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Monday, November 7, 2016

11062016 - All Saints Sunday - 24th Sunday After Trinity - Apostle's Creed - "the communion of saints"

November 6, 2016
the communion of saints

This morning we gather as the ‘small c’ Holy catholic Church.  We gather as the visible Church of Jesus Christ here on earth, not only to receive the True Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, but boldly confess our faith.  We gather to receive the forgiveness of our sins.  We gather, because God not only created the heavens and the earth, but calls us to daily and weekly come to church and worship Him with our confession and faith in what Jesus Christ has done on the Cross of Calvary for all of mankind.
Yet, this morning we gather also boldly confessing another part of the Apostle’s and Nicene Creed that connects us, not only to the visible people gathered here, but especially to those who have gone before us.  This morning we celebrate All Saints Sunday, where we remember our loved ones and those who have passed from life here on this earth across the veil that separates the living and the dead into eternity.  We do this when we confess in both the Nicene, but especially the Apostle’s Creed, “the communion of saints”.
Some ask, what does “the communion of saints” really mean and how are we connected to those who have gone before us?  Whether this last week, last month or last year.  For some of us, including myself, driving out to the cemetery and walking among the gravestones is one way that I connect with some of the saints.  As I wrote in the last newsletter, I have gone, seen, visited and walked among many of the saints I have laid to rest.  Even as a young man I visited my grandparents cemetery plots both in Pennsylvania and Iowa as a way of honoring their memory and connecting with them, even though it was only their earthly bodies and not their eternal spirit given them by God.  Yet, believe it or not, I now understand and believe I don’t need to visit the cemetery any more.
The reason I say this is because, today and every day we celebrate Holy Communion we not only remember, but we can personally connect with “the communion of saints”.  You see the connection we can have comes through, by and is celebrated with our receipt of the precious Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  When we come forward and receive Holy Communion we make a connection not only with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, but with our loved ones who have gone before us.  This is why it is called a ‘mystical communion’ a mystical connection that transcends time, space and even our own reason as limited as it is.
For when we not only come for continuous communion, but also with communion at the altar, we make the most intimate connection available for us this side of eternity.  When I visit both Wheat Ridge and Good Samaritan, I explain it this way.  The way most older churches were built, they purposefully placed the altar at the ‘front of the church’ against the wall and would depending upon the church have a communion rail placed around the altar, so members could come and take communion.  Historically the rail was a ‘half circle’ ending against the back wall that the altar was placed against.
When the ‘visible church’ would come and receive communion from the altar around the rail, the church would gather and receive Jesus Christ precious Body and Blood as a church family who had forgiven one another and did not hold any grudges or even any ill feelings.  A further confession by the church was the understanding that the rail, did not end with the wall.  The rail continued behind the wall and formed a full circle with the beautiful and theological understanding that we who are still on our earthly pilgrimage are still connected through the Lord’s Supper with “the communion of saints”, those who have gone before us.
So when we gather like today on All Saints day, we gather not as individuals, but with “the communion of saints” who await our entrance into eternity, but intimately and personally connected with them through our receipt of Holy Communion.  For with this understanding of the ‘mystical communion’, we begin to understand that God Who created the heavens and the earth, also created time and has dominion over it.  God is not limited by our ‘earthly construct’ and God with the faith given to us at Holy Baptism not only allows us, but encourages us to trust Him and believe in our personal connection with “the communion of saints” no matter if we met them or even with the saints like Martin Luther or Moses.
These last 8 days have in one sense allowed our celebration of All Saints Sunday to have an exclamation point put on it with my having performed three funerals and attending an additional funeral at the Max.  But I am reminded of one particular funeral in February 2013.
In October and November 2010 after our arrival here at Emmanuel I had the extreme pleasure of meeting, visiting and eventually bringing communion to Etta Butts both in her home when she could no longer drive and at Good Samaritan.  When Etta finally entered eternal glory in February 2013, we prepared for her funeral as was the normal custom.  Yet on the faithful day we were to lay her to rest, God gave Goodland a beautiful covering of snow.
As the family gathered here at the church we only had in total about 10-15 people to attend.  Unlike the funeral at the Max Jones this week, having only 10-15 people here in the church was honestly very sad.  But what I take comfort and solace in is that even though the pews appeared mostly empty, “the communion of saints” filled every last pew.  For “the communion of saints” celebrated the entrance of Etta into eternity and welcomed her home into the loving arms of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

This is why when we celebrate All Saints Sunday we do so not only to remember those who have passed in the last year, but also to remember all the saints of all time and all place.  For in the Apostle’s Creed we make the clear connection and confession that “the communion of saints” not only connects us but enables us to be comforted by Jesus Christ Precious Body and Blood, but also have a foretaste of the feast to come.  For the mystical communion we celebrate is because of the free offer of grace and salvation offered by Jesus Christ for all of mankind that will join all of us together in one confession as “the communion of saints”.  AMEN.

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