I frequently joke that the month of October is the most intense time of the church year besides the liturgical season of Lent. October is the time when, in many churches, the budgeting process is in full swing for the following year. Stewardship (of the financial sort) looms large as leadership begins contemplating what ministries will/will not receive funding come January 1. Special gatherings, meetings, events and such are packed in on evenings and weekends. E-mails fly back and forth across cyberspace. At our parish office the phone traffic takes a noticeable upturn. Every year I tell myself I won’t get caught up in the flurry and fury. Every year I remind myself to go easy on the scheduling. Every year I ignore my own self talk.
And then…every now and then, the Spirit manages to get a word in edgeways. The word for me came this past Thursday afternoon (All Hallows’ Eve) as I contemplated a homily I was to give at Nashotah House, the local Episcopal seminary, later that evening. Actually, it was more like a few sentences than a word, and though I would never be so bold as to claim I had “heard” a Voice from above, I did have some thoughts…and these thoughts flooded me with a peacefulness that had eluded me through most of October.
“You didn’t come to faith by yourself. Neither did anyone else. Many communities of faith have nurtured you through the years. You share in ministry within the context of a specific community of faith. The call to nurture others in the faith never ends and is never a solitary task.”
Granted, this is pretty basic stuff. Nothing overwhelmingly profound. At the same time, the implications of communal life are easily overlooked/forgotten/ignored in a culture hyper-focused on the individual. This is the point of the Feasts of All Saints and the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed — to remind us that we don’t do this life on our own and we don’t do our faith on our own. We are connected — through Baptism and Eucharist; through family and friendship; through prayer and service — to each other; even when the “others” aren’t as saintly as we’d like them to be. We are connected — even when we don’t want to be — to those workaday, flawed and broken saints we wish would go away and leave us alone. These two holy days provide the opportunity to remember. We get to remember that we haven’t “arrived” spiritually yet. We still have our own jagged edges — like shards of broken stained glass. Perhaps in remembering our sharp edges, we will be a bit more compassionate towards the sharp edges of others.
Today I give thanks for the blessed company of all faithful people and the communion of saints, the ones who were superstars and the ones who were super-pains.