November 7, 2021
Weekly Prayer Recording including Necrology
Sermon audio from November 7, 2021
Making All Things New
The Rev. David A. Ames
All Saints’ Sunday
All Saints’ Day is a time for us to reflect on the vast array and diversity of God’s people; those who have gone before us and those we love who are now in the nearer presence of God. Our celebration includes everyone around the world with whom we live and worship today, the saints we have loved and cared for who have come before us, and those who will come in succeeding generations.
All Saints’ Memorial Church was the site of our Diocesan Convention met this weekend beginning with a celebration of Holy Eucharist on Friday evening. The necrology list of members throughout our diocese who died during the past year was read. We remember those we have loved and cared for and their contributions in ministering to the needs of others.
All Saints’ Memorial Church has a special place in my life. It is where I served for seven years from 2010 to 2017. It is the largest Episcopal Church building in our Diocese and has several magnificent and historic stained-glass windows dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. With the building of Interstate 95 the church was literally cut off from downtown Providence, but it continues to have a vibrant ministry to its parishioners and substantial outreach to the neighboring community. And, not unlike our St. Martin’s, the congregation spent half a million dollars in renovating All Saints’ building. Today they are celebrating their 175th anniversary.
The themes for All Saints that are present in today’s Collect and our readings from the Wisdom of Solomon and the Revelation to John are about joy, trust, love, God’s presence among us, and the glory of God. It is a glorious day, a day of hope for “making all things new.”
The people of God are spread beyond the boundaries of race, gender, language, and religion, beyond time and space, and across the divide of death. In every faithful person the Christian proclamation of hope and promise for eternal life comes to fulfillment. When we sing praise to the saints and the faithful of every generation, we praise God who has triumphed through them and whose bountiful grace and mercy abide in their lives.
Our gospel story about the raising of Lazarus covers a wide range of emotion: loss, grief, anger, and mourning. Mary’s brother Lazarus died. Martha, the other sister of the dead man, told Jesus that he would not have died had Jesus been present, but the Father will grant whatever Jesus asks. Jesus replied, “Your brother will rise again,” which she took to refer to the general resurrection the Jewish people expected at the end of time. Jesus then added, “I am the resurrection and the life;” implying that even though a believer dies physically, he or she will live on. Martha then said: “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
When he came to the tomb, Jesus was greatly disturbed and filled with indignation, probably due to the sorrow that death brings. Touched by the pain of those he loves, he wept and shared that pain. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.” Those who were with him took away the stone.
Martha then tried to restrain Jesus from viewing the decomposing corpse of his friend. Jesus said to her: Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see God’s power to end death? God brought Lazarus back to physical life. Jesus verbalized his thanks to the Father as an unbelieving “crowd” stood nearby. Then he cried with a loud voice and Lazarus emerged wrapped in burial cloths.
This is a wonderful story for All Saints’ Sunday. The troubling disturbance, reassurance, disbelief, thanksgiving, and release comprise the breadth of human feeling. We share the experience of death and resurrection whenever we have a funeral service for someone we have known and loved. Think about the sheer number of deaths we have observed recently; more than 5 million people around the world have died from the Covid pandemic, those killed in the Afghan war, and those who have died as a result of violence on our city streets. As the Wisdom of Solomon states, the people who died are at peace, God’s grace and mercy are upon them. They are among the saints in heaven. The experience of death and resurrection, of making all things new, is the story of all the saints throughout human history.
The word “saint” means “holy.” Saints are God’s holy people. They are the angels who share God’s divine nature. In every life story it is important to remember that saints are human, they are people who have heard God’s call to serve human need, to be good stewards of creation, to live faithful lives as baptized members of God’s household, and to celebrate the great “cloud of witnesses” whose lives have contributed so much to our own.
The Revelation to John provides a vision of the end of time. It is a marvelous metaphorical vision, a vision of “a new heaven and a new earth; a holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” It proclaimed the end of death, mourning, crying and pain. Everything will be made new. The “sea,” a symbol of turbulence, unrest and chaos, will be no more. The chaotic feelings of the old earth will be wiped away. God is sovereign over all creation and everything that happens throughout human history. God will give the gift of eternal life to all who seek him.
All of us today are bound together in a great community of love and forgiveness. Saints possess the love and grace of God. We celebrate the great women and men of the Bible and those who have lived through the centuries. They are examples of the grace spoken in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, — those who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, build houses for the homeless, free those who are in prison or who are oppressed, bind the broken-hearted, work for justice and peace. The saints around us now are people whose lives teach us and challenge us to be merciful, “pure in heart,” and loving our neighbor. We celebrate all the saints, and we need one another. We grow together, and together we become the community of the saints of God opening our doors to the future.
The Te Deum Laudamus is a song of praise to God dating from the 4th century. It summarizes the calling of all the saints to everlasting glory:
“You are God; we praise you; we acclaim you;
All creation worships you. all angels,
all the powers of heaven sing in endless praise;
Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
heaven and earth are full of your glory.
The glorious company of apostles praise you.
The noble fellowship of prophets praise you.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise you.
Throughout the world the holy Church acclaims you;
You, Christ, are the King of glory,
the eternal Son of the Father.
You overcame the sting of death
and opened the kingdom of heaven.
You are seated at God’s right hand in glory.
We believe you will come to be our judge.
Come then, Lord, and help your people,
and bring us with your saints
to glory everlasting.” Amen.