Sermon Reflection respectfully submitted by Mal Underwood | Sunday, November 4, 2018
As we celebrated the Feast Day of All Saints on Sunday, Mo. Mary reminded us that in one respect it has been a difficult year for our family of Ascension with six of our family members being called home to our heavenly Father. The celebration of All Saints brings all things together in our lives as members of the church universal through our baptism to a new life in Christ, our nourishment and growth as disciples through the Word and sacraments, and ultimately our death in the faith and resurrection to eternal life in glory. But as we all experience, not all in the world are saints of God’s love, light, and life. In the background of our life on earth darkness and unexplainable death lurk, as the Tree of Life Synagogue tragedy demonstrated, causing grief and suffering we cannot comprehend.
The Gospel story of Lazarus speaks very well of the ways of death, darkness, and division. In this familiar episode, Jesus comes to mourn four days after Lazarus dies. Mary complains to him that if he had come earlier he could have saved her brother. Martha does as well but confirms her belief in Jesus as Messiah. In the background, some of the religious elite plot Jesus’ demise. All of these elements clearly show our lives in Christ as good, holy, and yet vulnerable to darkness and death. How are the children of love, light, and life to survive and prosper in the face of these circumstances? Is there a character in this story to guide us to the light? Is it Mary, whose grief mirrors ours in a time of loss? Is it Martha, whose faith in Jesus as the Son of God serves as an example of resilience and encouragement for us? Is it Lazarus, whose resurrection from the dead reminds us of Jesus’ power over death? The most likely is Jesus, who demonstrates his power over death and reminds us that he is the embodiment of love, life, and light. He is the resurrection and the life. And He invites us to participate in God’s life-giving, loving world where our eternal life begins on earth as we also participate in the sharing of love, life, and light to those in need around us.
Mo. Mary shared three stories to demonstrate:
· Mr. Rogers of television fame was a Presbyterian minister from Pittsburgh whose mother told him as a youngster that in times of difficulty and strife, there were always caring helpers in the world and to look for them when needed. He would repeat that often to the young audience of his show.
· A Muslim organization in Pittsburgh raised over $200,000 for relief and assistance to the families of the slain in the Tree of Life synagogue. They put their religious and political differences aside in the belief that the core of all of us is a shared humanity.
· In a recent story a man and woman, one Republican and one Democrat, campaign in their community for a state office. In a debate setting they respectfully state their positions on the issues and at the end ask the moderator for some additional time. They take out a guitar and cello and play a song together for the audience. Some stated afterward that it didn’t matter to them who won because regardless, the constituents had already won due to the dignity and respect of the candidates.
Mo. Mary closed with a quote from an Episcopalian Nashville musician who said, “I can play all the right notes but what does it matter if I’m not engaged in the music of living?” What do we choose? Do we choose to set loose the power of death and darkness, or do we set loose the power of love, life, and light?