Thursday, November 2, 2017

Letting Go of Being Right

Letting Go of Being Right
Tony E Dillon-Hansen
1 November 2017
Last updated: Nov 1, 2017 12:32

A reflection based upon Revelation 7:9-17 • Psalm 34:1-10,22 • 1 John 3:1-3 • Matthew 5: 1-12

If you were looking for a grand oration
or drama filled fireworks today,
let me lower your expectations.
Vespers is meant to be light “evensong”,
so that kind of fanfare was not really in the cards.
Still, I was trying to figure how to tie our sermon theme
“Letting Go of Being Right”
with this solemn service of saints.

Will you pray with me?  Let God guide our senses, our hearts and our ears to receive the lesson given to us.  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our Rock, Our Redeemer.  Amen.

Let us begin today,
we solemnly remember and celebrate those
who were Saints and those who have died this past year.
We honor these people of UUCC:
Gloria Ward,
Beverly Fuente,
Robert Stacey,
Lois Luick,
and Mary Sheerer.
Let us pause.

From Matthew 5, “Blessed are those who morn, for they will be comforted.”
Let us be comforted.

For me, this is a day of personal remembrance as well,
since my dad lost a battle with cancer one year ago this month.

Let me tell you a little bit of his story
because I believe he has another lesson to teach.

My dad grew up MO Synod Lutheran,
served in the Air Force during Vietnam,
he married my mother (43 years long),
became devout Catholic (Mass was not an option in our house),
and my dad served Kansas and Iowa as a corrections officer. 
His life was about service through his final weeks
-- eagerly volunteering for veteran honor guard
saluting fellow veterans at their funerals.
In turn, those comrades honored Dad at his funeral,
and those guns still echo --loud and clear.

During that last year,
my dad and I had some deep conversations
and we prayed a lot together.

One thing that he kept questioning was
whether he had lived a good life. 

Growing up,
my dad and I had many disagreements and strong opinions
that at times strained our relations.
When the prognosis turned years into weeks,
Dad was less concerned about being right
but more about being with his family and friends and sharing the stories. 
I was less concerned about being right too
and more about listening to his stories.

You wonder, what does this have to do with “All Saints Day”
and I am glad you asked.

For “All Saints”, the Church historically celebrates this day to honor canonized saints
and those that have fallen in the past year.

A point to consider is that if we would rather be “right”
(as in holding onto judgements, preconceptions, or supposed privilege even)
than hold onto love, to listen and to have faith (in either each other or in God),
we may miss opportunities to share a story and to see the saints
that are next to us and within each of us. 

When my dad and I learned to forgive and to listen to each other,
our relationship grew abundantly
and thankfully before it was too late.
We still had disagreements.
Yet, we were willing to listen to each other
and realize the real potential inside each of us.

--

The thing is that even saints were not perfect -- stumbled a little here and there,
but they got up, listened and opened their hearts.
Sometimes,
being a saint requires an act of sincere contrition/apology on our part.
Sometimes,
being a saint is saying I have had enough injustice.
These can be hard.
With God’s help,
we can do this because from Matthew
“blessed are the [humble] [&] blessed are the merciful.”

A judgmental attitude can happen
in our many relationships like with
a spouse,
a sibling,
a co-worker
or even, dare I say, some politicians.

The “I told you so” response does little to help us learn from each other.
Simply, if being right is our focus instead of love,
our scripture (1 John) suggests that we may not be pure in heart
and may not recognize that YOU are one of God’s children
and so is the one on your left and on your right.
All are God’s children.
(Your neighbor deserves a hug as there is a child of God.)

The scripture might suggest the question is:
“What can you do to open the door to better conversation and learning?”

When we cloud our eyes and attitudes with judgement and self-righteousness,
we can lose the ability to connect,
to have compassion,
or to do God’s work even though we are all God’s children.
When we remove those clouds of judgment,
suddenly there is a whole world of saints
from which we can learn and grow.

Then, we can see and be the authentically “pure in heart.”
That is a gift to each of us.

My father wondered if he lived a good life,
and because we listened and prayed -- together,
I could witness a pure heart.
His life was faith, love and forgiveness.

You and I don’t have to wait for a cancer diagnosis (or honor salute) to realize
there are saints in your lives and doing miracles.
God is calling us, nudging us.

Lean in,
We can hear God speaking in different ways through the people around us.
Open your hearts.

Just like our friends remembered here today,
many people live lives of great faith and service to their community
without so much as a Twitter hashtag.

Saints may not have lived perfect lives,
but then again, who here is perfect? 
They were all children of God.
They lead lives with some faith, hope and service.
Maybe, they just listened,
served their community,
or shared a meal or home.

They may have lived lives of their own quiet desperations,
and yet, in doing so,
they gave others around them purpose
-- just by being.
That is a miracle
and that is cause for remembrance and celebration.

For us that mourn, Revelations says that
“God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
We are reminded that we can be pure of heart too.

Again, Scripture tells us we are all children of God. 
When we welcome and truly listen,
we can witness the saint within us,
because ultimately,
we just want to be remembered well.

Time is fleeting.
Be a saint and enjoy the saints around you today
before you cannot.

With God’s grace,
you know there is a purpose provided for you.
Jesus tells us that we are blessed,
not by being right or self-righteous,
but by being merciful,
a peacemaker,
and pure of heart.

Thanks Be to God.