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11.01.09 The Table of Remembrance, Isa 25, Rev 21, John 11 Sermon Summary

by on November 2, 2009

It’s especially appropriate on All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days to share the sacrament of the Lord’s Table. For the meal hosted by God is a symbol of God’s overcoming adversity, and especially death. Isaiah assures us that God will “swallow up” death, destroying the shroud and sheet that hangs over all people.

In contrast to death and dying, eating is a sign of health. One of the benchmarks for those in the hospital is when and what they can eat. The meal with God permeates the scriptures, from Jewish practices of sacrifice to Jesus’ eating with sinners. The Lord’s Supper is a reminder of God’s overcoming adversity and death, and not just for us, but for all people. And so when we gather at the Table this day, we remember God’s faithfulness to the Saints and Souls who came before us. Here at the Table, they are present.

The meal with God is also the sacrament of God’s intimate presence. The passage from Revelation picks up the image from Isaiah of God wiping away the tears of all who are in emotional and spiritual distress. Certainly the grief of death and dying justifies such distress. And if we are, in the present moment, not grieving a death, we might all well grieve the fact that we ourselves are dying. We are all on the steady decline towards our own demise, regardless how shallow the slope might presently feel.

But Isaiah and Revelation assure us that, in death and in dying, God is with us. God wipes away our tears. In another intimate image, God welcomes us as a groom welcomes a bride. And of course we find here again the supreme image of God’s nearness, a reference to the meal.

This meal is our reminder that God overcomes adversity. It’s also the sacrament of God’s intimate presence. It’s also the assurance that Christ is with us in death and in dying. And that’s the primary point of the story of the raising of Lazarus.

Four days after Lazarus has died, long after his body has been entombed in a cave, Jesus has the stone rolled away and calls him forth from the grave. It is a miraculous story, to be sure, but it is merely a foreshadow of Jesus’ own resurrection. Lazarus will die again. Death is inescapable for us, and Lazarus is no exception. His revivification is temporary.

By contrast, Jesus’ resurrection is eternal. His resurrection from the dead is to a new and everlasting life. Earlier, to comfort the grieving sisters Mary and Martha, Jesus says that he himself is the resurrection and the life. It is in Christ that new life is found, even new life arising out of death.

And so just as Jesus was able to comfort the sisters at the death of their brother Lazarus, so Jesus is present with us as comfort in our death and dying. The comfort of God’s presence is pervasive, exhaustive, unending, and eternal.

Jesus reminded Mary and Martha, that if they believed, they would see the glory of God. Here at this Table, Christ invites us once again to believe. Christ is here, with all the Saints and Souls, to comfort us in death and in dying, with the presence of God.

Note on All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day: From the early 5th century, the church has had an All Saints’ Day to commemorate all those Saints who didn’t have their own day. It was moved to November 1 in the 8th century. In the late 10th century All Souls Day was added November 2 to commemorate all those souls who we remember, but who are not officially recognized Saints.

Questions Leading to Application

Who are some of the Saints in your life? Whose Souls do you miss today? Do something in their memory: offer a good work, help someone they would have helped, pray for them by envisioning their beatitude before God.

In what ways are you in touch with your own dying? Are you grieving the loss of an ability? Is there some way you are metaphorically dying? Remember the comforting assurance of Christ’s presence to Mary and Martha, and that same presence to us in the Lord’s Supper. God is not late in coming to your aid. His absence is always followed by his presence. Believe and see.

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One Comment
  1. Kit permalink

    Dr. Tom, my Saint that I remembered yesterday and every day of my life was my father, Rev. William L. DeVane. He was the most loving, giving, God loving, man that I ever knew. He would not tolerate hate in his children. There was no such thing as racism because we are all children of God. Thank you for letting me share this yesterday.

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