I have spent a good part of my life living near cemeteries, so from the time I was young it has been my habit to walk through those sacred places, pausing to wonder at the stories of those whose names and years are engraved in stone there. Nowadays when I walk it is so that I have shared in the lives of some of those buried there so that the names are not only engraved in stone but are also engraved on my heart or on the hearts of those I know. And yet, for many, the stones themselves do not tell a story beyond the often-unspoken witness of those they commemorate. A few weeks ago, though, one that is new caught my eye and I found myself stepping onto the grass to get a closer look.
As I stood with it again late yesterday afternoon, I found myself searching for words to capture the meaning and message conveyed here. I shared this image with a friend whose voice I trust who offered this, that the vertical connection (with God) is infinite while the horizontal one — that which is between us, is limited. There is both powerful promise and deep truth spoken in that understanding and surely it preaches. I first went elsewhere, however, to the invitation in this simple stone to see the world and one another through the cross itself. And more than this, my imagination flew to wondering at how God sees us — maybe most especially through the cross itself. And surely (to pull our two first impressions together) with the infinite love which the cross represents.
Indeed, while we can spend a lifetime debating the meaning of the cross, it seems to me that most simply it is this. The cross is always a symbol of love, speaking to us of God’s limitless love for us and for all the world.
So, this is where I am landing now on this afternoon before the people I serve alongside gather for worship on the much-loved day we call All Saints: beginning with For All the Saints and ending with a resounding When the Saints Go Marching In (complete with the kazoo accompaniment of the smallest Saints among us.)
I am standing still in the promise and the gift that God always sees with eyes of love.
And yes, surely this begins and ends with those named in this week’s Gospel offering from Luke where Jesus preaches that God sees with such unending love the poor, the mourning, the hungry, and those who are persecuted for standing and speaking from and with the eyes of love we wonder at today. Whose lives are devoted to shaping a world which reflects the prophetic love and power of the One who first hung on that cross so long ago.
And surely we are among them now as we gather on this holy day: all of us who at one time or another find ourselves somewhere in Luke’s rendering of blessing and woes today:
- Indeed, in all of our places doesn’t God look with such love on those whose losses are fresh and who join the procession carrying the pillar candles which will be lit as precious names of dear ones are spoken.
- And upon those whose healing has begun as well as those for whom the wounds have not yet begun to discover such healing.
- And indeed, doesn’t God’s love gaze upon those whose losses seem especially fresh this year, even though they may be decades old.
And oh, surely God looks at us each one with eyes of such love on all of our other days as well:
- On good days and bad ones and those which hold some of both,
- With our resilient dreams and dashed hopes,
- In our brokenness and in our journeys to wholeness,
- In our knowing and in our not knowing and in our not yet knowing.
God looks at us and sees our faith and our doubt, the ways in which we have known love now and the ways in which we still yearn to receive it and the ways in which we have and have not yet extended such love in kindness to others.
Indeed, God looks at us with eyes of love which invite us and encourage us and show us how to live with hope and joy seeking to shape a world where all people, where all people, would be able to sense that gaze upon them, too, as we remember that God’s loving gaze lingers longest upon those who are poor, on those who are mourning, and on those who are hungry.
Now I recognize this offering likely comes too late for those whose call it is to proclaim this good news tomorrow. Even so, may you simply know this gaze of love upon you, too, as you carry your own hopes and hurts, your still tender hearts and mostly healed ones, too, into gatherings of God’s precious saints tomorrow. And in your sensing that, may your sight somehow be God’s own sight as you both bear and receive the gifts of this special day.
- Scroll back to the top and look again at the image of that gravestone. What message does it offer you?
- It is a simple message, this, that God gazes upon us with eyes of love. Some days I think it is the only message that matters. What do you think?
- What do you carry into All Saints Sunday this year? What difference does it make to you that God sees you through the cross itself and that God’s eyes resting on you hold only love?