A Thriving Spiritual Community

Annisquam Village Church Logo

Annisquam
Village Church

820 Washington St.
Gloucester, MA

Annisquam Village Church Logo

Annisquam
Village Church

820 Washington St.
Gloucester, MA

A Thriving Spiritual Community

Sermon: Light in Liminal Days
Sermon: Light in Liminal Days
November 1, 2020

Video of Service

Friday morning as I sat down to begin writing this sermon, I looked out my window to see the snow racing towards the ground, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. At one point, I looked over at my cat, Chloe, and she had her paw covering her face. I could relate.

Halloween festivities in many places were cancelled or truncated last night. The city of Gloucester decided to temporarily remove its Ballot drop boxes from outside of City Hall because of threats of vandalism. We also turned our clocks back last night (hope you remembered! Since you’re here, you probably did). Election officials in many places, including our friend Cindy Benson in Andover, NH, are preparing for potential violence on Election Day. A group called “Protect the Results” is organizing non-violent civil protest across the country for Wednesday in case there is an effort to undermine presidential election results. And 41 states had at least 10% more new Covid-19 cases this past week compared to the previous week, according to data from Johns Hopkins.

We are in liminal space and time, a time on the edge, a threshold time, a time of shifting. And a time of potential transformation. For most of us, times like this can feel deeply uncomfortable. Writing five years ago, Richard Rohr invites us to see liminal time in another way: “We have to allow ourselves to be drawn out of “business as usual” and remain patiently on the “threshold” where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin… It’s the realm where God can best get at us because our false certitudes are finally out of the way. This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed. If we don’t encounter liminal space in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy. (I guess we no longer need to be concerned about that this year.) The threshold is God’s waiting room. Here we are taught openness and patience as we come to expect an appointment with the divine Doctor.”

I wonder how many of us are learning openness and patience in these days? And how many of us are feeling something more akin to resistance to our experience now and resistance to the season ahead?

The liminal nature of these early November days was felt by the ancient Celts. They recognized this as a “thin time” when the veil between this world and what is beyond this world feels especially permeable, when the connection to ancestors feels closer. The same is true in Mexico, where they are celebrating the Day of the Dead. Samhain, the name of the Celtic festival that begins on Halloween night and ends tonight, marks a great doorway from the time of light to the time of dark. Celtic Christians have a felt sense “that we are not alone, that we share the world with a great “cloud of witnesses” and “communion of saints” just across the veil.”

Sixty four times in scripture, the term “saints” is used to refer to those who follow Jesus. Sixty four times! (I read each reference.) Usually in the New Testament, “saints” is used as a term for the Christian community living and working together in the service of God. The term means “holy ones.” At heart, to be a saint is to be someone who embraces their identity as one who belongs to God, is beloved of God, and lives from this identity. What this means is that we are forever spiritually connected as family to all our beloveds who have died, to all who walk the journey of life with us, and even to those who are yet to be born – who will inherit the world we co-create with our living God. The celebration of All Saints Day can be seen as an affirmation that we belong to God and each other in this life and beyond.

It seems to me that at a time of upheaval such as this, we can take heart that no matter what is going on around us, we can draw strength from the whole communion of saints – those who have gone before us and those with whom we are in community, sharing our lives of faithful prayer and service. We remember that others – from great saints of the past like Francis and Mother Teresa to lesser known saints, like many of our own parents and grandparents – that every day human beings have met the demands of challenging times with grace. We also remember that we do not face these challenging times alone – even if Zoom is the primary medium by which we can connect with the communion of saints right here.

All Saints Day is an invitation for us to remember all those holy ones who continue to light our way, giving us strength and inspiration for liminal times such as these. These “holy anchors” courage, persistence, and faithfulness show us what is possible for our own lives.

It is in the midst of a liminal time – a time of uncertainty and upheaval – that the door of our consciousness can crack open more so that we have the potential to see ourselves, others, our world and God differently – more expansively. It is a time that shakes us out of our complacency, that calls us to courageously respond to the challenges of the day with fresh eyes and fresh ideas. When history calls for a love that stretches “normal” ways of doing things and calls for creative, courageous God-inspired energy and commitment, saints radiate light.

Poet Steve Garnaas-Holmes says it this way:
To be a saint is to be sanctified; set apart for a sacred purpose.
That would be you.
Every breath of your life is for a sacred purpose: to shed light, to radiate God’s love.
You don’t have to be influential, or pious, virtuous or pure.
You have to be yourself.
The You of you is what God has made holy.
You are God’s Beloved.
(You are a treasure within this beloved community,
within the whole communion of saints.)
All you have to do is act like it.
Everything you do today is an opportunity to embody God’s love,
not by your effort or skill, but by the love you embody.
The light of God is in you. Be transparent to it.

No matter what happens on Tuesday and the days that follow, you can remember to live from your identity as one of God’s beloved holy ones, held within the whole communion of saints. Amen!