This particular season of the church year is my favorite. Easter is bold and bright and glorious. It is RESURRECTION in all caps! We also spend a great deal of time reflecting on the personal – our individual sins, our own relationship with the Divine, the person of Jesus.
For all the sun and joy and spring and sound and pomp and deserved circumstance that come with that day of all days, it’s this time of the year – between the “A Mighty Fortress” of Reformation and the “Prepare the Royal Highway!” of Advent that captures my imagination most. This year, it’s entirely contained in the month of November. It’s a season, both in and beyond the church, where we instinctively move, breathe, live (and eat) as “us.”
It starts as we gather together to remember the saints, that great cloud of witnesses that are with us always. On All Saints Day, above all other days, the communion table seems infinitely expansive, stretching to make place for every single person on earth that has ever been, and is now, and will ever be. God sees the beloved community as always complete. All God asks of us is to make God’s vision of “us” real in our time, thank you very much. How great a cloud of witnesses!
Then it’s “the road to the bird,” isn’t it? What I notice is that we’re surrounded with messages of “us.” We give thanks. Gather together, friends and family. We are blessed. Napkins, paper plated, decorations say it. Advertising depends on us buying tablescapes for eight or more, not for one. We serve at food banks and soup kitchens for large groups. All of our rhythms of life seem to point and push us to community. It seems to me that these are invitations to think about our relationships with each other and our community in plural form – as “we” and “us.” How great a cloud of witnesses!
And then my favorite part… we close out the church calendar year with Christ the Kinship (yes, yes, I know it’s been called Christ the King, but come to church on the last Sunday in November and I’ll give you my rationale for kinship over kingship). The great cloud is assembled to praise and sing hymns and shout hallelujahs to the eternal mystery and great divine joke on all power and authority of earth – that this cloud, this ephemeral, mercurial, foggy, thick, expansive force of nature that is God’s beloved community moves in unison with the Jesus of the poor, the broken, the lost, the lonely, the dispirited, the afraid, the grieving, the jokers, the nobodies, the “I don’t quite measure up-pers”, the “who, me’s?”, the me and you of the world. Everyone who has ever been, and who is right now exactly as they are, and who will ever be.
And God so loved this world that God will gather up that beloved community, and teach them a song or two, and then find them sitting around on a hillside one quiet night, and then gather them all around a disheveled new family in an unexpected place, and as a great cloud of witnesses, we will all sing… this is God for us.
A story about our relationships – with God, with each other, and with the great cloud of witnesses. May you feel that you are a part of the great us of God’s beloved community.