We are all Saints – Wir sind alle Heiligen

I see that November is coming and I think, “Hang on, girl” because every year, both Allerheiligen (All Saints day) and Allerseelen (All Souls day) teach me.

https://lauraanneayres.com/2014/11/02/allerheiligen-allerseelen-all-saints-and-all-souls-day/

https://lauraanneayres.com/2014/03/10/allerseelen-by-strauss/

That’s, well, only a part of it all. Just two glimpses into how these days have molded me.

There was a lot of personal impact-laden death around me in 2009 and 2010. In 2009, all my “you’re a foreigner” trouble started in Switzerland, I was beaten by the man I thought I’d marry, and two men that were touchstones for me unexpectedly died (less than 2 months apart). Happy New Year in 2010, as my parents divorced shortly after lawyers/judges returned from ski vacations, my family split in half, Granddaddy died, L’s mother died, and Annie overdosed. It was a lot.

So, these two days mean a great deal for me every year. I quietly reflect on November 1st and 2nd. I remember all those I’ve lost – some are actually still living and others are dead. All Saints and All Souls days are contemplative for me. Not dark, just contemplative.

For the past four years of my life, I have spent Allerheiligen at Bibiana’s grave, and this year was no exception. I learned a profoundly important lesson this year.

A man was adorning the grave beside Bibiana’s. He had tears falling from his eyes onto the grave.

I literally cannot handle it when someone is crying. So, I said, “es macht die Erde gesunder” and I put a hand on his shoulder. (It makes the soil/earth healthier.)

When I put my hand on his shoulder, he flinched. I am not sure he even realized someone was there. I pulled my hand away quickly (sometimes, I forget that I am in Switzerland, where you are not supposed to have “so much sunshine all the time”) and he…pulled it back. He squeezed my hand and said, “Stimmt.” (True that!)

After he left, I put one of the candles I had for Bibiana (I had 5, plus the Easter candle I made at church last Easter, I had a rather Texas amount to begin with…) on the grave of his loved one. He came quickly back, took one of the flowers he’d used for his loved one, and put it on Bibiana’s grave!

We are living Saints. All of us. We are all connected.

Written from a train from Luzern to Bern, 01.11.2015

Politics and Church – what could go wrong? Not much. Just everything.

The worst threat to any denomination has always been “the church will fracture due to political maneuverings.” I find this a hollow fear.

A door may close. A program may be slashed. Real estate may be sold. As long as there is one creature that declares a loving God created and resides in his or her heart? The church is alive.

Oddly enough, the ones worried about the fracture are the same in political circles and religious ones – the liberals. The conservatives aren’t worrying about the fracture(s). They are too busy protecting their immediate needs.

Liberals worry about keeping families together and pointing faces toward the future. Conservative focus on defining their “version” of family and pointing fingers in faces.

Conservatives scream about how right and righteous they are. Liberals cower away from declaring themselves “right” or righteous.

Conservatives plot and liberals ponder. It’s always the same. In the end? Conservatives are nodding their heads and liberals are shaking theirs. It’s frustrating to watch.

And it’s painful to watch ugly, old politics come into the walls of sanctuaries. A sanctuary is no place for politics. So much can go wrong during that distraction.

Today’s sermon was a great sermon. Father Paul baptized me 35 years ago and those same big hands gave me communion today. Sure, they call him Bishop today, but I know that smile, those rosy cheeks, and those glittering eyes. He’s TOTALLY my Father Paul.

One thing he said today will stick with me for a long time. I’m paraphrasing the context, but wrote down the quote to be exact.

He talked to us about what exactly it means to receive baptism, confirmation, reception, etc. into the Christian body. He reminded us how important it is to take that grace we are given through the Great Thanksgiving and share it abundantly, unconditionally, and without regard to self. He said it was our duty to take that “into the troubled and broken world – a world that doesn’t have a chance without Him.”

I agree. That is exactly why the plots, schemes, fractures, tears, failures, exhausting and crippling disappointments have no place in God’s churches.

Love one another and within “love” should also be respect, treasure, adore, admire, listen to, comfort, embrace, accept. It’s the very least we can do with what we’ve been given. And we must. The world needs it and it “doesn’t have a chance without Him.”

