Sermon for March 29, 2020: “Giant-Size Hope”
Reading: John 11:1-45
For the past month our Gospel lessons have come from John.
And each lesson features surprising encounters between Jesus and people.
I have called these encounters the Gospel Team-Ups, based on my favorite Spider-Man series of all time: Marvel Team-Up.
When I was young, Each and every month I got to read Spider-Man teaming up with super-heroes like Captain America, Black Panther, and Iron Man.
In John 3, we have Jesus teaming up with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and synagogue leader.
In John 4, we have Jesus and a Samaritan woman
Last week, John 9, we had Jesus and a blind man
And today, Jesus has a GIANT-SIZE encounter with THREE people:
Martha and Mary AND Lazarus.
One thing I have not mentioned throughout my sermons but want to share with you now is that in each team-up Jesus gives himself a title.
So in our Gospel lessons Jesus calls himself:
- Chapter 3: The Son of Man
- Chapter 4: The Messiah
- Chapter 9: The Light of the World
Each title has a significant definition in the eyes of the Jewish people and in the eyes of most of the religions in ancient times.
Today, Jesus not only gives himself one more title, he gives TWO:
He says he is The Resurrection and he is The Life.
Not only do all these titles come with great power,
each comes with an expectation.
And Jesus had to be ready for the times when he falls short of those expectations.
Like when people he loves suffer and die.
In Martha and Mary’s eyes, when they needed Jesus the most, he wasn’t there.
When Martha sees Jesus approaching, she runs to him.
But she doesn’t run with open arms.
She runs with a broken heart.
Mary too also greets Jesus with sorrow instead of joy.
And they both say the same thing:
“If you had been here, Lazarus would not have died.”
But this statement goes beyond IF/THEN,
It goes to the deeper question:
“Why weren’t YOU here, Jesus?”
In saying this deeper question, Mary and Martha speak for all of us.
I know…I believe…that all of us have asked this question when our hearts have been broken,
or when we have suffered loss,
or when death arrives in our lives.
Or when we are in the middle of a world-wide pandemic.
So today I want us to take a moment
And let God have it.
I am going to give you a moment of self-reflection/silence where you can tell God just how frustrated you are with God over:
Our place in life
Now that we have done some venting about the Bad News,
Let’s now look at the Good News
While there is pain, anger, and disappointment in our Gospel,
it is important to hear and read that Jesus does not avoid this confrontation.
As Martha and Mary run towards him, he does not run away.
He takes it.
And in a wonderful and beautiful moment…
Now some theologians will say that Jesus cries out of a sense of frustration, because the people do not understand him and his mission.
And that IS a common theme in all the gospels where people, especially the disciples, do not understand Jesus,
But I see it differently.
I see something that means a lot to me, and I would say also to you:
As Mary and Martha cry over the death of their brother,
Jesus cries WITH them!
SHARES in the sorrow of his people.
This is why we started the Good Shepherd Team.
And I would urge every pastor and church to do this:
We have a team of almost 20 people who are calling and checking in on our members each and every week.
The Good Shepherds makes sure people are alright and if they aren’t that they provide a voice, a prayer, and sometimes tears.
It is important that people of faith are WITH others in this troubling time.
Not only is it important, it is doing what Jesus would want us to do,
Because it is what he did.
And in this moment of shared sorrow,
Jesus shows Mary Martha and us what it means to be called The Resurrection.
Let me read you a few passages from John, from chapters 1 and 10:
There was a tradition that one’s soul hovered near the body for three days.
After that time, there was no hope of resurrection.
BUT Jesus says, “I am the Resurrection and the life.”
Jesus shows Mary, Martha, and us that with God, there is hope.
There is life.
And there is The Voice.
Jesus shows that HIS voice, HIS word is the most powerful thing in all the world.
You see, Jesus doesn’t just call out Lazarus, HE CALLS BACK LAZARUS!
This Word…is so powerful that it can bring life out of death.
It can call Lazarus back from the dead, away from Death.
With God, there is always another breath.
There is always another day.
With God, Death is not the victor.
THAT is the message of today’s Gospel.
That is a GIANT-SIZE hope.