Have you ever sat and watched the sunrise?
The hints of purple… turning pink… and then neon orange as the sun peeks over the horizon.
What a profound thing to realize that each morning, as we wait for the sun to rise in our sky, it has already risen for our neighbors to the east… and set for our neighbors to the west.
We are waiting for something that has already happened.
Throughout this month and the season of Advent, we will be exploring these sorts of paradoxes and promises…
The already and the not yet…
The things that have happened that are about to happen again.
Of course the most obvious of these is the coming of Christ.
We remember that he came as a child to Mary and Joseph to save us from our sins.
But we also are waiting for him to come again and take us home.
And not yet…
Today, we will explore words of great comfort, as we are reminded that the promises of the resurrection are real and present for those we have lost… even as we await for the glorious day of resurrection with our Lord.
And Not yet…
A sunset, seen from the other side is a sunrise (Bishop Rueben Job)
Today is a special day in the life of the church when we take time to remember those who have experienced the final sunset of their lives.
But we do so, holding firmly to the promise that what we see as a sunset, is merely the beginning of a new dawn, a new life.
And we acknowledge that those who have died… these flames that flicker before us… they are still with us… still waiting like we are to experience the glory of God.
I have very little knowledge about the mysteries of death. No amount of book learning can prepare us for whatever might await us. But I can speak with certainty about the promises of scripture.
One of those promises comes to us from the Wisdom of Solomon – the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God and no torment will every touch them… they seem to have died, but they are at peace… their hope is full of immortality.
One of those promises comes to the thief crucified beside our Lord – he is promised that today he will be with Jesus in paradise.
In the book of Revelation we have the promise of the day of resurrection – when we will all be raised and clothed in our recreated bodies and there will be weeping and crying and pain no more.
In the gospel of John, after their brother has died, the sisters Mary and Martha are besides themselves with grief… each one pleads with Jesus – “if you had been here, my brother would not have died!”
Martha knows in her heart – she trusts in the promise that on the last day her brother will be raised again. She knows that he and she and all of us are pressing on and that Christ is the Messiah – the Son of God who will bring us to the other side; to the dawn of resurrection.
And surely Mary understands this also. But that doesn’t take away their pain and grief at the loss of their brother in this life. No longer can they reach out and touch him or hear his laughter or look into his eyes. While they trust in the promises, it doesn’t take away their sorrow.
It doesn’t take away the grief Jesus himself feels as he weeps before the tomb of his friend Lazarus.
What Jesus then does, is to give us a glimpse of the resurrection.
Lazarus – who had been dead for four days – is called out of the tomb.
We are reminded of what awaits us all.
We are reminded that the Lord God will swallow up death forever.
We are reminded that God will wipe away every tear from our faces.
This year, we have said goodbye to many people who were a part of this church family. We have lit a candle for each of them, in honor of their lives among us, the ways they helped to shape our faith, and we wait with them for the day of resurrection.
They have joined the countless other faithful who surround us with love and encouragement.
They join the company of saints with whom we sing praises to God every time we gather around the communion table.
In Isaiah, we are reminded that God will prepare for all peoples a rich feast…
Bread and wine, joy and celebration…
As we gather today around this table, it is a reminder that the feast we are waiting for is already present among us.
It is present here today in the bread and the cup.
But it is also present here today in the company of those we love and lift before God.
As you came in this morning, I hope you received one of these paper angel cutouts.
If you haven’t… will you lift up a hand so we can bring one to you… ?
These slips of paper represent those saints in our lives who have and continue to encourage us in the faith.
We shared meals with them while they lived among us, and we continue to feast with them around the table of the Lord.
They are the names of people who took risks and showed us what trust looked like.
They lived through tough times and survived.
They refused to give in.
They were kind to us when no one else was.
They believed in the promise of resurrections.
This table this morning is set with bread and the cup, but what we bring to this meal, every Sunday we gather, but especially on this All Saints Sunday is the fellowship of each of these saints.
I want to encourage you to take a minute and think about who has been a saint in your life and if you feel led to write their name on your paper.
“Behold, God has made a dwelling among the people. God will live with them and they shall be God’s people. God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying…”
I really wanted to take a moment to tell you a story about one of the saints written on my slip of paper… my Grandma Doni.
But the truth is, I couldn’t do it without crying.
I had the honor of sharing a few words at her funeral in 2002 and I bawled through half of it. I’d be a blubbering mess if I even tried to start.
The day Isaiah lifts up, and John lifts up in Revelation… of no more tears?
That day is not here… yet.
But we hold fast to the promises.
We hold fast to the glimpses of resurrection we have seen throughout history.
We hang on to the amazing, powerful, awesome love of Jesus Christ that went before us through the valley of the shadow of death, who walked through the sunset so that one day, we all might rise again to a new dawn.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
**Photographer Don Poggensee