All Saints 2015
Lots of tears in our readings today:
--In Isaiah: “Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.”
--In Revelation: “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; he will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
--In John: “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep.”
We have a wet lectionary today. Lots and lots of tears. We have God, like a mother, tenderly wiping away tears from our faces. We have Mary weeping, Jews weeping and then, in the famously short bible verse, we have Jesus weeping.
Let’s talk about how that comes about: Lazarus the good friend of Jesus, the brother of Mary and Martha is very sick. His sisters send word, begging Jesus to come and heal him. But Jesus doesn’t go. He says something obtuse about how this will glorify God so he stays away.
After a couple of days, Jesus says “Let’s go to Lazarus and wake him up.” But he knows that by now, Lazarus is dead, not just asleep.
They go to Bethany and hear that Lazarus has been dead for four days. Martha comes charging out, yelling at Jesus for letting her brother die. Jesus starts talking about resurrection but she doesn’t want to hear it. “My brother is dead now!” Jesus says, “I’m talking about now, right now. Those who believe in me will live. Do you believe Martha?” And she says, “I believe.”
Martha goes and gets her sister Mary, who also comes to blame Jesus for her brother’s death. Mary, the Jews and even Jesus began to weep. Our incarnate God, our friend Jesus, feels all too human pain and sorrow over the hold death has on our mortal bodies.
Jesus goes to the tomb, weepy and sad, then pulls himself together. Now he is not longer just our friend Jesus but our Lord Jesus. “Take away the stone,” he orders. Martha points out that her brother has been dead for four days and now he stinks. Jesus reminds his friends that if they believe, they will see the glory of God. He looks up to heaven and thanks God for listening to him. Then he shouts; “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man comes out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus says, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Now, there is a terrible repercussion of raising Lazarus from the dead: it was the last straw for those who hated Jesus. Lazarus walking out of a tomb meant that Jesus would be going into a tomb.
All Saints day is a celebration of both sorrow and joy, of loss and anticipation, of the remembrance of things past and the hope of things to come. Today we remember both the great saints of the past and the quiet saints of our lives. Today we smile through our tears, remembering Jesus’ promise that those who believe in him will live.
Frederick Buechner once said that it would help us all if we would keep track of the times and events in our lives that bring tears to our eyes. They may be happy or sad moments. It may be a funeral or wedding or a patriotic event, when the flag goes by or "Taps" is played. It may be at an unexpected time or place. But, whenever you are stirred to such depths, these are times that God is at work in your life. These occasions are like windows through which the light of God's love gets in to us. Check times and places where you weep, said Buechner, and you will see the places where God was getting through to you.
I believe that those who have gone before us are held in God’s loving, tender care and so never really leave us. We remember them with sorrow and with joy. Khalil Gibran writes about this:
“Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.
And he answered:
Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”
Most of us here today have known ‘sorrow carving into our being’. I have been grateful for deep grief at times, because I knew I wouldn’t be so sad if I hadn’t loved so much. My sadness was in direct proportion to my love. And so, like Jesus, we weep, letting God shine through those tears.
Our Sarah has endured a lot of deaths this past month amongst her friends on the street. I worry about how she can bear the pain of so many losses. I worry that she might feel powerless in the face of such sadness. So here is a story:
A little girl stayed out playing much longer than she was supposed to. When she got home her mother scolded her and asked where she had been. The child said that one of her friends had broken her doll and she stopped and helped her fix it ~ for two hours. Her mother asked her how in the world she could help fix a broken doll. And, in all of the innocence of a child, she said, "I could not fix the doll, but I sat down with her and helped her cry."
There are some things beyond our fixing. There is some brokenness we cannot repair. All we can do is weep with those who weep. And we feel the light of God warming us through the window of our tears.
Listen to the joy in our readings: the joy of a God who dwells among us and tenderly wipes our tears away. The joy of a God who feels such compassion for us, a God who weeps with us. The joy of a God who promises us that those who believe will live.
I am brought to tears in church almost every Sunday. Usually a hymn, or something in a sermon brings me to tears… tears of joy. I feel such joy that we share our faith together. Such joy that we have a God who lives among us. Such joy that we can dream together of a better world, of healing hurts, of helping the needy and those in pain.
In our last hymn today, we will sing, (and I promise you I will cry), “We Shall Go Out with Hope of Resurrection”. Listen to the words as you sing of how ‘we shall go out and tell our stories boldly, tales of a love that will not let us go. We’ll leap and dance the resurrection story, including all in circles of our love.”