A Voice Against Death John 11:1-45

At a time when….

….the cases of Covid-19 (100,000 +) have made the USA the hot spot of the outbreak for the world and continue to rise while medical professionals cry out for supplies and equipment, comes the push to get back to normal for Easter and protect the economy…

….the elderly are considered expendable and should be willing to sacrifice their life for the economy (not a whole lot of support on this from the elderly or those who love their parents and grandparents)….

….the pandemic is declared to be God’s judgment…

….we need to hear a word filled with hope comes the reading for this Sunday from the Gospel of John.  While the above only support death, continued suffering and portray a God of wrath instead of grace, the reading from John tells of Jesus’ presence as the source of life.

Mary and Martha send a message to Jesus that their brother, Lazarus was seriously ill.  Even though Jesus was only about two miles away, he delayed a couple days before coming to them.  When Jesus arrived, emotions were raw because he came too late. Lazarus had been dead for four days to be exact which was significant.  It was considered possible for the soul to return to the body in three days but this was four days.  Lazarus was dead.  Jesus wept with the mourners possibly overcome with their emotion…perhaps seeing the pain of death inflicted…perhaps knowing that the opposition was already seeking ways to get him killed.  The taint of death was unmistakable.  Then Jesus said these amazing words, “”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.”

The Gospel of John begins telling about the Word which was God and was with God from the very beginning.  The Word which called creation into existence.  Jesus is that Word now standing at the entrance of the tomb calling for Lazarus to come out.  Lazarus came out still wrapped in his burial linens.  Jesus commanded the linens of death to be removed and for Lazarus to be set free.

These days much of life is in crisis.  We worry about economic well being.  We worry about getting sick.  We worry about our loved ones getting sick.  The voices that minimize the risks to others and which tell of sacrificing life to another god (economy) are not voices speaking of life.  They are the voices of politics and power that have the taint of death.  Only one can stand at the door of the tomb and can call for the remnants of death to be removed from us and that is Jesus.

These days look to the one who is ‘the resurrection and the life.’  Listen to Jesus’ call to remove death’s covering.  Care for your neighbor and do what brings them life.  Remember that the Word which gave us life is the same Jesus who died on the cross and rose from the dead.  He is still present calling for us to come out of the ways of death and be set free.

Peace.

No More Sea Revelation 21:1-6

I struggle to comprehend what these verses are describing.  Why?  The reason is that while life is indeed a blessing and filled with so much grace, trying to comprehend life with no more crying or pain or death is difficult to really imagine.  Now I mourn for those I’ve lost to death.  Now I witness on the news broadcast the crying and pain brought by our inhumanity to each other, our refusal to recognize the image of God in each other.  Yet as Revelation draws to a close an image is given of a wedding with the reign and presence of God united with us.  The old ways will be no more.  Instead, they will be replaced by the ways of a new heaven and new earth where the old ways will no longer be.  Christ, the Lamb, is the light by which the nations will come and go.  What will this life be like?  What the brain can’t comprehend, faith holds on with hope for the promise of what is to be.

“…and there was no longer any sea.”  The sea is often referenced to as a place of chaos.  It stands in contradiction to the goodness and order of creation.  The opening verses of Genesis tell of the Spirit of God hovering over the waters and God first called forth light and creation began with order, goodness and teeming with life.  We, created in the image of God, are to care and tend for this amazing creation.  The chaos of the sea works to oppose God’s creative goodness.

Whenever hate filled shouts or mockery is made against each other, then we deny God’s image.  This is chaos.

We are reminded over and over of how we are changing the climate of the earth.  A recent estimate is that one million species is at risk of extinction.  Whenever we fail to care for creation, this too is chaos.

So often heaven is thought of as a place we go to but Revelation tells us that the abode of God comes to us.  The result is that the ways of the old heaven and the old earth and the sea will be no more.  The death and resurrection of Christ Jesus has begun a new creation.  The final end will come in a new heaven and earth where the old ways of pain and crying and death will be no more.  What a beautiful promise!  The brain may not comprehend but what an amazing hope for faith to cling.

