Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sermon for All Saint's Day, November 5, 2005, RCL

Today we are marking the observance of All Saint’s Day. Faith communities all over the world are joining us in this observance. Some read names out loud. Some light candles. Some remember in silence. This day is observed in many different ways, but always with the same intention, to remember those who have gone before us in faith. Why do we do this? Why should we remember those who have died? It can bring up some very painful memories.

We choose to remember because we are people who believe that there is more to life than just these years which we spend on earth. It is because we are a people who believe in the truth of the resurrection.

This is not to say that we haven’t or do not mourn and weep over the loss of those who we remember. We do. We miss them terribly. This is completely understandable. It is something even Jesus could identify with. When Jesus saw the place where Lazarus had been buried, he wept. Weeping and mourning is a completely human response to death. It would be wrong to try and cover up or ignore the pain of our loss.

But we do not mourn as other do. We do not mourn because we have no hope. We do not mourn because we feel that all is lost. We mourn, but we still have faith in the power of God and in the eternity of life. The reaction of Jesus is the same as ours to the death of a loved one. We weep. We mourn. We deeply regret the loss to ourselves and our family. But we are not left without hope. We have faith in the same Jesus who raised Lazarus from the dead. We have faith in Jesus who himself rose from the dead.

For Christians death is not the end of everything. It is the marking of a new beginning. And so we remember today those who have died. We may remember with tears in our eyes. Or we may remember with a smile on our face for all the wonderful and fun times we shared together with loved ones who are now absent from us.

The passage today from the prophet Isaiah looks forward to that day in which there will no longer be tears or death. Days in which death and the grave will be overcome. In a very real sense those days are with us now. And they were actually with the disciples as well. This is crystal clear in the lesson today found in John. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Jesus shows the power of God over death and the grave. It is a powerful portent of what is to come in the death and resurrection of Jesus himself. And yet the raising of Lazarus should not have been all that surprising. Those who had been following Jesus had already seen some pretty amazing things. Jesus had already healed all sorts of infirmities. Jesus has already done amazing, powerful things. This is just one more.

In the resurrection of Jesus death has been destroyed for all time. We are saints for eternity. This is why Paul could state with such authority: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, … will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”[1]

This is why we continue this observance year after year. We know that in the end we will be reunited with our loved ones.

There is a song in the Episcopal Hymnal called:

I sing a song of the saints of God Hymnal 293

1 I sing a song of the saints of God,

patient and brave and true,

who toiled and fought and lived and died

for the Lord they loved and knew.

And one was a doctor, and one was a queen,

and one was a shepherdess on the green:

they were all of them saints of God and I mean,

God helping, to be one too.

2 They loved their Lord so dear, so dear,

and his love made them strong;

and they followed the right, for Jesus’ sake,

the whole of their good lives long.

And one was a soldier, and one was a priest,

and one was slain by a fierce wild beast;

and there’s not any reason no, not the least,

why I shouldn’t be one too.

3 They lived not only in ages past,

there are hundreds of thousands still,

the world is bright with the joyous saints

who love to do Jesus’ will.

You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,

in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea,

for the saints of God are just folk like me,

and I mean to be one too.

So on this All Saints Day, let us commit our lives once again to being on of those saints and people can meet in school and lanes, in church and trains. Let each of us mean to be one to.

[1] Romans 8:28 (NLT)

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