The Adventurous Lectionary – All Saints – November 1 and 7, 2021

The Adventurous Lectionary – All Saints – November 1 and 7, 2021 October 29, 2021

The Adventurous Lectionary – All Saints Day and Sunday – November 1 and 7, 2021
Isaiah 25:6-9
Psalm 24
Revelation 21:1-6a
John 11:32-44

All Saints Sunday – and All Saints Day – celebrates the interplay of tradition and transformation. We remember the saints, those who were faithful to God throughout history and in our congregations, and commit ourselves to embody the living thoughts, values, and actions of our deceased companions and saints of the church. We grieve on such days, but also rejoice in their lives and the difference they made. They live on with God and in us. We affirm that with God nothing of value is ever lost and whatever is loved shares in God’s everlasting life.

On All Saints, “we sing a song of the saints of God,” remembering transformational persons and our own experiences of transformation. And “I mean to be one, too.” Perhaps, just as we are all mystics and are unaware of it, we are all saints in the making, and saints for our time, not a past era. As I reach my 69th year, and a type of “retirement,” still teaching and writing, but only occasionally preaching and speaking, I still want to matter, I want to leave a mark, make a difference, and add to the beauty of the world – I want to be a saint, or Bodhisattva, or little Christ, and perhaps this is your goal too. Yet, my mortality is ever before me, treasuring each day, and also wondering what I will do with the rapidly passing of my life.

Isaiah calls for celebration. The days of exile and sorrow are gone. Now a feast is served. Laughter and merriment replace tears and pain. Loss and death will be no more in God’s Shalom banquet. Isaiah invites us to look at our own pain as well as the pain of our churches and nation. We must dream of this banquet where everyone is healed and every life matters. As we celebrate the saints among us, we need to create a world in which saints can emerge. This is an issue of justice, opportunity, and support. Accordingly, it is appropriate for us to proclaim “black lives matter” and “LBGTQ lives matter,” and “Asian lives matter” for we yearn for – and must work for – a world in which the streets are safe for civilians and law enforcement alike, where mothers and fathers trust the powers that be to keep their children safe, and where radical disparities of power and economics are eliminated. We yearn for the day of Shalom, but know it won’t happen unless we do our part.

The interplay of sorrow and celebration reminds us that saints experience trials, but discover God in the pain and live with the hope of creative transformation and healing for themselves and our world.

Psalm 24 affirms that the earth is God’s. God is the owner and patron and we are God’s stewards. Psalm 24 calls for an ecological civilization and earth care. The world is beautiful but only those with pure hearts will appreciate its grandeur and discover God with each new day. Though the earth will outlast us, we can bring beauty and not ugliness to the earth. We can be gardeners of creation, keeping it verdant and healthy for future generations.

In a world where some believe the majority of humankind will be “left behind,” Revelation 21 affirms that God will make all things new. All things new! There will be a new heaven and a new earth, and our world will come to resemble Jesus’ Prayer, “on earth as it is in heaven.” The structures of evil bring much pain to our world, and in God’s time, they will be transformed, so that every tear will be dry and each life fulfilled.

This scripture preaches. Not as a doomsday prophesy but as a call to join God’s aim to world healing. God creates. What initially appears destructive in God’s aim at wholeness is, in fact, pruning of the cumber that gets in the way of our relationship with God and our quest for justice.

The “celestial surgeon” inspires the restless spirit that leads to conflict between the ways of life and death, but in this divine surgery even the “evildoers” will eventually find healing. God’s home is with us and in us, and God’s aim is to heal this good earth in partnership with us. Knowing that God will be with us in the future, we move from the sidelines to the frontlines, as God’s companions in creating a new earth.

The story of Lazarus is a challenging one. We have trouble believing that the dead can be resuscitated. Three hours – not three days – without oxygen brings irreversible brain death.
Yet, Jesus commands, “Lazarus come out!’ Such resuscitation is not impossible in light of Jesus’ resurrection power, even if we have no way of explaining or repeating it. In a world of a trillion galaxies, we cannot fully understand the powers resident in nature. There may be deeper realities in which the dead are raised, both physically and spiritually. Still, we need to hear Jesus’ words addressed to the dead parts of ourselves, “Come out! Come alive! Let new life emerge, no longer let past mistakes or death-full experiences paralyze you. Even if you stink, you can be revived and chart a new life.”

Similar to the virgin birth, the raising of Lazarus and Adam’s rib may be as much about spiritual transformation, and the deeper movements of healing, as physiology. God calls us to come out, to claim new life, and to burst forth from all that is death-full to experience abundant life for ourselves and the forgotten, maligned, and lost.

So let us sing a song of the saints – our planet’s, our congregation’s, and our own – and vow to be fallible and forceful, faithful and far sighted saints in our time.
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Bruce Epperly is a theologian, spiritual guide, “retired” pastor, and author of over 60 books, including MYSTICS IN ACTION: TWELVE SAINTS FOR TODAY; PROCESS THEOLOGY: EMBRACING ADVENTURE WITH GOD; PROPHETIC HEALING: HOWARD THURMAN’S CONTEMPLATIVE ACTIVISM; and 101 SOUL SEEDS FOR GRANDPARENTS WORKING FOR A BETTER WORLD. He may be contacted for conversation and engagements at drbruceepperly@gmail.com.

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