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

LIFE IS NOT A DRESS REHEARSAL

In recent times our world including our nation have been going through a terrible time dealing with Covid-19.  There are recent signs that we just might get this terrible disease under control.  Pfizer is claiming it has developed a medicine that can be taken if you discover you have Covid-19.  Over 80% of those who have taken it after developing Covid-19 have been able to avoid going to the hospital but were able to recover from the disease at home.

Politically our nation is at odds.  Forces that have been vying for control of our country since the 60’s are still at odds.  It is hard to know when a politician is telling the truth.

It seems to me we need a Sunday like All Saints Day to celebrate God is in charge and one day all evil, suffering, pain, and sorrow will end with God bringing a Holy City, a new Jerusalem to live with us and as Isaiah prophesized death with be swallowed up in God’s victory.

In our Gospel for today Jesus confronts death directly.  As he heads for Lazarus’ tomb, he is both angry and grieved that this great enemy death has taken the life of his dear friend.  It is the only time in the scripture it is reported he cried tears of sorrow.  Yet even as he proceeds to the tomb, he knows his heavenly Father is going to grant his request and raise Lazarus from the dead.

Some of the most powerful words in the scripture he proclaims once the door to Lazarus’ tomb has been opened; “Lazarus come forth.”  When wonder of wonder happens and Lazarus comes to the entrance of his tomb Jesus instructs the people present to unbind him.  That has been a task of the church ever since to unbind people who are bound in grave clothes.

Ann and I watched the funeral of Colin Powell on Friday and were deeply moved that such a man fought our enemies both here at home and aboard.  Possibly the greatest enemy he found at home was racism.  He fought the good fight valiantly.

Death is swallowed up in victory.  This is the hope and the confidence we have today.

Also, as we gather, we celebrate those Saints who have touched our lives.  Today I remember my grandmother, Cora Mae Hess.  Often on weekends I would stay at her home in Canfield.  Before I would go to bed at night, she would read me stories about Jesus from the Bible.  It was through her loving efforts that I became a Christian.  We were attending a church that only baptized adults, but she was determined I needed to be baptized.  She finally got the pastor to do it.  I will never forget the event.  As an adult I am grateful for the gift of a relationship with God, as a child I was glad the pastor did not drown me.  She put $1,000 in a joint savings account.  I was to take it out the day of her death and use it to start college after graduating from high school.

This woman started me on my faith journey and planted the seeds of me being the first member of my family to graduate from college.

Who do you remember today?  I am pleased to see so many candles on the altar.  They are with us every Sunday at the altar rail when we receive communion.  When we receive this holy meal the veil between heaven and earth is broken and we spiritually see God as we receive the risen Christ and his gifts of life, forgiveness and salvation.

Even as we celebrate God’s final defeat of evil and death; and remember those who now rest from their labors we have one more task.

Life is a gift.  One day everyone in this room will have died and are resting in the Lord, just like Colin Powell.  What sort of life will our family remember we lived?  Were we generous, forgiving, and caring?  Were we characters they would as soon forget?  What will be remembered about you and me as the candles are brought forth on All Saints Day and what will our family remember when they purchase a poinsettia for the Christmas Eve Service?

Life is not a dress rehearsal.  How are we responding to the Lord’s call now.  What we are doing with our lives now will be remembered by those who loved us in spite of our shortcomings.

Yes, today we celebrate all who loved and served the Lord and now rest from their labors.  We rejoice that God is pulling history toward him to make a new heaven and a new earth.  But in the meantime, we will face suffering, pain, and sorrow as we eagerly await the final victory.  And as we do, we realize life is not a dress rehearsal, but is the real thing.  Amen