This Sunday is All Saints Day. We will take a moment to remember those who have impacted our lives significantly, who are now dead but are part of “Our Great Cloud of Witnesses.”
The assigned gospel text for this Sunday, however, is Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. As I thought about this being the text for All Saints Day, I was reminded of that passage of scripture from Hebrews 12 from which we get the term “Great Cloud of Witnesses.” That same verse goes on to say, “let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us!”
I think it is certainly appropriate to pause and remember those that have significantly impacted our lives and are now part of “our great cloud of witnesses;” but we should not overlook that the main point of this passage is for us to “run with endurance the race that God has set before us!” Here is where the Lazarus story might help us.
Yes, Jesus raised Lazarus and just as he raised the dead yesterday, he can raise the dead today. The dead today that I’m referring to are those among us who are living today as if they are the living dead. They have lost a zeal and zest for living and life. Their souls are no longer revived by the fresh springs of living waters that comes from worship and the ministry of service. They have immersed themselves in the still, stinking, stagnant stench of despair and disillusionment and no longer live life with hope, joy, and the resurrection spirit. They are the spiritually dead, the emotionally dead, the relationally dead, sometimes the vocationally dead and even the psychologically dead. They are those who have died to the possibilities of life.
Albert Schweitzer said, “It is not so much that a man dies while he lives but what dies in him as he lives.” In other words, the living dead have lost the vitality of life. Unfortunately, I know too many people who have lost hope in their lives and have developed a pessimism and hopelessness which places them among the living dead.
The good news is the ministry we find in this miracle. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead he told the people to “loose him and let him go.” They had a ministry part in this miracle. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (physically) and Jesus can raise us from the dead in every way so that we might reclaim the experience of being alive. However, we need to never forget that one of the main reasons Jesus raises us from dead is so we may be filled with a joy and enthusiasm that happens in the ministry of helping others take off their grave clothes of hopelessness and despair and run with endurance the race God has set out for them.
Join us in worship this All Saints Sunday, when we will remember our “Great Cloud of Witnesses.” I will also be preaching about “Finding Ministry in A Miracle.” The scriptural text for this sermon is “John 11:32-44.”