Saturday, April 5, 2014

5 Lent Yr A April 6 2014

Audio 4.6.2014

The story we have before us today pulls many threads of what we have been hearing all through Lent together. This is an healing story, a miracle story, a story that shows us who Jesus is.

I think of Mary and Martha as good friends of mine. Mary and Martha are women who cook and clean and read, they are women who are committed to Jesus. I think the reason they seem like good friends of mine is that we do the same things, it seems like we share the same interests and concerns. Martha is concerned about the perfume that Mary used to anoint Jesus’ feet, she wonders if that wasn’t a bit extravagant. Martha also is concerned that Mary tends to act more like a disciple of Jesus, than the single girl that she is. Martha seems practical that way, Mary a bit more excessive, a bit overgenerous. Sometimes I wish I were a bit more like my friend Mary, and a bit less like my friend Martha.

So the sadness that Martha and Mary have experienced at the death of their brother Lazarus, seems passionate and powerful. Especially since they called on their friend Jesus to come and heal their brother, and Jesus didn’t come. He didn’t come when their brother lay dying, Jesus broke the rules about always coming to the funeral, he missed his friend Lazarus’ funeral. Finally, four days after Lazarus has been laid in the tomb, Jesus comes.

Martha runs out to him in the depths of her grief and anger, screaming and hollering, why weren’t you here earlier? You could have done something about this, now Lazarus lies rotting in that tomb. Why, did he have to die? Why didn’t you come? Why…

Questions we all ask at the death of a friend, at the death of a loved one. The sorrow and grief of our friends becomes our sorrow and grief too. This story of Mary and Martha proves that being a follower of Jesus is in no way a guarantee against pain and tragedy. There is no one on earth whose righteousness, wisdom, hard work, or good planning will preserve her from seeing the depths that Martha sees. Good people become widows and orphans. Good people die, and much too soon. It’s a fact, and no less of a fact for Jesus’ coming. 

But there is something else. We can cry to God from the depths. There is no depth, no loss, no tragedy, no disease or death, nothing on heaven or on earth or under the earth that can place the world or anyone in it beyond God’s redemption. Good people become widows and orphans, good people are killed in accidents, good people die from disease, good people die at a young age. But God defends the widow and the orphan, and will not leave those God loves bereft. And God loves everyone of us, God's love wins.

God will not leave us filled with a sense of loss, God will not leave us. You see, that’s what was, is, and will be accomplished in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. God loves us, God loves all creation. And God, master of the universe, creator of all that is seen and unseen, gave up all power and came into this world as one of us, just like you and me. Jesus. God in our midst. And Jesus stood with our friends Mary and Martha, and wept at the death of his friend, Lazarus. Jesus didn’t take the pain away from our friends, Jesus doesn’t take the pain away from us, but Jesus stands by our side, right in the very midst of us, and feels the pain and the sorrow along with us. This is a God in whom I can place my faith, my trust, just like my friends Martha and Mary. 

And this is the place we find ourselves today, the last Sunday before Jesus’ journey takes him to Jerusalem, the city in which he will be put to death for his radical ideas of love and inclusion. We find ourselves in this place of sadness, loss, pain and sorrow. A place of isolation, and of alienation. It is a place where we will spend much of our time until the day of resurrection.

When we are in a place of sadness, of loneliness, or a place of alienation it seems as it if will never come to a conclusion, the isolation, the sadness, the loneliness, will never end. But that is what our heart desires, conclusion and reconciliation. Being once again brought back into the web of relationship in which the yearning of our heart is fulfilled. A place of solace and of strength, a place of pardon and renewal.

You may be in that place of loneliness and alienation right now. Some of you may be isolated in your relationships; some of you may be experiencing broken relationships. Some of you may feel alienated from the people around you, people at school or at work. Good and true relationships are so very hard in this world where perceived perfection can be accomplished through surgery, implants and pills. Good and true relationships are so very hard in this world where recreational sex is splayed all over our TV sets and pop culture magazines.

Our cries to God do not go unheard. It is into this muck and mess that Jesus has come. This is the very place where Jesus comes to prove that we were created in God’s image, we are marked and chosen, we are claimed as God's own, we are the delight of God’s life. It is into this place of loneliness and alienation that Jesus comes and says you are not alone, you are never alone, I am with you, and I am here in those who surround you to show you the way.

But, this story doesn’t end there. This story goes on. Jesus calls Lazarus out of his tomb, against the better judgment of our friends Mary and Martha, who know full well that after four days in the tomb this will not be pleasant. But the gospel writer John always points to God, and this story is no different. It is for the glory of God that Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb. It is to show Mary and Martha, you and I, all who were gathered there that day, and all who hear this story over the millennia, that it is through God that creation has new life, that creation is brought back into right relationship with its creator. It is through God that we no longer live in isolation, we no longer are alienated from God and from one another, death does not separate us from God or from one another. 

After we have become convinced that all is lost, when we are ready to concede to death, Jesus demonstrates that there is no loss, no death, no tragedy, no depth, no power in heaven or on earth or under the earth that can place a person, a situation, or a world beyond God’s redemption, beyond the reach of infinite love and abundant life. God's love wins, all the time. Amen.

No comments:

Easter Vigil and Easter 2019

Audio   Easter Vigil and Easter 2019 Luke 24:1-12 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they had we...