“There’s a great big beautiful tomorrow coming at the end of every day.” That was the theme-song of the GE exhibit at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. It was called the “Carousel of Progress.” We used to think like that. Americans especially and people of faith in particular used to think that enlightened people with better education, innovative thinking and new inventions were building the kingdom of God on earth. We used to believe in the inevitability progress.

We don’t think that anymore. When we stopped, why we stopped, is a matter of historical debate; but this is not debatable: How we think about the future directly affects the way we live in the present. All Saints Sunday is all about the future, when God makes all things new and about how that future changes the way we live our daily lives. All Saints Sunday is about hope, not progress.

Coming, as it does, in the aftermath of an historic, unpredictable and devastating natural disaster and in the fore-math of an historic, unpredictable and potentially devastating national election, this All Saints Sunday offers us a golden opportunity to understand and
testify to that hope; a hope deeply rooted in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; a hope God’s people have consistently summed up when we confess, as we do at every baptism, “I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come.” This All Saints Sunday offers us a golden opportunity to celebrate what we really mean when we sing of a “yet more glorious day” and to use our hope for that future to empower the Church, the city, the world’s and our own “feeble struggles” today.

And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down … from God… And I heard a loud voice saying, “The first things have passed away.” “…I am making all things new.”

Note the emphasis. Not a better world, but a new world. Not a restored city, but a new city. Elsewhere in the New Testament, Saint Paul is even more expansive, calling what we hope for an entire “new creation;” a new creation in which Christ is the first inhabitant; a new creation in which we are already active participants; a new creation not to be accomplished in six days in a formless void as in Genesis 1 nor on a day from the dust of the
earth as in Genesis 2; but a new creation begun with resurrection, new life from old death. A new creation begun by Christ’s resurrection, expanding, growing and including more and more of us new creatures until the time comes when “Death will be no more; [and] mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” A new creation, when the constricting grave clothes of death, whose stench so offends us, will be torn away and we and all the world shall be wholly and completely new. A new creation, made, not in a formless void and not of dust, but rather after the likeness of the risen Christ. A new creation we call “the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come.”

In this world, the hardest thing for us to do is wait, because in this world of aftermaths and fore-maths, words like “historic, unpredictable and potential” remind us that death, mourning, crying and pain are still very much a part of us; are even yet before us.

Those who have died before us wait with us too. Their waiting is not the same as our waiting. It is not as hard because death,
mourning, crying and pain are no more a part of them nor ahead of them. Our waiting is filled with anxiety; theirs with eager anticipation. “We feebly struggle, they in glory shine.” Resting while we still labor, they sing, worship and pray with and for us and so it is right for us to sing, worship and pray with and for them. The Mass, the Eucharist, the Holy Communion is the place where we most clearly hear and most enthusiastically join their worship, prayers and songs.

“I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come.” Some of us have difficulty saying and believing that. It offends rationality. It even offends aesthetics. I mean, who really wants to have this resurrected body? I’m sure Mary and Martha, I’m sure even Lazarus, was hoping for something better. And so we come up with all sorts of entities – immortal souls, ethereal spirits, formless essences – to satisfy the skeptic deep with us.

Think, for a moment, about Jesus, about his time and place, about his death and resurrection. Who was it, after all, who didn’t want the dead to be raised? It was, and still is, those in power, the social intellectual and
religious tyrants and bullies; the Caesars who would be threatened by a Lord of the world who had defeated the tyrant’s last weapon, death itself; the Herods who would be horrified by the postmortem validation of a different “king of the Jews.” And this is the point where believing in the resurrection of Jesus and of all the dead ceases to be a matter of inquiring about an odd event in the first century and becomes a matter of rediscovering hope in the twenty-first… Hope is what you get when you suddenly realize that a different worldview is possible, a worldview in which the rich, the powerful and the unscrupulous do not after all have the last word. The same worldview that is demanded by the resurrection of Jesus is the shift that will enable us to transform the world (See N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope).

Publicly gathered together to be nourished by the crucified and risen Christ today, we remember, we give thanks and we join our voices with all the saints. But what we shall we tomorrow as we wait for the new Jerusalem to come.
Today’s Gospel gives us a hint. After several days of waiting and four days after Lazarus’ wrapping and burial, Jesus final raises Lazarus. Coming out from the tomb, Lazarus stands alive before them, reveals the new creation that is already, but still yet, to come. What then are Mary, Martha and the other disciples supposed to do? Jesus gives them, and us, a hope-filled command and answer. “Unbind him and let him go.”

Unbind the church, the city and the world, and let them go. Get them ready, with all the saints, for that “yet more glorious day.” We can live with that.