Vision: The St. Francis Church family seeks to glorify God through worship, fellowship, teaching, and service. We worship God in the Episcopal tradition, hear God through the preaching and teaching of Christ’s Gospel and serve God by caring for others.
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Lent 5A April 6,2014* St. Francis Church
Something about John's story of Jesus and Lazarus has always bothered me. Mary and Martha, grieving their brother four days in the tomb, go to meet Jesus and reproach him for not coming to Lazarus in time to prevent his dying. Jesus sees the women and all the friends and neighbors weeping, and he, too, is deeply affected, and Jesus weeps. But then, challenged by the bystanders for not keeping Lazarus alive in the first place, Jesus goes to the tomb, has it opened, and calls Lazarus back to life and in his preachy prayer is depicted as saying to God, "I know you always listen to me". So why was Jesus crying? Was it just an emotional resonance with the other mourners? In John's Gospel, Jesus is consistently confident of his power to heal, even cocky about it; he can hardly be surprised at is success in raising the dead man. So why the tears?
The strangeness of the story makes sense to me if I begin to hear two stories being told. In one, Jesus the human one, arrives late at the house of his dear friend. Too late to say goodbye. And then he is faced with the pain of loss of his friends Martha and Mary and their friends, and the additional burden of their disappointment in Jesus for not preventing Lazarus' death. Jesus stands with us all, beside us, as one of us at all those times when we watch our loved ones suffer and die, when medicine reaches its limits, when help comes too late, when all our efforts and prayers and good wishes cannot hold back loss. Jesus -- and in Jesus God, Godself, incarnate -- stands with us in our railing, our questioning, blaming, wondering, in our insistent cry to God: "If you had been here, if you were really here, if you were God (the right sort of God), if you really loved us, our brother -- our sister-- would not have died! You would have prevented it. The anguish of our limited understanding and sight, of our fleshliness, is to see and feel not the resurrection glory of those we love, but their dying and leaving us. In the middle of that cry, "why have you forsaken me?", Jesus cries with us. It is our human condition and nature that when we are bereaved we cannot quite see God, but find ourselves alone. And so, with us Jesus weeps.
Lent 4A 3-30-14 St. Francis Church
Surely we are not blind, are we?
There are many ways of hearing the call of the divine. Some hear it through the religion of their childhood and family. Some have need to travel to a remote mountaintop on the far side of the globe to find it in a strange new flavor, free from all the familiar cultural baggage of home. Some find it when their emotions are roused to a fever pitch by a charismatic preacher, by certain music, by natural or induced out-of-body and beyond-self experience. Others hear it when they are cast down to the lowest pit of despair or self-loathing and guilt and find unwarranted rescue from beyond themselves. Some hear it in the drum beat and dance of their tradition. Some hear it in the lifelong whisper of their true selves’ awareness of origins, some in the hum of the universe in all its wonder as it sings of its Creator. You will have been hearing it in your own way. Whether you have heard, or long to hear, that’s why you are here today – to find again the spiritual ground under your feet. To reach again for the ineffable Beyond, which is to be desired above everything you have ever known.
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