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A Giant Yard Sale

Fourth Sunday of Easter - May 3, 2020
- Acts 2:42-47
- Psalm 23
- 1 Peter 2:19-25
- John 10:1-10
A Giant Yard Sale

How we deny Jesus to others

Third Sunday of Easter - April 26, 2020
- Acts 2:14a, 36-41
- Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19
- 1 Peter 1:17-23
- Luke 24:13-35
How we deny Jesus to others.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

It was revealed to the disciples, during the breaking of the bread, that the person who walked with them this entire time was the Lord, Jesus Christ.  Alleluia.  Christ is Risen.  

This story from Luke holds significant value for the church.  One can almost imagine someone coming up to Pastor Luke and asking him, “Why do we read the gospel first, have a sermon, and then share the meal?  Where did this form, this structure come from?”  And Pastor Luke probably responded by retelling this story of Jesus meeting his disciples on the Road to Emmamus.  

I remember the first time that I realized this Road to Emmamus story resembled our Sunday Morning liturgy.  I was in college, preparing my entrance essay for candidacy so that I could enter seminary.  I don't know why I was reading the gospel of Luke, but I read this passage and it was like a light bulb went off in my head.  That is why we do what we do.  First we start with the word—Peter and another disciple tell this stranger all that has happened in Jerusalem.  Then, we move to a deeper explanation of the events that took place—Jesus interprets all that had been written by Moses and the prophets.  Then, in the moment of the breaking the bread, we realize that Jesus had been with us all along the way.  For 2000 years, we have done this exact same thing.  We gather for the word, expand upon it in a sermon, and then we see Christ in the breaking of the bread.  

Yet, when we talk about communion these days, it is often around frequency, the specialness of the meal, and in these times—whether or not we can celebrate it over the internet.  I am not going to go into virtual communion debate today but I will say this:  During WWI, the radio was one of the most important tools on the battlefield.  There was a debate at the time whether troops could gather bread and wine and then have a priest say the words over the radio.  The church deemed that this practice was too far from the standard and norm of communion being done within the community of faith. If we decided that the troops, who were risking their lives could not do this, then we should also avoid such actions.  The internet is no different than the radio.  

Outside of this self-isolation time, I often hear that if we celebrate communion too often, it will not be as special.  If we do it too much, it will be too much work for our volunteers.   That if we share this meal every week, church will be too long.  However, rarely do I hear conversations around the benefits of eating this most holy meal and truth be told, I never really experience the importance of such a meal until this past summer.  

Back in July, my dad was watching Thomas.  They went out for a drive and while they were out, Thomas got sick.  He threw up all over himself in the carseat and was unresponsive.  My dad called me and asked what he wanted me to do.  They were close to the hospital so I said go straight to hospital.  I tried to call Diane.  The call didn't go through.  I tried again. Still nothing.  I tried a third time and she picks up.  I told her what happened and she drops everything, and heads over the hospital.  Then there was me.  I had no car. It was at the car dealing getting service.  I was freaking out.  I didn't know what to do.  I actually considered walking out into the middle of King street, stopping a car and telling them to either get out or take me to the hospital.  Luckily, Martha came in the room and told me to take her car.  I run to her car and start driving.  I just got out of Martinsburg when Diane called me and said, "he was okay." In fact, he was so okay, that when he saw Diane walk into the waiting room, he immediately walked over to her, opened her purse, and grabbed a bag of yogurt bites because he was hungry. They get him home and cleaned up.  I get a ride to the dealer and get my car.  I drive home.  I kiss him and we put him down for a nap.  I thought I would just take the rest of the day off, but my nerves were shoot.  I couldn't sit at home.  I had to get out and do something or I was going to lose my mind.  I decided to drive down and see Frances Castlemen.  She is a shut-in at St. John's.  If you don't know her, you should really get to know her.  She was home and welcomed me in to her house.  I was still pretty shook up and was not in a good place to be Pastor Matt.  Instead, Francis ministered to me.  She listened to me.  She let me show her all the pictures I have of Thomas.  Then it came time to go and I asked I could have communion with her as was our typical practice.  I have never needed communion so much in my life but I didn't realize it until I took the host and said to myself, "The Body of CHrist given for you."  In that moment, I realized that my Lord had been with me this entire day.  He was with me as I received that panic phone call. He was with me as Martha came in the room and offered me her car.  My Lord was with me as I drove home.  And I fully saw him in that moment of the breaking of the bread.  

