Anne Williams, Ankeny, IA


Warm-up Question

  • Why do some people die and others don’t?
  • Is death part of some divine plan or not?

Second Chance at Life

More than half way down on the second part of a Google News search on “life,” Baby Abigail’s story appears. Abigail Jones is, today, a healthy baby girl who is, probably going to live a fine, long life.

That’s not what her mother was told when she was only 30 weeks pregnant (a pregnancy is considered full term at 39 to 40 weeks). A tumor was detected growing in Abigail’s brain. The doctors in Florida told Abigail’s parents that the tumor would more than likely kill Abigail.

Abigail’s parents got a second opinion: they travelled to Boston and were told that the tumor could indeed be removed and that it was more than likely not cancer. Abigail’s mom, Erika, said it felt like “was almost like she (Abigail) was born again.”

Discussion Questions

  • So there were two sets of doctors, one set who said Abigail would die, and another who said she could live. Which set of doctors were right?
  • What if Abigail had dies due to complications during surgery? Would that have been God’s plan?
  • What if Abigail’s parents stuck with the opinion of the first doctors and hadn’t gone to Boston? Would that have been God’s plan?

All Saints Sunday

Isaiah 25:6-9

Revelation 21:1-6

John 11:32-44

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.


Gospel Reflection

Death is the inevitable outcome of living – we will all die. It’s sad, it’s hard and it’s painful when we are the ones who have to keep on living without our loved one. In today’s Gospel reading we get a glimpse of Jesus’ real pain at the loss of this friend, Lazarus. Mary, Lazarus’ sister and those with her are all weeping and Jesus, caught up in the pain of realizing what happened, weeps too (it’s that famous super short verse).


Lazarus did not die just so that Jesus could bring him back to life again. Lazarus died because he was a human being. Either because of an accident, or an illness, Lazarus’ body ceased functioning. Jesus was brought to tears by this fact. He grieved with Lazarus’ friends and families that they would never see him again.

That’s not the end of the story, either for Lazarus or for us.

Jesus’ mission and ministry on this planet was to proclaim the good news that God loves us so much that the things that break us down, kill of parts of ourselves, bring us pain and shame, don’t get to win. Love, grace and forgiveness win because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

The plan, God’s plan, if you want to use that language, is that all people have a chance to hear and respond to that message of love, grace, forgiveness and acceptance. At the time of Lazarus’ death Jesus knew he was getting closer to Jerusalem and the cross. Those moments he would have to interact with people and share the message his Father had sent him to proclaim were growing shorter.

Here’s a possibility: In his pain and his sadness, Jesus knew that he could share one of those moments, a miraculous moment where his friend would come back to life and more would see what God was doing in the world. Jesus’ heart and the hearts of his friends would be eased and Jesus would be furthering his mission on this earth at the same time.

Raising Lazarus wasn’t part of some big pre-planned campaign. It was a powerful, visceral response from an all too human Jesus who felt pain, but who at the same time was so connected, so in tune with, the creator of the universe that raising Lazarus was possible, as a witness to the overwhelming love our God has for us – humanity.

Discussion Questions

  • Is it important that we see Jesus having real human feelings in this story? Why?
  • What would you say if you had to talk about God’s plan for the world?
  • Where does death fit into that plan?
  • Where does pain and suffering fit into that plan? (Don’t forget, God promised to meet us in the middle of our pain from the cross – Luther’s theology of the cross!)
  • Where does your own life fit into God’s plan?

Activity Suggestions

Bring Life out of death: Is there some space or place in your church that needs new life breathed into it? Is it that old closet in the basement that just needs someone to dump the trash out? Or is it the supply room in need of reorganizing? Take 20 minutes out of your class to breathe new life into a part of your building.

Care for the Grieving: Find out who in your congregation has recently lost someone and have your group make cards and pray for those people. Make sure they get them in the mail. Every little note helps when we are hurting!

Closing Prayer

Life giving, life breathing God, who sent Jesus to walk among us so long ago so that we could see that you know what it is to love and grieve and lose loved ones. We are grateful that we have such a savior.