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24th Sunday After Pentecost - November 7, 2021



Loving God, give us grace so that living god


ly and virtuous lives we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who love you…


Ineffable joys …joys that are too great or extreme to be expressed or described in words…


The words of the Collect describe for me All Saints Sunday…I have had the privilege of celebrating All Saints in my own church and in Mexico…


I have had the privilege of visiting Skara Brae, a Neolithic Age site in Orkney, Scotland that is older than Stonehenge or the Great Pyramids of Giza…


All these sites…the church, Qaxaca, Mexico, Skara Brae speak loudly of the privilege of life…


They all call to us to be still and to know that God is God and that we are the most blessed to know God and to love God and what and who God has created…


As I sat in silence watching and waiting for my friends in Mexico to open the enormous doors of their Hacienda to welcome the spirit of the Lord to bring in the spirits of the children who had preceded us in death…


I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the love of God that was so evident in our preparation for the Saints…


We had carefully and thoughtfully built our altars honoring those in our families who had died; we had strewn the cobbled walk that went into the center of the hacienda with marigold petals…the petals were thick and moist and a beautiful bright orange.

The flower strewn walk was to guide the spirits to the altars and to welcome the children…


I was in awe as I walked around Skara Brae to see how advanced the people had lived on this harsh coastline…living underground staying connected to one another by tunnels, they had everything necessary in their homes for sustaining life…


And their burial grounds were obviously cared for in love and with honor…


The rain was intermittent that day… as I imagine it had been for them…rain coming down in buckets and then sunshine and then rain…As the Scots and the Irish say, “a fine soft day”…


I was struck by the love and care they had for their loved ones …a love preserved for all these years in their homes and in their burial grounds…



The ineffable joys of life and of love…Example after example…One example present to all of us as we worship in this beautiful nave today; another a joy in the gift of knowing the spirit of God as the doors of the Hacienda are opened; another the joy of seeing and acknowledging a love that ancient people had for the life that they had been given…


And for me the foundational piece of All Saints Day…the story of our Lord Jesus Christ preserved for us in the a living, breathing story of the Gospels…today from the Gospel of John I think we risk not hearing that story in its fullness…After all we have heard it before and before and before…


Most of us on a Bible Exam could name the man who Jesus called out of the tomb…

We might even name at least one of Lazarus’ sisters…But as in all of John’s Gospel, this story is full to the brim with nuances that make John’s stories so very rich…


It is necessary to look at what was happening in the Gospel just prior to our reading…


It is winter time and Jesus was in Jerusalem for the festival of Dedication…


He is walking in the Temple, in the portico of Solomon and is approached by Jews of Jerusalem who began to question Him about His ministry…


The Jews quickly become hostile and take up stones to stone Jesus for the crime of blasphemy…As they try to arrest Him, Jesus escapes and go across the Jordan to a place where John had been baptizing…far away from Jerusalem…


And then He receives word that Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary is very ill…The story tells us that Jesus loved the three siblings but for some reason He stayed two days longer where He was across the Jordan…


Then Jesus said, Let us go back to Judea and the disciples warned Him that to return to Judea will mean certain death for Jesus…They are convinced that the journey is foolish and very dangerous… Bethany, the home of Lazarus and his sisters is only two miles from Jerusalem


So convinced are the disciples of the danger, Thomas finally declares, “ Let all of us all go so that we may die with Jesus”…

Then we enter into the drama of today’s Gospel…The sisters accusing Jesus of a slow response to their plea for His presence and Lazarus’ death as result of that slow response…


And we are told by the Gospel writer that Jesus is greatly disturbed in His spirit and deeply moved or angry…and that He wept…


Angry, why? Is He angry because Martha and Mary questioned his response to their plea; is He angry at the Jews who had threatened Him and made it dangerous for Him to move about in Judea?


Or is He angry at the response of the mourners…We have seen in other Gospel stories that Jesus often got away from the crowds to ask God to heal someone…


In Mark when He tells the leper to tell no one of his healing; when He opened the eyes of the blind men in Matthew…tell no one…in the raising of Jarius daughter, Jesus gets rid of the crowd of mourners … And raises the child in the company of three disciples and her father and mother…


The crowd of mourners and authorities from Jerusalem are dangerous to Jesus and to the disciples and both are eager to see what Jesus will do and eager to criticize Him…


But Jesus weeping perhaps at the turn of events in His life and ministry and angry to have jeering witnesses…prays to His Father and calls in a loud voice for the dead man to come out…

Nothing could be more dramatic; nothing could speak so clearly to your senses…to your belief in the power of God; Nothing could be more sacred than to see our Lord stand at the tomb of His friend and call Lazarus to life…

Unbind him and let him go… Free Lazarus from death for the time being…Free him from the criticism of the Jews; from the danger of belief; from the horror of being hunted by the authorities…

Why is this story foundational to me as an All Saints story? Because it says several things very clearly to me…


One is that God in Jesus honored the sanctity of friendship…deep loving and at times very dangerous friendship


Two is that Jesus could be angry and weep and grieve both the death of a beloved friend and the arrogance of those who would make fun during the most Holy of times


Third perhaps why it speaks to me of All Saints is that this story speaks of the sanctity of life… the ineffable joys of being alive; the life of the three siblings; the life of the crowd that jeered; and the ones in the crowd who saw and believed; the respect that our Lord had and has for all of God’s creatures

We are a beautiful, powerful example of God’s creation…deep inside us we as a people know that

We celebrate all those Saints who have gone before us…we will hear their names called just prior to the Holy Eucharist…we never tire of the sound of their names and the visceral response those names produce in us; we rejoice as we celebrate life everlasting in other cultures; and we marvel and delight in the care and attention ancient peoples paid to their living and their dead….


Being a Christian and being blessed with the Gospels we find that the one who created us; the one who died and rose for us treasures life… All Saints Day is a day for us to remember…to re- member as we are joined in the community of all the Saints; the living and the dead. To be reminded to live a life of joy that is too great to be expressed in words.


Amen






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