Dear Friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Growing up in the 1960’s in southern Minnesota, store bought Halloween costumes were hard to come by. There was no Amazon or Spirit of Halloween, nor holiday websites to peruse. The majority of the children in our neighborhood went door to door trick or treating dressed as hobos, Gypsy fortune tellers, pirates and occasional princesses- if they had been invited to be junior bride maid or flower girl in a recent wedding. Clowns, however, made their regular appearances. These were not the scarry clowns of recent years. These were the white faces, red haired, floppy shoes Bozo type who regularly appeared at the circus and school carnivals magically turning balloons into animals, and shocking folks with buzzer on their hands. Of course, clowns costumes were certainly not new or novel. They had been around for over 2000 years and were a part of the Roman Forum and ancient Greek theatre. But growing up in those simpler, by gone years, we loved clowns and the joy they brought to our lives.
As the president of the World Clown Association, Elaine “Daisy D.Dots” Vercellone writes, “A clown has the ability to see things through the eyes of a child. A clown does not allow the age of time to diminish his/her childlike way of seeing the world, but grows more in awe as their age increases. A clown brings happiness where there is sadness, wonder where there was the feeling of infinite wisdom, an ear to those who need to be heard, a tear when someone needs to be sad.”
Sadly, walking around with my grandchildren on Halloween, I didn’t see many clown costumes, if any. I wish I had, “We could all benefit from seeing the world through a child eyes.” Maybe our fear and anxiety before these mid-term elections could be minimized. Clowns and children have a way of seeing the world, from which we could all benefit.
Curiously, clowns and children are a part of our All Saints celebration as well. At the heart of All Saints is the wonderful promise of God’s everlasting kingdom. And what will that promised heaven above be like? If you want pure belief and an honest answer, ask children. “It’s where girls get turned into angels . . . and then God tries to do the best he can with boys.” What will heaven be like? “There will be no doctors or lawyers in heaven. . . . They don’t need them because God does all the healing and because all arguments are against the law.” As one child said, “I think it’s gonna be like the most perfect place in the universe because God’s there and he won’t let there be anything bad, unlike earth, where there’s all these bad things here.” Of course, we expect such innocence from children. But we are surprised when Jesus offers a possibility which sound more like a phrase spoken by clown than a serious thinker.
Many of us here know the familiar cadences of the Beatitudes in St. Matthew’s gospel, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” But then we hear Jesus’ words spoken by him in St. Luke’s gospel. “Blessed are those who weep now, for you will laugh.” Yes, you heard that right. “You were expecting to hear, “Blessed are those who weep now, for you will be comforted.” But Jesus says something much more audacious and bold. Jesus says, “For you will laugh.”
How can Jesus offer such a promise? Believe me, he knows your sadness, your bitterness, and the darkness you have experienced in the loss of someone you have loved. He can see the forced smile on our face when people ask how you are doing. I can assure you, he is not a clown, but he can see something others can’t see. He can see the hidden sadness of your heart. Nothing compares to the pain one feels when losing a loved one. It is perhaps one of the deepest sufferings, and at the same time one of the most common. Yet grief is different for each person.
Now, it may be hard for you to believe Jesus’ word today that those who cry now, will one day laugh. But on this All Saints Sunday, that is the comfort we have in his word. He says that those who are hungry will be satisfied, and that those who suffer will be comforted, and that those who go through difficult time will have the strength of God. Oh, really, you sputter. How does Jesus know what is possible in your life? Who does he think he is saying such ridiculous things? God? I hoped you laughed. Because that is exactly who he is.
Jesus knows your pain and suffering more than any one can imagine. This was not the act of a foolish clown. Jesus faced death alone as the crowds laughed and watched him beaten, tortured, suffer and die. He felt abandoned on the tragic path through the darkest valley that wished no one else to experience. But on the third day, when he was raised from the dead, he knew that death and disease were ended. There was a new kingdom and a new earth waiting. Life would have the final word- not death. Yes, he knew that truth of his own promise, “Blessed are those who weep now, for they would one day laugh.” That is your promise as well.
My friends, God wants you to be blessed which simply means to be happy. In spite of your suffering, he does not want you to lose faith or hope. He is with you now, and has something even more wonderful waiting for you in your future. Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.