23, 2008

St. Andrew: Patronal Festival, 2008

November 23, 2008 St. Andrew (Observed)
Deuteronomy 30: 9-14; Matthew 4: 12-23

With thanks always to the Highlanders, who make this day every year such a great celebration, a reminder of our heritage, a homecoming, a gift.

The leaves have come down from the trees, pretty much, we’ve had our first snowfall, and it is that time of year again. St. Andrew’s Day.

“So that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: . . . the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”

The observance of our patron St. Andrew’s Feast Day is something of an entry and threshold, with the New Year of Advent and the great incarnational drama of Christmas and the Epiphany stretching out before us, as certainly we would hear in Matthew’s quotation from Isaiah here, and in the story of the calling of Simon Peter and Andrew and James and John by the Sea of Galilee.

How the one born in the stable of Bethlehem is born for each of us, as for these four who are called now to be disciples, born in the midst of our lives, as he finds us where we are and speaks the simple word, the mystical word and powerful word of invitation, a word not broadcast on the radio or published in the newspaper, but spoken directly to us, one by one. Christmas always the 25th of December, but for each of us in the calendars of our own lives we would have our own date. When he showed up on our doorstep.

Perhaps you will remember the Stephen Spielberg film back in the late ‘70’s, Close Encounters of the Third Kind . Which had to do with Richard Dreyfus being contacted by aliens from outer space. But I want to borrow the title, simply to say that this St. Andrew’s Day and the dawn of Advent is for us a reminder of how we are called in this deepest mystery of all to a “close encounter.”

Those four by the Sea of Galilee, Mary that morning in Nazareth when the Angel Gabriel appeared before her, the two disciples walking home from Jerusalem to Emmaus on Easter Sunday afternoon. This moment as we open ourselves to the reading of the Scriptures and to the great testimonies of faith around us in the signs and symbols of this place, as we hear and sing in the rich poetry of these hymns of faith.

Wonderful, as Moses in his great farewell oration, to the people in the wilderness, as they prepare to cross the Jordan and enter the land promised to them: “It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth, and in your heart, so that you can do it.”

The Angel announces “God with us,” Emmanuel. St. John says, “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” Literally, “pitched his tent in our midst.” The story unfolding before us not about a God who holds us at arm’s length, who regards us from some distant mountaintop. Instead, about the One who seeks us out, who comes near, who can call us each by name.

So as the old song says, “What a friend we have in Jesus.” Celebrate that today, as we sing with the pipers and remember all the saints and heroes, the men and women and boys and girls who have called this St. Andrew’s family their own over the past 171 years—as we lift up in the imagination of our hearts the men and women and boys and girls who will be a part of this place in years and generations to come. Newcomers and old timers—all in the church you find when you drive across the city and follow the signs to the zoo. It has been quite a place, is quite a place, and will be. Where his love is abundant, his forgiveness, his mercy, his healing. His promise.

Most of all because he meets us here. There is a children’s amusement park in Southern California called “Santa’s Village,” and they say in their advertising, “where it’s Christmas every day of the year.” So always, the potential in our lives, in this parish family, and in the wide world, which is in so much distress. Where we continue to await his arrival, where we continue to celebrate his birth, here with us.

St. Paul at the end of First Corinthians reminds us of what most think to be the most ancient prayer of Christian liturgy, from the earliest moments of the Church, Maranatha. “Come, Lord.” Come quickly. And so, here, for us: in the sacrament of the Word and the sacrament of the Altar, and in the sacrament of the cup of coffee in the parish hall.

In the sacrament of the shelter meal, the Godly Play story, the choir anthem that was already a sacred classic when Henry Tudor was a boy. Because he comes close to us in the life of the Spirit. Today. What a friend we have, in Jesus. As our St. Andrew heard his voice there by the sea—Christmas for him--as he put down his nets and got out of the boat, turned the page to a new chapter of life, to walk the way of new life with his Lord and Savior, may this day be as well for us, each of us, all of us together, one of grace and blessing and renewal.