Communion has benefits that we often forgot.  In Luther's Small Catechism, he writes that “The words “given for you” and “shed for you for the forgiveness of sin” show us that forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation are given to us in the sacrament through these words, because where there is forgiveness of sin, there is also life and salvation."  Communion is not just a snack we get in church.  It brings forgiveness of sin, life and salvation.  We see Jesus in the breaking of the bread.  I never understood that until this summer when I sat in Frances' living room.  I felt my sins forgiven.  I felt life restored.  I felt salvation.  I saw the risen Lord.

This is a powerful gift that our Lord gave to us.  It is gift that we, as baptized Christians, are able to participate in.  It is special because it is connected to God's word. God's word is holy unto itself and when we put God's word to these simple elements of bread and wine, forgiveness of sin, life and salvation are possible.  We cannot use the argument, "Communion will become less special the more we do it."  Jesus is revealed in this meal.  Would any of us ever say, “I really am not in the mood to see Jesus this week.” No.  Communion does not become less special because in this meal, we realize that our Lord has been with us all along.  We get to hold our Lord's body in the palm of our hands.  And when we eat this bread and drink this cup, it does something for us.  It is not mere busywork for us.  It has benefits.

It is important that we participate and not just watch it at home or from the pews.  Luther says, "a person who has faith in these words, “given for you” and “shed for you for the forgiveness of sin,” is really worthy and well prepared." At the time of Luther, while the Eucharist was celebrate every day, very few Christians partook in the sacrament because they did not feel worthy.  There was a whole ordeal that went into preparation for taking the sacrament which included fasting and confession.  Most Christians just abstained from receiving it.  But that did mean they didn’t come and watch it. In fact, there are reports of stampedes on Sunday mornings in towns caused by Christians running from one church to another just to witness the priest consecrate the elements.  As soon as they saw it, they ran out the church and went to the next.  For Luther, it was more important that we eat it and drink it because otherwise, we receive no benefit.  We do not receive forgiveness of sin, life and salvation unless we take it.  Lutherans do not hold to the theology of spiritual communion.  We do as our Lord commanded—we eat it and we drink it.

When this is all over, and it will be over, may we look hard at our Eucharist practices. May we ask questions as to why do the things we do. May we explore better ways to bring the sacrament to the people.  May we get past the phrases like: 

  • "We have never done it that way before." 
  • “It will be less special if we celebrate it every week.” 
  • “We don’t want to burden our volunteers with setting up the meal every week.”
  • “Worship will be too long with it every week.” 

The sacrament does something for us and this time away from the sacrament has been difficult, and it has made me question the status quo— i.e. the way we do the sacraments as a church. It is time we all have a serious, theological discussion around our communion practices.  When this is all over and we are able to safely gather back together, I hope we will see the sacrament for what it true is.  The body and blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ and it is our job to reveal our risen Lord to the people.  (ENDING) We are to be like the two disciples and run back to the others and tell the others, “we have seen the Lord.”  Alleluia.  Christ is Risen.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Thomas, don't be late!

Second Sunday of Easter - April 19, 2020
- Acts 2:14a, 22-32
- Psalm 16
- 1 Peter 1:3-9
- John 20:19-31
Thomas, don't be late!

He Came Back!

Easter Sunrise - April 12
He came back!

Stop Looking for the Dead

Resurrection of the Lord - April 12, 2020
- Acts 10:34-43
- Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
- Colossians 3:1-4 
- John 20:1-18 or Matthew 28:1-10
Stop looking for the dead!

