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May 14, 2017, 9:52 PM

Living Eternally Today

14 1-4 “Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I’m taking.”

Thomas said, “Master, we have no idea where you’re going. How do you expect us to know the road?”

6-7 Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him. You’ve even seen him!”

Philip said, “Master, show us the Father; then we’ll be content.”

9-10 “You’ve been with me all this time, Philip, and you still don’t understand? To see me is to see the Father. So how can you ask, ‘Where is the Father?’ Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you aren’t mere words. I don’t just make them up on my own. The Father who resides in me crafts each word into a divine act.

11-14 “Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can’t believe that, believe what you see—these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do. (John 14:1-14 The Message)

How do you say goodbye? Perhaps with a hug or a handshake and a few words like, "See you later," or "Good seeing you again."

How do you say goodbye for the last time? The feelings run a whole lot deeper. Memories with the dying loved one sweep across your eyes. You feel the pain, perhaps anger, because you haven't had enough time. There's never enough time.

How do you say goodbye?

Jesus sat at the Passover meal with his disciples, knowing it was his last meal; his last time alone with his friends. According to the writer of John's Gospel, he washed their feet. Like a servant or a slave, he took their dirty, ugly feet into his hands and washed them clean.

"Wash each other's feet from now on," he told them. "Love one another just as I've loved you."

It must have been an awe inspiring moment for them. Until the bad news arrived. He's going to betrayed. Not by an outsider, but by one of his own. Peter announces that he'll follow him into death.  "No, Peter.  You can't come with me.  Yet.  And don't get ahead of yourself.  You'll deny me three times before the cock crows."

Oh my.  This is bad news indeed.  The air is somber; filled with grief and confusion.  Jesus has given the disciples TMI: Too Much Information.

Their situation is no better than any other Messiah wandering the hills of Galilee and Judea.  He'll be betrayed just as others have been betrayed.  He'll be killed as others have been killed.  This wasn't supposed to happen!  Not to Jesus!  He was different.  His ministry was different.

Betrayal and denying and death weren't supposed to happen to Jesus.  This news is a crushing blow.  Jesus' next words are important, because they are words of comfort.

"Don't let this throw you." (John 14:1 The Message)  It's going to be okay.  You see, there's hope. We'll meet again.  Not just in three days, but in eternity.  There's a place for you there and I'm going to prepare that place for you.  I'll be back to take you there.

Thomas, the inquisitive one, asks a good question.  "We don't know where you're going.  How are we supposed to get there?"

"I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me."  (John 14:6 NRSV)

These words have been used to comfort and to guide.  They've also been used as a reason to hurt, even to kill.  But, look at the context.  Would Jesus share bad news and then tell his disciples that some people are "out" while they are "in"?  Or was he trying to comfort them with words they could hang onto through the ordeal to come?

What is Jesus' "way?"  To find it, we must look at the broader view.  Jesus healed the sick, ministered to the ill at heart.  He built relationships, met people where they were.  He taught and he listened.

And so shall we.  We heal the sick by the miracle of conversation and connection in the presence of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit.  We minister to the ill at heart when we sit and listen and offer prayer.  We build relationships wherever we go.  We teach and are taught.

We learn about those who aren't like us: the poor, the wealthy, the middle class; people of color, Asians, Anglo; Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu.  We offer peace when we build bridges instead of walls.

Are we in and everyone else out?

One answer to is to look at the end of the Gospel of John.  Peter turns and sees the beloved disciple whom Jesus loved.  He asks Jesus, "Lord, what about him?" Jesus said to him, "If it is my will that he remain until I come what is that to you?  Follow me!" (John 21:21-22 NRSV)

In other words, "that's none of your business."

The other answer I offer is later in our reading.  Jesus concludes this part of his farewell, by advising the disciples that, "Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will greater works than these, because I am going to the Father."  (John 14:12 NRSV)

In other words, "there's work to be done.  Get moving!"

For Christians, we call our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  For Christians, the only way to the father is through him.  Jesus says that he has other sheep.  It not up to us to judge.  Our only possible way, is to follow the way of Jesus and keep working for the kingdom.

The rest of it is none of our business.

