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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

Day 226 I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance

Day 226: Wednesday, October 28th, 2020:

Reflection with love from Victoria MacDonald:

During our Emmaus Zoom on Sunday (Oct. 25th), Dan mentioned that his liturgy was originally going to focus on All Saint’s Day, Sunday, November 1st. But, as those of you who attended know, the theme about which Dan and Steve spoke so brilliantly, focused around a poem by Julie Cadwallader Staub entitled “Measurement.” (The recording of this liturgy can be found on our Emmaus website). We did briefly joke about our Emmaus community as a crazy group of sinners and saints.

Since we will miss celebrating All Saint’s Day as a community, I thought I might share some thoughts.

I think it was Dorothy Day who once said, ”Please, for God’s sake, “don't call me a saint. I don't want to be dismissed so easily.”

I think about that quote every year as All Saints Day comes around. I wonder, as maybe you wonder too, what does it take to be a saint? And why strive so hard to be one? Lately, I have been reading a great book entitled, “Accidental Saints,” by Nadia Bolz-Weber, a very irreverent Methodist Minister, and I thought it would be great to share with you some of her thoughts as we approach All Saints Day this coming Sunday, November first:

The Beatitudes are always the gospel reading for All Saints Sunday; it can make the people who are called saints seem so unattainably good, and the people who aren’t (that would be us) feel unworthy.

But what if the Beatitudes aren’t about a list of conditions we should try to meet in order to be blessed? What if they are not virtues we should aspire to?

What if Jesus saying “blessed are the meek” is not instructive but performative---that the pronouncement of blessing is actually what confers the blessing itself? Maybe the Sermon on the Mount is all about Jesus’ lavish blessing of the people around him on that hillside, blessing all the accidental saints in this world...people in pain, people who work for peace instead of profit, people who exercise mercy instead of vengeance.

Maybe Jesus was simply blessing the ones around him that day who didn’t otherwise receive blessings, who had come to believe that, for them, blessings would never be in the cards. I mean, come on, doesn’t that just sound like something that Jesus would do? Extravagantly throwing around blessings as though they grew on trees?

So as we approach this All Saints Sunday, I imagine Jesus standing among us offering some new beatitudes:

Blessed are they who doubt. Those who aren’t sure; who can still be surprised.

Blessed are they who are spiritually impoverished and therefore not so certain about everything, that they no longer take in new information.

Blessed are those who [think they] have nothing to offer.

Blessed are the preschoolers who cut in line at communion.

Blessed are the poor in spirit.

You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.

Blessed are they for whom death is not an abstraction.

Blessed are they who have buried their loved ones, for whom tears could fill an

ocean. Blessed are they who have loved enough to know what loss feels like.

Blessed are the mothers of the miscarried.

Blessed are they who don’t have the luxury of taking things for granted anymore.

Blessed are they who can’t fall apart because they have to keep it together for everyone else. Blessed are the motherless, the alone, the ones from whom so much has been taken. Blessed are those who “still aren’t over it yet.”

Blessed are those who mourn.

You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.

Blessed are those who no one else notices. The kids who sit alone at middle-school lunch tables. The laundry guys at the hospital. The sex workers and the night-shift street sweepers.

Blessed are the losers and the babies, and the parts of ourselves that are so small, the parts of ourselves that don’t want to make eye contact with a world that loves only the winners.

Blessed are the forgotten.

Blessed are the closeted.

Blessed are the unemployed, the unimpressive, and the underrepresented.

Blessed are the teens who have to figure out ways to hide the new cuts on their arms. Blessed are the meek.

You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.

Blessed are the wrongly accused, the ones who never catch a break, the ones for whom life is hard, for Jesus chose to surround himself with people like them.

Blessed are those without documentation.

Blessed are the ones without lobbyists.

Blessed are the foster kids and trophy kids, and special-ed kids, and every other kid who just wants to feel safe and loved.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.

Blessed are they who know there has to be more than this. Because they are right.

Blessed are the burned-out social workers and the over worked teachers and the pro-bono case takers.

Blessed are the kids who step between the bullies and the weak.

Blessed are they who hear that they are forgiven.

Blessed is everyone who has ever forgiven me when I didn’t deserve it.

Blessed are the merciful, for they totally get it.

I imagine Jesus standing there blessing us all because I believe that is his nature. Because, after all, it was Jesus who had all the powers of the universe at his disposal. He did not consider his equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead, he came to us in the most vulnerable of ways, as a powerless, flesh-and-blood newborn.

As if to say, “You may hate your bodies, but I am blessing all human flesh. You may admire strength and might, but I am blessing all human weakness. You may seek power, but I am blessing all human vulnerability.” This Jesus, whom we follow, cried at the tomb of his friend, turned the other cheek, and forgave those who hung him on a cross.

He was God’s Beatitude---God’s blessing to the weak in a world that admires only the strong.

So, Happy All Saint’s loving, and accidental, and incredible Emmaus Community!

And, we say together... Amen! Amen!

With lots of love,




you shall above all things be glad and young

you shall above all things be glad and young

For if you’re young, whatever life you wear

it will become you; and if you are glad

whatever’s living will yourself become.

Girlboys may nothing more than boygirls need:

i can entirely her only love

whose any mystery makes every man’s

flesh put space on; and his mind take off time

that you should ever think, may god forbid

and (in his mercy) your true lover spare:

for that way knowledge lies, the foetal grave

called progress, and negation’s dead undoom.

I’d rather learn from one bird how to sing

than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance

— e.e. cummings


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