Walking in the Fifth Gospel

It’s been another active, wonderful week at Emmanuel. We had the EDS Pumpkin Parade Tuesday, and the churchyard was filled with amazing jackolanterns and whole families dressed in coordinating costumes. One of my favorites was our EDS student dressed as a rainbow – creatively made of bent pool noodles nested in a cloud of cotton batting, all worn on the back of her pink spangly dress. Mom was the sun, complete with a crown and wide wings of rays, and Dad was dressed as a parachuter, with helmet and front parachute pack carrying the infant sister.

I hadn’t had the foresight to plan a costume, and so was delighted to re-discover my black Wippell’s clerical cloak in my closet. I sailed out into the night with a miniature dragon and a Ninja Turtle concealed in its folds – who jumped out periodically to surprise parents and other unicorns, pirates, and princesses. I was a six-footed, cloaked Abouna, as the children call me, for Halloween.

From Halloween – All Hallows’ Eve – we look forward to All Saints’ Day, one of the major feast days of the church. All Saints’ Day occurs naturally on November 1, but as a major feast day of the church, takes precedence over The Lord’s Day, our weekly Sunday feast day, so we will actually celebrate All Saints’ Day on Sunday – November 3.

All Saints’ Day is the day when we remember that we are part of the communion of saints, as we say we believe in the Nicene Creed – all those holy ones who lived in ages past and are with us now and always. As one of the seven major feast days in The Episcopal Church, All Saints’ Day is also a time for baptism – and we will baptize a new member of the Christian community on Sunday!

I mentioned that the EDS children call me Abouna – and the reason they do is that Abouna is Arabic for priest. I just returned in June from a year’s fellowship at St. George’s College in Jerusalem, the holiest city in the world for Christians and Jews, and the third holiest city in the world – after Mecca and Medina – for Muslims.

In the Holy Land of the three Abrahamic faiths – Christianity, Judaism, and Islam – you often hear people speak of the land itself as the Fifth Gospel. The holy land gives us new insight into scripture and how God is trying to interact with us.

The particular rocks, dirt, caves, places, and homes – the actual physical surroundings of the holy family and other characters of scripture – provide resonance and context when we see where they lived, how they might have walked, how warm or cold – or wet or dry – it might have been, and what they might have had to eat, or seen along the roadside as they walked.

I am very grateful that we will welcome my dear friend, The Rev. Susan Lukens, Associate Dean Emerita of St. George’s College, Jerusalem, to join me to preach and concelebrate (a specific church word meaning co-preside at the Eucharist) on All Saints’ Day. Please join us Sunday as we welcome the newest member of our Christian family in baptism, discuss our experience with the Fifth Gospel, and explore our living relationship with the communion of saints and all our family we encounter in Christ.