Sermon from All Saints Sunday

Sergio Rodriguez, Pastor for Community Ministries

“Jesus said to [Martha], “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”- John 11:40  

Enable me to show how sweet it is
To love you, 
To bear with you, 
To weep with you, 
Forever to rejoice with you, Father, Son +
and Holy Spirit.
Amen. 
 

Mary and Martha lamented Lazarus’ untimely death, distraught over Jesus’ arrival. Their depth of grief so moved Jesus as to move him to bring forth love from the shadow of the grave. He cried out with God’s life-creating voice saying, “Lazarus, Come Out!” God’s love is stronger than death, the nihilistic floods of death can not quench its flashes in our hearts. How may the love poured into our hearts through faith be stronger than the certainty of death? 

Death, simply put, is a part of life. After we are born, we are certain of two matters: taxes are to be paid and death is at our heals. Love in all its forms, might not be felt as strongly as these other certitudes. We all experience death as a part of the rhythm of life. The Swiss theologian, Hans Urs Von Balthasar, make this observation about the place of death as a certitude of our existence: death is the most ordinary thing…and yet in an individual case it is the most incomprehensible thing because it crushes every little bit of meaning [that one obtains in life] and disperses it.” Even the writer of Ecclesiastes [3:20] makes death’s guarantee more certain than any sort of meaning we may attribute to life when they say, “all go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.”  

On All Saints Sunday, we acknowledge this incomprehensible fact that even though we all are saints, the veil of death is ever-present and is-the-way-life-really-is. Let us consider Mary’s response when she knelt to Jesus and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Mary’s words convey both sorrow at the death of Lazarus and anger at Jesus for not curing Lazarus of his illness. Lazarus returned to the dust from whence he came. William Blaine-Wallace, former Intern at CTK, in his book, when Tears Sing, describes this as grief. “Grief,” he says, “is prayerful attention, an awareness, acknowledgment, and embrace of life-way-it-really-is.”  

Martha certainty fits this description, along with her sister Mary, when she recoils back at Jesus’ request, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead.” He has missed his opportunity to make whole her brother that was stricken by the sting of illness. In other words, they are lamenting. Wallace helps us understand what the meaning behind their responses to Jesus. They are saying, “are you with me? [i.e. are you lamenting with me] Am I going to be left down here? [They] plead for a witness.” Are we with those who lament? Do you take the time to be a witness to the pain of life-the-way-it-really-is and sit with those who are in grief? We, meaning members of Christ the King and her staff, come together each morning from November first to the eleventh to lament the suicides of Veterans which occur at an alarming rate each day; 22 persons a day. How is the love that laments with other stronger than the certainty of death itself?  

Jesus inquires as to Lazarus’ tomb, being so moved by Mary and Martha’s lament. He wants to be the witness they so desperately pleading for. The crowds say to him, “Lord, come and see for yourself, if you truly are with us in our grief.” Only then does the bitter sting of the tomb strikes him. Jesus began to weep. He wept for Lazarus, his beloved friend. He wept for Mary and Martha, seeing them so distressed. But I think even more so, Jesus response like any of us have responded before caskets, urns and our beloved ones who rest in peaceful sleep. He weeps for himself. He knows he too shall die and shall fulfill God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. He shall experience the incomprehensible mystery of death on the cross so that its very sting may be shattered for us all. He dreaded of drinking the dregs of life that through his resurrection, our pain, our sorrow, our tears, may be wiped away. See, the home of God is amongst us mortals. This is our collective garden of Gethsemane and the garden of the resurrection.  

Let not death’s will be done but yours be done, O Lord. Martin Luther’s 1519 essay, “On Preparing to Die,” brings perspective as to Jesus’ tears and journey to Lazarus tomb. Beyond simply facing death for what it is, Luther advises folks to see the light at the end of the tunnel, however faint it may be. He says, “you must see death in the light of life, see sin in the light of grace, and see hell in the light of heaven, permitting nothing to divert you from that view.” Jesus weeps and is greatly disturbed as comes to Lazarus’ tomb not so that he may simply see death as the end of all things. Rather he weeps as one who knows God shall put his re-animating spirit of life into us so that even now we may rise from our graves of sin, death, and wickedness. Love is not as strong as death….unyielding as the grave as the Song of Solomon states [8:6b]. His Love is stronger than death, his cross than the rocky tomb.  

Jesus cries out in love that, “Lazarus, come out!” He inaugurated the fullness of life with God through the power of the resurrection. This power of the resurrection, the gift of life, has been given to us all through our baptism. This is the meaning of being a part of the communion of Saints. On All Saints Sunday, the mystery of death is undone by the sacred mystery; the font. The many waters of this font feed the very flashes of love in our heart. How may the love poured into our hearts through faith be stronger than the certainty of death? When we as Saints, together with the newly baptized, gather around the font and implore God to hear our lamentation. When we as the body of Christ embrace lament as the place where God dwells. There we see Christ’s glorious face, our Savior and our Font of grace [Hymn of Day: 325 Lord, thee I love with all my heart]. Amen.