All Saints’ Day
November 1, 2015
John 11: 32-44 You can click on this link to open the text in Oremus Bible Browser.
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” I wonder how the parents of those Roseburg students might hear this; or people who are facing the loss of a parent or a son; or people who are confronted with a diagnosis they dread.
I have to tell you that I feel such sadness these days, trying to wrap my head around personal losses and the stuff we all face: shootings, war, refugees who drown. Why are people not more compassionate, or smarter about disaster and curing Ebola or Cancer? Why doesn’t God do something about it?
In this story, Jesus does. He fixes it. Moved by the sorrow of those whom he loves, and grieved at his own loss, he brings Lazarus back. His own death is on the horizon, the occupation and disease around him isn’t going to stop. But he can fix this, and so he does. It shows his deep trust that God has given him the power, and that the power is his to use. This story tells everyone that he didn’t have to die, but he did. He died to show us how much God loves us, and God’s power to overcome evil and injustice. It finally makes the message of Isaiah true: God swallowed up death forever.
There’s a difference between what happened to Lazarus and what happened to Jesus. Lazarus was resuscitated, given back his breath and healed from the decay that had already started to work on his remains. He would die again. What happened to Jesus was resurrection – new life, a recreation of Jesus’ own body, and the beginning of a new age. The promise is that the same thing will happen to us at the end of our life here on earth. It’s a mystery and an invitation. Jesus’ resurrection is a foretaste of our story of life and death.
At the Bishop’s Convocation we listened to experts talk about an Event Horizon – something new for me. It is that time period in which everything changes. 1492 was an event horizon. All kinds of things were happening in that year, setting a whole new world in motion. Martin Luther’s studies began shortly after that time and set the stage for nailing those talking points on the university door in 1517. We are experiencing our own Event Horizon in these days. The actual horizon has probably already passed by us. said my expert. Our institutions are trying to keep up with the changes, but not doing very well. We’re not always doing very well either. We struggle to hold onto a way of life that worked so well for us, but it’s hard. At the same time, we are getting used to so much that makes life easier.
I’d like to suggest that Jesus’ resurrection was the event horizon that changed everything for us. It was a revolution. It created a future for us that includes our own resurrection to new life with God forever. Our saints – my grandpa and grandma, my stillborn baby girl – are already sitting at God’s throne of glory, part of that new heaven and new earth. John’s vision of the new heaven and new earth are our future already. Death no longer has the power to keep us from a life filled with zest and joy and love. We say that we have been baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection, rising from the waters to live into that promised future. Every day, the world in which God comes to dwell with us mortals, in which the chaos of the sea will be no more, in which death will be no more and every tear will be wiped away is a reality that lives side by side with the sorrows and losses we experience.
We did not earn this lavish love of God that makes this true for us, and we cannot lose it. It is purely a gift. No matter what happens to us, no matter what we do or don’t do, God’s love is ours forever, and God’s power means that death is never the final word. We are free. That means we can live in response to such love, by being loving, by seeing our gifts as gifts for the world, by being forgiving as we have been forgiven. Eternal life is not only the promise of life with God at the end of this life, it is the resurrection life we live every day with joy. It is the trust that we are never alone, and that God’s Spirit lives in us. Jesus’ rising from death is the guarantee that all the promises God has made to us are true and trustworthy.
“See. I am making all things new.” On this day when we join the ranks of the Saints gathered around the throne of God – those thousands and thousands who have gone before and those thousands and thousands who will come after us, let the new life offered to you in Jesus raise you. Let the love of God let you live beyond fear and worry. Let the presence of God’s Spirit fill you and bring you to the peace that passes understanding. Amen.
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15: 13)