Sunday, November 4, 2018

Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community - Liturgy for All Saints - Presiders: Lynn Kinlan, ARCWP, and Mary Theresa Streck, ARCWP

Lynn Kinlan, ARCWP, and Mary Theresa Streck, ARCWP, led the Upper Room All Saints Liturgy asking the community to consider what it means to be an everyday saint in glorious communion with the Divine plan of Creation. Lynn's homily reflection is printed below the readings.

Opening Prayer: We celebrate today what we believe on all days; that the communion of saints is always present, that we are joined with those who precede us and all living souls; that the windswept Spirit breath and gentle grace of God embraces us, enjoins us and melds us as one. We gather today to draw on the example of those whose pictures grace our friendship table. We call forth into our midst the presence, memory and hopefulness of all saints of all times.

--> Opening Song: Standing on the Shoulders
by Joyce Johnson Rouse


First Reading: from Abounding in Kindness by Elizabeth Johnson

One of the earliest commentaries on the Apostles’ Creed by Nicetas, an early fifth century bishop reminds us that “the church is the congregation of all saints. From the beginning of the world, patriarchs [and matriarchs], martyrs and all other righteous people who have lived or who are now alive or who shall live in time to come, comprise the church…in which we will all attain to the communion of saints”.
Clearly then, the communion of saints is the graced relationship among holy people of all ages, including the whole company of heaven…the church on earth as well as generations as yet unborn. The whole company is not settled in the present but moving toward the eschatological fullness yet to come: “you will attain”.  The whole community through time shares in the promise of hope.

The same divine Spirit who lights the fire of the saint also fuels the vitality of all creation. The result is a holy community that includes not just human persons but the whole vibrant world: all living creatures, ecosystems and the whole natural world. In God, all things live and move and have their being.

These are the inspired words of Elizabeth Johnson and the community affirms them by saying: Amen.

Gospel: Matthew’s Beatitudes Revisited

Blessed are we when beset by doubt or despair; the Presence of Abba comes nearest in holy moments of deepest need

Blessed are we when we mourn; consolation befriends us,
sweetening what was bitter

Blessed are we when we are gentle and restrained;
time and space are created in which to realize the sacred and holy

Blessed are we when we ache for truth and justice;
hope and vision entice us to right action

Blessed are we when we offer extravagant generosity;
what is given returns many times over,
in ways unexpected, and we lack for nothing

Blessed are we when our hearts are pure;
our divine spark is ignited and love’s wildfire spreads

Blessed are we who work for reconciliation and peace;
perseverance and unity uphold us and prepare us for every eventuality

Blessed are we when we are persecuted for good works; the Kindom of Heaven is ours in the here and now.

This inspired adaptation of the beatitudes was written by Lynn Kinlan, ARCWP.

Homily Starter by Lynn:
Our first reading gives us an inclusive definition of who gets to be called

a saint and how large should be our ideal of community. Bishop Nicetas (from the area that is modern day Serbia) describes it as “all righteous people”. Johnson calls it the “holy people of all ages”. Their broad definition coincide with what we sense from a reading of Paul’s epistles in which he refers again and again to saintliness among the faith communities he visits.

This early church notion of saintly communities was gradually undermined by the hierarchical Empire church with its epic stories of martyrs and ascetics who would intercede with God for us. Johnson removes the pedestal; she wants us to see saints as colleague sand friends in a shared faith. Apparently, burning at the stake or being murdered for our fidelity to Christ is sufficient to merit membership in the communion of saints, but not necessary. Everyday struggle to live faithfully gives vivid enough witness to holiness and saintliness. Think of the loyal daughter who faithfully visits her mother in the nursing home despite Mom’s memory loss. Or the first responder who charges into burning buildings while everyone else runs out. Or the auto mechanic who only charges for work done and explains it in a way the customer can understand. Such is the stuff of which saintliness is made.

I think this explains why the church has selected the Beatitudes for this feast day – Jesus proclaims on the mount who the blessed saints are – we are mourners who seek and find consolation, peacemakers who yearn without losing hope when there are setbacks. We are generous people who seek the Kindom and find it in saintly community. AT this point, I’d ask that you turn to your neighbor on your left and right and say hello, my name is Saint ____________ with your first name. (Pause as people do so…)

We know sainthood from our loved ones in the pictures beside us – people who persevered for love’s sake, who brought their version of the Divine into our lives. We are in communion with them as inheritors of the Beatitudes, as people of imperfect but sustaining faith, perhaps not always perfectly holy but always remembering and hoping and striving. Today’s feast is one of memory and hope; remembering takes up the past and makes it present. When we re-member those who have gone before us we make them members again. We enliven them and their saintly witness enlivens us too.

Johnson suggests that the Spirit which lights the fire of the saint also fuels the vitality of creation. We are enlivened by the glory of our natural world - from the food that nourishes us to the tragic beauty of a polar bear looking worried as her Arctic ice floe shrinks. Including nature makes our communion of saints as infinite as the love of God.

So today, we rejoice in what Johnson calls “the feast of splendid nobodies”.

After all, Jesus was a splendid nobody in his own time and a saint for all time. 

Mary Theresa's concluding words:

Today we have in front of us a beautiful interpretation of the beatitudes, the core message of Jesus, written by Lynn. I encourage you to take them home with you and consider reflecting and journaling on one each morning. What a meaningful way to start each day.

Using some of the words from our opening song, Standing on the Shoulders, I would like to conclude our shared homily with a wish for each of us, especially as we go into this next week:

May each of us, in our own unique way, live the beatitudes.

May we join in loving community to build a fair and brighter future for all of us – not just some of us.

May we develop strong, compassionate, loving shoulders to hold the ones who need us now - and those who follow us.

And, may our names be a blessing in our time.

Communion Meditation: Wanting Memories
(from CROSSINGS by Y.M. Barnwell (c)1992)

Closing Prayer from Joyce Rupp

Beloved ancestors, your presence stretches back through the ages. It touches and influences the core of our being and how we live out shared values today. Your strength sings in our spirits. Your courage abides in our hearts. Your resilience resonates in our bones. Your love abounds in our souls. May we remember how connected we are to these enduring qualities. We are thankful for how the best in you continues to find life in us. Amen
Closing Song:One Voice
By Three Altos


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