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

46 days later, 46 days after we started Lent, we gather in a way that nobody could have ever had imagined back on Ash Wednesday.  We gather in fear of what is outside our doors.  We gather worrying about the future. We gather very much like the disciples gathered on that very first easter.  We gather at home.  Waiting.  Watching.  And praying.  Yet we gather and proclaim with so much hope.  Alleluia.  Christ is risen.  He has risen indeed. Alleluia.  

Last Easter was special.  Rhett, a four year old boy was baptized at St. John’s.  The church was packed, one of the largest Easter morning worships we have seen in a long time.  I handed out noise makers and told everyone to make some noise every time we said the word, Alleluia.  It was an incredible experience.  And I am not going to lie to you all and say that this Easter is going to be another incredible experience.  It just is not the same without all of you here.  Yet, this experience of our Lord’s death and resurrection still moves me.  

As I was preparing for today and making sure all the music loaded, I found myself getting very emotional listening to Jerry play, “This is the feast.”  Because despite this pandemic, our Lord lives.  He lives and nothing can change that. Thought I am not going to say that today feels very much like Easter.  We have become very accustom to Easter feeling a certain way.  Waking up early for Sunrise, breakfast at church, easter egg hunts with friends and family, falling asleep on the couch after eating tons of ham.  Easter this year, feels different and maybe it should.

Typically, at the 10am service, we would hear the Synoptic version of the Easter text.  I usually reserve the text from John’s gospel for Easter Sunrise.  Ideally, I would love to do an Easter Vigil because that is where John’s gospel shines.  In the church, John’s gospel is always used for holy days like Christmas and Easter.  On Christmas Day, we have John 1.  At the Easter vigil, we have Jesus meeting Mary Magdalene at the tomb.  John’s gospel has a way with words that just sets it apart from the others...

John’s recount of the resurrection is very personal.  The other gospels have lots of people seeing Jesus.  Mary is alone at the tomb.  She sees that the stone as been rolled away.  She runs back to get Simon and John, who are locked in their houses because they are afraid.  They go to the tomb and find it to be empty like Mary said.  Simon and John leave their friend, Mary behind. Mary stays in the garden, crying because she does not know where her Lord’s body has been taken.  She saw him die on the cross.  She watched as they laid his body it the tomb.  She saw his lifeless body on the cold, hard stone.  Dead people do not just get up and walk away.  People who have been crucified do not just recover three days later.  Rome might have been a brutal, but they how to execute people.  She is looking at the facts, at the way things have always been.  Dead people do not come back to life.  The only time she has witness a resurrection was when Lazarus was raised from the dead, but Jesus did that.  Now Jesus is dead.  Who is going to raise him? 

A fury of thoughts must have been running through all their minds.  Grave robbing was a troublesome crime at this time. At the time, there was an imperial edict against it. It would have been natural for the disciples to conclude that someone had stolen the body.  John tells us that the two disciples see the cloths lying in the tomb. The beloved disciple sees and believes. But what exactly does he believe?  That Jesus’ body might have been stolen? Peter apparently doesn't believe—perhaps he doesn’t believe that someone would have be so evil to have stolen the Body of Jesus, but where could the body be? Peter is probably also thinking that if indeed Jesus’ body had been stolen, why would the grave robbers take the time to fold the linen wrappings.  They both leave more confused than when they first came.

And they leave Mary behind.  She is left behind to mourn the loss of her teacher’s body.  Not only have they killed him but they have taken his body away to do whatever God knows to it.  She is left outside the tomb weeping when she sees two angels in the tomb (v. 12). The same word, sees in Greek, is used here that was used for the disciples seeing the linen wrappings.  It is very much a physical seeing.  Her eyes are telling her that two men are in the tomb. She still believes that someone has taken the body (v. 13). But the angels do not tell her what is going on.  They only point out her weeping.  “Woman, why are you weeping?”

