Nov. 7, 2021, All Saints

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, you have knit your people together in one communion in the mystical body of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Grant us grace to follow your blessed saints in lives of faith and commitment, and to know the inexpressible joys you have prepared for those who love you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.Amen.

Isaiah 25:6-9

6On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
  a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
  of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
7And he will destroy on this mountain
  the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
  the sheet that is spread over all nations;
  8he will swallow up death forever.
 Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
  and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
  for the Lord has spoken.
9It will be said on that day,
  Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
  This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
  let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Psalm 24

2For the Lord has founded it up- | on the seas
  and established it up- | on the rivers. 
3Who may ascend the mountain | of the Lord,
  and who may stand in God’s | holy place?
4Those of innocent hands and puri- | ty of heart,
  who do not swear on God’s being, nor do they pledge by | what is false.
5They shall receive blessing | from the Lord
  and righteousness from the God of | their salvation.
6Such is the generation of those who seek | you, O Lord,
  of those who seek your face, O | God of Jacob. 
7Lift up your heads, O gates; and be lifted up, O ever- | lasting doors,
  that the King of glory | may come in.
8Who is this | King of glory?
  The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, might- | y in battle!
9Lift up your heads, O gates; and be lifted up, O ever- | lasting doors,
  that the King of glory | may come in.
10Who is this | King of glory?
  Truly, the Lord of hosts is the | King of glory.

Revelation 21:1-6a

1I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 
 “See, the home of God is among mortals.
 He will dwell with them;
 they will be his peoples,
 and God himself will be with them;
4he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
 Death will be no more;
 mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
 for the first things have passed away.”
  5And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6aThen he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”

John 11:32-44

32When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus began to weep. 36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

  38Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Raising of Lazarus  —  Vincent van Gogh, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

Someone wise pointed out the combination of complaint and confidence in this morning’s gospel story. Mary says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” In that one statement alone, we hear the complaint that Jesus was not here and the confidence that he is able to heal, to overcome death.

Mary’s words and their motivations speak volumes for what it has always meant to be a follower of Jesus. But they are especially appropriate for All Saints Sunday–when we grieve the ones who have died and simultaneously confess our faith in a God of resurrection. Complaint and confidence. These two words may also capture how we feel and what we want to express in every challenging season of life.

We were dropped into the middle of the story this morning. Lazarus has been in the tomb for four days. His death is final. Jesus did not come when he first heard that Lazarus was ill. He delayed so he could show God’s glory. In raising Lazarus, Jesus conquers death. 

Raising Lazarus from the dead was Jesus’ seventh and greatest sign. This sign was also the final straw. The decision to put Jesus to death results from his giving life to Lazarus. The village of Bethany, the scene for this text, is just east of Jerusalem. As he performs his last sign, Jesus is approaching his own death and resurrection. Raising Lazarus is the miracle, but more awesome is what is being illustrated.

Earlier in the story, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” God has power over life and death. Today’s text from Isaiah is clear about this. “God will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; God will swallow up death forever.” 

Jesus is one with the Father and he shares God’s power over life and death. But Jesus is not only one with God. He is fully human. Because he has so clearly identified with us, his death becomes our death. But his resurrection also becomes our resurrection. This resurrection gives us freedom to face the future in a counter-cultural way.

Today, we are again reminded that what truly gives life is Jesus himself. Jesus raised each one of us in holy baptism. In the waters of the baptismal font, we hear God speak this word of life and resurrection. Lifting us out of the waters, God frees us from death and dresses us in the royal clothing of Christ. At the table, we feast with the God who swallows up death forever. The holy meal is a foretaste of the great and promised feast where death and pain will be no more. The last word is not death, but life as a beloved child of God.

So Jesus is the giver of life. But we are the ones who unbind. Jesus tells us, as he told the onlookers by Lazarus’ tomb, unbind him. “Unbind one another,” Jesus commands us. We might be called to unbind one another from obsessing about how to take control of our lives. We might be called to help unbind so many from fear. Or maybe we are called to physically unbind people from abusive relationships or other conflicts. 

One challenge of following Jesus is discerning the specific calling to unbind. It varies by context. But wherever we are located, we have freedom, freedom to care for the world God has made. Our hope is no longer that we might escape from this world. Escaping this world is neither the goal nor the hope nor the focus. Jesus turns things on their head. Our hope is transformed. Our hope is in God’s plan of healing and reconciliation and recovery for the world.

Today we lift before God those who, during the past year were brought into the sainthood through the waters of Holy Baptism. We lift before God those who, during the past year, entered into the eternal sainthood of the Church. In Jesus, death will be no more. In Jesus, God makes a home with humankind and all creation. 

I love All Saints Sunday because we remember the giants of the faith who have gone before us and set an example. In my first internship church in Chicago we had banners up on this Sunday of modern saints, people not yet canonized by our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters but recognized as pillars: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Junior, and Oscar Romero. Every continent and country and ministry can lift up and be influenced by particular saints who create the great cloud of witnesses.

On All Saints Sunday, we also take time to remember all those who have died in the past year. We know through conversations with one another and through the prayer concerns listed in our bulletin that many of us have lost family members and friends dear to us, some listed but many are not. 

Losing people is hard and painful and life is not the same after someone we love dies. When Jesus learns that Lazarus has died, he is greatly disturbed. His world is not the same. The same is true for us, and no one should belittle another individual’s or community’s grief. It is right and good to take time to honor our grief.

Finally, All Saints Sunday reminds us that we Christians mourn death in a particular way. We grieve, to be sure. But we grieve as a people with hope. We trust that resurrection follows death. We cling to those promises made in Holy Baptism. When we place the white funeral pall over a coffin, we remember that our loved one remains clothed with Christ.

What do we pray in the midst of our collective story, our grief and our hope? I’d like to close with the prayer from our graveside committal service. Let us pray, “Holy God, holy and powerful, by the death and burial of Jesus your anointed, you have destroyed the power of death and made holy the resting places of all your people.  Keep our brother safe, whose body we now lay to rest, in the company of all your saints.  And at the last, O God, raise him up to share with all the faithful the endless joy and peace won through the glorious resurrection of Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.”

Prayers of Intercession

Eternal God, you hold firm amid the changes of this world. Hear us now as we pray for the church, the world, and everyone in need.

A brief silence.Merciful God, we give thanks for all missionaries who have brought your message of hope to new communities and wiped tears away (especially John Christian Frederick Heyer, Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg, Ludwig Nommensen whom we commemorate today). Continue to raise up courageous missionaries to share your gospel of hope. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.

Creating God, we praise you for abundant harvests and the goodness of creation. Create communities of care for your earth so that all land, water, and soil will be celebrated and cherished by future generations of saints. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.

God of peace, we give you thanks for nations of peace that serve as a refuge for all whose homelands are afflicted with violence. Strengthen those who continue to work for peace and support all veterans who carry the scars of war. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.

God of healing, we give you thanks for health care workers who labor around the clock to answer cries for help. Bring wholeness to all who struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, addiction, and all who long for healing in any way (especially). Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.

God of justice, we praise you for the feeding ministries and for all meals that bring people together for nourishment and fellowship. Bless chefs, bakers, servers, dishwashers, communion assistants, and meal ministry coordinators. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.

Here other intercessions may be offered.God of the ages, we give you thanks for the saints of this congregation who have inspired, challenged, loved, and taught us (those who have died during the past year may be named). Wipe away our tears and lead us by their example until we feast together on your holy mountain. Hear us, O God.Your mercy is great.

God our protection and strength, we entrust to you all for whom we pray. Remain with us always, through Jesus Christ, our Savior.Amen.

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