We Believe In Love

A sermon preached on the Feast of All Saints (transferred), November 4, 2018 at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Kingston, NY.  To read the lessons, click here.  To listen along, click the play button below.  I forgot to start recording right at the beginning, so the first paragraph or so isn’t there… sorry!

“Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
These are Jesus’ words to Martha, and to all those who crowded in deep mourning for their friend, their brother… this man Lazarus.  Lazarus, whose name comes from the Aramaic word El-azar, meaning “God is my help.”

Fire heart“Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
Jesus says this to Martha and it’s not meant to be comforting.  It’s not what we say to people who are grieving the death of a loved one. Jesus himself is weeping in this scene and instead of comforting his friends, he is confrontational.  Challenging them by saying…

“Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
Sometimes I wonder if Jesus wasn’t more distraught over the lack of faith he was witnessing, than over his friend’s death.  But then, what is the difference?  Isn’t it just as painful when you witness the death of someone’s faith?  The death of their wonder?  Their belief in their own inherent goodness and worth?  Their reason for being?

Don’t we also grieve when we love someone and we watch the life leave their eyes?  The joy vanish from their soul?  Isn’t that just like a death?

And when that happens, when we see that happen to someone – especially someone we love – it’s as if a little part of us dies too.  And we become fearful because a part of us loses a little hope. A part of us steels up for some more disappointment.  A part of us gives in to death.  And that part is lying in the tomb with Lazarus.

So Jesus doesn’t comfort us in these moments.  Jesus challenges us, confronting us in our moment of fear… so that we don’t give in to death.  And he says…
“Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

This is a most apt question for us in these times.
Some days, it’s so hard to see the possibility of the Revelation to John:  That God’s home will be here among us mortals.  That God will dwell among the peoples and be with us.  That God will have the capacity to, indeed, wipe every tear from our eyes when we cry so much… and death will be no more.

When every time we turn around there is another act of terror… another mad man kills women at a yoga class or black people in a grocery store.  Sends bombs through the mail to people who have different political views.

Where is God in this madness?  The bigger question, I think, is, where are we?
Where are we?  Locked in fear or living into love?

I was so deeply humbled and heartened to see so many from our community of St. John’s at Shabbat the other night over at Congregation Emanuel. It was a sweet and meaningful worship service.  And so many others from the Kingston churches were there too.  The place was filled as we all demonstrated our love and our sense of community by showing up in support of our Jewish siblings.

And Rabbi Yael was inspiring.  She said something like this (at least this is how I remember it):  When we use the phrase “God’s chosen people,” we are careful to understand its true meaning.  It was never meant to be used to mean that some people are better than other people.  That is not what “chosen” means (and, I would add, it’s not what the word “elect” means in our scriptures today).  It’s meant to be understood that our “chosen-ness” is in our unique-ness.  When we live deeply into who we are called to become, we are God’s chosen people.

And this, as we celebrate All Saints’ today, is what sainthood is really about.

When we live into our reason for being, when we come to the heart of ourselves and learn to give ourselves over to something bigger than our own needs and our wants and our fears, this is when we live fully into Love.  And we become our full selves, our true selves.  We become saints.

It happens in little moments, if we’re paying attention. We all know those moments when it seems that some miracle has taken place because we surprise ourselves.  We do something we’ve never dared to do. We find ourselves opening up to others despite ourselves, letting our guard down, taking risks, leading with love and realizing just how liberated we feel when don’t let our fears control us.

We feel more connected.  We feel more whole. We experience deeper joy and we offer ourselves more to others.

The Communion of Saints that we celebrate today is an assembly of people from across time who chose to live the Way of Love.  They are people that believed deeply in their own belovedness and chose to become the Beloved Community.

“Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

What exactly is it that Jesus is asking us to believe?

We believe that the lessons our rabbi Jesus gave to us in his teaching and in his ministry are meant for us and we continue to learn what they mean and how we can live into them.  We continue to engage with the stories and we continue to come to this Table, the Table of Reconciliation.

We believe in the power of forgiveness – for ourselves and for others.  Because death is not the final word in the Kingdom of God.  And therefore, sin is not the final word in the Kingdom of God.

We believe that we have been gifted with all we need to do the work God has called us to do.  We aren’t looking for what’s missing, we look at the abundance of what we already have and we offer it in thanksgiving.

We believe in our own discipleship, that we are the hands and feet of Christ in this world.  And as such, we strive for justice so that the dignity of every creature of God, every person is upheld and honored.

We believe that we are the ones who are now called to roll away the stone and open the tomb and release Lazarus from his death.

Because we believe in Love.

Love is that which gives life.  And the way of Love means that we live lives that offer proof of God’s love to others.  Proof that God does, indeed, make his home here among mortals as the Revelation to John prophesies.

When we live into our chosen-ness, as Rabbi Yael says it, we come to know… for certain… that we are beloved children of God and every day we give a little more of ourselves over to that Love that is God and God’s glory shines through us.

“Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

What part of you might be in that tomb with Lazarus?  Waiting to be freed?  And… it’s time for you to call on that part of you that is ready to roll the stone away and holler, “Lazarus, come out!”

You are needed in this world.  Your heart is needed in this world.Fire heart

We all have both of these parts.  A part that is afraid, that would rather stay in the tomb, fearful, convinced of our own nightmares.  And we all have a part that yearns to be free of the fears and the burdens we carry, to be resurrected, to be made a new creation.

This resurrection happens when we believe in the way of Love.  And as we live into that Love, our faith in that love grows every day.  We stop believing our fears and we become more confident in the knowledge that Love gives us life.

Because it is Love that will resurrect.  It is Love that will make all things new.  And God’s glory will indeed shine forth.

And now, let us remind ourselves of our baptismal vows:  Vows of Love.  Vows of Life.

About Michelle Meech

I want to unfold. I do not want to remain folded up anywhere, because wherever I am still folded, I am untrue. -Rainer Maria Rilke
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