First Lesson: Isaiah 25: 6-9
Responsive Reading: Psalm 24
Second Lesson: Revelation 21: 1-6
Gospel Lesson: John 11: 32-44
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Later this afternoon, I will go home to watch my beloved Minnesota Vikings play. The game is guaranteed to have plenty of commercials. A lot of the commercials will be dealing with Tuesday’s upcoming election. Many of these commercials will be dealing with the election of a new congressman from our area between Pete Stauber and Joe Radinovich . The majority of ads will be negative trying to portray serious scandals within both candidates’ respective pasts. It will be reported that Mr. Stauber used his Saint Louis County email for partisan political purposes. Mr. Radinovich’s repeated traffic violations and possession of drug paraphernalia upon graduating high school will also come upon our T.V. screens. After these commercials air, voters will be asked to go to the polls on Tuesday to determine which candidates past sins are more disqualifying. As I hear this debate take place, I wonder if an even bigger debate is taking place regarding human nature itself.
Huey Long was elected Governor of Louisiana in 1928. Long was remarkable for a southern politician at the time as he avoided using race as a tool to try to win votes. Long was an early proponent of old age pensions such as Social Security. Long was so charismatic and such a gifted orator that he was the first American politician to become a radio star. Long was quite popular as Governor for denouncing the wealthy elites and banks holding the commoner down. Long’s popularity was such in Louisiana that his brother got elected Governor; his wife got elected Senator, his son served in the Senate for forty years. Multiple cousins got elected to Congress. After serving as Governor, Huey got elected to the United States Senate. Mr. Long was thought to be a possible candidate for the Presidency in 1936, as arguably, the second most popular and well-known politician in the country after Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Long’s political career ended prematurely upon being assassinated in 1935.
So how is Huey Long viewed eighty-some plus years after his death? Depends on to whom you talk? The Louisiana House of Representatives tried to impeach Long for taking bribes, carrying concealed weapons, and rumors were widespread that he hired thugs to kill political enemies. These charges say nothing about Long’s open womanizing and frequent vulgar behavior. They report that if Long had gotten elected President that America would have descended into a cult of personality dictatorship. To many of his constituents, he remains a hero decades after his death for serving as a voice for the voiceless.
So how should we as Christian people interpret Huey Long, Pete Stauber, and Joe Radinovich as we go into the week ahead?
Today we gather for All Saints Sunday, we remember and honor those that have left Sychar’s Communion of the Saints within the past year. Now when we hear the word “Saint” a certain image inevitability pops up into our mind: Saint Peter, Saint John (Men who risked their life preaching and spreading the Gospel within the Early Church), Saint Patrick, Saint Olaf (Men who brought the Christian faith to previous unbelieving nations), Saint Mary (The Mother of Jesus). Saints are thought of as Super-Heroes of the Christian faith. Even Huey Long’s greatest supporter would admit that he doesn’t fit in with such a crowd as this.
Here’s the thing about the term: Saint as we often think about it fits none of us perfectly, even the greatest superheroes of the Christian faith. The reality of Sainthood is that a “Saint” regardless of how colorful their past has been being one not without sin, but rather one who has been granted forgiveness. Sainthood is an individual Christian’s belief that the Cross of Christ changed everything for them.
Today’s Gospel lesson comes to us from the story of Lazarus. Lazarus grew ill. Jesus wasn’t around. Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha confront Jesus about this. Jesus weeps! Jesus goes to visit Lazarus’ tomb. Jesus calls “Lazarus, come out.” Jaws drop as Mary and Martha witness a reunion with their loved one on the other side of his grave. What made Lazarus worthy of such an honor? The scriptures give no evidence other than a belief that the Jesus whom he knew would not abandon even at his own grave.
So as we gather on this day at Sychar, we remember those whose loss we have mourned in the past year, those who tombs that Jesus declares will not be permanently occupied!
