Sermon – November 1, 2015 – All Saints

All Saints Sunday
Bound for Glory

There is a grandness to All Saints Sunday.  A time when we cast our vision broadly, where we recall the folks whose numbers we have retired.  We remember the span of salvation history as we mark the lives of the matriarchs and patriarchs of the church, the prophets and the apostles, the church fathers and mothers, the reformer and martyrs.  We remember our modern day saints, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mother Teresa.   On All Saints Day we remember with humility and gratitude those folks on whose shoulders in faith we stand . . . whose lives and deaths made a way for the gospel of hope to be passed to another generation, to another people, into another heart.

It is good that we do this.  It brings us humility, helps to remind us of our responsibilities in our time.  Gives us courage to learn from and model their lives and be inspired by their examples.   The sharing of their stories reinforces our communities, and all the grand communion of saints across the ages.

And it is all good and right that we do this.   But it is most certainly true that All Saint’s Sunday is personal, finally.  It’s personal, a time when we recall the saints of our lives, the contributions they have made to our faith and our well being, our understanding of God, our embrace of hope, our expectations of life and death.  We remember the effect of their witness and their discipline and passion of their faith on us and our families. On All Saints Day, as we remember the giants of the faith over the span of history, we remember the giants of faith and love in our own lives.    Saint Mother, Saint Father, Saint Brother, Saint Sister, Saint Grandfather and Grandmother, Saint Dear Friend in Need, Saint Witness to Gospel when the Law convicts, Saint Beloved Child, St. Pastor, Friend.

All Saints Day is personal.  It is a time of remembrance and it is not without some tears.   Our readings today speak of unashamedly of the tears brought to God’s people by the ways of life and the ways of separation and the ways of death.  And so again today we experience some of the feelings of loss that are a consequence of loving another, because we feel it personally.

But All Saints Day is not a time to give over anything to death, but instead to remember and understand how vital a faith-filled life is, and how rich and deep are the promises of God in Christ for life, even in the face of death. We hear today again of Jesus who walked this earth, and loved and suffered and taught and healed, the one who wept at the death of his friend, Lazarus.  For Jesus, a day such as this is personal, because it is a day when we proclaim that on his account, death will not be the last word in our stories, not in those of whom we love, not in the stories of the saints, not in the stories of the believer.  Because in Christ’s passion for his friends, his personal love for you and me he has thrown his very self against this enemy, death, and overcome it.

In our story today, Jesus felt the offense of death so personally, that as he approached Lazarus’s grave, the Greek word that describes his response, that characterized his expression is that he ‘snorted with contempt.’  He encountered death and snorted in contempt.  Took it personally.  And drove it back as he raised his friend.

Took it so personally that he did not stop there, that he gave to us his own death, dragged death to the depths and emerged out of darkness, fear and pain,  . . . triumphant, risen.  Alive.  And as he rises he brings with him all the saints of this world, you and me, those whom we have loved and mourn, those whom we will come to know and love, those who are strangers to us, those we do not know as friend. . . .  Gives to all of us this gift of hope and renewal and assurance that we would not live in the fear of a pointless existence, that we would be called to a purposeful life, that we would be truly be reconciled to the God who prepares for us and all believers a place, gives us the gift that we might come to understand God’s intention for eternal wholeness, unmarred by pain, tears, fear, sorrow, and death.

That is the triumph we celebrate on All Saints Day, the abundant, rich eternal life that is ours in the resurrected Christ.    We need to be reminded that Jesus spoke with Lazarus’ sisters before our story picks up this morning.   And Martha says to him,   “Lord, if you had been there, my brother would not have died.”    And Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.  And Martha replies impatiently, “I know that he will rise again on the resurrection on the last day.”  The subtext her is, “Yeah, yeah, Jesus.  But I want that now!  Give this to me now!”  And Jesus accommodates her with all that he can give, and it is enough.  He says to her, so here it is Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  Here I am, Martha, Lazarus, church, fearful one, sorrowing one, dying one.  Do you believe.  I am the resurrection and the life.  And I am all this for you.  It is accomplished.

And with Martha, we are invited to proclaim with joy and conviction and patience, “yes Lord, I believe.”

In his person he has confirmed the words of the prophets, and has ushered in the kingdom of God’s reign, he has walked where we walked, loved with us, wept with us, suffered and died with us and met and overcame death for us.  He is the resurrection and the life.

This linear time of birth, life and death has been converted to the endless circle of God’s time, where Christ is both beginning and end, the Alpha and Omega.   In our baptisms we die to sin and death only to be raised again with Christ, bound to his resurrected life.  He drawn us into that circle of saints where we are sealed with the cross, the mark of our victory, the mark of our community, the mark of the saints, and the mark of our friend who takes this so personally that he dies on that cross for you and me.

This is the story of life out of death, and it is our consolation and encouragement and confession on All Saints Day.   And as we remember, we give thanks for the saints who remind us that our stories are bound to Christ’s story, our lives are bound to God’s promises, we are all are bound to God and to one another in faith, and as the saints of God, all of us are bound for glory.