All Saints Sunday Meeting Jesus: Martha

Meeting Jesus: Martha
A Message on John 11:17-27
For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
Nov. 3, 2019 (All Saints Sunday)
By Doug Wintermute

John 11:17-27 (NRSV)

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

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Today is All Saints Sunday, the first Sunday after All Saints Day, which is Nov. 1.

As a matter of fact, the holiday we just had, normally associated with candy and costumes, gets its name, “Halloween,” from a contraction of “All Hallows Eve,” the day before All Saints Day

In Mexico, especially the central and southern areas, there is a cultural celebration of Día de Muertos, or “Day of the Dead.” According to the always helpful resource Wikipedia, “The multi-day holiday involves family and friends gathering to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and helping support their spiritual journey. In Mexican culture, death is viewed as a natural part of the human cycle. Mexicans view it not as a day of sadness but as a day of celebration because their loved ones awake and celebrate with them.”

As Christians we don’t necessarily believe that our deceased loved ones awake and celebrate with us, but we do have something that we do celebrate: resurrection.

Resurrection means raising from the dead, the restoration of life. Someone died, and yet they are brought back to life through their faith in Jesus Christ.

In preparing for this message I realized something: us preachers, particularly myself, don’t preach on resurrection as much as we should. I think I know why. We preach it at funerals, which is important, but that leads us into a false belief that we have covered the topic pretty well. The problem with that is than many of you in our congregation can’t or don’t attend funerals.

So today, All Saints Sunday, we are going to talk about resurrection.

Resurrection is at the heart of Christianity. I will go so far as to question whether you are a Christian if you don’t believe in resurrection. As we say in the Apostle’s creed,

“I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic** church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.”

In the scripture we read today we find that Jesus shows up at Bethany after being informed that his friend, Lazarus, has died. Lazarus is the brother of Martha and Mary, who Jesus also considered as friends.

We usually look at this section of scripture and focus on the fact that Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, even though Lazarus has been in the tomb for four days. Today, however, I want to focus on something Jesus says to Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”

Lazarus being resurrected from the dead foreshadows Jesus’ own death and resurrection. But he proclaims to Martha what will happen after his own death, except he says it in present tense, which means he already has the power of resurrection.

Listen to this paraphrase from The Message: “You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all.”

Did you catch that last sentence? “And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all.”

This All Saints Sunday we recognize those of our congregation who have died since the last All Saints Sunday. It’s a pretty long list, and there are so many long-time, faithful, members’ names on that list. We miss them. We mourn their passing.

And yet we are comforted because we know that’s not the end of the story. We know about the resurrection of the dead, and that not only comforts us, but it gives us hope and courage for the future. Death does not win. Love does.

So my challenge to you this week is to remember and celebrate that we are a resurrection people! That gives us hope! That gives us joy, not only for ourselves but for all the saints that have gone on before us.

And that gift, that grace, is given to us by Jesus Christ, God’s only son, who willingly went to his death on a cross so that we might have that grace and hope.

So as we mourn those who have joined the church triumphant, we remember the words of the old hymn: “When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus we’ll sing and shout the victory!”

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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