Pastor Jenna Bergeson + November 5, 2023
On this All Saints Sunday, where we feel the lines between the living and the dead blur, where we gather to grieve and mourn those loved ones who have joined God in everlasting life, Pastor Jenna dances with the big questions of life and death and what it means to be a living disciple, set free from the bonds of death, washed in the waters of baptism.
Lightly edited for grammar and clarity.
I've got to tell you, these young worshippers always make me feel so good. I always feel such a high, and I kind of feel like I can do no wrong sometimes when I'm around them.
But this past week, I met with a group of people that have come to really intimidate me. I've been invited to speak, to return for three years in a row now. But once again, when I met with this group, I had to really prepare myself, take a few deep breaths, give myself a little pep talk, and remind myself, "It's okay, Jenna, you can do this. They're just seventh graders."
So, thanks to a connection from a family here, I have been invited once again to speak at Sound View School, which is just right over there, about half a block, to speak for their religion unit on Christianity. And as always, I have been blown away by the questions they asked. Some of the questions I was asked: Why is religion important to you? How often and in what way do you honor God? What are your thoughts about Judaism and Islam? Do Christians support the LGBTQIA+ community? Have you read the entire Bible? I felt put on the spot with that one. What do you enjoy about being a Christian? Do you believe in luck? Why did Jesus die, and do you believe in heaven? Sweet baby Jesus, help me out here.
These are some big questions, and you know, a lot of them are questions that revolve around the basics and the pillars of Christianity. But how often do we stop and really think about some of those basic tenets of Christianity? I mean, "What do you enjoy about being a Christian?" What a great question.
But this question about heaven has actually been on my mind a lot in the last week and a half, partly because of this new friend I've made, Jay Bowen. Again, he is a member of the Upper S'Klallam Tribe, and Jay has written a couple of books. This one, which is called "How to Talk with an Indian," and he's written another book which talks about his experience meeting God. He had a heart attack and was medically declared dead for five days, but he is here on Earth with us once again. So he shared through this book and a conversation I had with him about his experience in heaven.
Today, we are going to hear a beautiful anthem with the choir, among many other musicians. This anthem speaks of the text that we heard today from Revelation, and I want to make sure that you really hear these lyrics. So I've asked Dave if he would be willing to read those for us. Would you mind?
This is "New Jerusalem, arise."
"No more sickness, no more crying. Your mourning will turn to dancing. I will make a pathway in the wilderness and a river in the dry land. No more hatred, no indifference. Unfairness will yield to justice. I will make a passage to a free land. All colors, there are blessings. I will wipe all the tears from your eyes. A New Jerusalem, arise. A new creation, come alive into the dawning after dark. Arise, only kindness, only goodness. All people will live in compassion, hand in hand. They love and work together, walking in the spirit. I'm making all things new, after fire, after flood, after rain. Through the dark, through the doubt, through the pain, I'm making all things new. "
Thank you, Dave. New Jerusalem, arise.
In the Book of Ecclesiastes, there is a passage that you might be familiar with, one that many of us know, in which the author writes, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the sun." I don't know if it's really "under" so much as "outside of," but it does seem clear that the author here is saying that here on Earth, there is a time for everything and a season for every activity.
Today, on this All Saints Sunday, we, the living, breathing, fleshy humans here on Earth, in this particular time and place, both in the sanctuary and online, we gather. I believe we are gathered here with the living, the healthy, joyous, kind, and harmonious, who are now with our Creator in heaven. We gather to mourn, to grieve, to remember, and honor our loved ones. We also gather to give thanks, to celebrate, to share, and to praise. We praise God because a New Jerusalem is coming, and those who have gone before us are already living it.
Thanks be to God.
We praise God because death has no grip on God's children who have gone before us, not those who died too soon by natural causes, accidents, or violence, not those who were in pain in body, mind, or spirit, not those who lived a long and fulfilling life, and not those who have no one here today to remember them. We praise God because God will and has overcome all evil, suffering, injustice, trauma, and harm. But we honor God by following the teachings of Jesus. Today, we honor God and our loved ones by living the gospel. Today, we honor God by the things we do that bring a New Jerusalem here and in this world.
The Beatitudes that we heard today in the gospel from Emily are the beginning of Jesus' infamous and kind of long Sermon on the Mount. It expands over three chapters in the Book of Matthew as Jesus teaches the crowd what it means to be a disciple of God, what it means to live the gospel.
It was a pretty tall order and a challenge to try and speak with these seventh graders at Sound View and try to answer the question, "Why did Jesus die?" That's at the heart of our faith, isn't it? I was honestly surprised to find much clearer direction and help to answer that question in this translation of the Bible, in the First Nations version of the Holy Scriptures. The name they use for Jesus in this translation is "Creator Sets Free." We are set free from the grip of death, and as the living here on Earth, we are set free from worrying about where our loved ones are and how they are doing. We are set free to live our life today and to bring a New Jerusalem to Earth as it is in heaven.
With that, I am so excited for the four baptisms today that will be joining in this mission that we have, to live today as we, the church, the people of God, are the New Jerusalem. So with that, I wonder, are you ready, our baptizees for today? I would love to invite you to come forward.