Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Saints of Everyday Life

Rufus Ellis (1819-1885) was the minister of First Church in Boston from 1853 until his death. Edward Everett Hale said this of Rev. Ellis in his Memorial Address:
"This man held to Jesus Christ as the real leader of life, — as the leader of this modern life of to-day. Christianity was not for him any bit of medieval imagery, any prehistoric fossil. To him true Christianity was to be the real life of the nineteenth century, In his heart, he believed and knew that men might walk in the Way of Jesus Christ, and believe his truth, and live his life. This was his hope and prayer and his expectation"
This from Ellis' sermon, "Everyday Religion"
"Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven. — Matthew, vi. 10.

I WISH to speak to you of the religion of common life, — every-day religion; of the faith out of which it springs; of the acts in which it is exercised; of the blessedness to which it leads.
1. The faith out of which it springs is a deep religious conviction that there is a divine Will to be done here on earth, a divine Hand waiting here to guide us, a message from heaven for every hour of our lives...there is this sublime confidence in the absolute sacredness of our life; and it is the spring of a most practical religion.

2. For observe, next, that with those who are in this faith every duty, no matter how common, is God's call for instantaneous obedience; literally His voice to them out of the Holy of holies ; unquestionably so, because the duty is so plain...And the point is, that this is just as true of the least things as of the greatest, of the nearest things as of the most remote; that in truth when little and great and near and far are seen in God, these distinctions vanish...The religion of every-day life does not merely record in diaries the alternations of the heart's temperature, or write out vows of self-consecration, or breathe out longings for a more entire self-surrender; it yields up to God the person, the thing, that God asks for, submitting to Him in each moment of struggle, when the child cleaves to this and that, and would walk aside from the path into which the strong and gentle Hand would lead; it worships, it may be, in tears and bitterness of spirit, and yet in that sweet submission which saith, "Not my will but Thine be done!"
3. And now let me say, that all the beatitudes of the Gospel are fulfilled according as this religion of common life is duly observed. In its pure and holy light, as it shines down upon ever-brightening paths, we see that every human life has a meaning and is accomplishing an end which is altogether divine. This meaning we are ever unfolding, this end we are ever fulfilling...But the blessedness of this religion can only be seen when those who profess it follow it...upon the instant, — not to-morrow, which is a moral dislocation, but to-day...
Well do we keep a day of All Saints: all, not only those whose names are in the Calendar, and who can be accepted, some of them, only with certain grains of allowance,—all those also whose names are written only upon the palms of God's hands and upon the hearts of many who in that great Day shall rise up and call them blessed! Tell the stories of this and the other saint to any who care to hear them; but none the less the heart of humanity should keep its sweetest incense and its abundance of most joyful praise for the saints of every-day life, — unknown because they were lost in their work, and in Him who gave it to them to do."
Have a blessed day.

3 comments:

The Eclectic Cleric said...

This language of duty, submission and self-surrender doesn't resonate well in the 21st century ear, but I think language of service, generosity and gratitude does almost as well. The common ground is one of mindfulness -- a constant, streaming awareness of the presence of the spiritual/sacred/holy in one's own life, and the (surrender? submission?) embodiment of that in one's everyday living/lifestyle. Still not an easy task, especially for a skeptical, dyspeptic mystic...

As you must well know by now, I enjoy and appreciate very much your regular posts here on these topics. Keep them up!

David G. Markham said...

Hi BU:

Thank you for Rev. Rufus Ellis' sweet words. I especially liked :"Tell the stories of this and the other saint to any who care to hear them; but none the less the heart of humanity should keep its sweetest incense and its abundance of most joyful praise for the saints of every-day life, — unknown because they were lost in their work, and in Him who gave it to them to do."

And it appears that the work that you have been given to do is write this wonderful blog with the posts about our illustrious ancestors who otherwise would go lost in the modern din which strikes me as nowhere near as wise.

All the best,

David Markham

boston unitarian said...

My cup runneth over today! Many thanks David and Eclectic for your insightful comments and kind words. They are much appreciated.
Eclectic, I agree that the language of (esp.) submission and surrender don't resonate even in evangelical churches any more and that is much to our detriment.
David, I had read little Rufus Ellis before the last couple of days and find myself profoundly moved by his language and sentiments...
And to you both, thanks again for the enouragement. Blessings, BU