Thursday, April 7, 2011

Good Grief

I’m finally getting back to posting here after a time away from it. It’s just been, shall we say, interesting around here, the last month. So, here goes. I am in the middle of my sermon series for Lent called: “I want to…” The idea is that Lent has a lot to do with desire and passion. Lent is the season of Jesus’ passion (desire to do the Father’s will). Passion also means suffering and devotion.

Lent, also, is about our passions and desires, as we seek to draw closer to God through sacrifice, giving, and worship. Using the Gospel Lessons I have work around this theme. Sunday, April 10th, I am working with John Chapter 11, the story of the raising of Lazarus.

There are so many interesting details in this passage. John tells us that Jesus is close friends with Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. So, someone makes sure that Jesus knows that Lazarus is sick. But, Jesus does not go immediately; he continues his mission.

Then, word comes that Lazarus is dead. That’s when Jesus makes preparations to go to Bethany. The disciples warn Jesus that the last time they were there things got testy. Still Jesus goes. Thomas, we know Thomas, says: “We will go with you to death, if need be…” Really?

Jesus arrives and the wake is still going on. Drinks and food and support for the family. Martha comes running to Jesus: “Lord, if you had been here, he would not have died.” How many times have I heard you and me say that: “Jesus, if you had been here…?”

Jesus tells her that line that we quote at every funeral: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me even though they die yet shall they live. Whoever lives and believes in me will never die…”

Lots of tears- even Jesus weeps. Then after prayer, Jesus tells them to take the stone away. He calls to Lazarus: “Lazarus, come forth…” And, Lazarus stumbles out of the grave looking like a mummy. Jesus says: “Unbind him and let him go…” The Greek word behind “unbind” is the same word used in the Gospels for the time when Jesus sent his disciples for a donkey to ride on Palm Sunday. Jesus says: “Untie him and bring him to me…” Untie him, unbind him and let him go.

The stone rolled away, women weeping at the tomb, grief, all bring us a glimpse of the coming Easter.

This Sunday I am working around the notion: “I Want to Get Past My Grief”. I will use the image of Mary and Martha in grief. Jesus experiences grief and is present and brings resurrection.

All the big holidays- Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day- are a mixture of joy and sadness for many. Even as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter we are remembering sadly those who are not here now.

Most of us live our lives in shallow ways, avoiding anything that will send us into a struggle. But, grief always moves us into the deep waters of life. So we come on Sundays bringing our griefs and sorrows with us to meet Jesus. At every grave we stand and wait for the day when Jesus will say to us: “Unbind him/her and set them free…”

Dave Nichols

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