Companions on the Way – Life Long Friends – March 22, 2020
Companions on the Way – Life-Long Friends
A Meditation by Rev. Karen A. Mendes
Ezekiel 37:1-14, Psalm 130, John 11 1-45
March 22, 2020
Main Idea: We are called to new life in Christ
During the Season of Lent we have been reading 3 Scriptures each Sunday. One from the Hebrew Scripture, a Psalm, and a Gospel reading. Even though much of our worship service today is quite different, I think it providential that these three Scripture were chosen for today. All three speak to hope in the face of crisis, just what we need today.
Psalm in unison
Read the Gospel –
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” (v. 25b-26a) This is the centerpiece of the whole story, in fact, it is the culmination of the whole gospel. The miracle of the raising of Lazarus illustrates this truth. But what does it mean? And what does it mean for our lives in this most disruptive time? As the resurrection and the life, Jesus calls us to new life in him.
In the Season of Lent we are traveling with companions on the way toward the cross. Three weeks ago our companions were Adam and Eve and from them we learned that God loves and cares for us no matter what. Two weeks our companions were Jesus and Nicodemus who pondered new life in God’s love. Last week our companions were Jesus, the Man who was born blind, and the religious leaders who modeled for us different ways of responding to change. This week our companions are Jesus, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. This story of the raising of Lazarus has so many layers. In its broadest outline it is a story about love. We are told that Jesus loves Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus. We hear about Mary and Martha’s grief and Jesus’ own emotions. Jesus returns to Judea to raise his friend Lazarus even though he knows that this act will most probably lead to his own death. Jesus says “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of Man may be glorified through it” (v.4). The raising of Lazarus will lead Jesus to the cross. This is a story of a man laying down his life for a friend and thereby revealing God’s love for the world.
Jesus says “I am the resurrection and the life.” These two images are not synonyms, they speak of the future and the present. For Jesus to be the resurrection means that our future is determined by our faith in God, not by the fear of death. For Jesus to be the life means that our present day is also determined by Jesus’ power for life, experienced as his gift of eternal life, which means life lived in communion with God. Through the story of Lazarus, Jesus invites us to new life, not only in the future but right now.
This invitation, this promise of new life, is the most far-reaching promise of the whole Gospel. Through the raising of Lazarus, Jesus reveals to us the meaning and purpose of his own death and resurrection; That the power of death is overcome by the power of love. That God so loves the world that God chose to live among us as Jesus so that we might know God’s love and live firmly grounded in, and connected through that love, right now and forever.
In little more than a week, our lives have been transformed. Our normal habits and to do lists have changed. We are living a new life; one that we did not choose and which we don’t enjoy much. We are worried and confused and fearful. How do we embrace the new life that Jesus offers us amid the new life imposed on us by the Corona virus?
This invitation from Jesus, this promise of new life grounded in God’s love, is also a call to action. The story of Lazarus reveals the power of God in Jesus and the power of God given to the community. It is striking that in this long story the actual miracle only takes 2 verses to describe and it contains two commands; one to Lazarus and one to the crowd. In calling Lazarus from the tomb, Jesus proclaims God’s power over death. “Jesus then turns and issues a command to the waiting crowd as well: “unbind him and let him go.” The community, in other words, is commanded to participate in God’s action, to bring it to its desired end and outcome, to join in completing God’s redemptive act.” (David Lose, workingpreacher.org)
The structure of our days has changed but our priorities of connecting with each other and sharing God’s love with the world have not changed. We have needed to reimagine and learn new ways of being connected. We have had to give up conveniences like worry free grocery shopping, public gatherings, and school in order to slow the transmission of the virus. We have more time at home, more time to read and pray and sleep, more time to do those household projects, that normally never get done. We have more time to reach out to each other, to check on those who live alone, to volunteer to help those in need. Jesus offers us a new life that rejects fear and recognizes our connectedness. Once we are on the other side of this virus, we will retain all that we have learned. Our lives will return to normal but they will not be the same.
On this extraordinary Sunday, when we are gathered together in spirit but not body, we are all invited to accept this promise of new life and to participate in the sharing of this new life. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Jesus lived and died and lives again so that we might know God and have abundant life. Through him, we know God’s love and through him we are empowered to share that love.
Let us pray,
Life- giving God, in this difficult season we are searching for new life. Help us to claim the promise given us by Jesus. Help us to navigate this virus time grounded in your love. Give us the perseverance to continue our walk with Jesus, knowing that there is nothing that can separate us from your love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.