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.


“A bewildering voice? A Holy voice.” Acts 2:1-21

The day of Pentecost has come as the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples.  The day is often called the birthday of the church.  One thing for sure it is the dread of lay readers trying to pronounce the likes of Cappadocia, Elamites and Phrygia.  The day is a strange one with a violent wind and tongues of fire on the heads of the disciples.  The God-fearing Jews heard the witness of the disciples in their native language (outreach to the Gentiles will come later).  The reaction was bewilderment and some considering the disciples to be drunk at 9:00 a.m.  While alcohol may loosen the tongue, it doesn’t give command of another language.  This shows the Spirit was given for the purpose to give witness to the mighty things God had done.  Namely, raising Jesus from the dead.

The Holy Spirit was the gift given for the benefit of the church to do the work God has called it to do through Christ.  Yet, as always, we work to limit the Spirit to our own prejudices and power structures.  Peter quoted the prophet Joel to respond to the bewilderment of the people present.  In the last days, God will pour the Spirit upon sons, daughters, young, old, men and women.  Nobody gets left out!  Imagine how much the church has lost out by restricting the witness of women.  How many children have walked away because their voice was not allowed to develop and be shared?

The Holy Spirit was the gift given for the benefit of the church.  Yet we praise the gifts of some and not others.  We use the gifts as a measurement of who is most empowered or blessed the most by God.  We get so enamored with the gifts that we forget to use them.  The gifts need to used for the purpose given by the Spirit.

The people present were bewildered by what was going on.  We should be too!  There was God setting people free by cutting through the boundaries of sex and age.  There was God refusing to be held under the power of tyranny as the crucified Jesus was raised from the dead.  This news was bewildering to the people.  The mighty acts of God was running counter cultural to all they understood.  This was God setting his people and all of creation free.

So we celebrate Pentecost as the same Spirit is upon us to declare the mighty acts of God.  The message is still the same of God cutting through the boundaries of age and sex and race for people to be free.  The message is still the same of how God refuses to allow the powers at hand to have final control as Jesus was raised from the dead.  The message is still the same but the language is bewildering because it is so different from what we are used to hearing.  God is here and setting us free.  This is what the Spirit is guiding us to do.  This is a Holy voice.