Summary: A sermon for All Saints Sunday.
“God Refuses to Allow Death the Final Word”
John 11:1-3, 17-27, 32-44
There is a school of thought in some Christian circles that almost views death as so much of a blessing that you are not even allowed to cry…
But in the Bible, death is an enemy, and it can be a fierce one.
Death is ugly.
It destroys relationships.
It is repulsive.
Several years ago, a friend of mine, who spoke to his brother on the phone every week had been unable to “get a hold of him.”
By buddy’s brother had some form of autism, and lived in some kind of public assisted apartment building about an hour from where my friend lived.
After not being able to reach his brother, my friend drove to his brother’s apartment, opened the door only to find his brother dead on the floor.
He had been lying there for about a week.
Later, my friend said to me, “Ken, death is ugly.”
And so it is.
There is no getting around it.
My dad, at age 87, is getting pretty feeble.
And a few weeks ago, my mother and father were sitting at the breakfast table, when my dad suddenly cried out to my mom, “I need help.”
After that, I am told that his eyes rolled back in his head and his body went limp.
My mother didn’t call 9-11 because they do not want to have their lives prolonged at this point.
She was sure he was dying, and it scared her terribly.
When I found out about it, I sobbed and sobbed.
It made the inevitable very real.
I’m gonna miss my dad.
I love him beyond words.
What will life be like without him?
I can’t imagine.
Death breaks up families.
People miss those loved ones who have gone ahead of them.
Death is odious.
We can’t pretend otherwise.
But death does not have the last word!!!
And we can thank God for that.
We can thank God for our Savior Who promises, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die.
Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
On All Saints’ Day, we, the Church of the Risen Savior, turn our attention to those saints of our past, people whose lives bear witness to our hope, rooted in the Gospel, that proclaims God’s victory over death.
And as we celebrate this day, we do well to keep in mind that, as the passage from Hebrews, which we used as our Call to Worship, promises that we are “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses” who are cheering us on, who are waiting for us on the other side.
Therefore, we are called to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and…fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith…”
This is the Only Way!!!
In an age of war, famine, natural disasters like hurricane Sandy, epidemics, genocide, God offers us the faith that can move mountains—it’s the “countertestimony” to all manner of evil, brokenness, strife and the claims of the devil.
As we see in our Gospel Lesson, God steadfastly refuses to allow death the final word.
For “the resurrection and the life” enters into our suffering, into the world that God so loves!!!
And God Himself makes it clear that death is ugly, repulsive and it is the enemy.
Mary, Martha and Lazarus had been some of Jesus’ best friends.
It is believed that Jesus spent much time at their home, even after Lazarus was raised from the dead: eating, drinking, and relaxing.
It was a place where Jesus where was accepted.
It was, for Jesus, “a home away from home.”
Anyhow, when Jesus saw His dear friend, Mary of Bethany, crying “and the Jews who had come with her crying also, he was deeply disturbed and troubled.
He asked, ‘Where have you laid him?’
They replied, ‘Lord, come and see.’”
And we are told in what has been referred to the shortest verse in the Bible that Jesus “began to cry,” or “Jesus wept.”
Jesus weeps for the death of Lazarus and for the pain of those who loved him.
And Jesus weeps with us when we are mourning, hurting and sad.
Death is the enemy.
Death is ugly.
Death was not the original intent.
And death does not have the final say!!!
Because of the Fall of humankind, death entered our world, but because of Jesus Christ and His love for us—where we are originally from and where we are headed—is the same: it is God.
In our Scripture Reading from Revelation which Jean read earlier, there is a vision of “a new heaven and a new earth.”
The “holy city” comes “down out of heaven from God.”