"Bringing Joy & Abundance
 Back to Life"

All Saints' Sunday 11-05-06

Isaiah 25:6-9; Psalm 24; Revelation 21:1-6a; John 11:32-44

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 heart.

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 forgiveness.

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 life.

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 congregation.

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!"


Read more sermons by Pastor Brie