We Belong

Believe it or not, there was a time when I tried really hard to be an Astros fan…

I lived in Houston at various times for about 10 years, and went to plenty of Astros games. They were my new hometown team, my boys were born in Houston, and I worked down the street from the stadium.

It would have been really convenient for me to become an Astros fan, but I just couldn’t do it.

Not until 2017, at least. But we’ll get there in a moment…

Nothing has the power to change us, confront us with reality, open our ears to a new truth, or turn our life in a different direction like a reversal of fortune…like our world being turned upside down.

That’s exactly what Jesus is doing in today’s gospel.

It’s what he’s always doing.

Jesus Christ reverses business as usual: good news to the poor, release to prisoners, sight to the blind, and freedom for the oppressed.

The Christian faith is based on worlds being turned upside down.

That’s what all the saints understand, those of the past and those here today.

For it is in those moments of reversal…these moments of our worlds being turned upside down…that we discover wholeness in the midst of suffering, light in the midst of darkness, and life in the midst of death.

Saints embody these reversals.

You and I embody these reversals.

When we strive to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us, to bless those who curse us, and to pray for those who abuse us, we are embodying God’s love that turns the world upside down.

That’s what we celebrate today, on this Feast of All Saints.

We celebrate the lives in and through whom God’s love has turned the world upside down. 

But this day isn’t just about the saints we name churches after.

This day means nothing if it is not also about you and me.

Because when we give thanks for the lives of the saints, we also remember one more reversal that turned the world upside down.

Our baptisms.

Do you remember that day?

Has anyone told you what happened?

In our baptism, the world is turned upside down.

Our worlds are turned upside down.

Because in our baptism, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that no matter what happens, we belong.

You belong.

Your child belongs.

Your grandchild belongs.

We belong to God.

We belong to God: rich and poor, full and hungry, laughing and weeping, respected and ridiculed.

No matter how we feel, we belong.

No matter what happens to us, we belong.

No matter what, we belong.

Back to those 2017 Astros. If you know baseball, you know all about the trash cans, and the cheating, and all of that.

But do you know what that team meant to my city?

This team put the city on their backs, and lifted our spirits when all we knew was flood and death and despair.

This team lifted us up when we were brought low.

This team turned our world upside down again, which really made it rightside up.

This team made everyone in the city…nearly everyone in the country…an Astros fan.

And this team certainly made two little boys big time fans, even if their dad could hardly stomach it.

Five years ago earlier this week I took the boys out of school, and we ventured downtown with one million other fans to celebrate what this team had accomplished.

Check that…we gathered with one million of our closest friends to celebrate what our city had accomplished.

I could tell you about squeezing cheek to cheek…and I mean cheek to cheek…onto the last train with any space to get downtown.

Or I could tell you about skipping the train and walking more than three miles back to the car with nine and seven year old boys.

But none of that mattered compared to just being there in that moment.

That moment that reminded us we were more than the worst thing that had happened to us.

That moment that reminded us that we were alive, and joyful, and blessed, even if our neighborhood still had flooded houses.

That moment that reminded us that we belonged.

We were all Astros fans, at least for that day. (Don’t tell the Rangers…)

I was struck by the number of little kids that were there.

Sure, kids love baseball. But I think more importantly we adults wanted to take our kids so they could see that they were a part of something bigger than themselves.

In that moment, we could all say that we belonged.

And that’s why we renew our baptismal vows on this day.

To remind ourselves that we are loved and chosen and part of God’s kingdom.

To remind ourselves that we take our place in the communion of the saints.

To remind ourselves that we belong.