From Pastor Kenny's Desk
November 4, 2018
When Mary got to Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “If you had been here, Lazarus never would have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the other mourners as well, he was troubled in spirit, moved by the deepest emotions.
“Where have you laid him?” Jesus asked. “Come and see,” they said. And Jesus wept.
The people in the crowd began to remark, “See how much he loved him!” Others said, “He made the blind person see; why couldn’t he have done something to prevent Lazarus’ death?”
Jesus was again deeply moved. They approached the tomb, which was a cave with a stone in front of it. “Take away the stone,” Jesus directed. Martha said, “Rabbi, it has been four days now. By this time there will be a stench.” Jesus replied, “Didn’t I assure you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took the stone away.
Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said, “Abba, thank you for having heard me. I know that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd, that they might believe that you sent me!” Then Jesus called out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” And Lazarus came out of the tomb, still bound hand and foot with linen strips, his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus told the crowd, “Untie him and let him go free.” ~ John 11:32-44
All Saints Sunday is an important day in the life of many congregations because on this day we name and remember all those we have loved and lost during the past year. Actually, perhaps we should say those we have loved and released, as we acknowledge that they are not lost but have moved into the nearer presence of God and they are safe in God's keeping. It is important to invite these hallowed moments in which we may both grieve for the loss we feel, but also give thanks both for the lives our loved ones led and give thanks for the ways in which they touched our lives.
The story of the raising of Lazarus is a powerful story for us to read together on All Saints Sunday. In this sacred text we find Mary and Martha … the sisters of Lazarus … and others mourning the death of Lazarus. We also learn that Jesus was moved by their deepest
emotions of grief. Seeing and experiencing the sadness and emotion Jesus gives Mary and the other mourners a rich reality and witness to the kin-dom of God. Within the Lazarus story are two pivotal points and two critical things happen … first Jesus commands Lazarus to come out of the tomb and second, he commands the community to untie him.
And here's what I find so striking about this scene … Jesus performs what is perhaps his most significant miracle … so much so that not only are many in the crowd moved to faith but his opponents are moved to conspire toward his death … but he also instructs and expects the crowds to participate in and actually complete his miracle. And both of these things matter. It is Jesus who has the power to heal, to feed, to restore, to bring to life, to redeem. At the same time, he seeks to involve us … the community … in these actions and perhaps expects us to complete them.
Which makes me wonder … what other miraculous things does God intend to do in our communities in us, with us, and through us? Perhaps these things are huge … directing our efforts to ending hunger in our community or providing shelter for homeless children and adults. Or maybe these things are smaller … providing a listening ear to a colleague or friend who is struggling and feels alone. Either way, I believe God wants to continue to do miraculous things in our lives and continues to want to do them in, with, and through us.
All of this, in turn, brings me back to why this is a powerful message for All Saints Sunday. Saints, aren't just those who have died. Rather, saints are those who have been declared holy. Let me be completely up front and clear … this declaring holy is God's work, not ours. That is, we are holy not because of some innate quality or because of what we have done, but rather simply because God calls us holy. If you have any doubts, keep in mind that St. Paul begins his letter to the Corinthians … those who were bickering, fighting, discriminating based on income, and engaging in all kinds of immoral behaviors … by calling them holy! And if them, then I’d say all of us as well!
Which raises the question of what it means to be holy. Scripture names holy those things that have been set apart for God's work. And here's the deal … any work we do in faith can be called holy. Changing the diapers of our children, or the diapers of someone else's children, or volunteering at a local non-profit, or creating a home filled with laughter, or deliberating about which candidate to vote for and then getting to the polls to cast that vote, or being faithful in your duties at home or work, or visiting a neighbor who has a hard time getting out, or befriending someone who is made fun of by others or made to feel other than because of the way they look, or the color of their skin, or the way they love. Or ... you get the idea. There is little in our life that can't be a place where God is at work to heal, comfort, and restore, if we look at it in this way.
The problem is few of us know this, really believe this or live our lives in this manner. In fact, in a variety of conversations and interviews I've participated in, I've become convinced that very few people believe that what they do with most of their time is a calling. Most of what they do … that is … they believe is not worthy of God's attention. We reserve words like holy and sacred and saints for church-stuff when it applies equally … if not even more … to the mundane activity of everyday life that have the capacity at any moment to be transformed into arenas where we perceive and participate in God's intent to care for the world God loves so much.
In God’s eye we are ALL saints … as people of faith we ALL comprise an important part of the communion of saints. And as saints, we are called and commissioned to participate in God's ongoing and miraculous work to heal, comfort, and restore this world. God is still doing amazing things and God wants us to be part of those things, even calling us to complete them.