Monday, October 29, 2018

Monday Thoughts on the Readings for All Saints Sunday 2018 (November 4th)

All Saints Day, originally scheduled on November 1st and usually transferred to the first Sunday of November, is a day to remember all the members of the Church who have died and now participate in the Church Triumphant (what we mean by the terms "participate" and "Church Triumphant" is closely bound to our understandings of what happens to us between our death and our resurrection from the dead; discussing these topics is well beyond the scope of this post).  It developed from the practice of dedicating a day on the calendar to remember and celebrate the life of a prominent member of the Church.  The date chosen was usually the date of the saint's death.  After some time, the calendar was filling up with commemorations and the Church was still looking to celebrate the lives and gifts of those who had died.  Therefore, the Church established a day as All Saints Day so that all who had died could be remembered and celebrated.

This day comes with a specific set of readings, with themes of the Lord's power over death and the promise of resurrection from the dead.  These themes are meant to be sources of hope and comfort as we grieve the deaths of beloved Church members as well as family members and friends.

I also read and hear other things within these readings; these are shared in the italicized text below.  What do you read and hear?  What questions do you want answered?  What clicks for you in a new way that you had not realized before today?  Let's have these conversations and others in the comments below!

Isaiah 25:6 - 9

 6 On 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.
 7 And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
 the sheet that is spread over all nations;
 8 he will swallow up death forever.
 Then 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.
 9 It 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.

- A banquet is a traditional form of celebration in the Ancient Near East.

- The invitation for “all peoples” to be at the banquet is in sharp contrast to the series of woe oracles against many nations in Isaiah 13 – 23.  Does “all peoples” mean all nations?  That is unclear from the literal reading of the passage because of the description of “his people” in verse 8 unless “his people” and “all peoples” are two descriptions of the same group!

- A common belief at this time is that death separates us from God.  Therefore, the statement that the Lord “will swallow up death forever” is a promise that the Lord will prevent that separation.

Psalm 24

 1 The earth is the LORD's and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it;
 2 for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers.
 3 Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?
 4 Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, who do not lift up their souls to what is false, and do not swear deceitfully.
 5 They will receive blessing from the LORD, and vindication from the God of their salvation.
 6 Such is the company of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah
 7 Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in.
 8 Who is the King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle.
 9 Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in.
 10 Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah

- Who may stand in God’s holy place?  In the life of the Temple, very few people could stand in God’s holy place.  One priest would stand in the Holy of Holies on one day of the year, and this priest would be chosen at random.  In the end, only one could stand in God’s holy place: Jesus, the son of God.

- The end of the psalm emphasizes the Lord as the warrior-God.  “The Lord of hosts” is a softened interpretation of YWHW tsavaot, which means “The Lord of armies/warfare.”

Revelation 21:1 - 6a

Then 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.  2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
 "See, the home of God is among mortals.
 He will dwell with them;
 they will be his peoples,
 and God himself will be with them;
 4 he 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."
 5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true."  6 Then he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end."

- The sea was a symbol of chaos.  The disappearance/destruction of the sea means an end to chaos.

- Revelation 21:3 reminds me of the new covenant that was proclaimed in Jeremiah 31:31 – 34.  Compare the two passages:
1) “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jer 31:33 NRSV)
2) “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes.” (Rev 21:3-4a NRSV)

John 11:32 - 44

32 When 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."  33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.  34 He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see."  35 Jesus began to weep.
 36 So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"  37 But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"

 38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.
 39 Jesus 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."  40 Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"  41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, "Father, I thank you for having heard me.  42 I 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."  43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!"  44 The 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."

- The mention of “four days” is significant.  The common belief was that the soul or spirit of a person remained with the body for three days.  During those three days, there was still a possibility of the soul or spirit reviving the body.  But on day four, that hope was gone, and the person was considered truly dead.  Therefore, the resurrection of Lazarus is on a higher level than the stories of bringing back to life someone who had died earlier in the day.

- Does “see(-ing) the glory of God” and recognizing what we have seen depend on our belief?  Does it depend on the work of the Holy Spirit?  Or is there something else at work here?

1 comment:

  1. I was struck by Cynthia Jarvis' commentary where she illustrated words by W.H. Auden, "We who must die demand a miracle." In light of Mary and Martha's request for Jesus to hurry to Lazarus's side to instead receiving an invitation for Jesus to look upon death, "Come and see" Same words used by Philip to beckon Nathaniel to see the Messiah.