Bruce Robison

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Twenty-Seventh after Pentecost

November 16, 2008 XXVII Pentecost (RCL Proper 28A)
Judges 4: 1-7; 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11; Matthew 25: 14-30

“Hear, read, mark, learn, inwardly digest.” It’s important to begin this morning by acknowledging what we just prayed a few minutes ago as our Collect of the Day, this great tribute coming from the sources of our Anglican life and tradition, composed by Archbishop Cranmer back in the middle of the 16th century and until we got to our new American Prayer Book appointed for the Second Sunday of Advent.

A tribute and hymn and affirmation of the Holy Scriptures at the foundation of our lives as Christian people. And simply to notice that this is not a prayer about Scripture as a club that we might use to beat each other up, nor as a vaguely interesting collection of ancient texts towards which we are to have simply a scholarly interest, but as food, the nourishment of our lives, as comfort in our distress, God’s gift to us and presence with us, and as the blessing and assurance and promise of a hope that is above all a transforming presence in our lives.

In some sense the character most profoundly consistent with Christian faith and with the renewal of life that is ours in Christ, a sense of “falling in love” with the Bible. Not putting it on a pedestal, not, again, turning it into a weapon, but to experience in it the depth and wonder and joy and spiritual food of God’s goodness and mercy.

That said, we have this morning the beginning (and unfortunately just the beginning) of one of the most interesting stories in the Book of Judges, with Judge Deborah and General Barak and General Sisera and the surprising and unlikely hero Jael—and if those aren’t familiar names, we might notice that one of the intentions of our new Revised Common Lectionary is to recover for our common life and corporate memory some of the great Biblical stories where the key characters are women, and this is certainly one of those, and a very vivid and exciting one.

Jael and Sisera, by Gustav Dore

A story about inspiration, passionate loyalty, creativity, authority, and risk-taking in the shadow of an intense wartime conflict.

A story that fits well within a context of a work like the Iliad, with fascinating characters and vivid, breathtaking action—and just edgy enough to make it at least something like a PG-13 feature. And friends: I hope that inspires you to run home and read the rest of the fourth chapter of Judges, as with our observance of St. Andrew’s Day next Sunday and then with the beginning of Advent I’m afraid we’ll miss hearing the exciting development and conclusion of this story in our Sunday readings. I’m not going to tell you the story here—but do go take a look at it when you get home.

Having said that, I would build a bridge from the themes of this story to our gospel reading, in the 25th chapter of St. Matthew, and the Parable of the Talents. Perhaps a parable that we hear with slightly different emphasis in the midst of the current disturbance of the financial markets. But this story isn’t really set before us as a guide to the investment of our retirement accounts—just as the story of Jael and Sisera (which you may not have read yet, but will soon, I know!) isn’t really intended for us as a guide for how to deal with enemies in a time of war. What we look for here is something deeper, about attitude, character. About how we live our lives as a faithful expression of the hope that is in us.

And to say that in both of these stories, we have before us a spirit of confidence. Not fear, but a kind of holy boldness. Stepping forward. To use a word that is popular, this is about being “proactive.” Taking initiative. Thinking outside the box. Not waiting for someone else to do what needs to be done. As it is sometimes said, “not just to talk about change, but to be the change.”

In that context I would say a good word this morning for the great ministry of our Five Talents Prayer Circle, which is by the way an open and growing circle of friends. Always glad to expand the circle and add more members. It began here a couple of years ago as a group of us were inspired by the work of Five Talents International, a ministry that works by way of micro-lending in small, faith-based communities mainly in Africa and Latin America assisted by local Anglican and ecumenical partners to support individuals and to build up communities with a sense of self-sufficiency and independence and productivity.