I find that statement restful.  I don't have to worry about others.  That's God's job.  Mine is to follow in the way that Jesus walked, praying constantly for guidance and the right words to speak.

That's how we live eternally, today.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.

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April 30, 2017, 7:10 AM

Keep Up the Good Work Part 2

by Sandy Bach

13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[a] from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad.[b] 18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” 19 He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth,[c] who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.[d] Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah[e] should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us[f] while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. 34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.  (Luke 24:13-35 NRSV)

Ask a silly question, get a silly answer.

Cleopas and his unnamed companion were thunderstruck at Jesus’ question.

“So, what’s going on?” Jesus asks them. “What are you discussing?”
“Really?” they respond. “You have to ask? Where have you been hiding out?”

Ask a silly question…
Or is it?

When have you been asked a simple question that led to serious, even helpful, conversation? Ask the recently widowed how they’re doing seems a ludicrous question. You know the answer, already. They’re doing pretty awful. But, the question is meant to open up the conversation; to say that you care enough to ask and that you may even be willing to listen.

Jesus asks them a question to open up the conversation. Their answer is telling:
Not, “Our hero is dead. Poor us.”
Not an expression of uncontrolled anger.

Rather, they make a statement of faith:
Jesus of Nazareth, a prophet mighty in deed before God and all the people;
he was arrested, tried, convicted, and was crucified.
This is the third day and word is out that he’s risen.

And with that answer, Jesus knows where to meet them and he begins to interpret their faith statement in light of scripture. Jesus “came near and went with them.” When have you come near and gone with someone?

Chuck McCarthy doesn’t walk dogs. He walks people. In an article posted at “TheGuardian.com” author Rory Carroll writes that Chuck is trying to make a few extra dollars while he gets his acting career off the ground. He advertises to walk with people. He says it takes an ability to “walk, talk and, above all, listen.”

He charges $7.00 a mile. He has homemade flyers attached to lamp posts that read the following:

“Need motivation to walk? Scared to walk alone at night? Don’t like walking alone at all? Don’t want people to see you walking alone and just assume you have no friends? Don’t like listening to music or podcasts but can’t walk alone in silence, forced to face thoughts of the unknown future, or your own insignificance in the ever expanding universe?” (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/14/los-angeles-people-walker-chuck-mccarthy)

Chuck McCarthy walks and listens. He says it’s mostly surface conversation, nothing all that deep. Still, it can be therapeutic. People are slipping their smart phones in their pockets and going for a walk AND talking. They’re engaging in real conversation.

Ask a silly question, you may end up in a deeply satisfying conversation that touches your very soul.

On the other hand, asking a silly question may build a bridge.

Let’s go back to Jesus’ question.

“So, what’s going on? What are you discussing?”

In addition to an Affirmation of Faith, they provide a clue to how they’re feeling:
“But, we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”  The disappointment drips off the page.
“Some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning… they reported back to us about a vision of angels who said that he was alive.”  Their confusion runs deep.

Jesus knows where they are and knows where to take the conversation.

As Jesus talked with them, their hearts burned within them. This so-called stranger who joined them out of nowhere opened their minds and hearts to a new way of thinking. He connected with their disappointment. He linked scripture to the occurrences of the past few years.

Most of all he gave them hope.

This wasn’t the end. It was the beginning.

God hadn’t died. God wasn’t deserting them.

So, good for you…
When you stop in your tracks to listen. Really listen.

Good for you…
When you share a bit of yourself because someone needs a good word.

Good for you…
When you use your words to build a bridge instead of a wall.

Good for you…
When you ask a silly question that leads to healing conversation.

Keep up the good work. Because you’re traveling the Way of Jesus.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.

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April 23, 2017, 12:00 AM

Keep Up the Good Work Part 1

by Sandy Bach

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin[a]), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” (John 20:19-29)

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

Or so the saying goes. If that deal is too good to be true, check the fine print. Very likely, there’s a "gotcha" in there somewhere.

Christ is risen from the grave. Christ is alive. It’s way too good to be true. We need more than one witness to testify to his resurrection. And we get them: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, Peter, the Beloved Disciple…

We also have Thomas. In fact, we need Thomas. Thomas is us. Sometimes Thomas was courageous, sometimes confused, and today, he doubts. Yet, these are the things that brought him to believing.

