Sermon, All Saints Day
Rite of Confirmation Sunday November 1, 2015. St Petri John 11: 32-44 32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” 38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.” 40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
It is easy to believe that Confirmation is about graduation from having to apply one’s self to learning of the Word and how to live it ever again. Confirmation Day is no graduation day.
It is easy to believe that the church is a club for families who choose to believe in the Bible or who want to be good, and that Confirmation is an initiation rite into the club. Once you are in you are in for the rest of your life – whether or not you worship God with the life he has given you or not.
It is easy to believe that Confirmation is all about knowing things; all about the intellect, the mind and one’s ability to retail mere information. It’s not.
Let’s take all those easy beliefs; those old “grave clothes” that hold us back and bury them in Lazarus’ empty grave this morning.
Confirmation is none of these. It is much more. It is another Lazarus day – a resurrection of a dead body day. It is another moment of miraculous Holy Spirit powered transformation of the body, the mind the soul and a whole community of people – the saints of all time.
Lazarus: The man is dead, dead, dead. He has not got a hope in hell of breathing, living, enjoying, seeing, hearing; being alive again. Four days. Stinking, ugly, wrapped up in a mummy pose with cloth. Bound, dark, without hope, breath, future or present.
But death, doubt, fear and chains of bondage to them will be smashed today because Someone is weeping. Someone is “deeply moved” for this loved man who is under death’s ugly thumb.
As the grief and the sorrow of the whole community wail on outside his tomb, Lazarus’ sister, family and the friends see the weeping man. They sense the deeply troubled spirit of the Rabbi welling up.
They wonder about him. They know he fixed up people without sight. He healed people of life-threatening leprosy. He even resurrected a young girl back to life. Why not Lazarus? They told the Teacher his very good mate, Lazarus, was in trouble days ago but the Rabbi stayed put. And now Lazarus is gone. It’s too late for anything to be done now…. Death has got him. Another family ripped apart by dark death; another loved person taken.
There is deep anger at death’s dark presence over stepping its authority and taking too much in this weeping, along with loss – personal loss of a fellow human being and friend. But the weeping ceases. Four words come out. “Take away the stone”.
“Surely not!” we can hear the gathered town gasp. “Surely the respectful thing to do is let death have its way and admit defeat. “Show some respect, Jesus. Let the dead rest in peace…”.
Now a prayer is prayed for all to hear. “Thank you, God, for this”. Thank you!? “Thank you, Father for what you can and will do so that sinners are transformed – doubt turns to faith, grief to joy, impossible to possible – hearts overflowing with transforming love…”
Three short, sharp and loud words come out. “Lazarus, Come out!”
Now that is Confirmation! Young people, you are Lazarus. This is another moment of coming out from death to life, from no future to bright future, from going it all alone in life to being enfolded in a sea of loving people in a global community of thankful and joyful people.
What happened to Lazarus has already happened to you. There was a day when you all experienced this life giving, transforming miracle moment when the resurrected Jesus, gave you everything he won for you on his cross and empty grave. He has already placed his family seal on you – the gift of his Spirit in you.
You were like Lazarus. Dead. Dead to life and faith and joy and his purposes. But by your parent’s nurture, you were drowned in the font and then resurrected by his breath – his Word. You are Lazarus.
You have been buried with Jesus in the tomb he would occupy just a week after this Lazarus sign event. You were raised from all of that death, and hopelessness, blindness, fear, guilt and shame with him as he took you by the hand and led you out of the tomb with the stone rolled away into his light. Death does not hold you. The mummy cloths are off. You are free to walk, run, learn, relate and live in him and for him and his people – the saints of all time.
You’re now and tomorrow is lived together with us. In him and his mighty resurrection power and there is hope, there is community, there are the ‘saints of all time’ with you and around you urging you on to be made new over and over again as you grow and change and experience life with others.
Can we say today that this is no graduation day at all. This is a resurrection day – an affirmation of who you already are in your baptism into Jesus.
No human being has ever graduated from struggling with, learning in, experiencing the Living Word of Jesus acting in their heart and mind everyday of their life. Even Lazarus still needed to eat, drink, live and learn with others the rest of his life. So do you. So do I.
Can we say that this place is no mere club, but a community of the ‘saints of all time”? Lazarus is here. Moses, the Prophets, all those who are already in glory at rest with the Lord. This is a gathering of the holy people of God, who have been made holy by the blood of Jesus and his costly sacrifice for the idolatry, violence, arrogance and pain of human beings. You belong here and you need here and us.
We need you to see this journey of life and faith through with Jesus at your core. It goes better that way!
We are so glad you are here, young people. Thank you, parents for all your good work these years. Thank you God for working through parents, mentors, teachers, people and pastors to nurture faith in young people.
Today with the saints of all time we enjoy a great moment. We are all growing into Christ together, no matter our age. We are right here to help each other – old to young, young to old. We love the fact that the Lord is with us.
Today we see that in a special way as we hear you speak of your faith and share in that confession of faith in our God together. The Holy Spirit is at work in his local church, school, families and community!
People of God, “Come out’ today. Throw off the worry for our future and the fear of failing or the anxiety about change. Be resurrected, transformed by the renewing of your minds by the Word of Christ in whose death and resurrection we have life, joy, community and freedom. Saints of all time. That is who we are!