November 2, 2014
His name was Roger and for his entire life he’d lived in the same house.
He was born in that farmhouse.
When his parents died, he and sister Sarah lived in the house together.
It was just the two of them…for all those years.
But then his sister fell.
And then she fell again.
Roger couldn’t take care of Sarah by himself,
and so she went into a nursing home.
It was then that I started visiting Roger at home.
The visits were at home, but I never actually went into his home.
On occasion I’d drive him to get groceries,
and when I carried the packages for him,
I got only as far as the front porch.
“Just leave them there,” he’d say.
“I’ll bring them in later.”
Having seen the porch, I was just as glad not to go inside Roger’s house.
The porch was covered 2 feet high with old newspapers.
Empty and rusting cat food cans were everywhere.
I could detect an odor from indoors even from the porch.
The town had been asked to condemn the building.
But the inspectors found that the structure was sound.
Whenever Roger had been in the car with me,
I’d drop him off and then immediately go to a carwash
to try to get rid of the smell from the seats.
One day Roger gave me a piece of paper.
“I don’t think I’ll get to church to turn it in,” he said.
It was his pledge card showing the amount he planned to give to the church each week.
On the blank line he had written in the amount $0.25.
It was the widow’s mite…you remember the story.
Roger got a phone call one day that his sister was not doing well.
The nursing home suspected that she had had a stroke.
I drove Roger to the home and he held her hand at her bedside, briefly
and then said it was time for us to go.
After some prayers I drove Roger back home.
Sarah died during the night,
and I talked to Roger about a funeral service.
Roger wanted the funeral service at the church.
There were no close relatives.
Afraid that Roger and I might be the only ones at the service,
I invited members of our church choir to come.
They and two workers from the thrift store where Roger shopped
were the congregation for the service.
The choir members were scattered among the first pews of the worship space.
Roger didn’t sit with them.
Roger chose to sit where he and his sister always sat,
on the left side, in the far back pew.
From there he heard the words from the gospel of Matthew,
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
From there he sang (or if he wasn’t able to sing, he heard others sing) “Amazing Grace,”
and prayed the Lord’s prayer.
From there he heard me speak the words of commendation for his sister,
words that conclude every funeral service:
“Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Sarah. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.”
Every All Saints Day since then, I think of Sarah and Roger,
now both in the company of the saints in light.
Sarah and Roger were faithful…
to God, to each other as brother and sister, and to the church.
They were true saints of God,
known by God indeed, but by very few others.
Our reading from Revelation begins with a vision.
John of Patmos, the writer, has this vision of the saints in heaven.
“After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne…”
After this I looked….
There are some saints that you can’t see unless you really look.
There are some saints that not many people will notice.
There are some saints for whom no one will remember to light a candle on All Saints Day.
Sarah and Roger were two of them.
There are others of course.
They were like those that Jesus spoke about in the Beatitudes.
They didn’t do many heroic things.
They weren’t popular.
They were the poor in spirit…and sometimes the just plain poor.
They were the meek and the merciful.
They were the pure in heart and the peacemakers.
John of Patmos wrote,
“After this I looked and there was great multitude that no one could count…”
This week, take a closer look yourself.
Look for the saints in the corners…
the ones that no one really notices.
Remember not only the saints which come to mind quickly,
but the ones it would be easy to forget…
The words said at commendation are the same:
for poor and for rich, popular or not, for you and for me:
“Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant ... Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.”
Look for all the saints.
They will be marching in around the throne of God together!