Sermon given on All Saint’s Day, November 3rd, 2019.
Grace Mercy and Peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, the one who was, how is and who is to come. Amen.
One afternoon I found myself sitting in the waiting room with Charlotte, who’s husband was laying in a hospital bed across the hall. It had been a long journey of in and out of the hospital and these were determined by the physicians to be his last hours on this earth. Charlotte looked down and said, “I don’t know how people get through this sort of thing without Jesus – without believing in the promise of the resurrection. It’s what gives me hope and keeps me going. I know I’ll see John again, and next time it won’t be like this.”
We believe in this promise because of these words Jesus says to Martha when her brother Lazarus had died: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” And then Jesus asked Martha: “Do you believe this?” Martha replied, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
So – Do you believe it? Surrounded by such mystery, Do you believe these words of Jesus? This, I believe, is the greatest mystery of all, and therefore demands the greatest faith of all. If you could, wouldn’t you like a glimpse into this great mystery? As many of you sitting in these pews today have experienced similar moments, I sat alongside my mother and sang hymns and prayed with her and held her hand as she eventually slipped from this world on the the next. I knew what was going on with her body. Hospice had well prepared me as I watched her body enter into its last phase of slowly shutting down. It was almost textbook. But as she lay there now void of breath, I pondered the mystery of her heavenly entrance. I had so many questions! It would be nearly 7 months later over labor day weekend that we placed her ashes in their final “resting place” next to my dad’s ashes. Once again, I found myself pondering the mystery. .. If we could talk with our loved ones after their passing from this earth, to get a glimpse of the mystery unfolding, perhaps it would go like this:
O glorious one: As clumps of earth are tossed upon your urn, those of us standing around this vast hole in the ground hear these apocalyptic words read from St. Paul crying out to the Corinthians,
“Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15: 51-57)
You have had your day Oh loved one– the day you’ve been waiting for! The day when heaven and earth come together and celebrate your life. The day when Jesus meets you and greets you, the day when you are changed from death to new life – for this is the day of your resurrection.
So tell me, how is it? The resurrection, I mean? Did it all happen in a twinkling of an eye? Did you hear the trumpet sound? As Paul says, it’s all a mystery! But I’m dying to know! We’ve all done our homework. We’ve gone to Sunday School faithfully – some of us have been confirmed by the affirmation of our Baptism, some have faithfully studied this historical event of the resurrection of Jesus, and we’ve all formulated a theological understanding based on Scripture; we have come to the conclusion that central to our Christian faith, is the creedal belief in the real bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. And so we believe that through God’s action of raising God’s son Jesus from death to life, those who believe will also be raised from death to new life, being transformed bodily and spiritually for eternity.
That’s you! You now have a new life because Jesus who was fully human and fully divine, died in the flesh and was raised in the flesh, paying for our sins in full – wiping them away! And that’s not all! Paul tells us we will all be changed! That “the perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15: 53). Is that what happened? What does that look like? Your new body, I mean. Are you finally made whole again? No more pain, or illness – no covering up the old with the new, but truly transformed? How incredibly glorious is that! I can hear you, along with Paul nearly laughing in the face of death saying, “O death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:.55) Victory over death! No more living under the law, but rather the bodily death and resurrection of Jesus Christ sets us free to live forever with Jesus! To God be the glory! You must be dancing with the Saints in joy!
But what about those of us on this side of heaven who have yet to realize the mystery? What can you say?
Oh yes – I can hear Jesus’ words echoing in my heart when he appeared to (Thomas), “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Yes, I suppose, we’re back to it all being a mystery again – but just like you, there’s hope in the promise for us who await our Resurrection. And while we wait, we wait with a hope, that through the Holy Spirit, propels us to live our lives NOW reflecting a resurrection hope that transforms the world now and through eternity; It’s living the resurrection now with a hope that moves us in such a way that we can do no other than to love God and share this resurrection joy with all the world, as it is intended to be shared, until our own Resurrection day!
Martin Luther would say that it all comes down to the article of faith in the word of God. “If you will not let the Word mean more to you than all your feeling, eyes, senses, and heart, you must be lost, and there is no further help for you….but the Word speaks differently to me. It tells me that I have a gracious God through Christ, who is my Lord over the devil and all creatures. I feel and see plainly enough that I and all humans must sink into the grave and there decay. But the Word speaks differently to me. It tells me that I shall rise in great glory and live forever.”
Amen, Amen, Amen. Let us together with Mary and Martha and Martin; with Ellen and Jean, and Jim and Helen, and Fred, and Aileen, and Bill and Dale, and all the Saints who have gone before us, proclaim with confidence from heaven and from earth, “I believe in the Resurrection!” and “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15: 57).
And to you, O glorious one, Bless you for blessing me. Thank you, for showing me the way to glory, O Saint of God. When the trumpet blows, in a twinkling of an eye I shall see God, and I shall be united with you and all the Saints in glory!