Sermon All Saints 2012
Grace, mercy and peace to you from the One who was, who is, and who is to come. Amen.
All Saints Day is about weeping and celebrating.
Remember when you were in Sunday School and you learned the shortest verse in the Bible? We heard it today in the gospel reading. Jesus wept. In our translation, it says, “Jesus began to weep,” but most of us learned it as the shortest verse in the King James Version, “Jesus wept.”
In the Greek Bible that verse is actually 3 words. The shortest verse in the Greek Bible is actually: 1 Thess. 5:16, “Be joyful always.” Today is about both weeping and joyful celebrating.
Jesus weeps with us. The word for weep used here means Jesus cried silently. It means tears began to roll down his face. The others around him were crying aloud in their grief over the death of Lazarus. Jesus is deeply moved and greatly disturbed by their grief.
Jesus cries when we cry. He grieves when we grieve. In one way, today is the Memorial Day for the church, the day we remember each of our members who have died in the past year.
We especially remember eight saints today who died since last All Saints Day. Some of them were active members of St. Mark’s, some not, but all of them were our relatives, our brothers and sisters in Christ.
When we remember them, we remember the love of parents and the kindness and warmth of grandparents. We remember our deep bond with our husband or wife. We remember sisters and brothers, the fun we had together and our sibling rivalry.
We also remember the conflicted times, the less than happy times. We remember both the good and bad of our lives together with them.
All Saints Day is more than just a Memorial Day. We do not remember just for the sake of remembering, or for the sake of weeping again. We want to remember those who have died. But that is not the only purpose we have today.
Today is not just a day about weeping and remembering their death. Today is a day of celebration. We celebrate the festival of All Saints. We celebrate the festival!
Today we are faced with at least two emotions. They seem to be conflicting. They seem to be opposites. We weep and we celebrate at the same time.
Weeping and celebrating are closely connected with another pair of opposites that seem to be conflicting. Already and Not Yet. How can something be already happening and not yet happening? It seems that something must either be in the present or it is the future. Impossible for us, but not for God.
Today’s Old Testament lesson is about a celebration, a banquet. Not just any banquet, either. The LORD God is the chef. The LORD God has prepared a feast for us. All the best and richest food, too. We know what rich means when we talk about food. Rich means expensive and fattening.
The LORD God goes down to the wine cellar and brings up the best wine for the feast. This wine is well aged and has been saved for just this occasion. God spares no expense to provide the absolute best for us.
This celebration is no ordinary celebration. This feast celebrates a once in forever, already, but not yet, event. This feast celebrates the end of death.
But the LORD does not eat the feast with us. What does God eat? The LORD swallows up death forever. We eat the feast and drink the wine. God tastes death.
We were sad and weeping when we were invited to this feast. We could only think of death. We were like people living in a fog. We could not see because of our grief. We were like people crying under the black shadow of death. We were in a deep valley and all our steps were like steps up a mountain.
While we are climbing up that mountain, God sees us. God comes down to us and lifts the veil of fog that surrounds us. God touches each of us and personally wipes away our tears.
God’s feast is spread out on a very big table. That table is so big that it crosses over the river between earth and heaven. That’s where the “Already but Not Yet” comes in. We are not yet at the great feast God has prepared for us in heaven.
The names we read today, and the unnamed saints we lit candles for, those saints are already at that great feast. Each of them enjoys the rich food and fine wine, prepared personally by the LORD our God. Each of them celebrates at that banquet table with all the rest of the saints.
Each of these little candles represents one of the saints sitting at God’s great banquet table. Each of those saints is already enjoying the great feast. They are eating and singing and celebrating together.
They are already at the table with God. They are celebrating. They no longer weep. As they were traveling up the mountain, God wiped every tear from their eyes.
We also are already at the table with God, but not yet. We are not yet there because we still live in this broken world. We still sin. We still hurt. We still get sick. We still grieve and we still weep. We will still die.
We are not yet there because we can’t taste the rich foods prepared by our heavenly Chef. We can’t drink the well-aged wines chosen by the LORD God to warm us with joy.
We are not yet there because we still weep for the saints that we can no longer see, the ones sitting with the God whom we cannot see. We know they are with God, but we still miss them.
We are not yet at the table with God, but we are already there. It is indeed a very big table. It spans the great river between heaven and earth.
We have not yet crossed that river. On our side of the table we taste only a small bite of the food and drink a few drops of the wine.
We are already at the great banquet, because when we eat the small bite of bread and drink the few drops of wine, Christ, our LORD, the host of the meal is present with us. When we eat the bread and drink the wine we do not just eat bread and drink wine.
We eat and drink the body and blood of the One who swallowed up death. For Jesus Christ is the LORD our God. He is the One who prepared the feast. He is the One who chose the wine. He has crossed the river for us. He is the One who swallowed up death forever.
We weep and we celebrate at the same time today. We are already, but not yet at the table of that great high feast.
We weep because of death. Weeping is not a bad thing. Jesus wept at the death of the friend he loved. But we celebrate while we weep.
We celebrate because Christ has swallowed up death forever. We celebrate because Christ will come to our grave like he came to the grave of Lazarus and call us to come out.
Death will be no more, mourning and crying and pain will be no more. Christ has made all things new. Amen.