November 7

For All the Saints

By Marsh Chapel

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Mark 12: 38-44

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All Saints Sunday

After more than a year and a half of disembodied worship, worshipping in diaspora, we have now had this autumn twelve Sundays of personal, embodied assembly, and gathering, in worship.  We have also by grace and the work of WBUR and many others continued to broadcast our service around the globe, come 11am on Sunday.  For the sustained efforts of those at every turn who make this service possible and available, we are endlessly grateful.  Today we turn our minds and hearts to those who have died in these twenty months, near and far, more than 750,000 across the country, and, especially, to their loved ones, perhaps including you, who bear the losses to this day.  If you have lost someone in this COVID time, our sermon and litany today here are meant especially for you.

One of the great challenges and difficulties of the last two years is found here.  Across the country and indeed around the world, we have not been able fully to gather, to assemble, to worship in person, at the hour of death.  We have lost loved ones without the ability or capacity to face the losses in full in the full company of the church, the church militant, even as we give over our loved ones to God and to the church triumphant.  We should be frank, candid with one another, and with ourselves, that this particular labor of love is an unfinished labor, just now.  An unfinished labor of love, to which we attend in part today.   Faith comes in small steps, for most of us.  One of those steps, one to take again today, is to learn the rhythms of grief.

And it is work, good and honest work.  Mourning is work.  Grieving is work.  It takes time, energy, attention, focus, investment, prayer and love.  Conclusively, to mourn means for you to need to do something in mourning.  Faith is found in such a step.  Jesus looks upon the single widow, offering her simple gift, and smiles, and commends to us her step, one step in faith.

As a daughter, you may have buried my mother.  As a sister, you may have remembered and eulogized your siblings’ mother.  As a pastor, you may have given over parishioners, sisters and brothers in Christ, one by one.  In a university community, you may have faced and mourned the losses of students, faculty, staff, alumni, relatives and others of the University community.  As an itinerant Methodist preacher, you may have had to sing alone ‘Blessed be the Tie that binds’, rather than, by custom, gathering around the casket of a fellow preacher, to sing the hymn with others in ministry.  As an American, you may have wept at the stories of those taken, young and old, rich and poor, black and white, conservative and liberal.  And, as a child of God, you may have lamented without ever fully grasping the depth or breadth of such lament, the deaths of others, other children of the living God.

Wherever you are, whoever you are, in your time of loss, in your twenty months or more of mourning, this morning as we face our mourning, we feel for you, we are sorry for your bereavement, we reach out with invisible hands to hold you in an invisible embrace, and listen with invisible ears as you utter your prayers of lament.  Whatever else may be, at least hear this, you are not alone, you are not alone, you are not alone.  Together we take a step, in grief.  For all the saints we give thanks.

We call you forward to remember.   We recall, here in Marsh Chapel, five of our own Marsh Chapel saints, among the dozens lost, as witnesses, as a few and particular examples, exemplars of faith, as was the widow in the dominical teaching.

We remember C Faith Richardson.  She died in March of 2020.  On December 11th of 2019 she turned 104.   She had led a 600 person Sunday School at Erwin Methodist Church in Syracuse, in the early 1960’s while her husband Neil taught Hebrew Scripture at the University there, before they moved here to Boston.  We went to serve that very Syracuse church in 1984, and twenty years later that giant Sunday school still cast its warm shadow.   One who had been a ten year old back then remembered, ‘I just don’t know how to put it.  There was, there was, so much love there.’  We asked Faith in December 2019 how it felt to be 104.  She answered, with her playful wit, ‘about the same as it felt to be 103’.  For all the saints we give thanks.  Let us remember C. Faith Richardson.  (BELL)

We remember Dr. Gaylen Kelly.  Gaylen was an honored, revered professor in the School of Education.  He and his beloved wife were married for 66 years, starting with their wedding on a bitterly cold Christmas Eve in New Sweden, Maine.  We remember his easy manner, his inclination to laughter, and his love of students.  Especially his love of students.  He supervised 200—200!—dissertations in the School of Education.  Gaylen died in early February 2021, at home, and surrounded by the love of his children and family.  For all the saints we give thanks.  Let us remember Dr. Gaylen Kelly.  (BELL)

We too remember his beloved bride Glenice Kelly.  Who could forget her warm Sunday morning smile, her happy, glad hearted greeting in the covenant of faith, her exuberant hug, and her enjoyment of conversation?  Married to Gaylen in the northern snows 66 years earlier, they died within hours of each other early February 2021.  As a pioneer in health and sex education, she paved the way, in days we can imagine when the trail had to be cut, to be hewn out, for such important teaching.  Her indomitable spirit was more than a match for the calling. You can see her in the third pew, pulpit side, there is Glenice, smiling and laughing and hugging and listening following worship.  For all the saints, we give thanks.  Let us remember Glenice Kelly. (BELL)

