Unbinding Abundance – An All Saints’ Sermon On John 11:32-44

All Saints Sunday – John 11:32-44

“Where have you laid him?” Jesus asked them. 

“Lord, come and see.” 

The thing that strikes me most about Mary and Martha in today’s gospel (John 11:32-44) is their loneliness. They’re lonely. They’re lonely for their brother. They’re lonely for Jesus. They’re lonely for the life they used to have. They are alone in their loss and they feel abandoned.

Lazarus, Abundance, All Saints, John 11:32-44, Sermon, Feasts of All Saints
The Raising of Lazarus – Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

I know that feeling of aloneness, and I’ll bet you do too. I think loneliness is one of the great maladies of our world today. And at the center of our loneliness lies scarcity. It’s that feeling that there just isn’t enough, a feeling that our world is being torn apart, and that we’re lost in that tear. I’ve seen that more than once this past week. 

At the bottom of that tear is the loneliness of the family and friends of those who died last week at the Tree of Life Synagogue. At the bottom of that tear is the loneliness of those in the immigrant caravan who have left homes, families, friends, a country. At the bottom of that tear is the loneliness of a friend of mine who recently lost her job. At the bottom of that tear is the loneliness of another friend who was recently diagnosed with cancer. At the bottom of that tear is the loneliness of a world that suffers and sorrows. 

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the scarcity; whether it’s mine, yours, or the world’s. I get scared by the loneliness of the gospel, when my heart and soul are stretched and I stand between God’s voice and your voice or my own. I suspect there have been times when loneliness and scarcity have overwhelmed and frightened you too. 

When loneliness and scarcity overtake me I get defensive and take things personally, I put me and mine first, I live in fear, I get overly busy, I get restless and begin searching for the next thing to fill and gratify me, I begin second guessing and rewriting my life with “If only….” Any of that sound familiar? You know what I am talking about?

“Lord, come and see.”

“Jesus began to weep.” He knows the abyss of loneliness. He experienced it in Peter’s denial, Judas’ kiss, a night in Gethsemane, the godforsaken cross. He’s the one who befriends us in our aloneness. 

What is it you want Jesus to come and see in your life today? If you were to name your loneliness today what would it be? What is the scarcity in your life that you want filled?

Where does it hurt? What is your need? Who or what is your Lazarus?

This invitation for Jesus to come and see is about more than particular circumstances or events. It’s the invitation for Jesus to come and see the things we fear in our lives, to come and see our loneliness, to come and see our scarcity. Wherever there is scarcity in my life I am dying. Wherever there is scarcity in your life you are dying. Mary and Martha were dying that day. Scarcity is always a thief of life. 

Mary and Martha, however, refused to let the thief get away this time. They could no longer contain their loneliness, the scarcity in their lives. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” Mary said. “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days,” Martha said. They are naming the scarcity in their lives and they are opening themselves to the abundance of Jesus. That’s what this day is about. All Saints is a day to name and release our scarcity. It’s a day of abundance, a day to unbind the abundance of life that is already ours. 

If the saints of this life and the next life have anything to teach us, it’s about the abundance of God and the abundant life God offers. It’s St. Mary proclaiming that God “has filled the hungry with good things.” It’s St. Simeon declaring that his eyes have seen God’s salvation and he is free to depart in peace. It’s St. Julian of Norwich promising, “All shall be well, all shall be well, you yourself will see that every manner of thing shall be well.” It’s St. John Shudde of Uvalde saying to us again and again, “We are much blessed and God is still in the healing business.” 

The saints know that neither scarcity nor abundance are about quantity. They are conditions of the soul but more often than not we want to quantify scarcity and abundance. Why do we that? Mary’s and Martha’s loneliness and scarcity will not be healed with more money, more power, a better position, a new promotion, and neither will ours. The antidote to our scarcity and loneliness is not more. It’s abundance. Abundance is the medicine that heals our soul of its scarcity. That’s what Mary and Martha really want. And it’s what we want. We want our soul to be made whole, to be made well. 

We want to live the fullness of life. We want to live with integrity, meaning, and purpose. We want to know that our life matters and that the values we hold make a difference not just for ourselves but for the lives of others and for the life of the world. We want to be connected to something larger and beyond ourselves. We want to be abundant.

Whatever your story of loneliness and scarcity might be, Jesus’ response to you is the same as it was to Martha. “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” With those words Jesus is moving the conversation from one of scarcity, “Lord, come and see,” to one of abundance, “Lazarus come out.” The glory of God is to be fully alive (Irenaeus), to be abundant with life. Isn’t that what Jesus said he came for? “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

Jesus is always calling forth abundance from what looks like scarcity. He turns water into wine. He feeds five thousand with five loaves and two fish. He calls Four Days Dead Lazarus out of the tomb. 

Our work is not to get an abundance we do not have but to unbind and release the abundance that is already ours. What if we lived from a place of abundance rather than scarcity? How might that change your life? I don’t mean that we ignore or close our eyes to the pain of the world or our life but that we let abundance rather than scarcity be our default setting. That’s what changes and transforms life. 

Think about the times you’ve experienced abundance and how your life was transformed. 

  • What happened to you that day your child was born and a bundle of abundance was placed in your hands? 
  • Or how about that day you said, “Will you?” And she or he said, “I will.”
  • Yesterday we had the funeral of Phyllis here. Earlier in the week I received an e-mail from a woman who wrote, “I want to be her when I grow up!” She was recognizing abundance.
  • Recall a day when the beauty and goodness of your life made you weep and all you could say was, “Thank you.” 
  • Have you ever said to yourself or to your beloved, “How did we get so lucky? It can’t get any better than this.” And then it does. 
  • Picture the face of that one who sat with you in your darkness day after day. He or she didn’t judge it or try to fix it. He or she simply showed up and waited with you until the light of a new day dawned. 

Those and a thousand other things like them are about abundance. And they are as much a miracle as was the water turned into wine, the feeding of the five thousand, or the new life given Lazarus and his sisters.

That’s how I want to live. I want to befriend you in your aloneness. I want you to befriend me in my aloneness. I want us to live together in abundance. I want us to stand against the scarcity of the world. I want us to unbind Lazarus and let him go. Don’t you? Isn’t that the life you want too?

What would it mean for you to unbind and release abundance in your life today?

2 thoughts on “Unbinding Abundance – An All Saints’ Sermon On John 11:32-44

  1. My 26 year old daughter asked me if I believed in God. I said that I do and that when miracles happen, some call it serendipity, but I say, God makes miracles happen through other people who some how touch our lives. And when I’m afraid her twin sister will overdose, I know there is nothing I can do stop her from using, and that the fear I feel makes me lonely and scared, so I reach up to God and say “help us” that’s all I can do. And I can call out again and again and feel God’s abundance showering down on all of us. Thanks be to God.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Margaret, thank you for sharing this. I hear the pain and fear in what you describe but I also hear an unbinding. I think abundance lives in that tension. May God bless you and your daughters with and abiding sense of abundance.

      Peace be with you,
      Mike+

      Like

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