Dear Friends in Christ,

All Saints is upon us. This is incredibly good news.

Not that you'd know it by the initial evidence.

Betsy, Evan and I were out for dinner and a movie the other night, and while we were waiting for our table, we wandered around the Waterfront Mall, going first into the Halloween Store. They had one of those stupid pop-up fake ghost thingies at the door and (of course) as I entered, it went off in my face.

I almost had a heart attack. Evan howled with glee. Very funny. Works every time.

But stupid motorized plastic ghoulies are not the whole story, thank God. Let me explain how I get here.

By this point in the liturgical year, I am getting a little tired of green. And, in this year especially, the Sunday readings from Matthew, and the Office readings from Luke, are soaked in Jesus' latter day conflicts with the Pharisees and the Sadducees and reluctant disciples and conditional followers. I see how hard the Lord's road is, and yet how determined His will, how fast the bond between Him and the Father as He "sets his face toward Jerusalem."

I am not fast, not determined. My Christianity gets shaken by a battery-powered illusion. I am all about being a conditional and reluctant follower of Jesus. My prayer begins every day with the list of folks I am worried about, situations that confound me, dear ones I grieve over, parishes and people with insoluble problems who have put themselves into my hands. I am no better than the men who insist on taking care of things at home, getting their affairs in order, burying their dead, saying their goodbyes, before following Jesus – to whom He stunningly replies, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and then looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God." Well, I think, that's it. Fry me.

And then comes All Saints. "Who are these? asked the elder. And I said, Sir you know. And he said: these are the ones who have come through the great tribulation – they have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, the sun shall not touch them, nor any scorching heat: and God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes."

The saints are just ordinary people made worthy by extraordinary grace. Ordinary people like me, like those I lose patience with, like those I agonize over. These are the ones who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.

We are surrounded by the glory of the saints, at every moment, at every turn, who are (against their/our natural wills) even now soaking in the Precious Blood of Jesus as the only means by which they/we are saved. In turn, we are carried by them, encouraged by them, prayed for by them, born on their shoulders, comforted by their embrace. These are our companions on the way. The ones who teach us to rely on nothing and no one else but Him, His Cross, His Resurrection.

I know this "precious blood" stuff is not current in some circles. That's too bad. Without it we are alone.

But with it, we are in the midst of an innumerable assembly of friends. There is nothing we have experienced which is not felt by them, known by them, from their own stories. Are you stricken? Bereft? Overwhelmed? How many of them have been exactly there, and in even worse places. With the exception of Christ Himself, the saints alone can say to us, believably, "I know how you feel." 

So lay your reluctance, your faithlessness, your conditional love, your disappointments, at their feet. And put on the robe they have been holding for you. It won't just get you to Advent. It will sustain you for the rest of your life, and beyond.

Faithfully and fondly your bishop,