Readings – Isaiah 25: 6-9; Psalm 24; Revelation 21: 1-6a, John 11: 32-44
How many have ever visited Hyner View? You go to Lock Haven, past the University, and west on Route 116, and turn off just a bit before Renovo. There is Hyner View State Park, and to get to the summit you go up the mountain, twisting and turning, always looking for oncoming cars. When you get to the top there is a spectacular view of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River valley. At the very top is a short wooden structure where you can, not me, you can launch your hang glider. Oh, what a view!
Since the beginning of time getting to a high mountain top has changed our perspective. Mountain top experiences transform us; mountain top experiences elevate our perspective.
Simeon, the elderly man we encounter at the beginning of the Gospel of St. Luke, went every day to the mountain top in Jerusalem, to the temple mount, hoping to one day see the long-expected Messiah. Close to death, he saw Mary, Joseph, and the Christ-child entering. Simeon proclaimed –
Lord, you now have set your servant free, to go in peace as you have promised, for these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, whom you have prepared for all the world to see, A light to enlighten the nation, and the glory of your people Israel.
Simeon’s perspective was forever transformed, “you have set your servant free”.
This is what change of perspective can do, it can set us free from whatever had previously kept us in bondage, kept us captive, kept us from seeing with the eyes of Jesus. There is an old hymn, sung with great joy, “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, I am free at last”. This hymn was noted by Nelson Mandela of South Africa, and by Martin Luther King, Jr. Their mountain top experiences brought them to a new place from which to navigate their lives in the valleys, even though “the valley of the shadow of death”. In the words of our second reading from Revelation, they saw “a new heaven and a new earth”, they saw life differently.
I think to be a “saint” with a lower case “s” is to walk through life with a different perspective; it is to live from a mountain top point of view. Yes, we still have our “feet of clay”, yet we have hearts filled with the spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, the spirit of Jesus. To be a saint is to stretch to live that mountain top perspective each and every day. It is to live life unfettered, unbounded, by the darkness that sometimes lurks about and seeks to overwhelm us.
Our proper collect for All Saints Sunday proclaims that we:
have [been] knit together… in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of …Christ our Lord.
We are a community that is composed of those saints who have been to the mountain top, and who can see over the horizon, who can see from a mountain top perspective, free from the chains of darkness even while living the valleys. We are the blessed People of God, the saints of God.
Lazarus was called out of the darkness, out of the tomb by Jesus, and into a new life as his family unwrapped him and set him free. So, we, too, have been brought out of the darkness into a new life among the people of God, we, too, have been to the mountain top, and transformed, and have been unwrapped to live the rest of our days as the saints of God.