I don’t usually reprint sermons or portions of sermons here, but I thought I’d share an experience from Saturday night that became a key illustration in my message this past Sunday morning.
Wisdom From Watching Will (October 31, 2009):
Trick Or Treat Terrors & Thoughts On Eternal Life
Last night I took a duck for a walk and we begged candy from strangers.
It was only my three-year old’s second time going trick-or-treating, and we ended up not going very far. We visited some of the houses on our street, and then walked through the path between houses to the street behind us. Will was doing really well, bravely going up to doors and knocking or ringing the doorbell (when he could reach!); sometimes falling back from the door, unsure of who the people were.
We came to what would be one of our last houses for the night. Two young women were sitting on the porch, and the garage was taped off with caution tape. A “scarecrow” sitting against the garage door (obviously someone in disguise, but I didn’t give it a second thought).
As Will hesitantly left my side to walk up to the two girls, another group of children of mixed ages swarmed around us. As Will and they approached the two women, the “scarecrow” suddenly jumped up, revving a chainsaw! The kids all screamed…
and my little duck came tearing back to me, screaming and in tears. I scooped him up in his fowl hysteria, trying to assure him that it was just pretend. Scarecrow took of his mask, and even apologized – the women tried to assure Will everything was okay. But he wouldn’t be consoled, and didn’t calm down until I carried him away. (It’s funny, when he’s scared he doesn’t say “I’m scared,” he says, “I’m shaking, I’m shaking.”)
Standing there with wailing duck in my arms, all I wanted to do was to take away his fear, to wipe away his tears, to let him know that he was afraid of an illusion, to assure him that there was nothing real to fear. My heart ached for him, because even though I knew there was nothing to fear, for him it was real. (Days later, before bed, he would be asking his mommy about “the man who scared me…”)
As I prepared for All Saints Day, I was struck by the parallel of this event with the selected Scripture. In Isaiah 25, as well as Revelation 21, we read that the day will come when God will “wipe away the tears from all faces.” Both promise that death will be no more, that God will overcome death. And in the story of Jesus calling Lazarus from the tomb, we get a glimpse of this. We get a glimpse of the truth that in Jesus Christ God has overcome death, has brought us the fullness of life.
And yet, many fear death precisely because, like Will, we can’t see past the illusion. We might hear the promise of eternal life, the promise that we’ll be part of the “communion of saints,” but it takes time in the arms of God to really embrace that promise as truth.
And I imagine God holds us close like I held Will that night. Desiring so strongly to take away our fear, our tears. Hoping we’ll see past the illusion, past the fear, and know the truth (or Truth).
I believe that in Jesus Christ, God overcame death that we might know life. May we all grow in the assurance of the one who holds us close, and offers us the chance to truly live.
(Note: audio from one of the morning messages can be found online here:
Sunday, November 1 was “All Saints Day,” and the following texts are portions of the recommended lectionary passages for the day:
From Isaiah 25:
6On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. 7And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. 8Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. 9It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
From Revelation 21:
1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
From John 11:
32When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus began to weep. 36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” 38Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”