First Lesson: Isaiah 25: 6-9
Responsive Reading: Psalm 24
Second Lesson: Revelation 21: 1-6a
Gospel Lesson: John 11: 32-44
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Last Friday, I was down in Esko helping Jeff Asmussen call the Silver Bay-Floodwood section championship game on the radio. For four quarters, it was a back and forth affair. Now there were forty seconds left in the game. The play was 4th and less than one yard. Floodwood was fifteen yards from the end zone and going to state. The game was the definition of a nail-biter. In true Silver Bay fashion, Carter Leblanc burst through the Floodwood line makes the tackle, officials measure, and the Mariners are going to win the game! Ozzie and I start high-fiving and probably display a questionable level of appropriateness for radio. I then remember that our videographer was all alone on top of the press box taping the game all by his Mariner lonesome. So I leave the booth to give him a high-five. The emotions of the “victory” were such that he’s crying out “tears of joy”. These tears were for his friends and how much excitement this event was going to bring to the school and people in the community.
Silver Bay going to State in football was unexpected, last year the Mariners were 3-6. Cromwell was considered to be the unbeatable power in the section. Here people were celebrating a reality that could have only been reality months before in one’s dreams explaining the tears.
Let me tell another story, shortly after leaving home for college, my sister Anne was having a 16th Birthday party. I knew that Anne’s birthday was going to be a really big deal in her life, so I would make the four hour drive home from Moorhead for it. Anne was so surprised that I would go out of my way for her; she burst into tears as I came walking into the door. Anne’s emotions were a byproduct of regardless of someone being absent in a given moment, they were promising to come through for you in the end.
Today, we gather as a Christian people to reflect on death: we remember seven saints of Sychar that have gone before us in the past year. Today’s lesson comes to us from Revelation 21. Let me tell you a little bit about this chapter of the Bible.
Revelation was written to people who stared at death every moment. Revelation was written by John the Apostle as he was exiled on the Greek Isle of Patmos for his faith. John writes Revelation to seven churches in modern-day Turkey who had seen their friends, families and neighbors suffer and die for the Christian faith. These people had shed all sorts of tears over their powerlessness to control the present, so John seeks to lay out a vision for the future.
This vision according to John will only be fulfilled after years of hardship, but this vision will ultimately result in a “new heaven” and “new earth”. Our passage today lays out a vision of a fallen creation being done away with, for a new creation to emerge.
Where many Christian people misunderstand, salvation is in its meaning. Revelation doesn’t describe salvation as merely coming down to individual people. Revelation 21 when all of creation will be redeemed, once sin and death finally leave the world behind for good.
The new creation or “New Eden” signifies the defeat of all who oppose God’s purposes. The promise of the new creation is that there will be no more death, no more mourning, no more crying, or no more pain for the former things of this world have passed away.
This week in Confirmation, we were having a discussion about scary things from the Bible in honor of Halloween. We discussed things like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the number “666”, and Armageddon. Scary concepts like these are how people often think about the end times when the end times are rather defined by the Scriptures differently. The Scriptures portray the end times not in terms of fear but rather in terms of promise.
I think of the famous funeral words from 1st Corinthians 15 “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”
As we gather today, we do grieve. We grieve those that have left us in the past year. We grieve that our lives shall never look the same ever again. But we remember that the tears that we shed are not permanent. On this day, we eagerly await our Resurrection, a day when every tear is wiped from our eye forever.
We celebrate that those who have gone before us are recipients of a promise that is proclaimed in our lesson “Behold, I am making all things new. Write this down, for these things are trustworthy and true.”
Today we remember those who have gone before us as we look towards this powerful vision of the future on All Saints Sunday. Let me say a few words about each of our departed saints.
Bertha Savonen: When I think about Bertha, I will always think about Bertha and Toivo. I remember the visits over on Garden Drive where Bertha, as you can imagine, would do nearly all the talking. Toivo sat in his chair with a twinkle in his eye hearing Bertha once again tell the tale of going sky-diving on her 80th Birthday. Once Toivo died two summers ago suddenly, not a visit went by where Bertha didn’t mention her longing to reunite with Toivo. Bertha also loved being a part of Sychar’s Mission Circle. On Bertha’s fridge hung a picture of Bertha, Esther, and Lorraine when they came down to visit her. Bertha cared deeply about the people of this church. What I will always remember about Bertha is when planning the funeral with Darlene her daughter, Bertha’s one wish for her service was that they have Zup’s cater it because Bertha knew how hard it was for the church women to serve in the kitchen. Bertha wanted to show her appreciation to them.