Peace

An idle tale? Luke 24:1-12

We have come to Easter and we know what that means for the day.  We gather with the family and enjoy lots of food.  The couple pounds lost from denying ourselves chocolate will be replaced with a couple pounds more to spare as we devour the Easter candy.  Sometime during the day, we need to contend with the message of Easter.  Is the resurrection an idle tale?  Or, has the resurrection of Christ set creation on a new path to be made new?

On the first day of the week, women went to the tomb of Jesus.  They went there like we all do when going to a cemetery.  We go to tell stories.  We weep.  We grieve.  We seek to find a new normal without the person we loved.  However on this morning, the tomb was empty and two men in dazzling appearance asked, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”  The two men reminded the women of Jesus’ words of being crucified and raised on the third day.  The women ran to tell the disciples who considered their words nothing more than an idle tale.

The resurrection of Jesus is God’s judgment against the darkness of the world.  The likes of Herod and Pilate denying justice to the innocent and who give in to mob rule for political peace are judged.  The chief priests and the mob crying for the death of Jesus while preferring the release of a criminal are judged.  Our world where Jesus walked among the outcast and poor was judged.  Our world where death is granted ultimate power is judged as a fraud.  The real power is in God the Father who raised Jesus from the dead.

The resurrection of Jesus happened on the first day of the week.  The first day which goes back to the start of creation when God spoke and light shined in the darkness.  The resurrection of Jesus is the beginning of a new creation.  All creation is now to be set free from sin and the darkness.  Light is shining.

The women were asked, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”  Why are they still looking for the old ways of death when a new creation has now begun in Christ risen?  The disciples called the message delivered an ‘idle tale’ because their thoughts were still on the old ways.  This Easter the message confronts us as well.

If we are content with leadership that allows injustice to reign, where the innocent are allowed to suffer, where political peace is preferred over the truth then the resurrection is an idle tale.

If we are content with the hungry not being fed, the sick refused care and the outcast to be shunned and condemned as unworthy, then the resurrection is an idle tale.

If we are content with creation being exploited for profit rather than protected and cared for, then we are pushing the darkness upon it and the resurrection is an idle tale.

The message for this Sunday is, “Christ is Risen!”  Will we receive it as the good news it is for all creation?  Will we treat it as an idle tale?  The difference is to be in the past’s darkness or live in the light of God who raises the dead to a new life.

Peace.

How could we? How could he? Luke 22:14-23:56

The great declaration of the Christian faith is that Christ has died…Christ is risen…Christ will come again.  This coming week is Holy Week and we look at the first part: Christ has died.  I encourage all to attend Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services to grasp the depth of the Christian faith.  This reading from Luke is long as it covers the passion from the Last Supper to his crucified death.  The question is, “How could we?”

Following the Last Supper with his disciples, Jesus goes with them to the Mount of Olives to pray.  Judas Iscariot is absent because he left to betray Jesus.  Suddenly Judas arrives with a crowd to arrest Jesus.  A kiss of friendship is given.  A sword is drawn.  Jesus announces that the power of darkness is at hand while he is taken away.

There has been an ongoing conflict between Jesus and the Kingdom of Heaven against the power of darkness.  Now has come the time for the power of darkness to reveal itself.  The next few hours the power of darkness reveals it’s true nature.  Lies.  Deceit.  Violence.  Normally rational people screaming for the death of an innocent man while leaders stir up emotions further.  Their delirium has them demanding the release of a known murderer to see Jesus killed instead.  Mockery.  Kill.  This is the power of darkness.

This is why Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and all of Holy Week are important.  If we simply jump to Easter, then we excuse ourselves and sit like spectators watching a game to see who wins.  We need to see the darkness.  We need to recognize our involvement.  We need to ask the question, “How could we allow ourselves to made pawns of the darkness?”

How could he?  When this question is asked of Jesus, the answer is always ‘love.’  Yet the word is vague.  There is a rare group of people willing to sacrifice their lives for someone else.  We call them ‘heroes.’  Jesus gave of himself for a world lost in its darkness.  This is why we call him, Savior.  This is love.

For now the power of darkness seems unstoppable and Jesus is handed over.  However, he takes his last breath on the cross in trust that the One who called light into existence will not let darkness prevail.  Jesus took his last breath trusting that the One who created life will not let it be denied by the darkness.

