Sunday, November 2, 2014

Dia De Los Muertos + All Saints Sunday Sermon

1 Y viendo las gentes, subió al monte; y sentándose, se llegaron á él sus discípulos. 2 Y abriendo su boca, les enseñaba, diciendo: 3 Bienaventurados los pobres en espíritu: porque de ellos es el reino de los cielos. 4 Bienaventurados los que lloran: porque ellos recibirán consolación. 5 Bienaventurados los mansos: porque ellos recibirán la tierra por heredad. 6 Bienaventurados los que tienen hambre y sed de justicia: porque ellos serán hartos. 7 Bienaventurados los misericordiosos: porque ellos alcanzarán misericordia. 8 Bienaventurados los de limpio corazón: porque ellos verán á Dios. 9 Bienaventurados los pacificadores: porque ellos serán llamados hijos de Dios. 10 Bienaventurados los que padecen persecución por causa de la justicia: porque de ellos es el reino de los cielos. 11 Bienaventurados sois cuando os vituperaren y os persiguieren, y dijeren de vosotros todo mal por mi causa, mintiendo. 12 Gozaos y alegraos; porque vuestra merced es grande en los cielos: que así persiguieron á los profetas que fueron antes de vosotros. - San Mateo 5:1-12

Why on earth would we paint our faces
and make ourselves to look like dead people

in church?

Why celebrate the Dead on any day?
Why celebrate any of the Saints who’ve gone before us?

Why celebrate?


Since I’ve had Martin Luther on the brain, and since Nov. 1,
All Saints Day,
is the day his 95 theses,
are understood to have been “discovered,”

I took a look at some of Luther’s work
to see how he would answer this question.


What would Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Reformation, and the Lutheran Church
about this ancient feast day?

About the Festival of All Saints?

What would Luther say about Dia de los Muertos?

What would Luther
about our celebration of both, simultaneously?

I set out to find an answer.
This is what I learned:

He probably wouldn’t like it.


Martin Luther didn’t like the Feast of All Saints.


Yeah, I was disappointed to.

Luther said outright that he didn’t like the festival.

Not because it was bad,
or because anything was the matter with it (in theory), he said.

But rather, because

in practice, in his own day, the festival was abused.

In Luther’s day, in 16th Century Germany,  
when someone thought about a loved one they lost,
they likely imagined that loved one
faithfully departed,
into purgatory,
hoping and screaming for release.

Again, in those days leading up to the Reformation,
among some corrupt and even some well-intentioned leaders,  
All Saints Day became a good day to raise money--

To sell “tickets” out of purgatory, into heaven,
for loved ones in purgatory,  
in order to “honor” them.

(Right? This is a nice gift.)

There is a reason Luther posted his 95 Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences on the eve of All Saints.


Luther didn’t necessarily like All Saints Day.

But he did celebrate it. And he did preach on it.

In one of his sermons, he actually talks about what he considers the best way to honor the Saints.

In that sermon, Luther made a distinction.

He distinguished between saints dead on the one hand,
and saints living, on the other:
the saints who are alive
and the saints who have passed away.

“The living saints,” Luther preached,  
“are your neighbors.”

The living saints
are “the naked, the hungry, the thirsty, poor people,
those who [might] have spouses and children,
[those] who suffer shame,
[those] who lie in sins,”

Luther Said, reflecting on All Saints Day, on Matthew’s beatitudes, the same ones Alicia read to us today.  

“Turn to them and help them…”

Luther said,

“Use your tongue [so] that you [might] defend,
draw near,
cover them with your coat
and help them
in order to uphold their honor...

[in order to uphold their honor!!]

[Do not] forget the poor masses of people
[or] forsake the suffering and needy…
Do your good deeds on behalf of the living saints (Luther, All Saints).”

“Day of the Dead,” “Dia de los muertos,”  
we might imagine Luther saying if he were here today,

might better be called “Day of the Living”

or, rather,

the day to honor the saints by feeding them,
clothing them,
restoring dignity to anyone of them (including ourselves)
who’ve been made to feel less than human--
or, for that matter, 


than a saint.

In all these things,
We should definitely listen to Luther.



Luther himself is, of course, now one of the “dead” saints.

We more or less gave him his own saint day last week.

