All Saints’ Sunday
The Very Reverend Nicolette Papanek, Interim Dean
John 11:32-44
May my words be your word and my heart rest in you as I speak, O Lord. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.

Tikkun Olam (ti-KOON o-LAM. This is Hebrew. It translates roughly as “repairing or fixing the world.” Repairing the world, tikkun olam, is what we are called to do when we come up against evil. Repairing the world means to refuse to give in to evil and to return to God instead.

My Great Uncle Leopold was editor of the foremost newspaper in Vienna, Austria in the late 1930s and into 1940-41. He saw the evil of fascism increasing and wrote an editorial critiquing Adolf Hitler. Shortly thereafter, Uncle Leopold was hustled away to Theresienstadt, also known as Terezin, a Nazi camp to which artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people were sent, allegedly to protect them. The camp was shown off as a model to the Red Cross when the Nazis permitted them to see it. At Terezin, Uncle Leopold died. Some people say this will never happen again.
Last week, during their regular Shabbat worship, eleven observing Jews were shot and killed. Some people say this will never happen again.

Bravely, defiantly, lovingly, and no doubt frightened and apprehensive, those left alive returned to worship at the same place this week. I suggest to you this morning that the eleven observing Jews who died are Saints of God. Indeed, so also are Jews everywhere who worshipped this week on Friday night, or Saturday, or attended a Hebrew class or a Bible study.

So too do we bravely gather together, in this glorious building on this day when we celebrate the saints of God and the people who are saints to each of us. We celebrate relatives, friends, people we admire, even some people we don’t admire but honour because what they accomplished helped to repair our broken world. They were human beings, made in the image of God and created to love and be loved. They believed and belonged to God and to one another and their community. It is possible some of the people left behind are frightened and doubting that all will be well for them. They doubt the people who say, this will never happen again.

This morning’s gospel deals with doubting in the story of the raising of Lazarus. This is a story where belief follows belonging rather than believing first and then belonging. Doubt has its place in faith. Both Mary and Martha express doubt. Yet at the same time, both of them follow Jesus.

When I was baptized as an adult, as Tyler will be (at the 10:30 am service today) today, I wasn’t sure exactly what I believed. But, I knew I wanted to belong to a people and to a place that would help me learn to believe. I knew they would help me to both say and uphold the promises I would make at Baptism. Baptism for me was entrance to a community, where together we would work to repair God’s world. Together we would reaffirm each Sunday, this will never happen again, and go forth to do the ministry that would make it true. What binds us, I wonder? What keeps us from making it true?

Lazarus comes out of his grave still bound in his grave clothes. He is walking. But the trappings of death bind him. He cannot look normal or act normal. He cannot walk properly because his feet are bound with cloth. He cannot take up living again because his hands are bound. And his grave cloth covers his face so he cannot see.

God, through the action of our Lord Jesus Christ, resurrected Lazarus. He was raised from the dead. Jesus cries, “Lazarus, come out.” And then he says to the gathered community, “Unbind him, and let him go.” Before he can live fully again, the community must unbind Lazarus and let him go. The community must help to repair him. The community outside the tomb repairs the world by letting Lazarus free.

This action of unbinding and letting Lazarus free calls us to be co-creators with God in repairing the world. Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus. Jesus weeps today for what human beings do to one another. Jesus’ tears and the tears of the dead, the wounded, and the surviving call us to repair the world.

You and I are Saints of God, by God’s grace in Jesus Christ and by the definition of the ancient church of which we are the heirs.

Every day we have countless opportunities to unbind and let go both others and ourselves. The world is bound by the grave, bound by old lives, bound by old sins, bound by old quarrels, bound by old guilt, and bound by the great weight of our lives before encountering God. Now, at this moment, we are called to bring forth resurrection by repairing the world. In just a few moments (Or, at the 10:30 a.m. service), Tyler will be baptized as Christ’s own for ever. He will be unbound and set free into the world as an emissary of Jesus to unbind and set free. And so are we unbound and set free to repair the world: to ensure that these horrible acts of violence will not happen again.

We are unbound to change darkness into light, and death into life. AMEN.

1. For a description and explanation of Theresienstadt/Terezin, see:
2. I am indebted to a sermon by the Very Reverend Sam Candler for his thoughts on the role of the community in resurrection, and to the many people I know in recovery and to AA, NA, and other addiction-help organizations.