“From Beta (B) to Psi (Y)” Revelation 21:1-6a; John 11:33-44

Church BellsBefore newspapers and smart phones there were church bells, which rang announcing events, like a death.The bells were the social media of the day.Now,w know death has come and to whom almost instantly via the new TGIF, Twitter, Google, Instagram or Facebook. 

In a funeral message,poetpreacher John Donne spoke of how individual we are, but still more connected than separate. From his pulpit in St.Paul’s Cathedral he said:No man is an island,entire of itself.  Each is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.  If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less.  Each mans death diminishes me, for I’m involved in mankind.  Thus,send not to know for whom the bell tolls.  It tolls for thee.”  The older I grow, the harder it’s to see the people I love die; it makes me wonder of my own passing. We all have these are feelings on All Saints Sunday as we remember persons in our church and lives that died in the last year by reading their names and chiming a bell into the solemn silence.  Cross Cemetery

We come to an All Saints Sunday not to recite what a great guy or gal this or that person was. They were all unique with endearing quirks we loved and could annoy us at the same time.  We’re not here to hear about them.  We’ve come to hear the good news of Jesus Christ ring aloud that declares Jesus can do for us what we can’t do for ourselves; dig ourselves out of our own grave. We profess he is the only one who ever got out of a tomb alive.  So we look to these who have been set free by this powerful God-given grace of Jesus as our model and hope.  We recommit ourselves to live up to the legacy of their faith in Christ who is at loose in the world still raising the dead.

John’s gospel story declares Jesus can raise the dead. We jumped into the tale as it gets good, but it’s a long story that needs some setup.  Lazarus, Mary, and Martha live together in Bethany,which tradition says waabout a mile and a half from Jerusalem to the east of the Mount of Olives.Mary is the one who anointed Jesus feet with costly perfume while Martha fumes from the kitchen. All three were close friends of Jesus. 

Lazarus 2013Lazarus becomes sick unto death and his sisters send word to Jesus. Jesus doesn’t rush; he tells his disciples Lazarus’ illness won’t end in death,but God will be glorified.They stay two more days and then  set out for Bethany. On the way,Jesus says Lazarus has fallen asleep; they think he’ll recover.  Jesus meant“asleepas in“dead, he looks at death differently than we. We understand why Jesus saw death differently when we understand him.

Revelation 21 helps; giving us a vision of how everythinigoing to turn out and what is happening behind the scenes.  The Revelator describes Jesus as the Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters in the Greek alphabet.  Our first declaration of faith is Jesus is the Alpha, present at the explosive moment that created all things; and he’s the Omega, present at the moment when we dwell in eternity.  He stands at the head and foot of all things. 

We think of the origins of life and wonder how we came to be.The Bible doesn’t tell me how Sophia came alive, but it gives me a poetic rendering at the beginning of the book that calls all things created good. We think of the end of life and wonder where we’re going.The Bible doesn’t tell me how my mom was transposed to new life, but it gives me a poetic rendering at the end of book telling of a new creation calls it good. St Julian of Norwich summed it up: “All shall be well, and every manner of thing shall be well.” At the beginning and end times,the Alpha and the Omega stands, Jesus our Lord.  We chip away at our faith when we’re anxious about how things began or end; those belong to the One who makes things good.  Alpha and Omega

Jesus is also at work making all things good in the between times of Alpha’ and ‘Omega,from Beta to Psi; the letters after the Greek ‘A’ to ‘Z’-our ‘B’ to ‘Y’Lazarus’ story says Jesus can make all things new, now!  So, he calls death sleep, assured no death is beyond his power to overcome whether it be on our Omega Day or any day between the Beta and Psi. 

We see life through the eyes of death; worried what happens after passing.  Jesus thinks our anxiety about the Alpha and Omega and all between is the real illness that needs healing.  He goes to great lengths with Lazarus and his empty tomb to show us death is no match for resurrection power that’s at work in all times.  He sees all death through the eyes of new life and invites us to do the same. 

Lazarus was dead for 4 days when Jesus arrives in BethanyMartha greets Jesus with an attitude; telling him if he had come earlier, he could’ve kept Lazarus from dying.Jesus tells her Lazarus will rise again.She is thinking, that’s all good,but Lazarus is the breadwinner and that doesn’t bring him back to take care of us now.  She goes to the Omega saying, “I know he’ll rise again on the last day,when God raises all the dead.” Jesus speaks to the Beta and Psi, (the between times) using present tense verbs saying: I’m the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me,even though they die,will live,and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. He says we don’t have to wait to experience new life;it can happen now.  Then, he calls out to Lazarus in a loud voice and he awakes and comes out.

Like, Lazarus, Jesus calls our names when were buried.  We can hear his voice call and awake, and be changed; coming to new life-right now.   Every conversion is a resurrection. We answer Jesus;putting our faith in him.

Faith in GodThese persons we thank God today for placed their faith in Christ during their Beta and Psi times and Christ’s power worked to make them perfect in love of God and others.  Love is our goal, but faith is the way there as we remain open to the possibility of new life when all seems gone.  We believe we’ve already come alive, thus creating what we desire-new life.  Faith sees death through and with the eyes of God who leads on a path toward love.

We sang For all the Saints.  Verse 5 said: “And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long, steals on the ear the distant triumph song,and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.Alleluia!Alleluia!  John Donne was right about the bells of death tolling for you and me. The triumph song of life also echoes in every chime for those who put their faith in Christ, long ago, today and till eternity rolls.

For all the Saints

Published in: on November 5, 2013 at 9:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

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