And though we honor him along with our other mothers and fathers,

We do spend today remembering the dead.
And honoring the dead.
And we should.
It’s good and important.

We do celebrate the lives,
temporal and eternal,
of those who walked life’s paths before us.
And that’s really good and really important.

And unlike Luther we’re not in the 16th Century.
We’re in the 21st.
And we don’t even sell indulgences here at First Trinity,
as far as I am aware.

Instead of all of those things,
we celebrate God’s grace,
given freely,
as a gift of love.

And we do our small part in trying to help people, quite often.

Certainly we benefit from the work the Holy Spirit did through the reformers.

And because of that, we can freely and happily claim
the festivals and the celebrations that offer us meaning,
that assure us of God’s grace,
and that connect us in God’s love--
a love that neither death nor life, nor angels nor demons, nor the present nor the future, nor any powers, height or depth, or anything in creation can separate us from.


That is, 500 years after Luther, we can celebrate and remember
without all the baggage.

And that’s really good and really important.


We also have the benefit, today,
in Bridgeport,
at First Trinity,
of being pretty international.

Pretty diverse in our make-up, and increasingly so.


This is a beautiful thing, reflective, I think, of our reading from Revelation:

a gathering of people from “every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages (Rev. 7:9b)…”

Gathered before God.

We bring our own family rituals, our personal memories, our cultural traditions,

and ideally,

we learn from one another.
We learn

What it looks like to honor our mothers and fathers in the faith,

and in life,  

We learn, together,

What it looks like to mourn,

What it looks like to celebrate,

What it looks like to be stuck,
seeing others celebrate,
but still waiting for joy to come,

We learn
what it looks like to come together in the presence of God,
among the communion of saints both dead and living,
all of our ancestors from every nation and tribe,  
gathered in remembrance of the One who dies so that all might be One.

We learn how we might gather,
mysteriously, imperfectly, clumsily
around a table
and somehow in that gathering,
find renewal, resurrection,
somehow in that gathering, sometimes, somehow,
we experience resurrecting,
embodying together,
the One we remember.

Embodying together the Crucified and Resurrected One.


Somehow in remembering,
we end up embodying.

Somehow In honoring,
we become a reflection,

a continuation

a new chapter in a story
whose writing began long before we ourselves had breath.

Somehow, in celebrating--
a meal, a song, a procession,
we defy,
we fight back,
we push against
the loneliness that we feel in loss,
in death,
in separation.

Because we do feel lonely.
We do feel alone.
We do feel a loss, 
a disturbance, 

a void.

Many of us are left--without a parent, without a child,
without a sister or brother,
or friend,
or spouse,
or pet.


But somehow
in celebrating,

we acknowledge, that in some way,
in our experiences,
as those saints still living,

it feels like the people we mourn and miss and celebrate,
those who have gone before us,


share in communion,
still shape our song,
still walk with us as we walk together.

Somehow in celebrating, 
we see the dead
still living

in us,

speaking through us,

continuing to guide our decisions and our steps.

Not simply living in our hearts,
but reflected in our will, in our actions, in our community.

Somehow, life and death start to blur.

[make a cross with arms]


Why on earth would we paint our faces
and make ourselves to look like dead people
in church?

Why celebrate the Dead on any day?
Why celebrate any of the Saints who’ve gone before us?

In God’s love,
That is: In God,

life and death,
time and eternity,
powers and principalities,
spiritual and physical,
existence and nonexistence

come together.

They become


The living are the dead. And the dead are the living.

We are One in Christ our Way, our Resurrection, and our Life.

Nothing can separate us.

One in God,

embraced in God’s love.

Why would we not celebrate?

Why would we not remember?

To not do this would be truly


In the Name of Christ, the One who called us to remember the poor,

In the act of feeding and clothing and nurturing,
in charity and in love,

And the One who called us to remember him,
in the act of forgiving one another, and in the sharing of a meal,

may we remember all who have celebrated that work
and this meal,
throughout time and space,

and may we remember those who were not able to,
but still rest in Grace.

May our many cultures, and traditions, and memories,
and our experiences of God

teach us to live as One,

in love for God,
for all the living and the dead,

and for all of God’s creation,

in the hope of Resurrection this day,

and all our days to come.


At communion: Light candles to symbolize that all saints participate in the feast of life as we sing “Holy, Holy, Holy,” together.   

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