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Wrestling with the Word, episode 45: All Saints Day, Year B (November 1, 2009) October 19, 2009

Posted by fostermccurley in Wrestling With The Word podcast.
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All Saints Day

The Sundays of the church year move expectedly through the calendar months. We preach, we listen, we learn, we feel the guilt of our sins in God’s presence, and we know of the exhilaration that comes from God’s forgiveness. Some people feel highs from attending Christmas Eve worship or from Easter sunrise services. Others prefer the season of Lent when we realize that God’s Word became flesh to walk in our sandals and to die in our place. Nevertheless, this one day called All Saints Day hits many of us personally when we hear aloud the name of a loved who died since the last November 1. This year I will hear my Mother’s name among the others who died in the nursing home in 2009. Hearing the names during the service recalls and even stimulates the grief we knew earlier in the year and thought we were over. Along with other listeners, I will undoubtedly join in their sadness, their anger, their guilt, and their loneliness that will resurface for a time. Yet the lessons assigned for this day enable us to reinvest our pains into new life based on comfort, companionship, trust, forgiveness, hope, promise, and reunion.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 45: All Saints Day, Year B.


Psalm 24
Used as part of the liturgy at a festival of the Lord, the psalm extols the glory of God in creation (vss. 1-2). Then in verses 3-6, like Psalm 15, those who have made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem ask about the worthiness required to enter the temple, to which the priest responds that those who have clean hands and a pure heart may enter and there receive the Lord’s blessings and vindication (righteousness). The final verses (7-10) provide the liturgical responses to the coming of the people and of the glory of the King, acclaimed as “the Lord of hosts.”


Isaiah 25:6-9
On the coming Day of the Lord, God will hold a celebration of life for all peoples on his holy mountain, as the Lord once invited the elders of Israel to feast on Sinai.

Chapters 24 through 27 comprise the “Apocalypse of Isaiah.” The chapters are probably later than any other material in the book. They reflect the apocalyptic view that a heavenly battle will occur (24:21-23), after which God will reign as king on the mountain where he will preside over the eschatological banquet.

Key Words
V. 5.  lekol-hā‘ammîm = “for all peoples”:  The banquet is a universal one which goes far beyond the people of Israel at meal on Mount Sinai (Exod. 24:9-11) and at various meal-offerings on Mount Zion in Jerusalem (see Deut. 12:7; 14:26).

V. 7. ûbilla‘  hāhār hazzeh penê-hallôt hallôt ‘al-kol-hā‘ammîm = “And he will swallow on this mountain the surface of the covering that covers over all the people”:  While the expression is not used elsewhere, the noun form of lot appears to mean “secrecy, mystery,” and so is used to indicate the mystery surrounding death.

V. 8.  billa‘ hammāwet lānetsach = “he will swallow up death forever”:  The expression seems to be a twist on an old Canaanite poem in which Death (Mot) threatens to swallow up Ba`al and thus end the season of fertility and life.  The twist is actually twofold:  (1) Death will be the one swallowed up; (2) the swallowing will be the eschatological act of the last days rather than a seasonal end to fertility.


Revelation 21:1-6a
Against the present reality of chaos, death, and mourning, God will make a new creation in which God’s presence with humanity will end all the horrors of the present.

John the Seer had just reported the vision of the demise of Satan and of the judgment before the great white throne. Now the Seer begins his report of the final vision.

Key Words
V. 1.  “a new heaven and a new earth”:  See the vision in Isa. 65:17-22, along with Genesis 1:1.  The new represents the opposite of the old or present.

V. 1.  hē thalassa = “the sea”:  The sea is an image of the chaotic force that is opposed to God’s Reign.  In OT often portrayed as a sea monster (sometimes called Leviathan or Rahab); see Job 9:8; Psalm 74:12-14; Isaiah 27:1; 50:2; 51:9-10; Nahum 1:4; and often. In NT, see Mark 4:35-41; 6:45-52 and parallels.

V. 2.  “the holy city,… Jerusalem”:  Recall the eschatological reference at Isa. 52:1 where Zion is commanded to put on power and glory; the context there is the coming salvation of the exiles from Babylon. See also Neh. 11:1, 18.

V. 2.  “a bride adorned for her husband”:  see 19:7. See Isa. 61:10 where an individual represents the community redeemed by the Lord and dresses for the occasion. On the image of marriage between Yahweh and Israel, see Hos. 1:1-3; 2:15; 3:1ff.; also Ezek. 20; Isa. 54:5-8. On marriage as an image for Christ and the church, see 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:31-32, and here.

V. 3.  hē skēnē  tou theou … kai skēnōsei met’ autōn = “the dwelling/tent of God … and he will dwell with them”:  skēnē is used for the tabernacle which God instructed Moses to build in order to be present with the people (Exod. 26–27); on the whole expression see Exod. 29:45. On God’s presence among the people, see also Lev. 26:11-12; Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 37:27. On God’s dwelling place in heaven, see Deut. 26:15; 1 Kings 8:30, 39, 43, 49.

V. 4.  “mourning … crying … pain”:  See prophecies about the eschaton at Isa. 35:10 = 51:11; esp. 65:17, 19 in the new creation. Recall the beatitudes of the kingdom that Jesus taught (Matt. 5:1-12; Luke 6:21-23).


John 11:32-44
Deeply moved by the death of his friend Lazarus of Bethany and the painful sadness it caused the family, Jesus raises him from the dead and restores him to his family and community.

The pericope is preceded by the report from Mary and Martha that Lazarus, their brother, was seriously ill. Jesus indicated that his illness is not unto death but for the glory of God (11:4).

Key Words
Vss. 33, 35, 38. enebrimēsato tō pneumatic kai etaraxen heauton … edakrysen ho ’Iēsous … ’Iēsous oun palin embrimōmenos = “he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply troubled … Jesus began to weep … Then Jesus, again deeply moved, …”: The verb translated “disturbed” and “troubled” appears elsewhere in a different spirit. At Mark 14:5 it means “reproach” by those who witnessed the use of expensive myrrh for anointing Jesus. In the synoptics, the word for Jesus’ compassion is splangknizomai, used for his response to the leper at Mark 1:41 and for the hungry, the sick and the helpless at Mark 6:34; 8:2; Matt. 9:36; 14:14. At Luke 7:13 the same word describes Jesus’ compassion on the widow whose son had died and whom he instructs “Do not weep!” (There, in the previous chapter, Jesus had taught the crowds, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh” [Luke 6:21]).

V. 41. pater, eucharistō soi hoti ēkousas mou = “Father, I thank you that you have heard me”: The expression of thanksgiving following a cry for help is characteristic of psalms of lament and thanksgiving (see, e.g., Ps. 30).