Message for the All Saints Sunday on John 11:32-44 for November 7, 2021 given at St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Richardson, Texas
I apologize for being remiss in posting this fall! I will catch up with November sermons and post Advent as well. If there are any particular Sundays you would, like please email me and I will send them to you!
My mother-in-law Joan, who is one of the saints that I remember today, died in 2007 and I still remember the sermon the pastor preached at her Memorial service. He told a story of a little girl being tucked into bed at night by her dad—a job usually done be her mom. It came time to say the prayers and her dad said, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I wake before I die ….wait minute, that’s wrong—isn’t it If I die before I wake?” And the little girl said, “no daddy—you’re right, I think we are supposed to wake up.”
The pastor went on to describe Joan as someone who had woken up in her life before she died—that she had woken up to what God was up to, and how God wants us to live. Joan woke up to compassion, and justice for the marginalized; Joan woke up and championed LGBTQ inclusion way before anyone else in the church was even thinking about it.
A few verses earlier than our passage today, Jesus describes raising Lazarus from the dead as “awakening” him from sleep. Theologians like to argue about whether he was really resurrected or resuscitated-–but I am not sure it really matters—the point is that he is sealed in a tomb wrapped in the grave cloths of death for four days. He is not serving, working, loving, providing, speaking, or doing anything. The grief and mourning rituals have begun, and Lazarus is as good as gone. He was dead long enough to stink.
But for Jesus and his power, he is only sleeping. And it is time to wake him up. “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I wake before I die…” First, Jesus thanks God the Father for listening to him always, and to clue in the crowd that what is about to happen is through God’s power, and that Jesus is sent from him. Then all it takes for Lazarus to wake up from the grips of death is for Jesus to call him by name, “Lazarus, come out!”
The Word that called creation into being in the beginning—"let there be light”—this Word that became flesh—now speaks life and creation again—"Lazarus come out!” Jesus has to call Lazarus by name because there is so much power in his Word that if he would have said, “dead man, come out” all the tombs would have opened, and the saints would have arisen as if it were the last day.
So, Lazarus wakes up! And out he comes, still wrapped in the cloths and the bindings of death–but Lazarus is awake to what God is up to and the extent of God’s power in Jesus! He has power over death, even before Jesus’ own resurrection—God has power over death, and he changes it into life—real life!
But we know that already, don’t we? God has shown us that death is transformed into life over and over again—in the cycle of the seasons, in the spring that comes after winter, in the butterfly that emerges from the tomb of the cocoon, in the seed that falls to the ground and dies before it becomes a new stalk of wheat, in the painful breakup that prepares us for a successful marriage, in the loss or grief that brings new growth or positive change over time. God is in the business of bringing full and abundant life even in the face of death, even in the midst of hardship. This is the core of faith in Jesus Christ—we call it the paschal mystery—out of death, life.
Jesus invites not only Lazarus, but Mary and Martha, and the whole community gathered around them—to stop grieving, and to wake up before they die—to wake up to life, to God’s power over death to bring life! Wake up to love, wake up to service, wake up to belief in Jesus’ power, wake up to what matters to God and what matters to building God’s kingdom on earth.
The saints that you remember today are no doubt, people who woke up before they died—people who’s life and faith testified to something bigger than themselves; people who gave love, and hope, and meaning to your life because they shared God’s gifts and calling on their life.
We have been in our own season when Jesus has called us to wake up. In the last year and half, we have woken up to how interconnected the world is, how our behavior affects others’ health and well-being; We have woken up to the effects of climate change and the impact of our own carbon foot print. And we have experienced as a community how God can bring life out of death—we have experienced worship online, outside, inside, amazing music, and the expansion of our technology and worship in community in so many creative ways. Instead of shutting down we have started new ministries like the free community breakfast and Luke’s Learners—that is waking up to what God is doing to bring life out of death.
As a church we have woken up anew to the fact that we have a really desirable location and building that other congregations want, and we have renewed energy and interest in caring for our property and growing our mission. The beginning of our Capital Campaign is a testimony to this. Our stewardship emphasis for 2022 highlights that we are the Body of Christ together, which calls each of us to wake up to how God calls us to serve in order to grow our mission and outreach as we contribute our part.
Like Lazarus, Jesus calls each of us by name, so we can serve him with the gifts and talents he has given us. For us to fulfill our mission and grow, we need everyone to wake up to their gifts and find one new way to serve.
One of the ways I am waking up is working with a church growth coach who has instructed me to give a behavioral task at the end of my sermons. So, I want you to look at the Capital Campaign Teams listed in the Gathering Area and sign up for one Team—because we need you to wake up anew and join in to succeed in securing our future in this place. If you are hesitant because you do not know what’s involved, then sign up anyway, with a note that says you need more information. There will be lots of training with every Team on the Capital Campaign starting this Saturday, so everyone will know what’s involved. If you are on streaming, you can call Carol Rizzo or Carol Brant, or the office to find out how to sign up.
The Capital Campaign is short-term, so part 2 is this week, I want you to get out your Time and Talent Sheets for 2022 and find one new way you are going to wake up anew and serve our on-going mission here. We need more volunteers for the community breakfast! If Rita Humphrey can stand and roll burritos on crutches, you probably can, too! Or you may not be able to get out of the house much—that’s ok—we need pray-ers; we need phone callers, card writers, we need a Weekly Word editor, and we have more tasks than are even listed on the Time & Talent sheets.
If there’s not something listed you feel you can do, Lyn and I can find a way for you to serve—we are very good this! If you do not know how to do something—great, someone can show you because we are the Body of Christ together. So that’s two tasks—one for the Capital Campaign, one for the Time & Talent Sheet, because we are the Body of Christ with all members working together.
The saints that matter to us woke up before they died and we remember them because of their faith, their love, their service. One day it will be you and me for whom the bell tolls and the candles are lit—what do you want people to remember? I want people to look back at this moment in the life of St. Luke’s and to say we woke up.
Jesus calls us to wake up before we die, to believe in Jesus’ power to call forth new life, and to participate with him in bringing life out death, so that we, like the saints before us can leave a legacy of love, hope and mission for those who come after us.
Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I WAKE before I die, I pray the Lord my life be thine. Amen.