On this day, we remember the Saints of Sychar who have left our presence within the past year:
Wayne Johnson: Wayne was instrumental in the founding of this congregation in 1953 when it began meeting at the “Green Door.” Wayne would help approach Reserve President William Kelley to choose a lot for this church on the corner of Edison and Banks where we meet today. Wayne’s legacy though goes beyond his role in Sychar’s founding. Wayne served his country in World War II in China within General Claire Lee Chennault’s famed Flying Tigers-14th Air Force. Wayne’s love of flying eventually saw the Silver Bay Airport bear his name. Wayne upon leaving the service then moved into the legal profession. Wayne would spend the next fifty plus years serving as city attorney within both Silver Bay and Beaver Bay, the longest tenure within this nation’s history. When Wayne died, the Duluth News Tribune described him as a “North Shore” legend influenced by his role in the famous trial of this town’s history Reserve Mining vs. the United States.
Gordy Marquardt: I remember my visits with Gordy in the last few years at home, then Chris Jensen in Duluth and finally the Veterans Home in Silver Bay. We bonded over our shared passions of the Minnesota Twins and to a greater degree the Minnesota Vikings. I’ll remember Gordy for his gracious and tremendous appreciation of every visit that I made to him. I’ll remember Gordy in these days for continual joy that he would have at his wife of 33 years, Julie’s presence. Gordy worked as a welder. His passion was being outdoors. Gordy was not a man of many words; Gordy was a hard worker that sought to be decent to others. I’ve had residents of the Marks Apartments point out to me on more than one occasion how Gordy was the most devoted caretaker the building there ever had.
Evelyn Buetow: We remember Evelyn for her love of canoeing as she met her late husband Harry at YMCA Camp Widjiwagan near Ely. They began lifelong canoe trips to BWCAW and Quetico Park. We will also remember Evelyn’s love of music. She sang in the Sychar choir and with the Singing Moms. She worked for a time as Sychar’s organist, taught piano lessons, and played handbells. Evelyn loved attending the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra. MPR was her constant companion in her final days.
Ida Koehler: When I was planning Ida’s funeral with her daughters what they remarked and it was something that stood out from my own time with Ida both at her house on Edison and at Carefree Living was her sense of contentedness. Regardless of her circumstances, Ida wouldn’t complain. Ida certainly had her share of tough days being widowed as a young woman. Ida didn’t complain even, nor did she speak ill of those around her. Ida will be remembered for being accepting of others and her graciousness. Even when living down at Carefree Living, one could never remove the smile from Ida’s face. The only conflict when she moved into Carefree Living is that the lunch hour dared to interfere with her viewing of the Young and the Restless.
Kathryn Samuel: Kathryn grew up in Harrisburg, PA. As a young woman she worked in the Pennsylvania state legislature. Afterwards taking a job at the Harrisburg Airport where she would met Arthur Samuel. A short time later, Art and Kathryn moved to Silver Bay when Art took a job for Reserve Mining. They were among the first seventy-five families to settle into this community. Art’s career would eventually see him become the plant’s manager of Research and Development. Kathryn at first really struggled with the move according to her daughter Marcia, she cried for nearly two years privately out of her own loneliness. Kathryn though eventually adjusted to life up here. Art and her were active in this congregation with Art serving on the Building Committee. Kathryn studied to be an instructor for the Bethel Bible Series. Kathryn stood out for her sense of fashion; she described it as an “LL Bean” habit. Kathryn’s memory loss would in the last few years of her life see her move away to Michigan to be closer to her daughter Marcia who did special music when we remembered her this summer. Kathryn’s legacy remains strong in this community as her son David moved back here to become quite active in building up the Mariner Alumni Association.
Al Thorngren: Al’s life could not be separated from the North Shore from where he spent all of it. Al grew up here as his father Frank worked as a commercial fisherman. Al would begin his working life doing sounding down at the Harbor. Al’s career would transition as a Taconite processing plant would be built in the town that came to be known as “Silver Bay.” Al participated in the plant’s construction. Al would spend his working career like so many others of his town’s fellow residents working shifts for Reserve Mining until his retirement. Upon Reserve closing, as a way of trying to keep the town’s economy afloat a Veterans Home was built in Silver Bay. Al would become not only a frequent visitor for his wife Margaret and best friend Warren but also a resident. Al above all loved the North Shore for not only its water but its woods, where Al managed to get “stuck” but would never get “lost.”