Then Jesus comes on the scene quickly after the angels appear.  It is almost too much for Mary to take it all in.  John says uses the same two words again:  that Mary sees Jesus (v. 14), but her eyes deceive here.  She believes she is seeing the gardener (v. 15). Jesus says, “Woman, why are you weeping?” If I would have been Mary, I probably would have given some smart mouth reply the second time I would have been asked this question.  “I can’t find Jesus’ body.  We left it right here.  Peter and John are completely useless. They have left me here in the garden.  Two guys are just hanging out in the tomb and ask my why am I weeping.  And now you show up and ask the same thing.  I am in a cemetery, what do you think I am doing here? Playing bingo?!?!” 

Thankfully, Mary is not like me. Mary, unsure of what is happening, says to Jesus, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’”  She is trying to process things in terms of human experience.  All she wants is her Lord’s body.  She wants to mourn his loss.  She wants one last chance to be alone with him one last time.  Yet, that is not possible...because Jesus is not dead.

Then he calls her by her name.  He says, Mary.  And instantly, she recognizes him.  She beholds the man she has been wanting to see this entire time. He is alive, breathing, and not dead anymore.  She says, “Rabbounni” which means My Rabbi.  It is not just, Rabbi but it means my rabbi.  It is a very personal moment and she wants to hold onto Jesus.  She wants things to back to normal, back to the way things use to be.  But Jesus says, “No.  We can’t go back.  You, Mary, have task to do.” 

Mary must be an evangelist.  She must be the first evangelist. She must go back and tell the others what she has seen in the garden.  She must be the one to tell the good news and create the first church.  The first evangelist was a woman named Mary.  She is the mother of us all.  She is the reason we gather some 2000 years later proclaiming this good news to a new generation of people.  She is the reason that church exists today.  All because she did not hold onto her Lord.  All because she did not let her fear hold her back.  All because she listen to her Lord.  

She goes back to the group and tells them.  She tells them that ‘I have seen the Lord’ She does the work of the church.  She does the work of the pastor.  She started the work of the church with one simple phrase, ‘I have seen the Lord.’ From there, 2000 years of faithful preaching and sacraments have been done by those who follow in her footsteps, in her actions, in her words, “I have seen the Lord.” Our whole reason for existing and gathering on this day every, single year is because Mary went back and said to the others, ‘I have seen the Lord.’

These five words started a whole new mission for the followers of Jesus.  Mary came to the tomb weeping that her Lord had died and she left as an evangelist, a pastor, a believer.  Such a humble beginning. Scared.  Alone.  Weeping.  Just wanting things to be the way they used to be.

Sound familiar? We all feel this way.  We just want to go back to the way things used to be, but that reality is unlikely.  How long will it take before we are willing to shake hands again?  How long will it take for us to be comfortable shopping in a store again?  How long will it take before we feel safe sending our children out into the world?  We can’t go back to the way things use to be and that’s okay.  Because our Lord lives.  That’s all that matters this day.  It doesn’t that corporate worship has been suspended.  It doesn’t matter that family gatherings have been canceled.  It doesn’t matter that Easter hunts, and easter pictures will look very different this year.   It doesn’t matter.  None of it matters.  What matters is that our Lord was raised from the dead FOR YOU.  Our Lord meets you in the garden, sees you crying, and asks, “why are you weeping?  There is no reason to weep any more.” For our Lord is risen.  He lives.  Our God has conquered the grave and we all have a share in his resurrection, you have share this day.  Go back and tell the others that Our Lord is risen.  Be like Mary and create another generation of followers.  

Easter got a whole more personal this year, just like it was 2000 years ago. The mission of the gospel does not change even in a pandemic.  Satan tried his best to stop God from saving the world 2000 years ago and he failed.  2000 years later, Satan is at it again, trying to stop the church from proclaiming the good news that our Lord is risen, that we have indeed seen the Lord.  Satan failed that first Easter and he has failed again.  

Say it with me in your homes.  Alleluia.  Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed, Alleluia.  

