Wednesday, April 13, 2011

April 10 Sermon: The Preview

Sermon Texts:
Ezekiel and John

Sermon Notes:

Perhaps one of the most poignant passages of scripture is the one we just heard.  We hear the grief of Jesus for a friend, a grief that he shares for all of us—for all of our deaths, and motivated by which he comes into all our future tombs and calls us out. 

Come out.  Breathe the air again.  Breathe the air of a new kingdom in which I am king and I have banished sin and death.  Be raised and live life fully now.  Love one another as I have loved you.  By this, others will know you as citizen of this kingdom. 

I’m reminded of my grandmother’s funeral, for which my father and I gave eulogies.  Over the previous ten years, we accepted my grandmother’s descent into oblivion as she succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease.  We accepted something that Mary and Martha just wouldn’t accept with Christ in their lives.  They ran up to Jesus with sorrow and perplexity in their voice.  “Why weren’t you here?  If you had been here, this wouldn’t have happened.” 

Jesus’ answer to them was baffling, I’m sure.  “I wasn’t here so that the world may see the gift that I bring.” Is essentially what he said.  

But why, Jesus—why couldn’t you have just been here and spared us the fear and trembling as we watched our brother die.  As your friends, don’t we get preferential treatment?  Shouldn’t there be some “perk” to following you?  Shouldn’t we be saved the pain that you can so easily remedy with your healing power? 

What if his answer to us is the same as his answer to Mary and Martha.  What if enduring the pain and suffering of this life with the firm hope in the power of Christ to bring us all back to life is one way that the power and glory of God can be shown to this world?  Do you believe it?

The last bit of my grandmother’s personality to ‘go’ was her musical ability.  It is amazing to me how our brain stores information, and how so often the musical mind is untouched by strokes or accidents that effect the rest of our minds.  I’ve read a couple of books by Oliver Sacks, the author and neuroscientist who wrote the book that the movie “Awakenings.”  In “the Mind’s Eye” and “Musicophilia” he gives many accounts of people who have drastically debilitating diseases of the mind which cause them to even lose a sense of recognition of every day objects, family members, or even their own reflection.  Some of these people have difficulty deciding what in the world pants or spoons or car-keys, or anything really, are for, and yet, when they “sing” the instructions to themselves for, getting dressed, for example, they can still accomplish tasks like these. 

My grandmother played the piano, and I remember about 2 or so years before she died, we went and visited her in the nursing home, and she played amazing grace for us on the piano.  She added a little comedic flourish at the end, and I was amazed that a bit of her sense of humor still lived there in her musical mind. 

At her funeral, I shared my belief that she has been made new in the Kingdom of God.  That she has received a new celestial body that is complete—that is physically and spiritually as God intended it to be. 

In the raising of Lazarus, John not only gives us a preview of the resurrection of Jesus, he gives us a preview of our own resurrection, when Jesus calls us all beyond the grave, and in that story is the seeds of the good news which might grow through our daily lives, as we live in light of the resurrection, and as we pour out our selves to God as Mary pours out the expensive burial nard all over the feet of the one who brings the Good news of God. 

Last week I spoke with the confirmands about how as a church we ordain women and give women the authority they deserve to bring the Good news just as the men do in the church.  I told the young men there that if they are ever questioned about this practice by their friends, that they can say that women were the FIRST preachers, and here we see one of the first sermons.  Mary, pouring out her devotion to the Lord Jesus.  An act of worship.  An act that speaks volumes, and foretells the fate that Jesus has been trying to get across to his male disciples for years, but which they refuse to hear.  This same Mary will be among that group of women who are the first bearers of the Good news of the resurrection in only a matter of days.  And what else is preaching? 

One thing that I imagine is that as God has spoken this creation into being, we will be Sung into recreation in the life to come.  That gift that seems to stick with us even when our brain is struck I imagine has some power beyond the grave.  Is there any wonder that angels are always portrayed as “singing?” 

Our lives are in God’s hands.  NO matter what befalls us, we are instruments of God’s peace and God’s assurance to the whole Creation. “I am with you, always!”   

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