Bob Hanson: Bob was a man of deep faith. Bob sang in our church choir. Bob served on the building committee of this church for the sanctuary that we currently sit in. Bob served as a Luther League advisor where he did the seemingly thankless task of traveling with groups of teens across the country. Bob served as this congregation’s president nearly fifty years ago. Bob in his advancing age hoped that he would be able to move back to Silver Bay and become a resident down at the Veterans Home. Bob looked forward to reuniting with friends from this community, yet our Gospel lesson declares even greater reunions await for those who believe.
Gwen Ronhovde: Gwen was adored by those closest to her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, foster children, her neighbors (Ward the Barber and Vicki Danielson), and her friends especially those within the Knit and Sit group. They will forever remember Gwen for living to serve as a caregiver to others. Within the Lutheran tradition, we do not believe that there are any higher callings to serve than one’s family.
Gary Olson: Gary was a great lover of the Guitar and music in general. As we remember Gary on this day, I read what was wrote about him by his mother Esther: “Gary was a wonderful son! It was always so good when he came home to see me!” Esther loved cooking for Gary because it brought him joy! They would call each other daily both always worried about each other. Gary worried about a 99-year-old mother living alone and Esther worrying about Gary through his various ailments. Esther’s life will never be the same after Gary’s passing. In Gary’s passing, I saw first-hand what a wonderful calling that friendship is within this world. From Gavin Leblanc’s constant checking in on Esther to Lorraine Nelson and Betty Josephson’s friendship. The following serves as a reminder to be grateful for the unexpected Saints that make up our community.
Shirley Moschet: We remember Shirley as a “matriarch” within our congregation. Shirley was active within SLCW for many years. We’ll forever remember her gift of music on display within the Sychar choir. Shirley lived for her family. When her cancer began advancing, I remember her declaring her wish to be able to attend her Granddaughter Jamie’s wedding. She was able to make it. Then when her husband of sixty-seven years, Frank began approaching his 100th Birthday, Shirley perversed and made it. Shirley was even able to see her beloved Minnesota Twins advance to the playoffs one final time before she died. Her faith played a huge part of her existence. She would occasionally get on me for when my Scroll articles would get off task of proclaiming it. Shirley believed the great truth that we celebrate Today that we have hope even in the presence of death, because we have a Savior who conquered sin and the grave, so one day we may inherit not only Sainthood but the gift of Eternal Life.
What does this all mean for our week ahead?
Tuesday you will be invited to go “vote” for a host of candidates. None of the candidates will be without sin in their life; none of them will permanently remove sin from our nation. Thankfully, we have a savior whose promises are more certain that any politician we may know. This savior promises that the tears our eyes have shed in the last year will soon be permanently removed from our eyes forever just like at the grave of Lazarus. All this doesn’t mean that ordinary men and women can’t serve as Saints in the world around them as mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, grandpas, grandmas, neighbors, friends, and even politicians. Remember the Cross assures that the world will soon be filled with all sorts of unlikely Saints. Amen
 Koff, Stephen. “Fact check: Joe Radinovich, running from the law?” Duluth News Tribune. 18.Sept.2018. Web. Oct.22.2018.
 “Huey Long.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 21.Oct.2018. Web. Oct.22.2018.
 “Long Family”. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 13.Oct.2018. Web. Oct.22.2018.
 Latson, Jennifer. “The Strange Career of Assassinated Louisiana Politician Huey Long.” Time Magazine. 8. Sept.2015. Web. Oct.22.2018.
 Stier, Leon. “Believing in the Communion of Saints (a)” Email Meditations. 20.Sept.2015. Web. Oct.22.2018.
 John 11:32-44.
 The following comes from Wayne’s self-written obituary and the Sychar Remembers 60th Anniversary book edited by Joan Claire Graham in 2013.