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.  

The truth is worth dying for.

Good Friday - April 10, 2020
John 18:1-19:42
The truth is worth dying for.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

As my wife said on Sunday, since this pandemic has started, we have watched a lot of Frozen in the Day household.  For a while there, we watched Frozen 1 and 2 once a day for about a week or two straight.  I would normally be upset about watching the same movie over and over, but I really enjoy them.  I like their plots, especially the plot in the second movie.  When we watched it on Family Movie night back in February, I kept leaning over to my wife and saying things like, “does that sound familiar?” 

Last year, our theme during Wednesdays in Lent was on how Disney and church share a lot of qualities, especially when it comes to the stories we both tell.  C. S. Lewis does a similar thing in his classical work, “The Chronicles of Narnia.”  The only difference between Lewis and Disney is that Lewis wrote his work based on the Christian story of Jesus.  Disney‘s stories are not meant to be Christian themed, yet I could not watch Frozen 2 and not think about the story of Jesus. A wrong being made right.  Sacrifice to save the kingdom.  A mission and journey focused on finding out the truth.  The importance of said truth.  The truth being worth the sacrifice and the journey.  Being willing to die for the truth.   

I was struck by what Anna said towards the end of the Movie about her sister.  She said, “My sister gave her life for the truth.” This idea of seeking the truth is what drives the whole movie.  Elsa nearly loses her life to expose the truth.  Anna is willing to sacrifice her her home, her lifestyle to right the wrong that her grandfather made.  The truth is worth dying for.  

One of the most haunting lines of John’s version of the passion is when Pilate asks Jesus, “what is the truth?”  He had been questioning Jesus for some time at this point in the gospel. 

  • ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?’
  • ‘I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?’ 
  • Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’
  • ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’ 
  • Pilate asked him, ‘What is truth?’

The truth, as we know it, is Jesus Christ.  Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and light” in John 14.  John uses the word Truth 20 times in his gospel.  More than other of the gospels.  More than other book in the New Testament. John has set out on this mission to reveal to his readers the truth.  For the world lies.  The world spreads falsehoods.  Pilate has spent his entire life seeking out his version of the truth.  The guilty get punished and the innocent are set free.  Pilate, though, does not know real truth.  Many of his so-called “Guilty” criminals do not deserve the punishment they have faced and it was in this moment of talking with Jesus, who is the truth, who speaks the truth, that he realizes he has been wrong more than he has been right.  He knows Jesus is innocent yet, he cannot stop this sham of a trial.  He cannot free this innocent man.  How many other times has he been wrong?  Can he ever right the wrongs he has committed?  How many innocent men and women have died on his watch?  Yet, even though he has the power to stop this whole thing, he does not and another innocent man is sent to his death, because Pilate cannot handle the truth.  

Justice has failed.  Nobody saved our Lord from a death he did not deserve. That is the harsh truth we must face this night, but there is more to this harsh truth. The other side of the truth tells us that because of Jesus death on the cross, our Lord has saved us from facing a similar fate.  

2000 years later, we gather like the disciples did on Good Friday.  In our homes.  Scared of what lies outside our doors.  Scared that we might be caught.  Scared that we might die.  And the best thing to do when we are scared for our lives and there is nothing more that we can do is to pray. We pray that our Lord’s death was not in vain.  We pray for God to work a miracle. 

Last year, the world watched in horror as Notre Dam burned and was nearly destroyed. The world cried that such a beautiful place which took nearly 200 years to build, could be nearly destroyed in matter of hours.  Yet, the church still gathered throughout the world and continued to preach the good news of Jesus Christ despite losing a treasured place.  This year, we are faced with an epic pandemic that has affected almost every, single person in the world.  It is not safe to gather, but yet, we still present in worship.  

The cross teaches us that we do not need buildings like this, beautiful worship vessels, beautiful artwork, or holy relics to point to Christ.  All that is needed is our most ardent of prayers, the sacraments, and clear doctrine.  These three things are the most cherished of all our possessions because they point us to the cross.  They point us to Jesus.  

