All Saints Sunday (Nov. 4, 2012)

Lessons:Isaiah 25:6-9 or Wisdom 3:1-9 Psalm 24 (5) Revelation 21:1-6a St. John 11:32-44

Prayer of the Day Almighty God, you have knit your people together in one communion in the mystical body of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Grant us grace to follow your blessed saints in lives of faith and commitment, and to know the inexpressible joys you have prepared for those who love you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

11:32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” 38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

St. John 11:32-44 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Where Is God?

We prepare for this coming weekend’s worship with our brothers and sisters on the east coast (and Hurricane Sandy) on our minds and in our prayers. So much destruction. So much pain. So much disruption. And, perhaps worst of all: so many deaths and injuries (at this writing at least 34 deaths in the U.S. added to the 69 who died when Sandy moved through the Caribbean last weekend, not to mention untold numbers of injuries, and at least 8.2 million people without power in their homes). For all those whose lives have been turned upside down by this storm, Lord have mercy!

It is not uncommon in times like these for people to ask where God was when all this destruction took place. Before well-intended but sadly misguided theologian-cosmologists claim that this is an act of God, intended to punish or reward some (or even more ridiculously, to prohibit some sub-set of the American electorate from making it to the polls next Tuesday), let us be clear: when Sandy made landfall, God was where God always is, and where God continues to be today. God was in the midst of the weeping, not celebrating a well-made point, but greatly disturbed, deeply moved, and working to bring new life out of death.

We see an example of this in this weekend’s Gospel lesson (for All Saints Sunday). Against the advice of his inner circle, when Jesus hears that his dear friend Lazarus is ill, he decides to go and visit him. His disciples attempt to dissuade him. The last time he was in that neighborhood (10:31-32) they tried to kill him. But Jesus is persistent. He makes his way to Bethany where he meets with Martha and Mary at the edge of town, and seeing their grief he is “greatly disturbed in spirit” and “deeply moved.” When they invite him to come see where Lazarus is buried, Jesus is overcome with grief and begins to weep.

Martha and Mary lead him to the tomb, where he issues three commands: to the bystanders (“Take away the stone.”), to Lazarus (“Come out.”) and to the rest of them (“Unbind him, and let him go.”). What happens in Bethany is what often happens: out of the stench of death comes the glory of God. In language that is loaded with images of his own death and resurrection, Jesus enters into the messiness of death, gives his dear friend the gift of new life, and invites the community to participate in restoring Lazarus to the life he lost.

Perhaps the story about the raising of Lazarus gives us an idea of where our prayers ought to lead us in this week of viewing horrific images, listening to hair-raising stories and watching the tolls rise of damage done. May those who live surrounded by the messiness of death know of the powerful presence of God. May those whose hearts have been broken hear the proclamation of new life. May those who like Jesus are “greatly disturbed in spirit” and “deeply moved” discover ways to participate in restoring the lives that our eastern neighbors once knew.

May the story of Lazarus be our story as well — of a God who loves us deeply, who cares for us profoundly, and who meets us in the midst of our brokenness to give us the gift of new life.


David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Was Mary accusing Jesus of not responding appropriately in verse 32?
  2. What does it mean that Jesus first wept with them?
  3. What does his command to the community (in verse 44) say about what it means to be church?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Where is the pain in my life?
  2. What does it mean to acknowledge that God meets me in the midst of this pain?
  3. What new life do I long for?