All Saints Sermon from November 4, 2018

Today, on this All Saints Sunday, Jesus meets us in the most painful, difficult, complicated parts of life. He cries into the tombs of our despair and hopelessness. He invites us to come out of those tombs…to be free…to believe.

Today’s Gospel text is full of real, raw emotion. It centers around real, devastated people dealing with one of life’s few inevitabilities: death. Yet even though we all know its coming, none of us knows exactly when…and sometimes it feels very untimely.

In the case of today’s Gospel reading, it’s a man named Lazarus who has died….probably moderately young…maybe in his 20s or 30s. He has two sisters, Mary and Martha. Mary, Martha and Lazarus are good friends of Jesus.

Lazarus has died…and Mary and Martha are distraught with grief.

The sequence of the Gospel story is significant…the way Jesus enters into the situation reminds us of how Jesus enters into our situations. Before Jesus calls us out of our tombs of despair and sadness, he first meets us wherever we’re at.

In interacting with Mary and Martha, Jesus enters into the realities of the situation - he’s ready to hear their stories and to feel real feelings right along with them.

Today’s Gospel story reminds us of the depth and significance of Jesus’ feelings. When Jesus sees Mary and her friends crying…John tells us that Jesus was “great disturbed in spirit.” And then Jesus weeps, too.

There is comfort in knowing that God in Jesus not only came here to proclaim hope - and life over death - and love over hate…Jesus also came among us to accompany us in the real lived experiences of being human.

As we weep nationally…over anti-Semitism, violence, hatred, injustice, misogyny, and racism…as we weep over people being unable to honor our shared humanity…as we weep, we can imagine Jesus drawing near and weeping, too. Mary cries out, “If you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” We feel that way sometimes, too, “God, if you would just intervene, life wouldn’t have to be so complicated.”

It’s interesting that in that raw, real moment of Mary speaking out to Jesus, he doesn’t try to explain away God’s mysteries…or talk her out of her feelings…instead, he witnesses her feelings and he gives himself permission to grieve, too.

Today, we invite Jesus to draw near…to come closer…to feel it all right with us.

In the Gospel, Jesus invites the people to move the stone away so that he can have access to Lazarus…to the finality of it…to death. Martha warns him of the stench…a dead body - deceased 4 days - long before modern embalming technology.

Jesus is not intimidated by the stench of death. He doesn’t avoid it. He just gets closer.

We don’t have to try and protect Jesus from the brokenness in our own lives…the hopelessness…the fear…the uncertainty…the anger. Jesus comes near to us, he joins us and he calls us out of our despair - out of our tombs.

Even when hope seems dead and all that’s left is a stench and a dream of what could’ve been, Jesus still draws near and still brings a word of hope.

Jesus calls out to Lazarus: “Lazarus, come out!”….he invites those around him to “Unbind him and let him go.”

In that moment, Jesus frees Lazarus, Mary and Martha - from despair, from death, from hopelessness…and today, in this moment, Jesus frees us. No matter how stinky the tomb we’re in, Jesus brings hope He doesn’t offer us naive hope - or the false belief that somehow we can prevent death in this earthy life. We can’t. We’ll all die. Lazarus eventually died a permanent earthly death, too.

Jesus reminds us that hope perseveres. He reminds us that death and hatred and pain are real….very real parts of life…but they aren’t final. And love is stronger. Stronger than death, stronger than hatred, stronger that despair. Jesus reminds us today that we can experience deep and painful emotions without getting stuck in them.

On All Saints Sunday, as we worship and sing hymns and light candles: we grieve - we remember - we process reality as it is - we hope - and we trust. For some, the people on our hearts and minds died recently. For others, it was long ago. There are a complexity of emotions in this space today…and the Holy Spirit makes space for all of them. Some of us are grieving people today…and some of us are grieving other deaths…the death of a pet, the loss of a job, the end of a relationship, the death of a dream we had for our own lives, our a dream we had for our children’s lives.

Just as Jesus drew near to Mary and Martha and wept with them, Jesus draws near to us, and weeps with us, too…acknowledging that life can be deeply hard and painful.

And then Jesus calls us to step out our tombs into the light of hope.

We give thanks today - that in life and in death…in grief and in gratitude…in all that this life entails, Jesus draws near and reminds us that we are never alone.

Love prevails. Thanks be to God.


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