The November “Life Together” submission always lands between Reformation Sunday, the last Sunday in October, and All Saints Sunday, the first Sunday in November. The themes of these days work hard to pull us backwards in time, as we reflect on the Reformation and then remember those saints who have gone before us in the faith – the tendency would be to look over our shoulders, to immerse ourselves in nostalgia. And while there is much in our history to celebrate, we do well to remind ourselves that the good ol’ days weren’t always so good (The Plague, child labor, slavery, hunger and famine, a lack of women’s rights …), and to heed the warning of Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson when he visited Bethany for our centennial, ”Nostalgia is the biggest threat to the church.”
And so let us listen to the simple sentiments of another Lutheran, Dag Hammarskjold, who famously said, “For all this has been thanks. For all that will be, yes.”
We give thanks for our rich church history of promoting justification by faith, emphasizing a vocation rooted in baptism, and celebrating a priesthood of all believers. Here’s to an empowered and educated laity! We also give thanks for our commitment to assisting refugees, to combatting hunger globally, to advocating for civil rights. There is indeed much for which to give thanks, including the cloud of witnesses that accompanies us in our journey.
But I am drawn to focus on the “for all that will be, yes.” The parade of roses on the altar, signaling new birth; the assembly of children asking probing questions in our children’s sermons; the impressive young man confirmed this morning (Peter Bang-Knudsen) and the beautiful and energetic confirmation class in progress; we look to the Bethany project for affordable housing, and we hear in our ears the divine music of our worship – YES! YES! YES! For all that will be!
And let us also, as we look forward, continue to build on those things that produce gratitude within us. Let us continue to be a community of grace, and one that welcomes refugees. Let us press on with the noble work of fighting hunger, disease, and resultant poverty across the globe. And let us press on to continue to advocate, as a Reconciling-in-Christ congregation, the value and the rights of the LGBTQ communities.
For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes.