All Saints Sunday – November 7, 2021
John 11:32-44

          Today we are celebrating All Saints Sunday. So, why is it that we set aside a Sunday each year to commemorate the saints that have preceded us? Well, the tradition is meant to provide an opportunity to acknowledge that we stand upon the shoulders of those who lived and died before us, and to give them recognition. What we’ve accomplished in life is partially due to the saints that came before us. And it’s a time to remember that death is not the final word. Death is not the end. The great cloud of witnesses lives on.

We’re given the story of the raising of Lazarus for this All Saints Sunday. There’s a lot to this story, but let’s focus on Lazarus this time. In the words of the “galpals” – Death stinks. There’s no way around that. This story is a story about the hope of resurrection. Now, for this morning, imagine what it would be like to be Lazarus, to be dead, and then to come to life again!

Imagine waking up in that cave, wrapped tightly in cloth, unable to pull the covering off your own face, because your hands are still bound. It’s dark, and it stinks in there. What you smell is your own flesh, that somehow isn’t rotting anymore. But the stench is still hanging in the cave around you.

And then you hear a familiar voice, muffled, but easy to recognize. Your dearest friend is calling to you to come out. You don’t even know which direction the door is, or how to get to it. But you wriggle around enough to get up, and you inch your way up toward the light. As you trip over yourself, struggling to get free, there is a gasp from the crowd that has gathered outside this cave. They are just as surprised to see you as you are to be there.

And then you must decide. Do you fall back into the tomb, or do you step out into the unknown? Because what lies ahead is completely new territory. No one has ever done this before. No one has ever been completely, unquestionably dead, and then been called back to life after being buried in a tomb for four days.

But here you are. As you stumble forward, that voice you love says, “Unbind him. Let him go.” And the cloth comes off, and you can see Jesus standing there, tears streaming down his face, welcoming you back to life.

This is resurrection. This is new life. But here’s the thing: we often can’t experience resurrection until we experience death. We can’t accept new life in Christ until we allow our old, sinful lives to end. Here’s a question for us all…..what do you need to let die, so that you can come out of your own tomb? What binds you to death, and prevents you from living abundantly, fully, as a new creation? Based on the blog site: RevGalBlogPals – ~creating community for clergywomen~

We can live in the midst of fear with courage because God’s promise of resurrection gives us the confidence to resist the power of death over us. Death doesn’t get the last word, for Lazarus or for us. Whatever stinks in your life, Jesus is calling to you, “Come out of there!”

And then you must decide. Do you fall back into the tomb, or do you step out into the unknown? Because what lies ahead is completely new territory. And just like Lazarus, we head into unknown territory when we walk out of the tomb.

But you don’t have to go there alone. When Lazarus stepped out of that tomb, there were friends there to help him get out of his grave clothes, to support him and love him. That’s what this community of faith is for: to help each of us get unbound.

You see, Jesus could have made those strips of cloth fall right off of Lazarus. But he didn’t. He called to the others standing there and invited them into the miracle. “Unbind him, and let him go,” he said. Jesus didn’t need their help, but by inviting the friends and family of Lazarus to participate in the miracle of resurrection, he draws them – and us – into God’s transformative work. We can be part of God’s transformative work.

What is it you want Jesus to come and see in your life today? If you were to name your loneliness today, what would it be? What is the scarcity in your life that you want filled? Where does it hurt? What is your need? Who or what is your Lazarus? What stinks in your life?

This invitation for Jesus to come and see is about more than particular circumstances or events. It’s the invitation for Jesus to come and see the things we fear in our lives, to come and see our loneliness, to come and see our scarcity. Wherever there is scarcity in my life I am dying. Wherever there is scarcity in your life you are dying. Mary and Martha were dying that day. Scarcity is always a thief of life. But Mary and Martha called to Jesus to come and see.

They are naming the scarcity in their lives, and they are opening themselves to the abundance of Jesus. That’s what this day is about. All Saints is a day to name and release our scarcity. It’s a day of abundance, a day to unbind the abundance of life that is already ours. If the saints of this life and the next life have anything to teach us, it’s about the abundance of God and the abundant life God offers. It is St. Mary proclaiming that God “has filled the hungry with good things.” It is St. Simeon declaring that his eyes have seen God’s salvation and he is free to depart in peace. It is St. Julian of Norwich promising, “All shall be well, all shall be well, you yourself will see that every manner of thing shall be well.”

Abundance is the medicine that heals our soul of its scarcity. That’s what Mary and Martha really want. And it’s what we want. We want our soul to be made whole, to be made well.

We want to live the fullness of life. We want to live with integrity, meaning, and purpose. We want to know that our life matters and that the values we hold make a difference not just for ourselves but for the lives of others and for the life of the world. We want to be connected to something larger and beyond ourselves.

This all reminds me of a famous poem about the train of life. It bears repeating and the author is unknown.

At birth, we boarded the train of life and met our parents,
and we believed that they would always travel by our side.
However, at some station, our parents would step down from the train,
leaving us on life’s journey alone.
As time goes by, some significant people will board the train:
siblings, other children, friends, and even the love of our life.
Many will step down and leave a permanent vacuum.
Others will go so unnoticed that we won’t realize that they vacated their seats!
This train ride has been a mixture of joy, sorrow, fantasy,
expectations, hellos, goodbyes, and farewells.
A successful journey consists of having a good relationship with all passengers, requiring that we give the best of ourselves.
The mystery that prevails is that we do not know at
which station we ourselves will step down.
Thus, we must try to travel along the track of life in the best possible way –
loving, forgiving, giving, and sharing.
When the time comes for us to step down and leave our seat empty –
we should leave behind beautiful memories for those who continue to travel on the train of life. Let’s remember to thank God for giving us life to participate in this journey.
I close by thanking you for being one of the passengers on my train!

Jesus come and see! Unbind us so that we may live in your abundant life.  Amen.