Focus. The world doesn’t need you to define love. It needs you to show it.

Bishop Paul Lambert and I at Angry Dog (where we unabashedly said grace, by the way).
Bishop Paul Lambert and I at Angry Dog (where we unabashedly said grace, by the way)

Apples and faith

How very Swiss the sermon was on Christmas eve/day. “Brothers and sisters in Christ, faith is like an apple.”

Father Luzzatto’s sermon was powerful, as is usually the case when someone stands at the pulpit at Franziskanerkirche. Apples and candles adorned our Christmas trees in my loving, liberal, Luzern church.

Ah, the apple. We love our apples here: raw, cinnamon-dusted, on a train, in a car, while walking. We love apples. There are well over 7,000 varieties of apples. Some are sweet and others are almost sour.  Certain “perfect” apples appear absolutely blemish-less, whilst others are picked from a tree and might have not only bruises, but possibly a plump worm hiding within. Apples used to be a sign of wealth. Countries have their own national favorites. It’s easily one of the top 3 most consumed fruits. Even Switzerland’s hero Wilhelm Tell was linked with the apple, which demonstrated his bravery, accuracy, and resilience under pressure (three rather important universal strengths).

But, the apple’s also an apt metaphor for faith.

There’s a small layer of a “shell” protecting it as it grows, matures, and thrives. Once past the fragile, but firm, exterior, one reaches the sought-after flesh. Interestingly enough, the true legacy each apple holds is far from that which is immediately seen or tasted. Buried underneath the peel, past the yummy inside, there it is: the core. We say, “das Kernhaus eines Apfels” in German. The core of each apple has the potential to bring literal life.

Even the proportions are similar. The outer layer is thin, but sturdy. The inner flesh definitely contains the majority of what makes an apple have its well-known taste. The core is similar to the outer layer because it is limited in size (and circumference, by nature).

There we have our proportions (those of us who are faith seekers). Our “faith” or outer armor is not so thick, but it is substantial. The inner stuff makes us who we are. The core (a purity of heart I believe we are all born with) is small, but drives everything from birth to death and then the next step…if it is protected.

Today I did a bit of research. There is a group in Asia trying to create an apple without a peel. Why? Because people don’t like the taste of the peel. “It’s bitter,” they say, “I just want the inside part.” There are hundreds of products created to help us get rid of our apple peel, including one of my favorite products, which is apple juice. We wish it was easier to get directly to and enjoy the delicious flavors of the apple. Who cares about that pesky peel layer, I want the good stuff!

Hell, we all do.

News Flash: the good stuff isn’t in the flesh – it’s in the peel. In particular, that area just between the peel and the flesh. You get a healthy dose of potassium, Vitamins A, C, & K, fiber, not to mention possible cancer-fighting elements and antioxidants. Eat only the flesh? You don’t.

It’s trendy now to eliminate that “armor.” But, when we eliminate the armor of “faith,” we lose a lot.  Not everything, we still get a delicious, wonderful, beautiful apple. But, picture an apple without a peel. How that would really be? It would be exposed to every storm, susceptible to every pest. The peel, the armor – they protect the flesh. Both the outer layer and the inner layer do something extremely important. They both protect the core. The inner layer cannot do it alone, that’s why the outer layer is crucial. Get it?

I struggle to imagine myself with the armor that has protected me. The armor I choose willingly and happily to wear fully aware of what makes it my faith and my armor. No one told me, “put this on just because.” No. I made the decision. Certainly, it would have been a lovely life without some of the doubts and anger that come with wearing the “armor.” The many times I felt my strong faith did not protect me or the ones I loved…or even the ones I saw who needed protection.

The church services on Christmas eve and day ended with everyone taking home an apple for him or herself. I am still thinking about this comparison and loving it more and more. Before we left, Father Luzzatto joked about our favorite apple.

Mine is definitely the Pink Lady apple. I loved them when I lived in Manhattan (my grocer carried them). They are a bit tart, but mainly sweet. The peel is tough, rugged.

Apples and faith. Such a beautiful pairing.

Amen.

.Apples and ChristmasApple and Advent candles