Sunday, November 7, 2021
All Saints Sunday, Year B

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, you have knit your people together in one communion in the mystical body of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Grant us grace to follow your blessed saints in lives of faith and commitment, and to know the inexpressible joys you have prepared for those who love you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Readings and Psalm

Isaiah 25:6-9   The banquet of the Lord
Psalm 24
Revelation 21:1-6a   A new heaven and a new earth
John 11:32-44   The raising of Lazarus

Title:  No Shame for Saints

In his unfinished book titled:  Ethics, Dietrich Bonhoeffer defines shame as:  “the human’s permanent and stubborn recollection of their estrangement from the origin; it is the grief for this estrangement, and the powerless longing to return to unity with the origin.”  He continues: “Humans are ashamed because they have lost something that is essential to their original character, to themselves as a whole being.” (pg. 24)  He goes on to connect the shame of this estrangement with what Genesis speaks of as Adam and Eve’s discovery of their nakedness after the fall, after they have sinned, after their rebellion has created this divide between them and their origin – the one we call God, the loving Creator who bestowed on them God’s own image only to have the creature sever the connectedness in which we were to have and live our whole being as God intended.

Shame – the cloak of the sinner – hiding, grieving, alienating, isolating, killing.  It is the cloak that sin dons for each one of us.  It is our burden, it is our condemnation, it is our death.

Lazarus is literally wrapped in it when Jesus arrives at the home of his three friends who are siblings.  Mary and Martha are blinded by it as they welcome Jesus and yet think all hope is lost.

And Jesus, the heart of the Creator made flesh, the one who has come to break through our shame-cloaked existence, to put an end to the estrangement; the savior hears the news of just how final the separation can be, he sees the pain of those who also know that this will be their sin-induced fate, and we read that:  he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.  We also read that Jesus wept.  But his disturbed and deeply moved spirit has may attention this year, because a colleague recently clued me into the fact that this phrase would be better translated that Jesus was boiling mad.

To hear that Jesus was boiling mad, takes me to that other time he was boiling mad when all those money changers and sacrifice sellers were filling the temple and creating an obstacle for people who were seeking God.  Here, at the tomb of Lazarus, it is death that is the obstacle – and Jesus is boiling mad in its face. 

I don’t know about you, but I take great comfort in knowing our God gets boiling mad at anything that means separation and estrangement between the Creator and the created.  I rejoice, that the God made known in Christ rolls away the stones that separate.  That the redeemer gives no regard to the stench that I carry.  And I welcome the unbinding, the stripping away of shame’s cloak, the return to the naked truth that we are created in God’s image, we are sanctified by Christ’s own death and resurrection, and the Spirit lives in and through me in spite of the fact that I am still a sinner.  There is no place for shame.

As Luther put it, we are simultaneously sinner and saint.

The sinner has been drowned in the waters of baptism.  Raised up to be a new creature in Christ, filled with his risen Spirit. Named a child of God.  No longer cloaked in the shame of our own brokenness, but rather adorned in the robe of righteousness that is a gift of grace, delivered through the mercy of God.

All barriers have been destroyed. Isaiah comforted the people with the promise that God will destroy the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; 8God will swallow up death forever.  In Christ, the word made flesh, God does exactly that.  And so the table is set.  The invitation is extended.  The menu is more than we can imagine or have reason to hope for.

John’s Revelation confirms it as God wipes tears from eyes and we are assured that in the fullness of God’s reign there is no more death, all things are being made new.  In Jesus, we only had a foretaste, a glimpse, divinity mixed in with humanity, a hint of what is to come.  In his moments of boiling anger, he gave witness to a God that will make sure that death is no more, mourning and crying and pain are no more.

So, forgiven of sin, freed from shame, risen to new life, sanctified as saints, we gather today.  Called by the God of life and new life, of creation and re-creation.  We are joined with saints who are feasting at God’s heavenly banquet, as we feast on hope and a foretaste of that eternal life where all things are made new.

From our graves, from our shame, from our shrouds, from our tears, from our pain, from our sorrows – let us hear again, with ears and hearts made new in Christ, hear again today and every day, Jesus’ call to COME OUT! Reconnecting us to our origin.  Joy and peace is ours as we are once again assured that the grace and mercy and love of God is bursting forth through Christ, whose new life is unbinding us to live this day in the renewing power of the Holy Spirit, as saints of God.

The Rev. Mark Erson,

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