Our Circle has sponsored a project in Lima, Peru, which has been very meaningful and very exciting in many ways, and that in turn led us to a friendship with Dean John and Susan Parks and a sense of collaboration with their ministry at the Anglican Cathedral of the Good Shepherd in Lima, and to the little missions fundraiser and Harvest Brunch this morning. I know for the Five Talents Group, as for our “Off the Floor” volunteers and by way of the East End Cooperative Ministry and so many others of our missions initiatives, there is this sense of what it means in Christian community for us again “not just to talk about change, but to be the change.” To know Christ, to meet him in our own lives, and then to become his hands, his feet, his heart, in an active outreach that touches real people in real ways. Those whom he loves, and for whom he died, and whose lives he embraces and gathers in and lifts up into the eternal life of God’s heavenly kingdom.

This is what our new life in Christ is all about, as the reading from First Thessalonians would highlight for us also. Paul, in this encouraging word. The world may seem dark, but it’s not dark for us, not ever again, not for those who live in Christ, who have stood at the foot of his Cross, who have known his forgiveness, his grace, who know the great hope of his resurrection, who are transformed by his continuing presence, his love, and who anticipate his victorious return. For us, even the darkest night is bright as midday. “For you are all children of the day . . . not of the night or of darkness.”

Which is the word that calls us to the Holy Table this morning, to share the supernatural food and drink of his life with us. Which is why we can take those Five Talents, whatever they may be in our lives, and not hide them away, but send them out to increase to an abundance. There is no place among us any more for fear, but instead we are called to open our hearts and our minds and our lives to a spirit of confidence. To live from this time forward not in an environment of harsh judgment, hostility, defensiveness, but to be lifted up into a gracious and gentle and joyful future.

We know the end of the story. His victory. Therefore we will not be afraid. Never again. Because he first loved us, we are freed to love one another and to open ourselves to the world. Because he gave himself, so we can give ourselves to the world on his behalf, without fear, confidently, as agents of compassion, healing, reconciliation. “Well done, good and faithful servants.”

Bruce Robison

Monday, November 10, 2008

Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

See the introductory note about Bishop Jones in the preceding entry, or by clicking through to the diocesan website.

The Messenger of God Appearing to Joshua

Ferdinand Bol
Dutch, about 1640 - 1644

On RCL Proper 27 A, 2008 Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
Given by the Rt. Rev. David C. Jones
at St. Andrew’s Church, Highland Park
Pittsburgh, PA on 9 November 2008


I am grateful for the invitation to preach. I bring you warm greetings from the clergy and people of the Diocese of Virginia. I am here to remind you that you are not alone – that the Episcopal Church stands behind the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh.

For the past 30 years, I have been serving in the Diocese of Virginia, the last 13 as a bishop. I visited Pittsburgh on a number of occasions as a boy visiting my cousin, Alexander Reed who at that time was the President of the Fidelity Trust Bank. I spent many of my Thanksgivings in Washington, Pennsylvania at the home of my Aunt Isabel Reed Clark.

I have been asked by the Standing Committee of the continuing Diocese of Pittsburgh to assist them during a time of transition and change.

It was also a moment of transition and change for Joshua when he was called to ministry. He had served as Moses’ assistant. Then after Moses death, God had called Joshua to succeed Moses saying, “My servant Moses is dead, now proceed to cross the Jordan.”

The task may have seemed impossible. Joshua may very well have felt inadequate. He might have asked, “How could I step into the shoes of Moses and lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land?” Might he have heard the words that were recorded at the end of the book of Deuteronomy, “Never since has there appeared a prophet in Israel like Moses whom the Lord knew face to face.”

I suspect that many of us have faced insurmountable challenges in life – tasks put before us that seemed utterly impossible – challenges that seemed beyond our comprehension.

As Joshua embraced his new role as Moses’ successor, he had one string of hope to which he could grasp. He could hold on to the words of his call – a promise recorded in the first chapter of Joshua:

“No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.”

