All Saints Sunday – November 07 2021

Posted on November 8, 2021, Pastor: Pastor Lara Forbes

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November 07, 2021

All Saints Sunday 

Revelation 21:1-6a
John 11:32-44

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Grace to you and peace from God, our creator, and from our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

A few years ago, I officiated a funeral for a woman whose name was Debbie. She identified as Lutheran in her heart but wasn’t a member of a congregation at the time she died. I made the arrangements with her son over the phone, but didn’t actually meet the family until the day of the service.

One of the things they said was that Debbie didn’t want a funeral or any type of memorial service. Her family and friends had gathered at her home a couple of weeks before she died and celebrated her life with her. So, as far as Debbie was concerned, that was enough.

And when I talked with her son and her sister before the service, they were worried because they didn’t feel like they were honoring her wishes by having the funeral. But one of the things I said to them is that death is hard. And it was a wonderful gift that they were all able to celebrate Debbie’s life together with her before she died.

But we all need time and space to grieve someone we love when they die. And many of the people who celebrated Debbie’s life with her were packed into the chapel at the mortuary that day to mourn her death.

That memory came to mind for me as I read today’s gospel reading. [1]The story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is one of the most dramatic and difficult ones in scripture. In John’s gospel, it’s the event that gets Jesus arrested. To resurrect someone from the dead was so offensive to Jewish law that it led to Jesus’ own death.

But before we get to that, before we even get to the part we read today, we know that Jesus took his time getting to Bethany after hearing that Lazarus was ill. And when he finally did get there, Lazarus had already been dead for four days, so the people were understandably upset – especially Mary and Martha.

Mary and Martha and Lazarus knew that on the last day they all would rise again in the resurrection. They trusted that hope for the future. But in the moments before his resurrection, the pain of Lazarus’ death was overwhelming and his sisters were grieving – they loved their brother and they missed him

[2]Martha was resentful and angry that Jesus didn’t come sooner; but in the next breath she voiced her trust in his power. Mary blamed Jesus for Lazarus’ death, but she was on her knees in a posture of belief and submission. Their emotions seemed to be all over the place.

But Jesus didn’t ridicule them or minimize what they were feeling. Instead, he began to weep with them. He met them in their grief. [3]He knew that raising Lazarus wouldn’t cancel out the pain they were feeling, and that whatever joy they felt at his resurrection would be shaped by the mourning they’d just endured.

We don’t know how Mary and Martha reacted when their brother walked out of the tomb. For that matter, we don’t know how Lazarus reacted when his funeral shroud was removed. But we do know that when Jesus cried with Mary and Martha that day, he acknowledged the depth of their pain and he honored it.

And in doing that, he acknowledged the full range of human emotion. He let them know that he didn’t expect them to ignore what they were feeling or pretend that they were feeling otherwise. And he stayed with them in their grief.

The mix of emotions that comes with human grief hasn’t changed or gone away. And when we grieve someone’s death, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t faithful or that we don’t trust the promise of the resurrection. It means we loved them.

[4]We live in a society that is almost obsessed with graphic images of violence and death in our TV shows, movies, and video games. But when it comes to our own mortality, or the mortality of the people we love, we push that off to the side. It’s like we’re thinking that if we hold it back strongly enough or for long enough, death won’t happen to us.

But the reality is that every single one of us is gonna die a physical death. And as people of faith, like Mary and Martha, we know that Jesus will raise us up on the last day. But in the meantime, it hurts when our loved ones die – and nobody wants to go through the heartache of figuring out how to live without them.

But most of us have experienced the pain of working through it. It’s what Debbie’s family and friends were grappling with after she died. [5]And our faith in Jesus gives us space for that; it allows us to trust in the hope of our future even as we work through the messiness of grief. And wherever we happen to be in that messiness, Jesus is with us.

As we observe All Saints today, along with the saints of the church, we remember the people who loved us and who taught us that Jesus is with us always. And as people of faith, we hold our memories of them together with what’s going on in the world. Because grief and death aren’t limited to our own lives. They’re part of what it means to be human.

And so we also recognize the other types of death we’ve experienced over the last 20 months. The ways of living we’ve had to let go of, relationships that have ended, the loss of a sense of security and stability, the freedom to simply gather with family and friends, or even come to church, without worry…. Those losses carry their own types of grief, and we need space for that, too. And Jesus is in it with us.

[6]When we grieve and work through the healing process, it allows us to walk with others in their grief – to offer compassion and empathy and love. So that when we find ourselves in situations where death is feared or dishonored, we’re able to stand at the grave with remembrance and gratitude and hope.

Or when we find ourselves in circumstances where people are abused or demonized, we’re able to affirm the value of every life. Or when someone’s life has fallen apart, we’re able to help them figure out what to do next.

Death is hard, and it comes in many forms. But the physical death of a person we love is arguably the most difficult experience we ever endure. As people of faith, we know that Jesus will raise us up on the last day, but it still hurts when our loved ones die. And Jesus understands that and he gives us space for that. And wherever we happen to be emotionally as we trust through our pain, Jesus is in it with us. Thanks be to God! Amen.

[1] https://www.journeywithjesus.net/lectionary-essays/current-essay?id=1999

[2] Ibid

[3] https://www.journeywithjesus.net/lectionary-essays/current-essay?id=1999

[4] http://www.davidlose.net/2015/10/all-saints-sunday-b-look-twice/

[5] https://www.journeywithjesus.net/lectionary-essays/current-essay?id=1999

[6] https://www.journeywithjesus.net/lectionary-essays/current-essay?id=1999