Sacred Soil

Future Story
November 4, 2012, 10:15 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

All Saints Day

November 4, 2012

Isaiah 25:6–9
Psalm 24
Revelation 21:1–6
John 11:32–44

It’s been a devastating week, in the truest sense of the word devastation. From the Caribbean to Maine, life has been completely upended, tossed about in mighty waves, blown from its very foundations. Our hearts break, as Hurricane Sandy has claimed so much.

There are too many who still long for clean water, for food, for electricity.

Today we will take a special collection as a way to support those affected. As a small way of sharing our desire, our hope, that things will get better, that people will know that we care, that relief will come.

Yet, hope is a strange word for those whose lives have been flooded with the waves of the Atlantic, the grief of losing a loved one, the utter despair and frustrations that haunt us. It is a strange word when the evidence of life and picture presented is as muddy and dim as a town ransacked by Sandy. It is a strange word, when there seems no way forward, when it seems everything is struggle.

But on examination, it seems that hope itself is actually a function of struggle. It is a function of the belief that we have a “future story,” that there must be something better than this. Even if we cannot imagine it. Even if it is buried under mud and debris, pain, and grief. Shadowed by the whispers of improbability.

In our Gospel text this morning, Martha had lost hope. Her brother had died, despite their desperate pleas that Jesus come with all due haste. Laid in the tomb, bound in grave clothes, and sealed behind stone, Martha was sure that every ounce of hope lay locked behind an impossible door, shrouded in stench. The only glimmer she had lay in a far off dream that she barely understood.

Seeing Martha in grief, Jesus responded with his own tears. Some have proposed that Jesus’ tears reflected frustration, as much as grief. Grief that this beloved one had died and frustration that we so easily lose our hope.

With a great crowd around him, a swarm of frustration and confusion, the stone is rolled away, and Jesus calls into the tomb: Lazarus, come out. I imagine his words fell silently on the crowd, as they burrowed into the people, sinking into a sickening sense of embarrassment for Jesus, for themselves. And then, despite themselves, they heard a stirring, a shuffle, movement. And suddenly, the knot of despair was loosened, and hope was born again as Lazarus stumbled out. While the gathered still held their breath, Jesus leaned into them, pleading that they unbind him, and let him go. I’m certain that in so doing, they unbound their own capacity to hope.

The challenge though, is that we, who have yet to see a man rise from the dead, well we tend to get pretty cynical about hope. This is the stuff of fairy tales and day dreams.

Indeed, our culture honors the realistic and precise. Measuring our hope in poll numbers, well measured predictions. We want to be sure what we can expect, preparing ourselves for the worst case scenario with survival kits, retirement savings, and insurance policies.

And while there is a place for being realistic. But if we were always realistic:

  • Our ancestors would not have ventured to this swampy land to build churches that inspired the faith of so many generations.
  • No one would have ever thought a bunch of Swedes and Bohemians could make a church that would risk itself to be open to all people.
  • We wouldn’t be here today, encouraging a new generation of faith.

Our ancestors, the Saints of old, gave us the faith, a faith rooted in a certain hope for the future. They gifted us with an understanding that God’s church matters in the lives of those gathered here now, and into the future. They gave us the certain hope that God would work through us now, and for generations to come.

Here’s what this looks like:

  • It looks like Sunday School teachers, who invest in children and teach these sacred stories.
  • It looks like the people of this community who work to make the world a better place, through volunteering with the food pantry, Hepzibah, CROP walk, the library, giving blood.
  • It looks like people who treat their coworkers and employees with dignity and respect—even though there are days this is a challenge.
  • It looks like people who love their community, helping with PADS, our schools, encouraging meaningful civic involvement.

These are all things born of hope, born of faith, granted to us by the faith and hope of those who have gone before us. They are small hopes that rest in our great hope, the promise God has given each of us.

And the thing is we are invited into bigger hopes yet: hopes that fundamentally change those things that break our hearts. Hopes that are larger than a single generation. Perhaps even larger than our imagination.

The hope that all children will have a warm and safe place to be at night. The hope that our education systems would honor the potential and possibility in each child. The hope that all of our elders would be regarded with dignity and respect. These are hopes that seem impossible—and yet I believe God invites us to long for them regardless of our capacity to achieve them. Regardless of whether or not they are realistic, because it turns out, our God’s hopes have always been beyond us. Always.

God’s are the type of hopes that raise the dead.

It is true and real, there are days of tears. Days that seem impossible. And yet even our grief points to our longing, our hope that one day all our tears will be wiped dry, and we will all, with Lazarus, gather at that great feast upon the mountain. A feast with good food, and great wine.

So, for now, we make do with a glimmer, with a foretaste of that feast to come. Gathering here, at this table, sent out into the world as signs of God’s great promise, signs of real hope. We rise up as God’s great Saints, resting God’s hope for all creation. God’s hope, which is most definitely a sure promise.


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