Monday, November 03, 2008

For all the saints

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who thee by faith before the world confessed
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia. Alleluia

Madelyn Dunham
October 26, 1921 - November 3, 2008
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Madelyn Dunham, grandmother of presidential hopeful Barack Obama, joined the saints in light today. Rest eternal grant to her, and may her soul and the souls of all the departed rest in peace and rise in glory!
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We gave thanks yesterday, as we do on every All Saints Sunday, in a particular way for the saints in light -- for all those who have gone before us. And this year our All Saints Day celebration here at All Saints Church was -- for me -- a particularly glorious and grounding one. As we listened to the majestic music of the Bruckner Requiem celebrating the hope of light in darkness, the promise of life in death and the gift of love in all, I could feel the stress and anxiety of the election, the economy, the Anglican Communion and the Episcopal Church (to mention a few!) all melt away.
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Bathed in the beauty of the sanctuary, surrounded by music, incense, liturgy and beloved friends, colleagues and congregants, we celebrated the mystery of love and life that transcends the pain and loss of death. We voiced the names of those we love but see no more as the memorial book was placed on the altar -- and this year that book contained the name of my mother, Betty Lou Brown, who became one of the saints in light on July 24th.
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She was there, along with Jane -- beloved partner of my colleague Lori -- who lost her courageous battle with cancer in September; with Lawrence King -- the young man so brutally killed in the hate crime last February; with Alix Evans -- sister priest and Los Angeles colleague whose life we celebrated just two weeks ago ... and dozens and dozens more. Too numerable to mention and yet all equally beloved in the sight of God -- and equally gathered up into God's loving embrace.
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It's a context thing, I guess. Yes, the election tomorrow matters. Matters TERRIBLY. And I will head from here to one last rally -- stand on a street corner with one last rally sign -- and wake up tomorrow to be in line at the polls when they open and then wait -- like everybody else -- for the election results of this hard-fought fight ... praying for hope to triumph over fear; for equality to win over bigotry.
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And.
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And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song
And hearts are brave again and arms are strong.
Alleluia. Alleluia.
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The Bruckner Requiem was, for me this All Saints Day, that triumph song.
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Yes, the strife is fierce as we battle against homophobia, ignorance, bigotry and oppression. And the warfare sometimes seems as if it will never end -- as we go from the Anglican Communion front to the civic election front with General Convention 2009 looming on the horizon. The strife is fierce, the warfare long and the battle worth fighting -- for it is nothing less than the baton we have been passed as we carry on the work of those saints in light whom we love but see no more.
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And for a moment -- on Sunday -- the triumph song was not distant but immanent. And standing at the altar as we sang the service I swear I could hear the heavenly hosts singing along.
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And my heart felt braver. And my arms felt stronger. And equipped with the sure and certain knowledge that nothing can separate us from the love of God, I left believing all over again that we CAN turn the human race into the human family -- one General Election at a time, one General Convention at a time, one Lambeth Conference at a time, one inch at a time.
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Yes, we can.
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Yes, we can.
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Yes, we can.
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Give rest, O Christ, to your servants with your saints,
where sorrow and pain are no more,
neither sighing, but life everlasting.

2 comments:

ailuropoda melanoleuca torontonensis said...

the golden evening brightens in the west, Susan.
- - chris in toronto

Sandy Koenig said...

On my way to work this morning, as I drove past a veritable sea of people armed with yellow signs, I felt almost physically assaulted. There were literally hundreds lining the avenues. My first reaction was anger, then fear, until finally I prayed for peace, remembering that we really are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.

When I got to work I read your blog. It's all about perspective, isn't it? Thank you, Susan.