We need Thomas to point the way through courage and confusion and especially doubt.

Remember when Jesus left Judea because the people wanted to stone him? His good friend Lazarus died, so he announced his intention to go to Bethany, a short distance from Jerusalem. His disciples tried to hold him back. When they were unsuccessful, it was Thomas who said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16b NRSV)

He was a mix of courage and foolish. Unwilling to leave Jesus’ side, he voluntarily accompanied Jesus into potential danger.

My mother demonstrated courage the day she decided to stay in a Sunday school class despite the fact that her teacher behaved like a jerk.

They were studying a book by a progressive theologian, Marcus Borg. In his book he stated that in his extensive reading and study, he disagreed with the concept of the virgin birth among other things. The teacher presented the material as matter of obvious fact and anyone who questioned it was obviously ignorant.

I explained to Mom that this was one person’s opinion; that the Greek word for virgin meant “young woman.” I left it up to her to come to her own conclusion.

A few weeks later we talked about her class some more. “Why don’t you find another class?” I asked her.

“Because, despite the fact that teacher is doing a lousy job, I’m engaged with some of the concepts the author offers.”

“Do you agree with him?”

“No, not necessarily. But he’s helping me understand what I do believe.”

A courageous moment could be a foolish decision, but it’s an opportunity for incite to see, “my Lord and my God."

Bible reading is confusing. That’s probably why there is such a low Biblical literacy rate. Does Genesis have one long creation story or two shorter ones? What’s the deal with God telling Abraham to sacrifice his only son?  Is the Bible a factual, scientific document or a series of stories that seek to reveal God to us?

When I finally engaged with the Bible I discovered a lot of things that disturbed me. The more I studied, the more I changed.  My views on life changed; my politics changed.   And it scared me.  Every time I learned something new or viewed a beloved scripture in a new way I was afraid I’d lose my faith.

It would have been easier to give up. It would have been less faith shattering; less unnerving; less courageous; less confusing. But, I learned to embrace and look forward to new ideas and new concepts in interpretation. I learned that doubting is good; that skepticism is good. It led me to moments of fresh incite where I fell to my knees saying, “My Lord and my God.”

Courage. Confusion. Doubt. They are who Thomas was and we need him to point us in the right direction.

Thomas is often referred to as, “Doubting Thomas.” When you read this text you see that Jesus appeared two times. Once without Thomas present and once with him present. Both times he displayed his wounds. Both times he said, “Peace be with you.”

Jesus didn’t chastise.  Our brains are wired to be skeptical without proof. We can’t help it. In fact, we need it for survival.

So, for us to believe, we need the witness of Thomas and the disciples. They saw the wounds; they saw the risen Jesus. They report it to us so that we can believe without seeing.

That’s the “Way of Jesus.” Being a disciple of Jesus, we find ourselves moving through the messiness of courage and confusion and doubting and believing. We can’t really help it. It’s a part of who we are. It’s our faith journey. We need courage to move forward when we’re in doubt and confusion. We need doubt and confusion to deepen our faith. When our faith deepens, God comes closer and we have those oh so awesome moments of incite.

That's when we fall to our knees, saying, “My Lord and my God.”

And we fall in love with the Master, again.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.




April 9, 2017, 12:00 AM

Jesus Journeys for Us

by Sandy Bach

21 1-3 When they neared Jerusalem, having arrived at Bethphage on Mount Olives, Jesus sent two disciples with these instructions: “Go over to the village across from you. You’ll find a donkey tethered there, her colt with her. Untie her and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you’re doing, say, ‘The Master needs them!’ He will send them with you.”

4-5 This is the full story of what was sketched earlier by the prophet:

Tell Zion’s daughter,
“Look, your king’s on his way,
    poised and ready, mounted
On a donkey, on a colt,
    foal of a pack animal.”

6-9 The disciples went and did exactly what Jesus told them to do. They led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted. Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, “Hosanna to David’s son!” “Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!” “Hosanna in highest heaven!”

10 As he made his entrance into Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken. Unnerved, people were asking, “What’s going on here? Who is this?”

