Jesus calls us to live with the intensity of last days while living our regular lives. He reminds us that we are not ultimately invested in this world, and he liberates us to work with courage, with hope. End times call for tall towers of hope. They call for a lightning-speed reordering of priorities. End times call for alertness, sharpness. They tingle with expectation.
One of these All Saints Days our names will be read. We are the potential saints for future generations. We are the shoulders on which others will stand. Will we be ancestors who sat on their hands or ancestors who raised their hands? Sometimes we forget that we aren’t just living our busy lives. We’re also laying a foundation, molding a future and establishing a legacy. How is it going?
We disciples of Jesus have vision problems. We sometimes describe our blindness as an inability to see the forest for the trees, but that’s a benign analysis. More worrisome is the inherited blindness of each generation, which so often assumes it is the best generation of all, with no lessons left to learn, only an inheritance to enjoy. We still need the miracle of restored sight.
When Erik confessed his faith on the festival of Pentecost, the entire family of believers watched and strained to hear his confession. His chubby fingers were surprisingly dexterous as he signed the words, and he also spoke, as if what he was signing was bursting through the silence of his deafness. This is what he said on the day of his confirmation: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not die but have life forever.”
Edgar lived alone in a welfare motel among prostitutes and drug abusers. He was a bit rough around the edges and would sometimes get loud and demanding. But for all his rough edges, Edgar was the only person who passed for a pastor in that backwater parish of broken souls. And there could be no more fertile soil for biblical "church growth" than the concrete motel parking lot and those waiting children of God with their wisdom "from below."
We watched in horror as both towers lit up, then fell into a cloud of smoke and ash. Then we gathered in the chapel with hundreds who came to pray. I asked the people to name the folks in their hearts and their concern as our prayer before God. The chapel rang with the precious names of loved ones.
Two months after the memorial service they found Vinnie's body. Silence washed over Ground Zero. Hats were removed, bodies waited reverently as they lifted him from the wreckage and carried him out. Several days later I attended the liturgy. When the congregation sang, "Lord, let at last thine angels come," we knew that once again in these latter days God had spoken to us.
“Start seeing the resurrection,” says Jesus, as he walks with the disciples to Jerusalem. He is teaching them about his death and resurrection, but they don’t understand. They are confused and reluctant to ask for clarification. Or maybe they are frightened into silence by the words betrayed and killed. Whatever the cause of their fear, they do not respond to Jesus when he describes the end of their journey.
With fall education programs getting under way and Sunday school teachers beginning another year of teaching, it may be disconcerting to hear this reading from James: “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”
When I was in first grade, teachers assigned students to reading groups based on how well they could read. They would name all the groups after birds so that everyone would feel equal, but you could always tell how well you were doing by what bird your group was named after. There were the Eagles, the Robins and the Pigeons. The Pigeons were not reading War and Peace .