Tuesday, April 8, 2014

April 6 Sermon - Station 10

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you:
because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world. Amen.

Jesus began to weep. He was overcome with emotion at the tomb where his friend lay. Jesus who knew new life was coming, was still suddenly emotional, seeing the faith of those who lost their loved one who still believed even in the midst of their grief.
Jesus said to Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live…Do you believe?" She said to him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world."
Faith in the midst of the most dire circumstances, Martha has it and she shares it in the midst of her pain. Jesus lives the faith and still weeps for his friend.
To paraphrase Martin Luther King, Jr., “The ultimate measure of our faith is not where we stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where we stand at times of challenge and controversy.”
So in the midst of faith and pain, Lazarus is raised. Jesus said, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."

Sadness and fear were present in that village. So too was faith, a faith that believed in the resurrection, a faith that began with Mary & Martha and would spread to others, the belief of Jesus as the messiah, and Lazarus was freed.

I wonder where the faith of his followers were as they watched Jesus stripped of his clothes, station 10. It is the final moments before crucifixion. The brutality of the torture he received is on full display. We are at Calvary, Golgotha. The last acts of this grim charade is about to begin, as one of our hymns put it.

It must have challenged their faith deeply to see this happening. Today, our faith is often challenged by death, illness and fear, which entomb us, we are stripped of hope and love.
His life was a never-ending winter of depression. His heart had been broken too many times; his last few dreams finally died in defeat and disappointment. He would leave his house only to go teach his classes or see his doctor, but his real life was lived under a blanket in his dark bedroom.

Then, one day, he was drawn to his empty yard and felt the urge to dig. He turned over spade after spade of dirt until he had cleared a small plot. He planted a few seeds and managed to find the energy to water, fertilize and weed. Soon he picked his first small basket of tomatoes and beans. He now had reason to get out of bed. He was a gardener. That was a few years ago. Now, each winter, as the snows rage, he spends hours at his kitchen table planning the next year's garden. While the world around him is entombed in winter, he lives in the never-disappointing hope of spring, looking forward to digging in his garden and gathering the bounty of the harvest. [Suggested by "The Garden" by Richard Jones, Spirituality & Heath, March-April 2011.]
The Christ who calls Lazarus from his tomb calls us out of the tombs we dig for ourselves in order to walk in the light of hope and possibility. He calls us to live life to the fullest, to bring the love of God into our cold, winter world. Jesus calls not only to Lazarus but to all of us: Come out! Go free! Unbind yourselves from the wrappings of death! Live life to the fullest - the life given to you by a loving God. Sadly, unlike that gardener, sometimes the winter of heartache is out of our hands and control…
Britney Gengel was a sophomore at Lynn University in Boca Raton, FL. After Christmas in 2009, she volunteered for a service project in Haiti, helping out at food stations and orphanages before the new semester began. Britney texted her mom and dad: "They love us so much and everyone is so happy...I want to move here and start an orphanage myself." That was the last they heard from their daughter.

The next day, the catastrophic earthquake struck Haiti, killing 250,000 people and destroying the country. The hotel where Britney and the group from Lynn were staying collapsed. Her family waited helplessly for thirty-three anxious days - including a mistaken report that she had been found alive - before her body was found in the rubble of the Hotel Montana. Britney was 19.

Her family was devastated. But they are determined that part of their daughter's dream will be realized and decided to help build an orphanage. A friend's camera found in the rubble included photos of Britney's last days. Her mother is convinced this project is what Brit would have wanted - to play a role in helping the country she loved to flourish. "She was genuinely happy there. She was at peace." "We have an obligation as parents to honor our daughter's last wish," her father says, "& that was to help the children of Haiti."

Building this orphanage to honor Britney, the Gengel family says, helps them move forward despite their grief that Brit's father calls "unfathomable . . . The pain is incredible, and maybe that's what powers us." As we stand watching the grim charade, Jesus stripped and ready for death, we need to follow what Jesus does at Lazarus' tomb: and bring life out of devastation, to enable hope to take root in the most barren of places, to lift others out of the pits and rubble of fear and pain. We have been entrusted with the work of resurrection: to bring the life and love of God into everyday situations.

Even at the Cross, Jesus who called Lazarus to life, calls us to that same life, to be unbound from sin and death that prevent us from loving & being loved & to live free to love in our broken world. Amen

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