11 The parade crowd answered, “This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee.”  (Matthew 21:1-11 The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson)

Many of you may remember the rock opera, “Jesus Christ Superstar.” I can still hear those lyrics as I imagine Jesus descending from Mt. Olives into the Kidron Valley and to the gates of Jerusalem.

In this scene, the crowd lines each side of the road calling out to Jesus:

"Hosanna Heysanna Sanna Sanna Ho
Sanna Hey Sanna Ho Sanna
Hey J C, J C won't you smile at me?
Sanna Ho Sanna Hey Superstar"  (http://www.lyricsdepot.com/jesus-christ-superstar/hosanna.html)

Later they call out the same words of joy and add,
"Hey J C, J C you’re alright by me!"

Here he comes. Making his way into Jerusalem. He is the son of David; son of God.  Jesus continues descending from the Mount joyfully, laughing and touching the crowds.

God is always doing a new thing. Creation and re-creation; judgement with grace; hope out of hopelessness.

This Lenten season, we’ve examined “Life’s Continuing Journey.” We are tempted and fall because of it. We answer God’s call to go to a new place but not without God. Life seems barren and hopeless until God calls us to a place of promise and hope.

We fall into slavery. God provides freedom and a new way of life. Just when we think God has given up on us, leadership and promise arrive in the most unexpected way.

In the valley of death, we receive second chances and community steps in to unbind us and set us free.

We’re on a journey, you and I and the rest of humanity. A journey in salvation and promise and renewal. It isn’t an easy journey. It requires help and assistance from each other. It requires God.

It’s a journey into salvation.

Today we watch salvation move toward us. He’s on a donkey and colt, symbol of Judah, ancestor of David. He rides on animals that symbolize peace rather than horses of war and death.

The crowds cry out as if in one voice: Hosanna! Save Now!

Come down from Mt Olives like the prophet Zechariah promised. Restore us. Redeem us.

Today is the day we’ve been waiting for. Since the beginning of time we have looked forward to God coming down from Mt Olive into Jerusalem. God, our king, is arriving and all will be well.

The crowds spread cloaks and branches on the road, a welcome befitting a king. Rome stands by and watches. The religious elite stand by and watch.

The crowd welcomes him. This crowd has been building throughout Matthew’s story. And here they are, lining the road from the Mount down into the Kidron Valley and up to Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is in turmoil.  Jerusalem trembles. The trembling won't stop until it is finished.  This is the beginning of the worst week in history.  Jesus’ authority will be questioned; Jesus’ parables will be sharper and the imagery more cloudy to those without ears to listen or eyes to see.  And Jerusalem will tremble.

Jesus will shame the Temple leaders; he’ll pass all the tests on Torah that are flung his way. He’ll foretell the fall of the great Lord’s Temple and his warning will be dire.

The trembling won’t abate.   It will mount, day by day.

"Hey JC, JC, won’t you fight for me?"

"Hey JC, JC, won’t you die for me?"

We can’t do it without you. Hosanna. Save now.

Hosanna has judged us guilty. Hosanna has pronounced the sentence: death. Hosanna knows we can’t save ourselves. So he comes down from the judge’s bench, riding symbols of Judah and David and shalom. Hosanna comes down and removes his robes and takes our place.

Hey JC, won’t you die for me?

Yes. In just a few days.

He'll be betrayed and denied.  He'll be tried and beaten.  He'll die a horrible death.

The trembling will become deafening. The earth will move. The curtain will be torn from top to bottom.  Even the rocks will split and the sun will hide in the darkness.

All because God chose to put on skin, enter into this God-hating world and take the punishment we so richly deserve.

Hosanna will die for you and me and the world.

No wonder Jerusalem trembles.

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.




April 2, 2017, 12:00 AM

Say the Word

by Sandy Bach

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was...

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles[e] away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[f] Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world..."

Jesus Raises Lazarus to Life38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” ... he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 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.”  (John 11:1-45 NRSV)

 

She hadn’t felt well for weeks.  The doctors couldn’t figure it out.  She was tired and rundown.  She was depressed and weepy.  She could barely get out of bed in the morning.  They ran a battery of tests. Finally, a result came back that made sense. She had mononucleosis. A virus commonly associated with college kids, only she was 40 years old.