Lois Kind: Bob’s favorite story to tell about Lois was about the time when he was a highway patrolman and he pulled Lois over down by Gooseberry Falls and she never let him hear the end of it. It was difficult for Lois being married to a cop because she was such a worry-wort whenever Bob went out on call. For Lois’ compassion was such that she would pray for the deer outside once she thought it was getting too cold. Lois’ daughter Gail drove up from the cities nearly every weekend for the last several months of Lois’ life. Gail and Bob sat by her dying bedside for weeks and weeks. Gail told me that the reason she did this was because Lois would have done the same for anyone. In Lois’s last days she kept repeating the same phrase over and over again continually citing from the 23rd Psalm how “She shall dwell in the house of the Lord” after passing through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
Mabel Jacobson: Mabel was a charter member of Sychar. We will remember her and Leroy for the many years that they ran Jacobson’s hardware in town. Mabel was a proud Norwegian and Saint Olaf grad”. This week, I talked to Mabel’s close friend Dorothy Ives about what she remembered about Mabel to which Dorothy recalled what a “true friend” that she was. How Mabel was so easy to have a conversation with about nearly any subject. Whenever I would go see Mabel what I will remember is what an interest she took in asking me about all areas of my life, but always giving the freedom to not have to give an answer.
Lorraine Hendrickson: Lorraine was a woman of “great faith”. Once Lorraine was unable to read from her Bible, she would listen to her Bible again and again on CD. When I went to see Lorraine, she would always have a particular part of the Bible to which she wanted to listen, and she nearly always had a question about the Christian Faith that she wanted me to give an answer. Lorraine was a formalist as she would not call me “Pastor Stew” for her it was always going to be “Pastor Carlson” no matter how I introduced myself.
My favorite Lorraine story is this. Lorraine was 92 years ago; she had fallen and ended up in the hospital in Two Harbors. When I entered Lorraine’s room, I had to announce who I was. I notice Lorraine had a picture that I didn’t recognize by her bed. I ask, “Who is this?” It turns out that Lorraine had met a 90-year-old boyfriend at the assisted living in Two Harbors. I have never seen such a happy hospitalized woman in my life as she starts telling me all about him while beaming. Lorraine’s boyfriend had even come to the hospital to see her as she recovered from the fall. So let Lorraine serve as an example that you’re never too late to have someone special to come into your life.
Arnold Overby: The one thing that I will say about Arnie is that he truly lived out his convictions regardless of what people thought of them. We will remember Arnie as a long-time history/ geography teacher and passionate environmentalist. One of Arnie’s former students recalled getting into trouble during his class and being forced to sit by herself in the back. She was then compelled to run the film projector and pay attention. This student today now works for the Minnesota Historical Society because of Arnie. We will remember Arnie for his love of Polka music and inline-skating. Arnie was a faithful member of the Thrivent Board for a number of years. Arnie and his wife Marlene were responsible for the Adopt a Highway stretch that Sychar has maintained since the mid 1980’s in the Split Rock area.
Darrell Carter: We will remember the humorous Darrell Carter as part of vaudeville act of the last thirteen years of his life “Darrell and Carol.” Holy Hilarity Sunday was one of their favorites of the church year. Darrell was arguably the best dancer at Sychar as we got to witness Carol and him dancing up a storm during Rally Sunday 2013. What I will remember about Darrell is that when he would go through the receiving line at church, I would always ask him “If he was staying out of trouble?” Darrell never answered the question but would instead flash his mischievous smile at me.
Kent Shamblin: Kent admitted that in the later years of his life Marion would get on his case about being a “grouch” to which Kent replied he just choose to be selective about his commitments. I had spent quite a bit of time visiting with Kent over the last several months of his life. Yet when I read Kent’s obituary I was blown away by the depth of his civic commitments: president of two Lutheran churches including this one, president of Saint Paul Winter Carnival, numerous non-profit boards including a stint with Saint Thomas’ Center for Non-Profit Management.
Kent really cared deeply about this church. When Kent was living at the nursing home in Stillwater, he would always bring up who we could get to serve as the officers of the church. Kent was an extremely thoughtful man, who sent me some of the nicest notes of appreciation that I have received within the ministry. Kent last preached here in November of last year. The reason that people enjoyed Kent’s preaching so much is that he was very contentious about the faith that he was going to proclaim. Before Kent’s last sermon we had a very engaging email exchange over how we proclaim the Gospel as Christian people. What it all comes down to is the promises that we here on this day.
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.”-1 Thessalonians 4:13
The ultimate point of our lesson is that at the times when we’re unable to make sense of it all. Our God is there. Our God is there eager to wipe away our tears and promising to turn them one day into tears of joy as our eyes lay sight upon the “new heaven” and the “new earth”.
The promise that we here today is that what lies before our eyes in the grave, is not what heaven and earth shall become.
So as we leave this place on this day, we remember those who have gone before us: Bertha, Lois, Mabel, Lorraine, Arnold, Darrell, and Kent. We remember them as sinners of God’s own flock, yet saints of God’s own redeeming. We give thanks for how they impacted not only this church, but the world around them. Yet as we grieve their losses, we reflect on God’s promises that “one day all things shall be made new”-Isaiah 43:19. We shall not ascend into heaven, rather heaven will come down to us in Christ Jesus. We await the day when the savior walks into our presence and gathers us into his arms forever. Amen.
 Revelation 21:1
 Koester, Craig. Revelation and the End of All Things. Eerdmann’s Publishing. Grand Rapids. MI.2001.pages 191-192.
 Revelation 21:4
 1st Corinthians 15:51-52
 Revelation 21:5
 Psalm 23:6
 The following story comes from Jennifer Ehlen-Niemi posted on the Cavallin Funeral Home Website on June 10, 2015.