John 11:32-44

The Final Word

By Dr. Jeffrey K. London

It is in the night,
and all that “night” symbolizes,
that we come to appreciate the light of grace.

For it is in the night
when all is dark
that we lie naked before the universe.

It is in the night that we wrestle with demons and angels
hoping against hope to see the light of the new day.

The night,
the dark,
is both tomb and womb for the Christian.
It is the place where we die a thousand deaths
and it is the place where new life springs forth. (Psalm 110:3; 139:13; Isaiah 46:3-4)

Whether it is the darkness of our rooms at night
or the night of our darkness within,
we are being re-created into the people God intends us to be.

So it is important that we recognize the necessity of the tomb
if we are ever to experience the wonder of the womb.

But the reality of the tomb is difficult to come to terms with
because it comes to us in the reality of our tears,
in the reality of our darkness,
in the reality of death.

Jesus arrives on the scene to find Mary in a tomb of tears.
There are no stars in her night sky.
Her brother Lazarus is dead
and she’s angry with Jesus for not coming earlier,
for not saving her brother. (John 11:32)

But it only takes a word from Jesus
and the tomb gives way to the womb
and the light of life bursts forth.

“Unbind him and let him go!”  (John 11:44)
is Jesus’ word to the tomb.

Death shall not have the final word.
The final word belongs to God
and in Jesus Christ we see the light of the Word shine in our darkness
and the darkness cannot overcome it.   (John 1:5)

There is a greater reality;
a greater reality that is unbound and free;
a greater reality that transforms the tomb into the womb,
death into life;
it is a greater reality that belongs to God.

And it is this greater reality that we celebrate on All Saints’ Day.

And it is this greater reality that is among us even now.
The home of God is among us.  (Revelation 21:3)
Not in spite of,
but especially in the midst of the pain and tragedy we experience,
in the midst of all that would entomb us —
God is present and active bringing life out of death.

The letter to the Hebrews visions a great cloud of witnesses constantly surrounding us,
an enormously bright conclave of saints cheering us on
as we run this race of life. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

It’s a wonderfully faithful vision of God’s greater reality
that is always just beyond touch and sight.
It reminds us that we are not alone in this saintly life;
it reminds us that we are part of a larger legacy that belongs to God.

We are part of a holy plan that stretches beyond time and space.
And it is this holy plan,
this larger legacy of redemption and salvation,
that makes our faithful loved ones very much a part of our present,
very much with us,
very much among us — cheering us on.

And so we come on this day of days
not to pay homage to the tomb,
not to hear the voice of death;
we come to experience the wonder of the womb,
we have come to hear the Roll Call of life.

We gather in anticipation of the final word that belongs only to God
the final word that wipes every tear from our eyes;
the final word that conquers death;
the final word that scatters mourning, pain, and sorrow;
the final word that brings light to our night
and makes all things new. (Isaiah 25:6-9; Revelation 21:4-5)

So let us Call the Roll.
With joy and thanksgiving let us faithfully acknowledge God’s greater reality.
Let us give thanks to God for the living legacy of all the saints
that make up the saving history of our God.

Please respond to the announcement of each saint’s name by faithfully proclaiming each one to be “PRESENT.”

1. Charley Adams

2. Cloe Adams

3. Raymond Adams

4. Robert Amacher

5. Shirley Amacher

6. Charles Ashcraft

7. Millicent Ashcraft

8. Dick Bagwell

9. Juanita Baker

10. Marilyn Baker

11. Gene Basden

12. Jo Basden

13. James Basden

14. Frances Bergdorf

15. Andrew Carroll

16. Chen Chenoweth

17. Lloyd Cox

18. Steve Dennis

19. Chub Dodge

20. Grace Dodge

21. Ann Patterson Dooley

22. David Drummond

23. Callie Elder

24. Loyd Elder

25. Buddy Elliot

26. Betty Ford

27. Doris Ford

28. Rev. John Gammie

29. Gregory Glenn

30. Betty Baxter Green

31. Bill Grimm

32. Shanna Grinstead

33. Kerilyn Brooke Henderson

34. Linda Herzberg

35. Bill Holloway

36. Geraldine Holmes

37. Doran Johnson

38. Geri Jones

39. Edward Juergenson

40. Ida Juergenson

41. Glen Lawrence

42. Ken Ledbetter

43. Marion Ledbetter

44. George Lisle

45. Robert London

46. Wanda London

47. Russell Maddox

48. Doug Markey

49. Bob McGowen

50. Frankie McKinnon

51. Maynard Miller

52. Violet Miller

53. Vivian Milne

54. Del Moore

55. Bart Charles Murphy

56. Charlie Murphy

57. Everett Murphy

58. Josephine Murphy

59. Max Murphy

60. Lea Nielsen

61. Ed Orr

62. Mary B. Park

63. Daniel Alan Popp

64. Scott Portz

65. Mary Ramsay

66. Beatrice Ramseur

67. Alfreda Reaves

68. James Rettie

69. Reita Somers

70. Dale Stauffer

71. Arnold Stock

72. Del Stumpff

73. Martha Somers Stunkel

74. Priscilla Swain

75. Glen Swan

76. Kathleen Thompson

77. Christine Weber

78. George Weber

79. Judy Wenger

80. Betty Murphy Woods

81. Margaret Colladay

Prayer: God of tomb and womb, across the ages you have sent us more witnesses than we could recognize, more help than we could seek, and more of yourself than we have been able to love.  We thank you especially today for the saints of our faith: those who have freed us to worship you, those who have revived our faith and spoken your calling to us, those how have taught us about the past that we might be prepared for the future, and those whom we love, those who have been Christ to us, listening, loving, teaching, and serving us in your holy name.

With gratitude and thanks, O God, we rejoice in the vision of your saints surrounding us, especially in difficult times when we need to sense their cheering encouragement.  For the gift of their witness and your Word, for care from their hands and from yours, we thank you.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Copyright 2006, Jeffrey K. London. Used by permission.