She was sent home to bed rest for 30 days. It was a relief to know what was wrong and that she’d be okay, so she followed doctor’s orders to the letter. Sure enough, within 30 days she was back at work and regaining her strength and stamina.

Two months later she returned to the doctor. Same symptoms as before. This time the diagnosis was quicker in arriving. She had chronic fatigue symptom. She was sent home for another 30-day sick leave.

She didn’t care. She was neither angry nor sad. She was numb from feeling so lousy for so long. And that’s when she died a Lazarus death.

It was years later that she called it a Lazarus death. She believes today that she needed renewal and resuscitation and revival. She needed what only Jesus could give her: life.

For days and weeks, she sat in her favorite chair with no radio or TV; no books or magazines. She sat there reviewing her life. It wasn’t a conscious action on her part. It occurred after she prayed to God, “I don’t believe you caused this virus. But, I believe you want to use it for a purpose. I’m too tired to fight you or the virus. Have your own way.”

She didn’t like herself much. She had become the businesswoman she had vowed not to be: angry, proud, looking for a battle at every meeting. Bitter, even mean. This wasn’t her and slowly as the days passed, she felt different. She wanted to do things differently. She wanted to be a proper reflection of a Child of God.

Her return to work took about 45 days. Her resurrection about a year. She found friends who stepped in to unbind her and set her free. She became a woman who cared about others and learned to view life in new ways.

The name, Lazarus, means, “God helps.” When have you been a Lazarus? Or when have you met Lazarus and helped unbind him?

Lazarus is the one who’s meaning in life is corrupted. Lazarus is bound by the things of this world that have little meaning to most, but Lazarus believes them crucial to life.

Lazarus can be socially dead. The workaholic who can’t let go of his job for even a weekend of rest. Lazarus is found among the spiritually  or the emotionally dead. He is in need of nurture. He is filled with self-doubt, or he’s placed on the edges of society to fend for himself. He is the oppressed.

Lazarus dies because he tried to do everything for himself without allowing others in. Lazarus dies because others judge him to be not good enough, not the right color, not the right religion, or not the right credentials.

Lazarus needs to be unbound and set free. Lazarus needs us to cut those bandages that bind him. And Lazarus needs community to help tear away fear and anxiety and loss and grief.

Lazarus is the hail-fellow-once-met who everyone loves. Except for Lazarus who is convinced that he’s unlovable, even by God.

Lazarus is the worn out single mother trying to make ends meet day after day. She’s tired of being judged lazy, so she reaches out for help only when she can’t do it herself.

Lazarus finds life-made-new in community that empathizes even if it can’t relate. He finds new reality because the community shows him a better way and loves him even when he can’t love himself.

We are that life-giving community when we take some time to talk with another who just needs a listening ear.

We are the life-giving community because we know and understand the power of prayer. We know who we are and we know our limits. We know God’s call on our hearts to help others.

We are the life-giving community who craves to do more and prays for a door to open. We’re the life-giving community when we shake a stranger’s hand, not knowing any of their pain, but perhaps passing along something meaningful, anyway.

During this Lenten period we have been on a “Journey to Salvation.” We began in God’s Garden of Eden where we couldn’t stop ourselves from entering into temptation. We knew then that we needed a savior.

So God called Abram and Sarai to begin this journey with a journey of their own. A journey out of hopelessness to a new beginning that only God knew about. Their hopelessness became hope and though they stumbled often, they managed to be the vessel that created a great nation.

But, we found ourselves in slavery and God helped us out over and over again. God provided protection from enemies, food and sweet water. When we became parched and dry, we cried out again and God, once again, provided living water.

Meanwhile, God kept doing new things. One of them was choosing a leader for Israel from the least and the last. We learned to turn our fears of lacking what God needs into rejoicing that we are, indeed, enough.

And this week, we journey into death that brings new life.

What will you do with what you’ve learned these past weeks? How will you respond to the God of new beginnings; the God who brings hope out of hopelessness; the God who provides greatness out of the least and the last; the God who brings new life out of death?

All glory and honor be to God.

Amen.


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