Many of you know that I have a daughter who is a senior in high school. And many of you know that having a senior in high school means having a season of lasts. The last, first day of school. The last, home soccer game. The last Halloween. Now while my daughter does not seem to be too slowed down or saddened by all of these endings, I must admit that I am. She is turning her face to what is coming next with great excitement and anticipating. But I am not.
Fall has always been my favorite season of the year. I have always loved change, loved the turning of the seasons, loved thinking about what comes next. But not this year. This year I have found fall that fall has come too soon and I am not ready.
I was in the arboretum this past week and was bowled over by its beauty. But every time I saw a leaf falling, I felt an urge to try to catch it before it hit the ground. I was filled with gratitude for those beautiful trees all around me, but I was also rather disturbed by them. I was disturbed that they seemed far too willing to let those brilliant leaves go, far too willing to let the slightest breeze lift that exquisite leaf from their bough. I know that I am taking all of this “letting go” far too personally, but I even so I found myself wanting to plead with those graceful giants to hold onto those leave just a bit longer.
I was struck last week during our time of prayer of how many of us are finding ourselves in a season of falling – of having to let go. A parent passes. An adult child leaves home. A friend comes down with illness. A beloved pet passes on. We find ourselves in a season having to open our hands and let fall from us something brilliant, beautiful, something that we would like to hold forever and something that takes everything we’ve got, to let go.
And on this All Saints Sunday when we remember all who have loved so very much but who the gentle winds of time have taken from us.
Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love with our whole selves. All that we are! Passionately, no holds barred! We are to forge connections of care, compassion and love with everything we’ve got. We are not to love tentatively, but we are to love boldly pouring all of who we are into our relationships with God and with each other.
That is what God asks of us, but at the same time, we know that that we are creatures bound by time, and we know that eventually time will take from us all that we have so fiercely loved. Why ask us to love so fully, when we know that one day, what we love will be taken from us?
Today we conclude our sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer. We have taken these many weeks to take each line of the pray and to engage it afresh. We have engaged with hearts with hearts wide open “who is the God to whom pray? We have asked “is the Lord with us? Or not?” What does it mean to ask God “to give us our daily bread?”; “to forgive us as we forgive?” and “to lead us not into temptation?” And today all our prayer ends with an affirmation that God is the power and the glory for ever and ever, Amen!”
For ever and ever. Amen!
What does it mean for us as creatures bound by time to pray to a God of all time?
Yesterday, Mark and Kate and I were watching the movie “Touching the Void” have you seen it? It is this remarkable movie about the tenacity of the human spirit. It is a story of mountaineering. It struck me that each time each of the climbers moved from one footing to the next in their incredibly precarious climb, they made sure that they were clipped into, tethered to something secure. They made sure that they were tethered to the rock, to the mountain that they climbed.
And I think that that is emblematic of the promise to which the Lord’s Prayer points. We are creatures of time making our way through the challenges of our days, looking for one sure footing after another, and yet through it all we are we are tethered to a God that is our rock. But there is more.
We are tethered to God in this moment, but God is not just of this moment. God is for ever and ever, and as we tether ourselves to God so too do we tether to eternity.
This week I had the opportunity to spend some time with one of you and we were talking about the Bible. You were asking me what the Bible means to me and I said something about how the Bible helps me to remember that my life is a part of this great arch of narrative that stretches from the beginning of time to eternity. This moment, this narrative of my life is not just mine alone but it belongs to that greater story of God with us. I was saying, that I wish Bibles were printed without back covers to remind that the eternal that is God is engaged in this moment and that as we engage this moment and the next so too are we engaged in the eternity of God.
That is the vision that Jesus lifts up on the mountain today and the vision to which Revelation points. A community gathered in blessing right now, in time, right in the middle of the pushes and pulls of our life and a community gathered above and beyond time, a great crowd of saints gathered for ever and ever in love.
Last Sunday, I stopped into the nursery to check in with Lisa and our youngest friends and the window at the far end of the room caught my eye. The sun was streaming through it, and on window in the brilliance of the sun, was a mosaic of dozens of little hand prints layered on upon the other on the glass. And as one of our little ones placed his hand upon the window as he too peer out through the glass, adding his print to those that had come before, it made me think about all the saints who touch of heart and hand are on this place.
All the saints who have sat in these pews, whose hands have opened these hymnals, who have lifted their voices in song, who have prayed and cried and laughed together. As we now open the hymnals and lift our voices and pray and cry and laugh we do so not just with each other, but with all whose touch is on this community still.
I am not a physicist, clearly, but I am fascinated by the law of the conservation of energy that says that energy cannot be created or destroyed but can simply change forms. And I suspect that is true as well for love.
So let us love with our whole selves. With all that we are! Let us pour our hearts out into God and into each other without reservation. Let us forge connections of care, compassion and love with everything we’ve got. And when it is time to let go, let us do so knowing that nothing in love is ever lost. We are tethered to and share in the life of our God of for ever and ever. Thanks be to God. Amen!