Last year I said, “How fitting that we gather here tonight, in a version of a hollowed-out sanctuary where all our beautiful vessels have been removed, where all the candles on our altar have been extinguished.  Yet, we are still are able gather in prayer without all these things.”  This year, I think it is fitting that we gather as the disciples did.  We gather in homes, with fear and trepidation.  But we gather tonight knowing the end of the story.  We gather tonight in our homes knowing that our Lord did not stay in the tomb.  We gathering knowing tonight is not the end. We gather knowing the truth that Pilate could never comprehend or even accept.  

The truth is staring us right in the face this night.  We don’t need these building to do ministry.  We don’t need all these things that we traditionally associate with being the church, with doing church.  What we need is the word of God, the sacraments, clear doctrine, and the blessed saints.  We can do church even when the world takes away our things.  That is the truth and it hurts because the way things use to be will never be that way again.  I do know what our future holds, but I cannot imagine that we will ever go back to the way things use to be.  People will be scared for some time.  People will be worried about leaving their homes in fear of what lies outside.  But we know the truth and nothing in this world can keep us silent.  Not even a pandemic.  Not even social distancing.  Nothing can stop the truth from being told and we will use every means at our disposal to tell this truth.  The truth stared Pilate right in the face and he missed it.  The truth is staring us right in the face this night.  Are we going to miss it like Pilate?

Can you see it?  It’s a little dark, isn’t it?  It's a little hard to see right now, isn’t it?  Yet John’s gospel, in the very beginning says, “the light shines in the darkness.”  It’s a little hard to see right now.  Its very hard to see right now, but in a few moments, the truth will be made clear and we will see all that really matters.  It is a truth that Pilate could never see—the truth that is worth it.  

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

Maundy Thursday - Meeting Jesus

Maundy Thursday - April 9, 2020
- Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14
- Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19
- 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
- John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Meeting Jesus

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Palm Sunday - April 5, 2020
- Isaiah 50:4-9a
- Psalm 31:9-16
- Philippians 2:5-11
- Matthew 27:11-54
The good, the bad, and the ugly.

A Second Chance

Fifth Sunday in Lent - March 29, 2020
- Ezekiel 37:1-14
- Psalm 130
- Romans 8:6-11
- John 11:1-45
A Second Chance

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

He was late.  On the day when it really mattered for Jesus to be on time, he was late and a man died.  And not just any man, he was a friend.  The man’s sisters are devastated.  A community is filled with grief all because he was late.  



Does that sound like today? As of last night, over 33,000 people in the world have died from the Corona Virus.  729,568 have contracted the virus.  142,730 in the US alone.  It seems like Jesus a little late to the party.  It seems anyways...

Back in January when I was thinking about catchy sermon titles, I came up with, “A Rare, Second Chance” for today.  See, I have been approaching this text from a certain point of view for a very long time.  I usually always gravitate towards the resurrection and that is not a bad place to go.  The lectionary committee choose this reading for this very reason.  We are three weeks out from Easter. Even in Lent, we remember the resurrection.  You have probably heard it said that Sundays are a mini-Easter.  That is mostly true.  It is probably better to say  that each Sunday is a mini-Pascha but most people will look at you like you have 10 heads.  In the preface for Sundays, we say, “who on this day overcame death and grace” because we remember each week on Sunday Christ death and resurrection.  Hence why it is better to say mini-pascha because mini-Easter does not always mean the cross.  So, on this day, just three weeks out from Good Friday and Easter, it is good for us to hear a story of resurrection.  It is suppose to get your juices moving and thinking in that direction.

But, I have never been stuck at home like this.  I have never experience a pandemic like this.  And so, sitting in my house, on my couch, with nothing but a toddler, a baby, a wife, and two dogs to talk to, I heard something different in this text.  I started to think about Jesus being late and wondering if this time we are experience is just another one of those moments when Jesus is late.  I started wondering if this pandemic was intentional on the part of God, but I know that God doesn’t operate like that. So I started to really think about Jesus being late and his decision to stay back an extra few days. 

