How did you enjoy the extra hour added last night? Some suggest we not add an hour to 2020, nothing to do with the debate over daylight saving time, we just don’t want this year to last even an hour longer!
And blessed All Saints. Bless you. Bless any in poverty, including in spirit; bless those in mourning; meekness, including the earth and all creatures; bless those hungering and thirsting, including for a world of justice and right relationships; bless the merciful; of God’s heart; peacemakers; and persecuted. Jesus blesses all these - with God’s dominion, comfort and bearing witness, inheriting the earth, fulfillment, mercy, seeing God, called children of God, in God’s realm. Rejoice and be glad! It’s God’s upside-down world of blessing those who in the world’s terms are anything but blessed, privileged, well off. But Jesus declares all these in want, are blessed. And it is so!
Did anyone think as you heard the vision in the reading from Revelation, could this be a vision for the end of the pandemic? Maybe I’m seeing things where they’re not. But I could imagine this scene, an admittedly Christian but still inclusive scene, of all who have died, and all who have been deeply affected, a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing together before the presence of God and the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands, crying out with loud voices, “Salvation belongs to God…” and with all angels and all creatures, falling down in worship and singing! singing together! “Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” And as the elder asked the visionary, “Who are these robed in white and where have they come from?” And answering, “These are the ones who have come through the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they are before God worshipping day and night, and the Lamb will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; (nor any pandemic, no political, personal, refugee, systemic, health, environmental, nor any other crises or turmoil will strike them, for the Lamb will be their shepherd, guiding them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” What a vision of hope, not just in the end, but also a new beginning even now. Let it be so.
Lots of us have thoughts of when this year, this pandemic and related crises, are over. I was a small part of discussions of a 2020/21 series for the John Albert Hall Lectures at the UVic Centre for Studies in Religion and Society. First conceived as imagining the “new normal,” some of us questioned if “normal,” new or otherwise, in all that has been exposed, is anything we want to return to. The upcoming series, now planned under the title “Values for a New World,” will soon be advertised to begin this December and continue in 2021 with diverse presenters gathered over Zoom, including author Esi Edugyan, Miroslav Wolf, Noam Chomsky, Thomas Homer Dixon, Linda Woodhead, and a concluding panel with many of them together, imagining a post Covid-19, post US election world with values we have seen and learned, and their opposites, values we want to live and lift up for a new world together. It’s a hopeful vision. Let it be so.
But are we just dreaming? On CBC’s “Quirks and Quarks” with Bob McDonald this past week, part of the program was an interview with Victoria environmental and science author and UVic adjunct professor, Elin Kelsey. Her new book is titled, Hope Matters, Why Changing the Way We Think Is Critical to Solving the Environmental Crisis. The online interview states: “…the relentless negativity of the way we talk about things like the environmental crisis could be hamstringing our ability to do anything about it.” Kelsey offers an "‘evidence based’ argument for hope and optimism as we engage with our real environmental challenges.” In the Q&Q interview Kelsey said, I think so often when people think about hope, they very quickly go to wishful thinking, and they imagine that hope is some kind of Pollyanna-ish idea of if only things were better or if we just assume that they are or pretend that they are. The argument I'm making is that almost all of the environmental news that we hear about is positioned as problem identification. But because we only hear about problems, we're missing the evidence of things that are moving in a positive direction. … I really want to say I'm a super believer in evidence-based arguments and we need to know what problems there are. What we're missing is really an awareness of what things are happening and the scale at which they're happening, because that is very motivating information. … Really trying to support and amplify examples of solutions as they're happening. And I'm very happy to say in the last decade or so, there's been this emergence of a field called 'solutions journalism,' and in solutions journalism the idea is that you look just as rigorously at solutions, just as critically as you would at problems in your reporting of them. That's just one source of being able to see solutions being reported in an evidence-based fashion. (https://www.cbc.ca/radio/quirks/oct-31)
This growing form of solutions journalism has deep roots in Canada, with most pointing to its origin in the reporting by Monte Paulsen on homelessness in Vancouver in a series of articles published in the Tyee in 2010. His research and articles resulted in first imagining, and then examining and with others planning and finally seeing realized new modular housing built with shipping containers available in abundance in a port city like Vancouver. Other examples include the creation of harm reduction sites in response to the drug poisoning crisis, a response to systemic racism in schools, and more. Solutions journalism now has a regular place in major publications like HuffPost Canada which has an impact section, the New York times, “Fixes,” and the Guardian’s “Upside” and the creation of the Solutions Journalism Network. (“The Power of Solutions Journalism” by David Venn, Mar 3, 2020 the Tyee, previously in the Ryerson Review of Journalism https://thetyee.ca/Culture/ 2020/03/03/Solutions-Journalism-Reports-On-How-To-Fix-Societal-Problems/). If this form of solutions journalism can foster genuine hope and motivation toward creating change for good, let it be so!
Could all these people we are talking about with their visions of hope for the future, be saints to celebrate today? And what about God’s upside-down world of Jesus’ blessing those in want? Is that our and God’s evidence based hope for the future?
Debie Thomas in her article this week titled, “The Great Reversal,” in the Webzine, “Journey With Jesus,” writes about the hope of getting “back to normal” following the pandemic and everything else that is going wrong, and questions, what is normal and who defines it, and what is Jesus’ normal, and is it defined by the upside-down blessings Jesus offers to those in want? She writes: The amazing thing about the people Jesus describes in the beatitudes is that they want. They want without reservation or apology. They want justice They want peace. They want solace. They want healing. Even in the face of oppression, pain, loss, and sorrow, they do not give up wanting - or living in ways that bear witness to that wanting. …In other words, what Jesus describes in his sermon is a world turned upside-down by passionate conviction, intensity, and desire. An economy of blessing that sounds ludicrous to those who refuse to feel so deeply. A reordering of priority and privilege that the church has found awkward and even offensive for centuries.
As we remember and honor those (saints) who have gone before us, we celebrate the unbreakable communion between past, present, and future. We draw comfort, resilience, and hope from the fact that countless others have mourned, hungered, thirsted, and grieved in years past, and gone on from their struggles to the fullness of life in God’s presence. As religious scholar Tim Beach-Verhey puts it, “The saints provide a glimpse of God’s already in the midst of our not-yet.” (https://www.journeywithjesus.net/lectionary-essays/current-essay?id=2800)
To join all the saints who have and continue to want, for justice, solace, humility, right relationships, mercy, compassion, freedom; sounds like hope in the here and not yet in God’s upside-down world with all the saints blessed by Jesus, before us and among us and even within us. It’s a beautiful, hopeful vision for this God’s world, now and forever. Let it be so. In all our relations. Amen.