Monday, November 05, 2018

All Saints 2018

John 11:32-44

32When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." 35Jesus began to weep. 36So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" 37But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"

38Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days." 40Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"

41So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, "Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me." 43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."

Today we celebrate All Saints Day/Sunday. Although historically this feast day has focused on the Church Triumphant, the celebration very much includes those of us still in the visible church that's sometimes called the church militant. We'll talk about sanctification, theosis, divinization: those three words mean the same thing. In baptism we become saints and receive the spirit of life that's the spirit of resurrection from the dead we hear about in today's reading from St. John's gospel. The sanc prefix to a word means holy, just as in the Sanctus/"Holy, Holy, Holy" we sing during the liturgy. Western churches generally use the term sanctification to refer to the process of becoming holier, more consistently thinking, acting, and being like Jesus; "divinization" with the divine root means the same; Eastern Churches typically refer to Theosis that has the Theo or God word root—all three terms describe claiming, growing into, and living out our divine nature of being holy, just as God is holy.

As we did for All Saints 2017, we'll talk about saints we have known in our own lives. These holy ones could be neighbors, parents, friends, relatives still on earth or in the company of heaven; they could be people in scripture or famous saints known to most of the world like Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Kolkata, Francis, Claire, Augustine, etc.

Our scripture readings necessarily are what we call pericopes, literally cut out from the surrounding passages ("peri" = around, surrounding; "cope" = cut). Although we need to consider the probable historical context of any scripture, and we need to consider events before and after it, obviously we can't talk about everything every time. However, to contextualize Jesus' raising Lazarus from the dead, we need to know the event comes after Jesus' "I am the resurrection and the life" statement in verse 25, and before Lazarus' sister Mary has anointed Jesus into his death {referenced in John 11:2, described in John 12:2-7). John 12:2 tells us about Martha, Mary, and the formerly dead man Lazarus hosting a dinner party. Remember post-resurrection Jesus as dinner host and guest on several occasions?

Just as later on when we read about Jesus' death and resurrection, this gospel reading brings us a dead man, a tomb, grave cloths or embalming wraps, a stone, a weeping Mary. In baptism we receive the holy spirit of life, the power of resurrection from the dead. Jesus commands the people witnessing his raising Lazarus to new life from death to participate in the act of resurrection to "unbind him, and let him go." We also have the power to help unbind and release people from aspects of death that prevent them from moving and living; we possess the spirit of resurrection to help free and liberate individuals and creation.

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