Jesus could have easily showed up and healed Lazarus.  It would have been recorded and would have held power for us today.  But he stayed back so that the situation would worsen and Lazarus would die.  He stayed back so that Lazarus would die and Jesus would be put into an impossible situation.  Because up this point in the gospel of John, Jesus has not been in a situation like this one.  He has does many miraculous things such as turn water into wine and as we heard last week, restored the sight to a blind man.  But bringing someone back to life was impossible in this day and age.  It still remains almost impossible in many situations in this day and age.  There is only so much that doctors and nurses can do to save a life.  They might bring someone back, but never like this.  NEver four days later.  

Jesus stayed back and was late so that he could confront an impossible situation and show people what God is capable of doing.  “Jesus does not do the easy thing (keep bad things from happening), Jesus does the hard thing...” But before he does the hard thing, Jesus first ministers to those who are grieving the loss of Lazarus.  These moments with Mary and Martha are so very touching and really show us the depth of love that Jesus has for these two women.  He says things like:

    • Your brother will rise again."
    • I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die
    • Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?

These are powerful, hopeful words given by Jesus not just to Mary and Martha, but to all of us.  I have used this passage so many times for funerals because of the pastoral these words are for Jesus.  Notice, Jesus did not go immediately to the tomb, first he found Mary and Martha.  He talked to them.  He listen to them. Jesus could have gone directly to the tomb and raised up Lazarus, but he chose to first find the people who needed God the most at that moment. The more and more I think about this passage, the more I realize that Jesus does everything that we expect him not to do because that is how God works.  

God’s work is not what we expect and this narrative from John 11 emphasizes this point very clearly. Notice how the the raising of Lazarus occurs:

    • Jesus orders the stone to be removed,
    • gives thanks to the Father for hearing his prayer, and
    • commands Lazarus to emerge.

Neither Lazarus nor anyone else present is said to believe in Jesus’ power. Just the opposite is the case. The crowd does not expect the dead man to emerge when the stone is rolled away. The people assume that death is final, irrevocable, and there is no remedy for it. Yet, this story shows us that the crowd did not have to believe in order to make Lazarus’ appearance possible. Human belief is not the source of the rising. Jesus’ oneness with the Father is the source of the rising. Jesus sees beyond death to God’s infinitely greater power. He demonstrates with thanksgiving and authority that his vision is true. Through just such powerful events, the veracity of Jesus’ vision is given to us. We cannot come to them with ready-made belief. Instead, Jesus creates the ability to believe by causing death ... to turn to life. Those who watch and help to unbind Lazarus are given the vision they need.  

For us, sitting in our homes, unable to leave because of this virus, may we not forget that Jesus shows up in impossible situations and brings about life.  Our Lord was not late to this virus.  Our absence from corporate worship will not bring about God’s wrath.  In fact, I think this time could have been a whole lot more unbearable if we did not have technology that allows us to broadcast with just a click of a button.  May we not forget this day or any day for that matter, that our Lord shows up in impossible situations and does the impossible.  And we are in an impossible situation.  I know it sounds a very cliche thing to say, but Jesus wasn’t late, he was right on time because we need to understand that God doesn’t just show up in the easy times, God shows up in the impossible times as well—and when God shows up in these impossible times, things we never were possible become possible. So, be on the look out for Jesus because he is going to show up and quiet frankly, he is already here.  He is ministering to the sick and the caregivers, to the people who are going insane in their homes and brings them the good news that Jesus is source of resurrection and life.  So, when the time comes, may we be ready to move the stone.  

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

And who is he, sir?

Fourth Sunday in Lent - March 22, 2020
- 1 Samuel 16:1-13
- Psalm 23
- Ephesians 5:8-14
- John 9:1-41
"And who is he, sir?"
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