All Saints and All Souls Sunday 2018 B November 4, 2018
Gospel of John 11:32-44
32 When 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.”
33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her
also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply
moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him,
“Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said,
“See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he
who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from
dying?” 38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It
was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus 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.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed,
you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And
Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard
me. 42 I 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.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come out!” 44 The 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.”
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I’ve had the privilege of listening to many life stories. Among those stories are
peculiar incidents commonly called near-death experiences.
Those stories include: hovering over one’s own body while hearing voices of loved
ones or medical personnel; feeling completely free of all pain and limitations;
seeing a bright light; feeling absolute peace; traveling through a tunnel toward
bright light; being greeted by loved ones; being welcomed by Jesus into utter
beauty, peace and love; and the feeling of not wanting to return, but being pulled back into one’s body. These stories fascinate me. They confirm what I believe: this life is only the beginning. The Gospel of John, like the other three Gospels, is interested in truth over historical fact. One of the most dramatic stories exclusive to the Gospel of John is the story of Lazarus and his death experience.
Skeptics dismiss the story. Some ponder the possibility. Others uncritically
believe. We must remember that to the writer of John’s Gospel truth is paramount over historical fact. For the reader to focus on the literal details without considering the truth being revealed misses the story’s intention. So what is the truth being revealed?
The truth of this story is shared by the entire Gospel of John. It is summed up in these familiar words: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whosoever believes in him, may not perish, but may have eternal life” (John 3:16).
In the story of Lazarus, the writer dramatically portrays divine truth earlier in this Gospel. Those who believe receive. Those who believe Jesus is God’s Son
revealing God’s love, intention and life offered to all, receive those gifts.
Remember, the word ‘believe’ does not infer an intellectual exercise. Rather,
believing is acting upon one’s conviction. Believing can never be separated from acting on what one believes.
Lazarus was Jesus’ friend. He believed Jesus to be God’s Son and the revelation
of God’s love for the world. Because of that, God’s Son, Jesus, gives Lazarus life.
Another fascinating part of this story is Martha’s emphasis that Lazarus had been dead 4 days. In 1 st century Jewish understanding, a person’s soul departed their deceased body after 3 days. The meaning is clear. Lazarus was really dead. And for the writer of John’s Gospel, those who think they are living without believing in Jesus as the revelation of God’s love are just fooling themselves. They, too, are really dead. For only in believing in Jesus are we able to experience the gift of eternal life, a quality of life intimately connected with God without boundaries of time and space. This is the foundational premise of the Gospel of John.
Today we remember and celebrate the lives of Saints and All Souls who have
come to believe that Jesus embodies God’s love. We celebrate because God’s
eternal life is worth celebrating. Those who have gone before are not dead, but
live because the life God gives through Jesus has no boundaries.
Today we remember how they positively influenced our lives as conduits of God’s love. Today we celebrate their eternal life and recognize that we too have God’s gift of eternal life right here, right now. We share with them life that is saturated in God’s love. We share with them life that has no boundaries. We share with them the joy of living in communion with God and God’s Son Jesus Christ our Savior. I’m very grateful for the many God-gifts expressed to me through those who have passed from this world and those who remain. Through Tom Creager I received the gifts of encouragement and honesty. Through George Lytle I received the gifts of respect and appreciation. Through Annabelle Cummings I experienced the gifts of compassion and delight. Through Harry Ebeling I received the gifts of welcome and confidence. Through you I experience God’s love-gift of joy in serving. And,
the list of God’s love-gifts goes on. Think about God’s many love-gifts you’ve received. Celebrate those who believe and have passed from this world, for they live with God. Celebrate us who believe and wait for the time when we will pass from this world, for we, too, are promised to continue living in God’s intimate presence.
Celebrate God who loves us and gave his Son that we may be filled with God’s
love and life. My friends remember to be grateful to God always. Be grateful; God gives us love-gifts through Jesus Christ, especially the love-gifts of God’s eternal love and God’s eternal life.