As a young college student, I was resisting a call to ordained ministry. I sensed that I was called to ordination, but did not feel up to the task. I knew my own shortcomings and knew that I was not worthy to be called a priest. Encouraged by a college chaplain, I attended a conference on the ministry at the Virginia Seminary. I went there expecting to have my reservations about ordination confirmed. But in the first session of the conference, a question was posed to a retired bishop – an elderly man. A participant said that he had been resisting a call for more than 20 years because he did not feel worthy.
The retired bishop smiled. He replied that he had never felt worthy – that only God was worthy and that God’s grace made him worthy to be a priest and a bishop.

In one instant, my reservations vanished and I yielded to the call. Through one man’s testimony, I heard essentially the same message given to Joshua at the beginning of his ministry, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.”

Toward the end of the Book of Joshua, we meet the prophet at the end of his life as he is gathered with elders and heads, judges and officials. He reminded them of the words of his call saying “Not one thing has failed of all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you; all have come to pass for you, not one of them has failed.”

Those words of encouragement are especially important to us today. We are reminded of God’s faithfulness and God’s gracious provision.

It is in the context of promises fulfilled that we hear Joshua’s challenge to the people of Israel in today’s lesson, “choose this day whom you will serve … but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Joshua’s challenge is founded on his experience and faith – not only in his life, but also through the life and experience of Moses, his teacher and mentor. It is not a blind choice, but one founded on trust in a faithful God.

The question of choice is evident in the parable of the five foolish maidens in Matthew 25.

At the heart of the parable is the rejection of the five bridesmaids who were not prepared for the bridegroom to arrive.

We can hear that parable in the context of Joshua’s question “choose this day whom you will serve.”

Obviously, the five had chosen to do other things and were not prepared. Might they represent those among us who try to get by in life with minimum effort?

Might the foolish maidens represent those who are too preoccupied to build their spiritual houses on solid ground – who take chances with matters of ultimate importance?

On too many occasions, I have been with people grieving over relationships that had NOT happened – over opportunities that were lost - about marriages that had slowly died because of lack of attention.

“I just didn’t realize” is the most common explanation for the profound grief that is experienced over an unnecessary loss. “If I had only known” is a common confession of a person experiencing grief.

Choose this day whom you will serve.

Second, the foolish maidens represent those who assume that material things can replace eternal things –
• who move too fast through life to make friends
• who offer their children things instead of relationships

We live in a fast food culture that prizes technology and speed more than feelings and relationships. But the fastest communications in the world still have to slow down for ordinary people like you and me.

Choose this day whom you will serve.

Third, the maidens represent those who try to defy the limits of humanity
• who want to beat the system and have life their way
• who are overextended financially
• who are too busy to meet their commitments
• or who risk their lives with excessive speed.

So there are really two messages in our lessons – the first is God’s promise that he will be with us and never forsake us, and the second is the importance of our faithful response to God’s gracious love.

One way that we answer that question is through our giving. I have already begun to think about what I might give at Christmas and what I will give to the Church next year.

I will give out of a sense of gratitude – the kind of gratitude expressed by Joshua as he gathered with the leaders of Israel – the kind of gratitude that brings tears to our eyes when we realize the gracious provision and protection of God.

“No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.”

Joshua’s question then can be very personal. Choose this day whom you will serve. We answer that question day after day, hour after hour. Amen.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Next Sunday at St. Andrew's

The Rt. Rev. David Colin Jones, Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia of the Episcopal Church, will be Guest Preacher at St. Andrew's on Sunday, November 9. Bishop Jones has been engaged by the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh as Consultant and Pastoral Liaison until a more settled Interim Episcopal Ministry appointment is made.

Bishop Jones will be participating in the 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. services and will be our guest at the 10 a.m. "between the services" Coffee and Conversation hour.

We will also have a 2 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. "Meet Bishop Jones" gathering for the wider diocese that afternoon.

