All Saints' Sunday 11-05-06
Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 24; Revelation 21:1-6a;
Today, as I said earlier, is All Saints' Sunday, the closest
Sunday to November 1st, which is All Saints' Day, the day after
All Hallows Eve, October 31st, also known as Reformation Day, when
Martin Luther tacked his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenburg
Church, calling for Reformation in the Church of that day.
Many folks think that "Saints" only applies to someone who is:
1.) practically perfect, and/or: 2.) Dead. I guess the second
explains the first-if we're alive we're not even close to perfect.
But actually, Saints are those believers both living and departed.
St. Paul in his letters continually asks folks to greet all the
saints, that is, those believers in the particular churches to
whom he was writing.
When I was serving a church in Nebraska I was trying to teach
the elementary level children about Angels and Saints. I asked
them, "Are angels and saints the same?" Immediately up sprang the
hand of a 7th grader who said, "No way, Pastor. Not the same." I
was happy to see a 7th grader eager to answer. "Well, Jack," I
said, "please tell us the difference between them." "The
difference is," he said very confidently, "the Angels play
baseball, and the Saints are a football team."
Sometimes there isn't anything you can do to get back on track
except to move on. And so I will.
What powerful and wonderful Scripture readings today. I titled
my sermon this morning, "Bringing Joy and Abundance Back to Life"
because of those fantastic readings. Readings about God preparing
a feast for us and destroying the power of death and rejoicing in
salvation; readings about the wonder of God's creation, the
eternal presence of God, the blessings of God; and readings about
Jesus demonstrating the power of God in raising Lazarus from the
dead. Incredible readings. Joyous readings. Readings about the
power and joy and abundance of God.
In the Gospel story about the raising of Lazarus, so often we
just concentrate on the marvel of someone being raised from the
dead (which, by the way is NOT the same as resurrection-those
raised from the dead, as Lazarus, or other like examples in
Scripture, are not raised from the dead forever as in
resurrection, which is to eternal life).
But the story is so much more than that. It's a celebration of
bringing something back to life that was thought to be dead. It's
a celebration in the church, a celebration in each believer's
Sometimes it takes some incredible act to bring folks to an
awareness that something is not dead, but just sleeping, or just
in a dormant stage waiting to come to life again. We're moving
into a season now when we see aspects of life dieing. We know,
however, that in the spring they will come BACK to life. We KNOW
that. Isn't it wonderful to KNOW that? Isn't that reassuring?
And you know what? If you've had a hard time feeling that joy
and abundance were alive in your life, I'm here to tell you that
you have the power of Jesus the risen Lord behind you to bring
those things back to life in YOUR life! They aren't absent or dead
or non-existent. They are THERE in your life. Jesus is the one who
brings them back to life.
Today we celebrated the fact that members who died since last
All Saints' Sunday are alive and well in the presence of Jesus.
What seemed to be 'the end' to many folks who are 'nay-sayers' or
doubters, was just the beginning of another form of life for the
one who left behind the body they borrowed for a while to live on
earth. They are experiencing a joy beyond our understanding. That
alone should make us joyful deep in our hearts.
We also celebrated baptisms today, through which we celebrated
new members of our family, and through which we celebrate the fact
that no matter how far we stray from God's teachings and guidance,
when we repent and ask forgiveness it is given. We are forgiven.
Baptism reminds us that we are part of God's eternal family.
Baptism reminds us that DAILY we are washed clean, the slate of
our erring ways is wiped clean every day through our baptism when
we ask forgiveness. We are forgiven. Each day is a new day to
experience the joy and the abundance of God's love and
Most folks act like they don't know this. It doesn't matter how
many challenges we have to face each day, we know, as believers,
that we never have to face them alone, and we always have God's
strength to get us through. We can't do it on our own, though we
often try. Like it says on the sign board out front, "Life is
worth living-peace, love, joy-come celebrate with us." Celebrate
the joy-the abundance. There is no limit to God's love and
forgiveness. There is no limit to God's abundance.
The only limits are in our own head-our own thinking. Don't let
that happen to you. Bring joy and abundance back to life-back to
YOUR life. Here in this space where we worship God and praise God
and give thanks to God and give back to God-we need to do that
from a place within us that is joyful and grateful, that
recognizes the joy in life; that recognizes the abundance in life.
Raise your hand if you have at least $2.00 with you (not
counting what you are giving as an offering later in the service)?
Keep your hand up, and those of you who have at least $2.00 at
home or in a checking or saving account, raise your hand. Do you
realize how incredibly wealthy you are? Three billion people live
on less than $2.00 a day, while 1.3 billion get by on less than
$1.00 per day. Seventy percent of those living on less than a
dollar a day are women.
One of the marks of a mature Christian is having a thankful
heart. The discipline of thankfulness draws us closer to God,
strengthens our walk, renews our perspective, increases our
energy, and brings us joy and helps us recognize our abundance.
It is out of this realization of how blessed we are that we can
bring our joy and abundance back to life. We in this congregation
are especially blessed with abundance, even those who have
financial difficulties, those who have trouble meeting bills,
those who have illnesses, those fighting chronic pain, those
fighting debilitating or terminal diseases, we all have been
blessed. We have family, friends, a church family, food, shelter,
clothing (over 90% of the people in the world don't have one or
more of those last three items). A grateful heart helps us see our
abundance. A grateful heart helps us be joyful; helps us celebrate
Celebrate life. Bring back to life every bit of joy and
abundance that is part of you. Don't let any of it sleep; don't
let any of it lay waiting in the tomb; don't keep any part of it
from the fullness of life, of YOUR life, of the life of this
The word "Lazarus" is a Greek word that comes from Hebrew. It
means "whom God helps," "assistance of God," "Grace of God." The
raising of Lazarus by Jesus signifies bringing back to life the
idea of youth, which is asleep in the tomb of the body. People
grow old because they let the youth idea fall asleep. This idea is
not dead, but sleeping and Jesus awakens it. Youth can see and
appreciate joy-they know how to celebrate life and they recognize
and live out of the abundance of life. When we think of youth we
think of the abundance of life-life is full, joyous, stretching
out before us. Be joyful. Celebrate life. Celebrate your
abundance. Don't waste it by letting it sleep in some tomb within
you. It's there waiting to be brought to fullness of life! Let
Jesus bring your joy and abundance back to life. Let Jesus raise
to life any part of your joy and abundance that is sleeping. Don't
be meek about it. After all, Jesus didn't just say, "Lazarus come
out." He said, "LAZARUS. COME OUT!!" Whatever part of that joy and
abundance within you that is sleeping needs to be awakened,
brought back to life. So, to close, I want you to shout, "Joy!
Come out!" And now, "Abundance! Come out!"