Overcoming Death

Friday, Oct 26th, 2012

            Friends with regular preaching responsibilities often ask why I do not post lectionary reflections ahead of the week in which they are scheduled.  (Sounds like they are looking for a Saturday night “friend” as some of our elders described Barclay’s Commentary.]  I will seek to do that in next year’s Trinitarian Soundings, and this week’s post for All Saints Day is demonstration of my commitment.

            All SaintsThe texts for All Saints, Year B, range from scenes of renewed worship in Jerusalem to the vision of a new heaven and a new earth in the Apocalypse, which is prepared by the One who makes resurrection and life possible.  The overcoming of death holds these disparate texts together.

            Isaiah 25:6-9 includes these striking words: “God will destroy . . . the shroud that is cast over all peoples . . . “ Death will not have the last word, for it will be swallowed up by the divine power.  God will also intimately console the grieving by wiping “away the tears from all faces.”  Those who have waited upon the Lord will not be disappointed.

            Psalm 24 may well be a liturgical ceremony that acknowledges God’s reign over all that is.  Perhaps this text is used for All Saints because it portrays the character of the saintly: “Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully” (v. 4).  Saints also know who is worthy of worship—God alone.

            Revelation 21:1-6a unveils the vista of a “new heaven and a new earth,” “the holy city,” and most importantly, that God will dwell in the midst of the people.  Experiencing God’s presence as elusive will come to an end; rather, the Holy One will move among persons, ensuring that death, crying, and pain will be no more.  For those in the midst of anguishing physical extremity, there could be no more comforting a word.  God will conquer all that threatens the flourishing of humanity.

            John 11:32-44 narrates the power of Christ in the raising of Lazarus.  Not only does this story reveal Christ’s great compassion for these friends, it is a sign that death, while excruciating in the agony of separation, will not endure in God’s eternity.

            As we celebrate All Saints in our churches, we recall those who have gone before us with profound trust in the Living God.  They died with confidence that God was making room for them in God’s own eternity.  We also acknowledge those in our midst whose saintly ways shine light for the rest of us. 

Molly T. Marshall

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