ALL THINGS NEW
21:1-6a, John 11:32-44
by Rev. Rick Thompson
1844, Mayor Philip Hone of New York City, used this phrase: “Oh, for the good
old days for the first time.”[i]
me say that again: “Oh, for the good old days for the first time.”
There’s some truth in that, isn’t there? We long for better times, don’t we?
And we think that going back to the past will be our best hope, so we pine for
“the good old days”. But, like that New York mayor generations ago, we also are
aware that “the good old days” truly belong to the future. And so, we
know, we need to keep moving forward, to face the future with hope.
give us those good old days—for the first time!
Because hasn’t the past—like the present—always left us longing for more?
Aren’t we, in this life, always lamenting the way things are and longing for
hasn’t really changed much, has it? It was true in biblical times, and it’s
true today: the world seems old and tired and worn out. And we wish it would
change for the better.
have to elaborate? I could talk about hunger in the world, and remind you of
the haunting photos we see of starving children, with their stomachs distended,
on the brink of death. I could talk about disease, and mention the millions
suffering or dead from AIDS—just to name one disease—and the millions more,
especially the children, who are at risk as a result. We could talk about
violence and war, and make note of the fact that almost as many Americans have
been killed in Afghanistan as the number killed on September 11, 2001—and we can
add to that the death and destruction caused as war grinds on and on.
that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s more, isn’t there—chronic hostility
and its neighbors, Iran rattling nuclear sabers, global warming, and on and on
world is old and tired. Old, tired, and haunted by death. Threatened by the
“No!” which death speaks loudly and clearly over us, over the world. Tormented
by the fear that nothing will ever change for the better—and then we will die.
for the good old days—for the first time!”
John, the visionary who left us the book of Revelation, speaks God’s response to
that ancient—and not-so-ancient—longing.
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them
as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be
with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be
no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was
on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”
When God’s people are desperate for hope, desperate for a better world,
what does God do? God makes a promise! In fact, God makes several
What is God going to do?
God is going to dwell with us. God is going to take away all the pain and
suffering of creation. No more tears. No more pain. No more sorrow. And no
Doesn’t that sound wonderful?!
And the best thing is, it’s true! God is going to make all things new!
Tears and sorrow—they’ll be a thing of the past. Death—it will be gone. All
those things that haunt us, all those things that suck the life out of us and
the world—hunger, disease, war and violence—they will be gone! GONE
FOREVER!! And, instead, all things—ALL THINGS—will be made new!
And isn’t that precisely what God does in Christ? Isn’t that what God
will do fully when we depart this life and go to be with God forever?
Yes, that’s exactly what God has done and exactly what God
We are assured of that by God’s promises, by the presence of Christ, and by
the action of Christ reported in today’s Gospel reading. We may remember the
story of Lazarus—dear friend of Jesus, who became sick and died. His
sisters—Mary and Martha, also friends of Jesus—were grief-stricken. They
brought their lament, their sorrow, their grief to Jesus. And what did Jesus
do? Well, wonder of wonders, Jesus went to the place of death, went to the tomb
of Lazarus, and raised Lazarus up from death! JESUS MADE LAZARUS NEW!
That’s a glimpse. That’s a sign—a sign of the power of God, a sign of God’s
intentions for us and for the world. And what does God intend? God
intends to make all things new!!
I like the sound of that promise. I like that promise a lot! No more of
all that stuff that makes life seem pointless, makes the world seem old and
weary. No more death! Yes, I like that a lot!
But it’s so hard to believe it, isn’t it? It’s so hard to keep the faith.
That’s why I need this day. That’s why I need All Saints’ Day. I need to
remember. I need to remember those who have gone before me in faith. I need to
remember and give thanks for those who are part of my pilgrimage now—you,
and rest of the body of Christ in the world. I need to remember those who will
follow, and keep faith and hope in Christ alive, and live joyfully in the
generations to come.
And, most of all, I need to remember Jesus. I need to remember the one who
promises to meet me and all of God’s people at his table for a foretaste of the
I need to remember Jesus. And it’s the saints of God who help me
remember—the ones who, in the words of an un-named Swedish bishop, “make it
easier for us to believe in God.”
Today we surround the Lord’s table with candles. These candles, when lit,
remind us of the saints—the ones who have gone before us, and the ones who are
newer to our community of faith. In Christ, they are with us at the table—even
if we are separated from them by death. For death is not a barrier for
Christ, is it! He has made that abundantly clear in raising Lazarus from
the dead, and in his own resurrection to glory!
No, death is not a barrier for Christ—in him, we are all held together,
mysteriously, in the promise that, through him, God makes all things news.
That’s why I need to remember the saints:
I need to remember saints like my Grandpa, who taught me to love the
Bible—and God whom I know through the Bible. Has there been any one like
that in your life?
I need to remember saints like St. Lawrence, one of the early martyrs of
the church, who gave his life for Christ. A greedy Roman official heard about
the treasures of the church, wealth he thought was to be found in the church’s
Communion vessels and furnishings. The official gave
three days to gather the church’s treasures and, at the appointed hour, Lawrence
appeared in the company of hundreds of Rome’s sick, and old, and infirm, and
poor. Angered, the official demanded, “Bring me the treasures of the church!”
Calmly, Lawrence replied, “These are the treasures of the church!”
Sentenced to death for his insolence—death by roasting over an open fire—the
legend is that Lawrence urged his executioners, “You can turn me over now; I’m
done on this side!”
Why would they do that—those saints—love God and even, in some cases, put
their very lives at risk?
Well, I have a hunch. I have a hunch they knew the power and love of
Jesus. I have a hunch they trusted Jesus. I have a hunch they had heard his
promise. And I have a hunch they believed it: “I will make all things new!
Death, mourning, crying, pain—they shall be no more!”
A Swedish bishop once insisted, “We need the saints. The saints
make it easier for us to believe in God.”
That bishop was right! We do need the saints, and we do need
All Saints’ Day. Why? Because the saints make it easier for us to believe in
Today, the saints want us to know that we can take God at God’s Word. They
even join us at the Lord’s table to remind us of God’s promises. And what do
they want us to know?
That God means what God says. That, even though the world seems old and
weary, and sin and death weigh heavily upon us, God can be trusted.
God promises us, “I will make all things new!”
And yes, my friends, when God makes that promise--God can be