Dr. Carol S. Franklin
Dr. Carol Franklin is a retired higher education professional and is a member of Christ Church.
Given the lessons appointed for this day on which we celebrate the lives of the saints all I can say is WOW!! First up was Revelations and the image of a new heaven and a new earth and of all things made new and of God, God himself coming to dwell among us. The Gospel of John then reminds us that if we believe, we will see the glory of God. That vision of a New Jerusalem and of God among us speaks to the heart of me – a heart too frequently broken recently by the realities of our world:
- A world in which the lives of our brothers and sisters are held so cheaply.
- A world in which people hunger for justice, thirst for freedom and pray for peace.
Who among us in this world does not cry out for the hope and promise that death is not the end? You know that oft-repeated phrase, “…for God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son that all that believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
There’s that thing called love again which has been the focus of my latest homilies. Love and life center on hope and God’s promise. God loves us:
- As we are, whether we be exalted or lowly.
- Whether we be young or old, gay or straight.
- Whatever hue or faith or political persuasion we may embrace.
- With all His being even in our sin, our failure and our brokenness.
Our lessons affirm that because He loves us, God and good will triumph over evil and bring to fruition a world transformed. In this world, and earth are knit together in one communion and fellowship.
When I think of the kingdom of heaven and that vision of a New Jerusalem, I know that it cannot be described in terms of geography or even anthropology. Instead, Jesus tells us that God’s kingdom is based on the transformation of human hearts.
The image of Jesus, of God made flesh weeping for us, speaks to the heart, turning our traditional ways of thinking upside down. It is a sign that God is concerned about the things that break our hearts and is moved by the tears of his children. Such a concept breaks all the rules for us in this very materialistic world. The imagery of our lessons today calls for us to embrace new attitudes that conflict with the usual ways we tend to approach life. (The lessons) call for a new discipline which believes that God is not through with us or this world through regeneration and renewal, transformation and change, and a world remade by God’s love.
But it’s not just the world that changes. If God is not through with us, it means each of us must go through the process of renewal as well. And there is the rub: If we are honest, none of us really like change because it takes work on ourselves and in our relationship with others.
When we add the element of the spiritual to the mix, what does such change or transformation mean for each of our lives? In the book Spiritual Transformation and Healing, psychologist Kenneth Pargament states "at its heart, spiritual transformation refers to a fundamental change in the . . . character of the sacred in the life of the individual. …." (p. 18).
When I think of transformation, I remember a period of great change in my life when the only thing that kept me from losing it was my firm belief that God was not through with me yet. He had more for me to do.
God had a plan for me which I couldn’t fathom at the time. Though I did not know it at the time, I was experiencing the work of the sacred, of God’s love in my life. I stepped out in faith and relied on God’s amazing grace to see me through. In my heart, I knew then and joyously affirm now that God was making good on his promise to me and each of us to make all things new.
When we often think of saints, we think of perfection. But saintliness is really about transformation, how we grow into the gift God has given us and become what God has called us to be.
We are clay in God’s hands and in faith we must allow him to shape our lives, our faith and our service. That is the life in Christ we are called to. Yes, we are works in progress, but it is through God’s amazing and loving grace that we can grow beyond what we think is possible in our lives and this place.
As we end the Feast of All Saints, let us pause and give thinks for God’s bounty. As individuals and a faith community, may we be open to God as he seeks to transform the world and ourselves, and our witness to His love and saving grace. May we always celebrate God’s gift of life and the communal spirit that pervades this place.