Communion of Saints

 

READ:

Revelation 21:1-6a

John 11:32-44

Anyone who has been a good parent, sibling, child, spouse, relative or friend has known what it feels like to sit beside another who is grieving.
We try our best to comfort them with our words, but we quickly find out that it’s actually just our presence that matters most.
Rather than trying to come up with some blanket statement or empty cliche to just fill the space or try to fix the problem,
simply sitting beside them, staying with them, comforting them by just being there with them in our silent empathy is the thing that is most comforting.
And sometimes we even shed tears with them.
Is there no greater act of love than solidarity?
As the parent of two small boys, I couldn’t bring a beloved pet back to life, let alone a family member.
But I also occasionally couldn’t fix the broken toy that was damaged beyond repair or find the beloved stuffed animal lost somewhere between home and the shore.
And certainly I couldn’t be there to intervene when the school bully made one of my boys feel powerless or inadequate.
As a dad, my heart breaks for them.
And no promise spoken is greater than the one promise that was made and has been honored since before they were born:
“I will be beside you always.”

Lazarus
This is Jesus’s promise to his dear friend Lazarus, as well as Martha and Mary, and all of us, too.
In our reading in John this morning, we find Jesus gets word that Lazarus is dying, and he doesn’t go to him immediately.
Only after hearing Lazarus had died does he make the short trip from Jerusalem to Bethany — and it’s four days after Lazarus has been in the tomb.
When he arrives, both Mary and Martha are beyond grief.
They even shout at Jesus for not coming sooner so he could heal him.
Verse 32: Mary “fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.’”
And Jesus, who knew and loved Lazarus, sees the sisters crying as well as others mourning with them, and he becomes disturbed and troubled, John tells us.
And Jesus begins to cry with them.
They approach the tomb, and again, Jesus is greatly disturbed.
###
There are a few things going on here:
The first, is that he is crying for those in mourning.
Jesus is sympathetic to their pain, and he’s visibly moved by it.
The second is that Lazarus has become very close to Jesus, and Jesus — who knows the power of the resurrection — still grieves for the loss of Lazarus and that his friend had to suffer with the illness that eventually claimed his life.
The third is that Jesus is also disturbed and troubled by all those surrounding him who have seen with their own eyes the miracles Jesus has performed.
Martha even tells Jesus “I know that he will rise in the resurrection on the last day…”
Mary admits that if Jesus had just been there, Lazarus would still be alive.
They know the power and the promise that Jesus represents, yet they are grieving the loss.
And while we might want to be quick to say, “Well, we shouldn’t grieve either. For all who love God will be resurrected, too!…”
…we also must not gloss over the fact that Jesus is grieving here as well.
Even though Jesus knows of that same power and promise.
Revelation 21 tells us…
“God will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more…
“And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new."
This is not simply resurrection on a single basis; but on all things.
Just as with Lazarus, God isn’t making all new things;
God is making all things new.
All that God has created — not just Lazarus, and you and me, but everything that God has created.
This world.
It’s not going to be scrapped in place of a new world;
it’s God’s world made new.
That’s what resurrection is.
We are made new,
and we will live forever — not replaced, but redeemed — in the presence of the Lord.
All of us, all together.

What is healing?
Could Jesus have simply made the trip when he was told Lazarus was sick and dying, and then come and heal him?
Absolutely.
But the people have already seen that.
They needed to know what Jesus was really talking about was resurrection.
Jesus wants to make it clear that it’s not simply Jesus who is going to raise Lazarus, but it is God who will resurrect him.
Verse 40: Jesus looks up and gives thanks to God.
Then says, “Lazarus, come out!”
Bound by the cloths of death, Jesus says “Untie him, and let him go.”
We must note that when Jesus rises from the tomb on Easter Sunday, he’s already been unbound,
which signifies death cannot contain what God has made eternal.
Jesus — and us — will arise completely free from the bonds of death.
Again, not a new thing, but a thing made new.

Grieving
Certainly, we grieve our losses, and the losses of those near and dear to us.
Just like before raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus looks up to God and says, “Father, thank you for hearing me. I know you always hear me…”…
…God is hearing the Son through the sound of tears.
We cry, too.
And God hears us.
And God not only hears us, but God cries with us, too.
And then God acts.
Our tears — our love — moves God into action.
What is that action?
All things new.
All things new.

Communio Sanctorum
Friends, those who have gone before us in this world and in our lives have been resurrected to eternal life.
Not new, different people; but the people we know and love made new.
Made new because of God’s love and faithfulness.
And brought into communion not only with God, but with us here today as well.
Communio sanctorum — this spiritual union of the members of the Christian Church, present and past.
All a part of the body — this mystical body — in which we all lovingly work for and contribute to the good of all,
with Jesus Christ leading us in the power of the Holy Spirit.
We affirm the Communion of Saints in our Apostles Creed.
We join with all the company on earth and in heaven when we partake in becoming Christ’s body through which we call Holy Communion, which we will begin in a few moments.
You see, this is a critical part of who we are, and we need to understand what’s happening here.
God isn’t going to scrap this world and everything in it to build a new one in which we all just float around;
and it’s not simply a “some future day” idea either;
it’s happening right now, all around us, in front of us, and behind us.
It doesn’t begin in some future time;
it began with Christ.
And it didn’t end with Christ’s death.
The plan is God’s ultimate redemption, and the work began with Christ.
And it continued with all those who have gone before us.
This Cloud of Witnesses.
This Communion of Saints.
And it continues here today, and we have all been called — all invited — to participate in that ongoing work.
There is a legacy that calls us to God’s redemptive work.
We get to decide if we want to be a part of that.
And we certainly have everything we need in the power of the Holy Spirit to do just that.
To literally break the bonds of death in this world.
To unshackle the slaves to sin and death and unbind the lost and broken-hearted.
We here today celebrate this very Communion of Saints,
not just to remember them;
but to honor them in rolling up our sleeves and working toward God’s redemptive plan.
This is God’s answer to our tears.
The best thing we can do for Christ and those who have gone before us,
and who today stand beside us in our times of tears
is to truly take part in this communion.
To bring light to a dark world.
And to dry the tears of those who for whatever reason both here and around the world need our solidarity. Let us pray

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