We remember Harvey Greenburg, a blind man who road to worship on the T by taking the subway to the BU central stop in front of Marsh Chapel.  A graduate of Perkins School, he repaired Steinway pianos.  Each winter, he brought piano accompaniment to a Sunday afternoon hymn singing party, graciously hosted by dear friends in Lynn MA.  Every so often the sacred melodies of Charles Wesley would receive a little rock and role riff, as Harvey extemporized.  who graciously accompanied our mid-winter afternoon hymn singing on the piano, with an occasional rock and role riff.  His love of music abides, here and now.  For all the saints we give thanks.  Let us remember Harvey Greenburg.  (BELL)

We remember Ed Mann, and his faith, his love of worship at Marsh Chapel, and his ready response to all manner of statement:  I understand. I understand.  I understand.  And you knew and felt he did.  A Math professor with a strong personal and family connection to Eastern Nazarene college, Ed came to worship early and engaged in intercessory prayer, with help toward the end from his loving children.  He came to us many years ago, and brought the stories of his own ministry in mission in Romania.  Ed lived his faith, and his faith was lived for others, a man for others.  He lived as he was raised.  Wrote Jonathan Edwards: “It is no small matter whether one habit or the other is inculcated in us from early childhood; on the contrary, it makes a considerable difference, or, rather, all the difference.” For all the saints we give thanks.  Let us remember Ed Mann.  (BELL)

Let us sing the song of these saints of God.  And let us act as well.  In grieving let us reach out by visit or voice to another who knows grief.  In remembering let us write out for another generation some central memories of our lost loved ones. In accepting, let us take the silent time of silence we need, in prayer, let us carry out the quiet.  In affirmation, let us invite another to the faith of Christ through fellowship with His people, attendance in worship at his church, and the commitments of tithing and service that are His salt and light.

As we come to the Lord’s table, our Marsh Chapel Membership secretary Ms. Sandra Cole has graciously agreed to lead us in our Litany of Remembrance.

Litany in Remembrance of Lives Lost in COVID (Led by Ms. Sandra Cole, Marsh Chapel Membership Secretary)

Leader(L):  Gracious God in whom we are all interrelated, interdependent and one in humanity

People(P):  Thou whose grace embraces all, and in whom violence to our brothers and sisters is violence unto each of us

L:  We grieve for, remember and honor those whose lives were lost last year in COVID

P:  Especially we pray for the poor, for first responders, for the public health community here and across the country, and around the globe

L:  In these troubling and tumultuous times when injustice and prejudice breed inhumanity to one another

P:  In this time of challenge and struggle, of tumult and loss

L:  May we find our way, Your Way, amid conflict, unrest and violence

P:  Teach us your ways, God of refuge and strength, the ways of love and peace

L:  Make us tender hearted and loving toward one another as your mercy rests upon those whose lives have been deeply altered by death or loss

P: Though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea, You are our God of refuge and strength, a present help in time of trouble

L: Gracious God, remind us that we are interrelated, interdependent and one in humanity so violence to our brothers and sisters is violence unto each of us.

P: May we find our way, Your way, in this world of conflict, unrest and violence. Teach us Your ways, oh God of refuge and strength, the ways of love and peace.

L: Make us tender hearted and loving toward one another as your mercy rest upon those whose lives have been deeply altered by death or loss.

P: You are our God of refuge and strength a present help in time of trouble.”

L: In these troubling and tumultuous times when inhumanity towards another brings tumult and destruction to our living,

P: Grant us thy peace.  Grant us thy peace.  Grant us thy peace.

L: We gather today in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection, to give thanks to God, to receive the comfort of the Holy Spirit,
and to proclaim the good news of eternal life in Jesus Christ.

P: For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. In his baptism these were clothed with Christ; in the day of Christ’s coming, he shall be clothed in glory.

L:  God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

P:  Therefor we will not fear.

L: Our help is in the name of the Lord.

P: The maker of heaven and earth.

L:  Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord.
P: Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live,

and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.

L:  Let us pray together:

O God, who gave us birth,
You are ever more ready to hear than we are to pray.
You know our needs before we ask,
and our ignorance in asking.
Show us now your grace,
that as we face the mystery of death
we may see the light of eternity.
Speak to us once more your solemn message of life and of death. Help us to live as those who are prepared to die.
And when our days here are ended,
enable us to die as those who go forth to live,
so that living or dying,
our life may be in Jesus Christ our risen Lord.

(BELL 5x)

-The Rev. Dr. Robert Allan Hill, Dean of Marsh Chapel

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