All Saints Sunday
We are given this Sunday the Gospel of John as he tells us the story of the raising of Lazarus. Jesus had known Martha and Mary and Lazarus as friends. It is in their home we hear the story of Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet while Martha bangs pots and pans angrily in the kitchen. It is here in their home town this story of resurrection occurs.
I am caught off guard each time I read this story by its emotion and grittiness. Jesus deals first with Mary and her pain. He is overwhelmed at the loss he sees in her and feels himself. You can hear it in the words; “see how he loved him”. As he moves to the grave, he encounters Martha and her no-nonsense proclamation that Lazarus is dead and removing the stone will only bring the smell of death with it; he has been dead for four days. But Jesus cried out to Lazarus and out from this tomb comes life, not death. Out of this tomb comes the man bound in a shroud of death. He is literally bound with perfumed pieces of cloth. The words Jesus proclaims at the end of this gospel are the words that always catch me. “Unbind him, and let him go”, free him from this shroud of death.
Jesus’ words at the tomb are the words of our faith. Unbind him, and let him go. I think that is our call as Christians. I think that is the call we have each day, for and to each other. It is the truth of baptism, this going down into the waters of chaos and death and being reborn as creatures of life. That is the action of baptism. We die to the old and are reborn, coming out of the water as new creatures of God. It is the truth of our call to the world, a world bound by the trappings so perfumed, made to be so lovely, that you don’t even realize they are about death, not life. We are bound by wealth. We are bound by expectation. We are bound by social norms. We will not and cannot be saved by how much we own, or by how young and pretty we are. We cannot and will not be saved by property, or money or indeed anything else and the sad part is that it is made to look so appealing and to smell so sweet that we cannot and do not see the truth of death that tempts. Life cannot come from the worldliness of things. As saints of God, as claimers of the good news, we are called to go out and unbind with God's love. And the bindings that this world puts on us are meant to hide the reality of death. But the reality of death cannot be hidden just as it couldn’t with Martha.
Someone once asked me what the devil looked like. I think they thought I would say he was red and scaly; he had horns and was ugly. The devil is not ugly. The devil is the tempter. He is beautiful and beguiling. That is what the world offers. It tempts us. But as Christians, Jesus offers something different.
As we walk through our church year we have wonderful days of proclamation. We celebrate Christmas and the Incarnation. We celebrate Easter and resurrection. We celebrate transfiguration. We celebrate wonderful saints who have shaped our faith. Of all the days we celebrate, All Saints is the one meant for us. The sainthood we celebrate today does not center on the saints we proclaim throughout the year. Today we celebrate our baptisms. We celebrate that we too are a part of this great loud chorus of witnesses. Today we remember the saints who have shaped and changed us, those people who have touched our lives; the saints who taught you in Sunday School, who lifted you up, who forgave you, who loved you. We remember the saints who, because of their presence in our lives, have unbound us to know the truth of God’s resurrection and life. All Saints is the day to remember the saints who have touched and shaped our faith. We remember the people whose names are real. I don’t know who you remember this day, but the saints that sit in this room and the saints that have touched our lives are what we are called to proclaim today.
I hope you will look around this room and remember the saints that have shaped you; the saints that join with us as we gather at God’s altar to proclaim “Holy, Holy, Holy” in the proclamation of God’s redeeming love; a love which destroys Death and brings life. You have been unbound by God's love given in the waters of baptism. You have been shaped. Your call is to go forth and do likewise. You are to go forth as a saint and unbind in the name of our Lord.