For more information, Click Here.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

All Saints Sunday, 2008

November 2, 2008 All Saints Sunday 1 John 3: 1-3

One of the great days of the Church Year, All Saints Sunday, and certainly here at St. Andrew’s, always a festival of celebration, such wonderful music, and enjoying a glimpse of the future as we celebrate with Ian Denshaw and Nikolas Schunn and Maeve Southard-Wray and Zach Spondike and their families on First Communion Sunday.

And remembering All Saints and heroes of ancient days and All Souls as we more immediately are remembering in our thoughts and prayers those whom we have known and loved but now see no longer, reminding ourselves of the challenges and opportunities of life and ministry that God sets before us, and aware even in the faces of our children that the intentions of God stretch out beyond all the boundaries of time and space that we can even begin to imagine. This mystery of community, of the Christian family, the Church, the Body of Christ.

There’s a poster you often find in locker rooms and I think also in some business and corporate offices with the saying, kind of a cliché, “THERE IS NO “I” in “TEAM.” The idea that the objective is to score the goal, win the game, complete the project, not to bring glory to any one individual—and especially not if, as so often happens, that one member’s drive and desire to be the Star of the Show ends up undermining the quality and effectiveness of the group effort. “I scored three runs, but we lost the game.” In the same way I’ve heard it said that there can be no such thing as a solitary Christian. That there is something essential to the foundation of our faith about life in community.

St. Benedict held that for the monk Christian life in the monastery was in many ways superior to Christian life as an anchorite or hermit, because, he said, it is only in community that we truly can learn and practice obedience to the Great Commandment that Jesus gave to his friends on that Holy Thursday evening, when as he washed their feet in such compassionate humility he said, “Love one another, as I have loved you.”

Obedience, humility, and compassion are just hard things to practice in a room by yourself—and those are for any Christian the chief signposts on the way of Spiritual life, of growth in faith and in relationship to Christ, as we come to know him together, with one another. So All Saints and All Souls not minor observances in the calendar, but essential and at the core of who we are and what our Christian life is all about, on a direct line with Christmas and Easter and Pentecost, and certainly a festival worthy of orchestral celebration. This vast community, across time and space.

Certainly a day when as with Ian and Nikolas and Maeve and Zach we would come to the altar this morning to receive what we are, and what we are becoming, the Body of Christ, to meet the One in whom we become more and more perfectly who we are in the eyes of our Heavenly Father, and to grow more deeply in companionship one with another. As that very word “companion” reflects relationship in and through the sharing of bread.

All that, then, and this wonderful, brief passage from First John, the opening sentences of the third chapter, in a kind of anthem of deepest feeling of that relationship grounded in Christ’s living presence. No “I” in this paragraph, almost as if the Apostle doesn’t know that word—it’s all “we.” “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God.” It is this fellowship, all of us together, this communication, this living together in one holy family, brothers and sisters, in the miracle of heavenly life, that brings the fulfillment of our life together.

Not to negate or diminish our individuality, but to see that individuality lifted up into a greater identity, a life of more complete fullness and perfection. A transformation in Christ. “What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.”

I can almost hear rumbling underneath an echo of Henry Wadsworth Lowry’s much loved 19th century hymn, “How can I keep from singing?” In a moment in the life of the wider church which sometimes seems to be more about conflict and division and separation in all sorts of ways, to be called back on this Sunday to the first principle of our life, and of our life together. “Beloved, we are God’s children now.” And that is then manifest in us as his life overflows the boundaries of our lives and fills the world.

Not just some joy, not just joy here and there, but in fullness, in perfection. That we will be like him.

As what we have seen in him, in his life, his death, his resurrection, and his glory, now we see as well: All Saints, All Souls—Ian, Nikolas, Maeve, and Zach, and all of you, all of us. Complete joy. The vision of the great All Saints Day hymn, as it echoes around us all this morning: From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast, through gates of pearl streams in the countless host, singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Alleluia. Alleluia.

Bruce Robison