All Saints Sunday
Revelation 21:1-6a
John 11:32-44
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Precious memories, how they linger
How they ever flood my soul
In the stillness of the midnight
Precious, sacred scenes unfold

Precious father, loving mother
Fly across the lonely years
And old home scenes of my childhood
In fond memory appears.

As I travel on life’s pathway
Know not what the years may hold
As I ponder, hope grows fonder
Precious memories flood my soul [1]

Friends, we gather this morning on All Saints Sunday to remember those persons in our lives who have helped us along the way. It reminds us that we did not just appear on the scene one day but that we have come from somewhere; been shaped by people and circumstance; mothers and fathers, and grandparents, teachers and neighbors; friends and enemies too; lovers and partners; work experiences, joys and disappointments – it has taken all of it to bring us to the persons we are today.

We remember those who have stayed the course with us when the going got tough; who taught us with patience and longsuffering; who saw something in us when we did not see anything at all; who yearned for a better world with us in it and would not give up come what may.

We remember them not only by looking back but with a lens toward the future and honor their legacy by how we live our own lives. And they were not perfect people. No, they were human beings like us, weak and frail but they sainted our lives. And we ought not to use our lack of perfection as an excuse to live into the life Christ has called us to.

Theologian Frederick Buechner puts it this way: “How they do live on, those giants of our childhood, and how well they manage to take even death in their stride because although death can put an end to them right enough, it can never put an end to our relationship with them. Wherever or however else they may have come to life since, it is beyond a doubt that they live still in us. Memory is more than a looking back to a time that is no longer; it is a looking out into another kind of time altogether where everything that ever was continues not just to be, but to grow and change with the life that is in it still.” [2]

Did you get that? “Memory is more than a looking back to a time that is no longer; it is a looking out into another kind of time altogether where everything that ever was continues not just to be, but to grow and change with the life that is in it still.”

In both of our passages this morning, John speaks of newness of life coming up out of decay. Exiled on an island, he writes to comfort a people who are downtrodden, feeling hopeless, people lacking joy, worn out by the challenges of life and circumstance.

John writes assuring them that God dwells in their midst. “The home of God is among mortals,” he says. [3] God lives among people and God is the Source of relief. God’s way is palpable and makes a difference.

“God will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away. And God is making all things new.” [4]

We ask ourselves what that might look like on the eve of the midterm elections. What might it look like to cast our vote in a way that ensures that the tears of the oppressed are being wiped away? That those who are helpless against the powers that be; those yearning for basic needs and human rights might have a better shot at it; that spiritual death, emotional death is being diminished and there is a new way for men and women to live together in peace.

What might it look like to move over just a little bit and make room for those absent from the table so long; and to reconsider our theologies and philosophies of life for the sake of a more perfect world?

What might it look like for our church in these times as we welcome Audrey and Evan, Nick, Elizabeth, Jackson, and Collin.

In our gospel, Jesus weeps for humanity’s sake. He weeps for lack of faithfulness. Mary and Martha are beside themselves. Their brother has died. They have seen and heard the power of the resurrection and yet, in this moment of despair and confusion, their faith is lacking. They are ready to give up. This moment is calling to them – this moment when it looks like all is lost.

Jesus said to the dead man Lazarus, “Lazarus, come out!” [5] Come out of death, come out of decay, come out of despair, come out of a meaningless and negative and despondent existence. Come out. Shake it loose.

Now, Lazarus had already been dead three long days; his body buried in a cave that was sealed with a stone. The stench of death was in the air. “Lazarus, come out!”

And lo, and behold, the dead man came out, his feet bound and his hands tied, and his face covered with a cloth. Jesus said, “Unbind him and let him go.” [6]

Might Jesus be saying the same to us: Unbind yourselves and let go! Be alive, you who have been touched by grace. Be alive, you who have been loved and cared for.

I love the image of being surrounded by the great cloud of witnesses. People who have gone before but also people who journey with us now. People who hold us up and give us the love and support we need; and for whom we can also give love and support.

I believe in the communion of the saints, the holy Catholic Church. I believe that together we can make that day possible where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are finally at rest. When God wipes away all the tears from our eyes and there will be no more pain or sorrow. Sometimes, living with that hope makes life in the here and now better. Easier.

Thanks be to God.

[1] http://www.bobdylanroots.com/precious.html; Precious Memories, songwriters: J.B.F.Wright,
[2] Frederick Buechner Quote of the Day November 1, 2015 How They Do Live On.
[3] Revelation 21:3b
[4] Revelation 21:4
[5] John 11:43b
[6] John 11:44b