Your donation helps keep the Cathedral open to God, open to all

No, I'd prefer to donate another time


Sermon: All Saints' Cathedral Eucharist

Sunday 1st November 2015
Cathedral Eucharist
Isaiah 25: 6-9
John 11: 32-44
Download Recording (MP3, 3M) Download

After yesterday's Rugby World Cup Final at Twickenham, some of us are celebrating All Blacks as much as All Saints.

However, over the last week, there's been another source of anticipation and excitement.

Bond is back.

In a dazzling opening sequence, we're transported to Mexico City.  It's Bond.  It's a little bit silly; a little bit cliched. Gadgets, glamour and martinis. We see dramatic ariel stunts, adrenaline inducing car chases, a train hurtling through the desert and a villain - with a white cat.

At  moments, it's heart stopping - but not always in the way we expect.

Spectre captivates us with a spectacular, vibrant and exotic parade scene.  It's 'The Day of the Dead'.  A Latin American festival full of rich cultural and religious allusions; elaborate costumes and intricate dances.

Two people - a man and a woman - move through through the crowd with purpose. Masks hide their passion and their intent.

Four words - an on screen epigraph marks the beginning:

The dead are alive.

Four words... pulsating through unspoken traumas, fears and hopes of one man.  It's Bond. Of course it's full of nostalgia and the ghosts of previous 007s and their enemies. The Telegraph describes it as an act of pure cinematic necromancy.

Perhaps it's the combination of Daniel Craig and Sam Mendes that has given the franchise a degree of emotional and psychological depth. The losses are real; the stakes are high.  Ghosts of parents, lovers and enemies lurk amidst the muted tones of the film's palette.

The use of data, monitoring mobile phones, security breaches and tracking: these are the things we

fear in relation to freedom and we'll have chance discuss theme at Thursday's penultimate 'Proclaiming Liberty' lecture.  In Bond, it's 'C' who talks about an international surveillance scheme which will capture the world's digital ghost.

The dead are alive.

Death and life lie at the heart of our faith.

Our fears and limitations are changed by hope of the Gospel. Today we celebrate the lives of those who have gone before us in the faith: the apostles, prophets, martyrs and saints.

It is indeed a holy company.  They are knit together, in one communion and fellowship.

Tomorrow we remember the lives of the departed, remembering them in love and thanks giving.

The dead are in a profound sense 'with us' not just in our hearts and minds; but as part of the mystical body, in Christ.  Although it stretches our imaginations and confounds our perception of time in relation to eternity, they worship with us; praising God and singing with us holy, holy, holy; Lord, God Almighty.

To celebrate the saints is an encouragement to us:  as we rejoice in their faith we find inspiration to follow their example, proclaiming God's glory in our own generation.  In the power of the Spirit we are called, like them, to witness to the love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ. We are to do so with boldness and joy.

To celebrate the saints, is a source of hope amidst all that challenges, overwhelms and perplexes us.  It is a hope that meets us at our most vulnerable. It's a hope that confronts our mortality, and says this is not the end. For nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

As we discussed at BOB yesterday,  [our cathedral youth group is called Bunch of Believers, known as BOB]  Halloween faces the darkness of death with pumpkins, fancy dress and the refrain of 'trick or treat'.  Perhaps we dismiss it as light-hearted fun; but there is something sinister about it too. It is a night that talks of ghouls and ghosts but which does not speak of the defeat of darkness by the light of Christ.

Over pizza and cake, BOB pondered the promise Isaiah, discerning words of hope and promise to hold onto now and in the future. Isaiah speaks of a shroud cast over the nations: perhaps an acknowledgement of injustice, pain and sorrow; of all that weighs on our hearts and casts a shadow over our lives. But he also promises an end to mourning and death; he offers a vision of feasting on rich food and mature wine.

As we wait for the fulfilment of that vision,  it seems that the world wrapped in a shroud; like this morning when Guildford was surrounded in fog. We wait for glimpses light, love and hope. As one member of BOB asked, what if our lives resonated with the brightness of that hope - as if the dampening piano pedal has been lifted, and a compelling tune is heard?

In today's Gospel, a shroud is destroyed. It is a story full of love and intense emotion. Jean Vanier describes it as one of the most beautiful chapters of John because it reveals  how profoundly human and totally divine Jesus is.    We see the depth of Jesus' human emotion: he knows the intense anguish of grief.

The pain and horror of the untimely death of a friend is excruciating.

He weeps.

We feel too the weight of the words of Mary, Martha and the crowds: the weight of expectation, disappointment and loss.  We hear the sting of if....

If you had been here, he would not have died. We hear the demands of love. Could he not have prevented this?  They weep. This death is real. There's a stench.

He comes. He sees. He weeps. He is distressed. He speaks:  Take away the stone.  He faces death. Lazarus, come out!  The dead man is alive.

He releases an outpouring of human emotion: a breath-taking an overwhelming joy and adoration.

He releases us from the constraints of death, saying: unbind him and let him go.

Some perhaps were moved to faith and trust by what they witnessed. Here is a glimpse of Isaiah's promise being fulfilled : the shroud is unbound; tears are wiped away; there is joy and gladness.

Today, we  name our fears - of change or pain or dependence on others; of failure, rejection and despair. The fear putting the love of God at the centre of our lives: calling us to let go of jealousy, grudges and self-determination and to see ourselves as we are. As loved. Unconditionally.

Dare we trust the power of God within us and others?

Lazarus' hope, and ours, is in the the Lord of life who swallows up death. In the one who lies in a tomb for three days; the power of God in him defeats death itself. Folded grave clothes remain as God's transformative power is seen in the glory of the resurrection. In different garden, another Mary cannot see through tears yet hears her name and says I have seen the Lord.

We live in the hope of unspeakable joys. Like Lazarus we called to be fully alive in the face of mortality. We're ensnared by fear and condemnation; yet called to live with fearless generosity; fragmented and overwhelmed, yet called wholeness, holiness and godly living.

Jesus says rise up; live as people of light and life. Jesus calls us out of the tomb; he unbinds us. We are called to give life.

Amongst the saints, there is no them and us. For we are all called out of darkness into God's marvellous light.

We are, Vanier says on a journey of resurrection to do the work of God, to bring love in to our families, our communities and the world.  That process begins every morning and is shaped by every Eucharist; it continues in every act of forgiveness and every gesture of gratitude.

The dead are alive.
We live because God lives in us.
We love because Jesus gave himself for us.
We shine as lights by the power of the Spirit.
Rise up in love!
Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.
He calls each one of us
to rise up
in love.