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THIS FEAST OF ALL SAINTS
October 31, 2003
 
Few feasts supplant that of the Lord's Day. Three, to be exact: the Feast of the Nativity, a parish's own patronal feast, and the Feast of All Saints. This year, All Saints falls on Saturday -- tomorrow. So most parishes will observe it the following day. The 21st Sunday of Pentecost and the Proper 26 readings will have to wait for another year.

And so Episcopal Churches don't have feasts like Reformation Sunday or Mother's Day or Youth Sunday. We may observe such events during the service -- pass out flowers to all the moms at the door, have the kids do all the readings or even preach, have an adult class after church in which people learn about what the Reformation was. But we follow the progress of the Church year, let it carry us forward in time with its dependable sameness, which can contain any idiosyncrasy we might care to bring to it. We don't highjack its rhythm with issues of the day.

And we don't have to. The sweep of the Church year contains them all. In and out of time weave the lessons for each season. Preachers frown into their computer screens as they struggle to find what it is that they should find in a set of readings they did not choose. And they find something. Perhaps not all of them are brilliant. But they find a way to bring their context into the presence of something wider and much older.

All eyes will be upon Episcopal churches this Sunday. They've been reading about us in the paper and seeing us on TV. The media will be all over New Hampshire. Opponents of the ordination of Gene Robinson will be, too -- I suppose they will have signs and chant slogans, in the manner of demonstrations everywhere. What a day that will be.

But, as exercised as the Church and the press has been about it, the main thing about Sunday will not be the ordination of Gene Robinson. It will be the Feast of All Saints. That is why his diocese has chosen to celebrate his consecration on this day, this feast of universality, of connection between those who have die and those who still live, this feast of deep comfort for those who mourn, of anticipation of a time when God will wipe away every tear. As intently as the world will peer at Gene on that day, he will not be the sole focus. Everyone who has ever lived in faith, every bishop who has gone before, every Christian who has striven to live a good life and then laid it down -- his new life as a bishop will be a life of joining his people to those saints. He will be charged with providing a safe place in which the saints can grow and serve and live and die in Christ.

The saints will support him. This they will do whether people think his episcopacy is a good or a bad thing. They support all of us in everything we do, the good things we do and the others, too. Those life-giving acts of ours survive in the blessings they generate, and the saints rejoice. Our errors are different: they have no life beyond themselves. No life flows from them. The saints watch us soberly, watch us in our truth and in our error, speak of us to God in a clearer version of the same conversation with God in which we also engage.

We celebrate their feast because we believe they still live. We think they still love us, love the world that they have left behind. Know things they didn't know when they were here, things we don't know. Yet.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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