– by Rev. Colleen Woodley –
This evening we continue to celebrate the feast days of those beloved people, known & unknown, saints & souls who have gone before us. The members of the blessed communion of saints, on whose shoulders we stand, as we attempt to get a glimpse into the mystery of this world.
As we listen to Matthew’s Gospel we hear some advice about how to comport ourselves in the community. The advice does bear some hints of a political agenda on the part of the authors, so it is best to keep that in mind as we consider what the message has to say to us. There is an anti-Pharisee twist to the reading which is somewhat familiar to many of us. It gives us a hint that warns of being too important, and it beckons us to be humble, even as we lead and succeed.
In a quote from Rev. Reginald H. Fuller, an Anglican priest and Scripture scholar, some of these warnings and hints are evident. ”We, like the rabbis, are the guardians of tradition, only ours is the apostolic tradition and theirs was a tradition going back to Moses. We also are in constant danger of not living up to our own teaching. We enjoy ostentation, flattery, special insignia, and honorific titles”.
The other night as Marty, Theo, Jennifer, and I were preparing to celebrate the liturgy of All Saints, Theo shared another quote with us that fits into this conversation as well.
“Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”
I must admit that this quote is a challenge and will be something for me to think about for days to come. It is ironic that those things that we strive for, the goals that we dream of, can, at times, also be the things that may entrap us and make us fall prey to our weakness and ego.
Now if we take these words, we can spend some time back in those two holidays that we just celebrated, for all the saints and all the souls.
I believe that our humility and our service can and should be extended to those loved ones as well. So how do we accomplish that? How do we embrace our traditions and our forebears, and do so in the spirit of honor and servanthood?
Perhaps we do so with open ears, wide eyes, and hearts filled with humility.
Perhaps we listen closely and attentively to those words of wisdom passed on to us through the ages by our saints and our loved ones.
Perhaps we look with awe and gratitude at those lives who have left us legacies of love and hope and faith.
Perhaps we quietly and gratefully acknowledge our own station in this life as we continually hone our gifts and skills in order to provide more loving service to others.
Perhaps our greatest heights are achieved as we bow low in order to serve those who God has put before us.
Matthew’s Gospel instructs us that there is really only one Teacher, only one Rabbi, only one God. That leaves me with one big question. Does that leave us in a constant position of looking up to others? If we believe that we are all created in the image of the Divine, then every single person bears the spark of our Creator. Whether they are alive or dead, every person is someone for us to revere and to look up to.
So today we can consider our ability to be grateful for all those who preceded us, for all those who challenge us, for all those who, whether they are here or in eternity, are worthy of our prayer, our respect, our consideration, and our love.
Today we can consider forgiveness, in this life or the next; after all, it is our soul that forgives, and it is our soul that lives on. So then our souls can continue their work through this life and into the next.