the one about those words...
April 2, 2017, 5:36 PM

Sermon from April 2, 2017

Text: John 11: 1-45

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus who is the Christ; will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, here we are at the last Sunday in Lent. Lent – though short in weeks – still at times feels very long. Mostly because of what the season encourages – fasting – and especially in this year of the lectionary because of the really long gospel readings.

This Sunday is no different in the long gospel department. Yet, still it is a story that we know very well. Even before we began reading it I’m sure that if I asked any of you to tell me the summary of the Lazarus story most – if not all – of you would be able to say, “Oh, yeah that’s the story of the guy Jesus raised from the dead.”

And, you’d all be right and get a gold star.

But, of course there is more to this story than just Lazarus being resuscitated back to the living. There are so many images and phrases within these 45 verses that are incredibly powerful and perplexing. In fact, this Wednesday for Newberry College’s Lenten Devotionals I’ll be mentioning one of the more perplexing parts of this story. However, that’s not where I felt drawn for this morning’s sermon.

This is a story full of immense and intense emotion. We encounter these mourners of Lazarus at their lowest depths; wailing and weeping at the loss of their friend and brother. We see Jesus overcome with intense emotion as well. Is he sad? Angry? Exasperated? Probably a mixture of all of those. There is confusion as Jesus calls for the stone to removed; followed by anticipation and then exultation when the dead man shambles into the light from the darkness within the cave.

Lots of emotion.

We too experience emotion on grand scales. I’ve been with many in mourning at the loss of a sibling, a parent, a friend, or a child. I’ve walked with those moving through the torment of separation and divorce. Some have shared with me their struggles with addiction and depression. We are all witness to our country’s politics that at this time seem to be a battle of extremes with no middle ground or compromise to be made. There are reports and articles of violence here, collusion there, corruption in so many places. There are equally the number of articles that hope and aim to disprove so much of what we hear and at times what we take for granted.

There is all this and so much more. Arguments. Divisiveness. Angst. Mourning. Fear. Trepidation. Confusion. Apathy. Frustration.

We as individuals and as a community are experiencing an do experience intense and immense emotions. We don’t know how to make sense of it all and that just adds into and multiplies our fears and worries.

Yet, this morning on this fifth Sunday of Lent we continue to embark on this journey towards the cross and the resurrection. This morning we hear a foretaste of the feast to come as Lazarus’ life is restored.

This morning, we also hear three of the most powerful words in a phrase that is full of faith and hope. Words that console us – console me – during these turbulent times. A phrase that reminds me of the power of our God in the midst of all of this.

Before, I mention what I believe those three powerful words are (and who speaks them), I’m going to tell you what words they are not. I’m going to tell you who doesn’t utter them.

Those powerful words of deep and abiding faith are not uttered by our Lord this morning. Shocking, right? How many of you expected me to say that what I feel is the most radical and comforting phrase in our gospel lesson this morning was “Lazarus, come out! Or “Now, unbind him.” Or “Let him go.”?

Those are indeed powerful and comforting words. That even in death our Lord calls us out of our tombs with such force and confidence. Or that with words our Lord calls for the shackles that bind us to death to be removed in his great love. But, as powerful as those words are – I find even greater comfort and action in the words of the disciple Martha.

Lord, if you were here, my bother would not have died.

But, even now… I know that God will give you whatever you ask.

But, even now.

Those are powerful words. That is a phrase full of faith.

How I hope and pray to live a life of ‘but, even now’ today and in the future.

A life that recognizes the hardship and struggle of today, but looks towards the future in the guidance of the Spirit and the comfort of God.

My brother has died, but even now I know he is held firmly in your arms as you hold us all.

I can’t seem to shake the grip that this has on me, but even now I know that your grip on me O God is even stronger and I cling to and place my hope in that.

I am at a loss in the direction our country is moving towards, but even now I have faith that God is in the midst of this. Calling for us to see Christ at work and present in our lives and in the lives of all those around us.

But, even now.

Those my sisters and brothers are powerful words. Those are words full of faith and hope. Those are words I hope and pray that lead us in and through this life of faith.

But, even now.

Recognizing the struggle of life, but knowing that Christ is here in the midst of all this with – each of us.

We continue to journey through Lent and towards our Lord’s death and resurrection. We continue to look towards the guidance of our God of hope and love. We continue to strive to live a life that is with and for God.

A life of faith where we cannot help, but get in the way of faith. Filling ourselves and others with distractions that pull us away from our God and keep us from seeing the kingdom of heaven at work and present among us.

But, even now… Amen.


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