This coming week, we take a long look at the darkness and ask “How could we?”  We also ask, “How could he?”

Peace.

Preparing for death John 12:1-8

The season of Lent is coming to a close and we know what that means, the cross is next on the way to Easter morning.  As much as we want to jump ahead to the excitement of Easter, the cross must first be faced.  The reading for this coming Sunday is setting up what Jesus will soon be facing and that is the cross.  The dichotomy of death and life can’t be ignored.

Jesus is at the home of Lazarus whom he had restored to life from death.  Immediately after this the entire Sanhedrin was called together to deal with the problem of Jesus going around doing miraculous things.  If Jesus were allowed to go around showing signs of the Kingdom of Heaven the Romans will come and take away all they have worked to accomplish.  Caiaphas declared that it would better for one man to die than for the nation they have labored to create perish.

Following the above reading, the chief priests were concerned about the crowds gathering around Lazarus’ house.  They began to plan Jesus’ death and Lazarus’ death too.  Hey, do you really want visual proof of life rising out of death to be seen!  People would want this and reject the power structures at play.  Better kill off life so that the old ways of death can be maintained.  How foolish we are.  How obvious our sin and how oblivious we are to recognize it.

At Lazarus’ house, Mary takes out fragrant oil to anoint Jesus for his burial.  A humble act and loving act as she uses her hair to wipe the perfume over his feet.  Judas Iscariot complains that this expensive perfume could be sold and the proceeds given to the poor.  He doesn’t understand what is happening.

As long as Jesus is present, the Kingdom of Heaven is present.  Jesus will soon be crucified and raised from the dead.  Then he will ascend in glory.  We wait for the day when he returns and the Kingdom is fully established.  Until then, we contend with the powers that be.  The powers that emphasize killing and death to keep control.  The powers that leave us with a privileged few and poverty for the rest.

The season of Lent is drawing to its end and the cross is coming sharper into focus.  This is a good time to be reminded of the powers that be and our complicity in their efforts that result in death and poverty.  This is also a good time to remember the Kingdom of Heaven and how we can be a witness to its life giving ways.

Peace.

Why did they need to die? Luke 13:1-9

Why did they need to die?  They were going to worship their God and to offer prayers.  They were going to a place that was a sanctuary for them.  They weren’t hurting anyone.  Why did they have to die?  We’ve all heard about the shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand.  Fifty Muslim worshipers were killed for what?  Worshiping at their local Mosque?

These kind of events happen all to often.  In this case we rightly blame white supremacy and hate which is grown around the world.  We also blame access to high powered guns.  We blame mental health as the problem.  Yet the question, “Why did they need to die?” never gets answered because the victims at Christchurch didn’t deserve it anymore than anybody else.

Some brought to Jesus’ attention the Galilean worshipers whose blood Pilate stirred in with their sacrifices.  “Were they any worse sinners?” he asked.  The answer was, “No.”  Then Jesus urged them to repent and not perish.  He also brought up those killed when the Tower of Siloam collapsed on them.  “Were they any worse sinners?”  Again, Jesus answered saying, “No.”  Once more came the urgency to repent and not perish.

Jesus’ answers are not all that satisfying.  We want to believe that you get what you deserve.  When a mass shooting happens, we know better than to blame the victims.  They were innocent.  When an accident brings death, we shake our heads wondering ‘why?’  So we are frightened because life suddenly seems very fragile.  The reality of death is much too close.  Jesus urges us to put our attention in a different direction to the One who is the author and giver of life.

Jesus came to show us that God’s response to sin is forgiveness and death is overruled by resurrection.  There is nothing easy about the cross of Jesus Christ but it is the way that the hand of God reaches down to the grave and pull us out to life.

Jesus called for repentance which is nothing less than a total transformation of thinking.  We get out of the thinking we get what we deserve.  The victims get what they deserve.  The hurt we do to others we justify as something they deserve.  Reality is that we don’t always get what we deserve.  Life is very fragile.

Jesus is urgent for our repentance and a turn to God who gives us forgiveness and life.  We don’t deserve this either.  This is why we call it grace.

Peace