What a yr we’ve got had within the final week! Compelled to think about solely new methods of “gathering” for company worship, we’re inundated with headlines, updates, and tweets that learn as if “church” will be cancelled like an outdated tv collection (can somebody say cable TV?).
Pastors, remind your congregations we’re the church who collect for company worship and scatter for service within the spheres of affect God affords us. Like historic Israel shifting to synagogues when the Temple was destroyed, our worship of God shouldn’t be restricted to a constructing or area. Like the primary disciples of Christ shifting their gatherings to secret locations, the individuals of God proceed to worship in Spirit although the venue could change. This time of bodily distancing is an act of caring for our neighbor as we proceed to acknowledge our dependence on the Creator of the Universe.
In these unpredictable instances, one can anticipate inquiries about the excellent news. Is it attainable to counsel, as did the traditional prophet Ezekiel, that the spirit of the Lord has introduced us out and set us in the course of the valley? This valley. A valley of catastrophe and demise. Now don’t cease studying there.
Simply final week we have been reminded, by at least Jesus himself, that we miss the purpose after we counsel that blindness (or catastrophe) is to be thought of a curse from God. One must also recall the error of the counsel of Job’s associates, who sought to determine Job’s “sin.” Nonetheless, we discover ourselves on this second in a valley. Is that this the place to which God has led us? Could our reply first be Ezekiel’s: “O Lord GOD, ” (Ezekiel 37:3). As you put together this week, acknowledge our want for a phrase from the Lord, and linger in a posture of listening.
It may appear tempting to shift away from the lectionary this week, particularly if there was a demise within the congregation or somebody is gravely in poor health. How does one lead with a textual content that claims Jesus hesitated when his therapeutic hand may have saved? But when God shouldn’t be good within the midst of illness and sorrow, why acknowledge success and serenity as divine grace? Discovering God’s presence within the storm is likely to be extra devoted than expressing gratitude when issues appears to all be going the way in which we wish.
Rehearse the frustration and despair of Lazarus’ sisters. Rehearse the confusion and concern of the disciples. These would be the very posture of your listeners that must be affirmed this week. In your efforts to livestream encouragement, be intentional in providing empathy to these for whom Psalm 130 expresses the desperation of their hearts. From this place of shared misfortune, we are able to collectively watch and wait to see what the Lord is doing.
Now, the world is gravely by COVID-19. Alarms have additionally been raised by current earthquakes all over the world together with California, Mexico, Papa New Guinea, Greece-Albania, and South Africa. Dismay will be detected in market fluctuations, funds deficits, and enterprise closures. Panic is perceptible amongst these workers whose jobs require they continue to be within the midst of the pandemic. The world has grow to be a village, and our siblings are determined for a tangible pronouncement of the presence of God.
The occasions rehearsed on this week’s Gospel lesson are intimate. The important thing figures are family and friends. The desperation happens contained in the closed group, however it’s shared by any one that has ever skilled longing, loss, and being let down. In your proclamation (whether or not it’s livestreamed, pre-recorded, or written out), permit the echo to stay that the promise is carried from throughout the group past the group. We inform these tales in order that the world would possibly know. However don’t ignore that these are the tales of a specific group.
Inside this group referred to as Christ-followers, Jesus had cultivated an intimacy that allowed Mary and Martha to anticipate therapeutic. The frustration of the delay happens throughout the expectation of a response. And even on this second, they continue to be devoted. The complexity of feelings is actual.
And there’s the rub. Typically disappointment and religion coexist. Martha and Mary don’t demand a repair. They proceed imagine Jesus is the supply of their hope. So—the main focus of the textual content shouldn’t be a pronouncement of survival rules, however indicators of God’s faithfulness to revive life on this world permeated with demise and destruction. The indicators restore our capability to see God’s faithfulness within the face of catastrophe.
Jesus will enterprise to the very place his life is most threatened, Jerusalem. There he encounters the very ingredient that almost all threatens humanity, demise. As we see Jesus’ sorrow, could we acknowledge the remorse of God that creation is in agony. See God, seeing us, and grieving that the curse nonetheless reigns. For now.
Confusion is cheap. God doesn’t see as individuals see. Jesus shouldn’t be stymied by the disciples’ defeatist angle masquerading as bravado or by Martha and Mary’s disappointment masquerading as anticipation of a future hope. It is going to be from this intimacy that Jesus’ ultimate signal of God’s presence and energy can be exhibited.
In solidarity with a world the place the specter of demise is obvious in political posturing, financial inequity, medical malpractice, particular person isolation, regional rivalry, and denominational discord, God in Christ approaches the stench of our strife.
In faithfulness to God’s need to provide humanity considerable life, Jesus calls us by identify. Jesus doesn’t converse to the useless man, or the brother of the mourners, or the one buried by the group. Jesus calls to Lazarus.
This week don’t be afraid to roll away the stones of hypocrisy and hype, governance and greed, concern and failure, illness and doubt:
- Solely by dealing with the fact of this second will your phrases witness to God’s life-giving grace.
- Solely by that witness will the signal of resurrection be a affirmation of God with us.
- Solely then will the testimony of the scattered church be a foretaste of the gathered group the place there’s life.
- Provided that we inform this story will others come to imagine in Jesus. Not as a result of we concern demise, however as a result of we all know what it means to stay.
Working Preachers, that is our story. Inform it wherever and nevertheless God provides you a platform.