Food For Thought
It’s hard to believe we’ve been in this stay-at-home mode for almost a month now. I hope you are finding a routine that allows you to be grounded and connected to others while still keeping the physical distance that is so important to curtailing this virus. For me, each day seems a little better as I get used to doing things in new ways. But it will be a while before we’re all done processing what is happening right now in our lives, the life of our church, and across the nation and the world. We probably have a mix of emotions – fear, anger, grief – that we’re dealing with and that is ok.
When Jesus’ friend Lazarus dies (John , chapter 11), Mary and Martha are overcome with grief and perhaps are a little angry as well. Mary wants to know why Jesus hadn’t come to them earlier, before Lazarus died, and saved him before it was too late. We’ve probably all experienced that question of why. Why does it have to be this way? Why can’t God, or won’t God, fix things for us? Why does anyone have to suffer? The easy answers people tend to give to those questions are never very satisfying. For me the comfort comes in knowing that God always walks with us in the midst of the grief and anger and the questions of why. When Mary and Martha wept, Jesus also wept.
And in the midst of their weeping, they continued to trust in Jesus and in God. When Jesus told them to move the stone that closed the grave, they didn’t seem to really believe Jesus could do anything at that point. But they moved the stone anyway and Jesus called Lazarus out from that grave into a renewed life. We continue to trust in God even when things look bleak or impossible because there is always the possibility and promise of new life.
We are the hands of God. And the voice of God. And the feet of God. It is the hands of those who believe in him who removed the stone and cleared the way for Lazarus to live. God will often need us to roll some stones out of the way to make new life possible. What does that look like in our current environment? It means we keep practicing social distancing. It means we keep in touch with each other via phone, text, and email. It might mean risking our own health to get groceries for someone who can’t do it themselves. It might also mean rolling away stones of hypocrisy and hype, greed and selfishness – seeing through and calling out those who would place wealth above lives. We need to hear truly prophetic voices in this time because standing up for justice is also an act of love for the marginalized – those most at risk.
If we are to be followers of Christ, if we are to open our hearts so that Christ and the Spirit are to dwell within us, then we have to open our hearts to love, putting love first. Love brings renewed life. We often see this blossoming of neighborly love in times of stress and turmoil. And it’s a wonderful thing. People going out of their way to help each other in the midst of disaster. I marvel every day at the courage and selflessness of health care workers. They are heroes. And whether they happen to be Christian or not, that kind of neighborly love is what it means to be Christ in the world.
Just as Jesus called Lazarus out of the grave and into renewed life, we too are called out of the grave created by our selfishness and into a renewed life in the Spirit of Love. Just as Jesus called out to Lazarus, Jesus calls to us: “Come Out! Choose to live!” Answering God's call to us, living in the love of God, can reanimate us and bring us new life.
New life is possible! Even when it may not seem so. We may sometimes feel that life presents us with a walking death, but the promise of God is that new life is always available to us through God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Let us roll away the stones that stand between us and new life, opening our hearts to the Christ within, who can reanimate us, body and soul.
P.S. This reflection is inspired by the sermon from March 29, 2020, “Out of the Grave.” A recording of this and most other sermons can be found online at https://phoenixchurch.org/home/phx-sermons/.