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Raise Me Up

Date:11/4/18

Series: Ordinary TIme

Category: 2018 Sermons

Passage: John 11:32-34

I’ve been living and breathing All Saints for a while now. If I were being honest, in some ways I’ve been living it since the age of 12 when I first asked God the question “whats it all about, this life?” I didn't get an answer… then. Some days I think I have an answer, and then something happens to shatter all sense of security, and I’m asking the question all over again.

The best I can come up with, is that life is about living. And that includes, joy and suffering, compassion and fatigue, love and even hatred, though we do our best not to give into the last. We live in the gray areas, the murky middle most days, and when we are blessed with clarity, it often comes in times of crisis, or at  the break of sunrise. We are gifted those moments when it all makes sense, simply, like life is about living, embracing and giving thanks for life itself.

That said, I think about dying a lot. Way more than my peers. Part of that is because of my job. Part of that is just because of who I am. And part of that is because remembering that I’m going to die helps me to live better.

Which is why I was so attracted to a new app for smartphones…called We Croak. 

WeCroak is very simple….five times a day, a message appears on your phone…randomly at no predictable time, five times a day comes the same message…that message…Don’t forget, You’re going to die. 

When I read that, I got so excited and started telling my friends about how excited I was to get the app. No-one shared in my joy. No one could understand why I would want that. 

But in the article I read about WeCroak, The man who wrote the article, Matt Fitzgerald, understood. And surprise, he’s a pastor, who serves a much larger congregation and witnesses death and suffering weekly.

In the article, he talks about the gift of the random timing causing this message to appear, and how it would show up so often at just the right time, like the moment he was about to go into a fit of rage at his teenage son for not doing the dishes. Or right before a meeting with Parishioner who had been criticizing his theology behind the pulpit. He writes he had been rehearsing his defense, for 20 minutes on the train and all the way up the elevator to the parishioners home when the message appeared, a chime on his phone…Don’t forget, you’re going to die. 

He writes- 
Most of the alerts arrive when I’m in the middle of nothing much at all. I’ve received several while drinking coffee in the morning. My kids are asleep. My wife is in the shower. “Don’t forget, you’re going to die.” Nothing happens, but my coffee tastes better. Nothing changes, but I notice the sunlight pouring through the bay window. Before I had the app, I rarely found such pleasure in the mundane. A microdose of mortality can make the day glow. (end quote)

~~~~~~~~~~~~

I would agree but I would also add…that this works best only when all is well. Because there are the mornings when everything is not well with the world or with our being. In this mornings scripture, prior to this, what you didn’t hear, Martha has set out to be with Jesus, to talk with him about the death of Lazarus and the conversation seems very heady. Talking about resurrection and God’s glory, and it’s a good conversation filled with beautiful words…

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “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. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”  

That’s what we believe too…up here….which is so different than what we experience here, in the heart when someone we love dies….Enter Mary.

...Mary’s at home…still at home…grieving. And that’s us too...we shut the blinds and we cry and we wail…. and when Mary heard Jesus was near, she went out to find him and knelt before him essentially saying, where were you? Why weren't you here? If you had been here my brother would still be alive. 

How many of us have asked that question, where is God in all of this pain and suffering- could God have stopped them from dying, why didn’t he? Where were you? And Where are You?

And here in this scripture comes the best answer to that question I know…

Verse 33-
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep.

There is no better answer to this question of suffering in the world. In perhaps his greatest expression of humanity, of compassion, of vulnerability, Jesus cries. And let that two worded scripture be our greatest teacher, that when our heart is breaking, God’s heart breaks alongside ours, with us, always with us...Emmanuel…God with us… 

And not only God but the expression of God in community...as we are never alone, the Jews were with Mary…in her home, and then following her when she searches for Jesus…our community of friends, of family are here to search with you for God, to sit with you, to grieve with you and to witness with you all the ways that God is with you...in one another, in the love that you share in the weeping that you share. 

And this is not always done perfectly, as the book of Job reminds us, our friends often say stupid things in our grief, in an attempt to help, they often get it wrong… 

But that’s not the end of this story, this holy scripture, or our holy experience of grief… 

Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” ...And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, 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.” 

The gospel writer John is making a point that this display was all for the glory of God so that others would believe, bringing us full circle to the earlier conversation with Martha about resurrection and eternal life, but it’s more than belief, it’s always about trust that in letting go…letting the dead go…letting all these saints go…we let go of all the bodily ways we keep ourselves bound to wanting to understand with our heads…and instead trust with our hearts that there is more to life and more to death than we can ever understand…

To unbind death and let him go...is to embrace this life…and the life that we are gifted even while grieving…to be raised up…is to be lifted to places beyond our imagination, beyond our grasp… 

to trust that Oliver has sailed away with Olivia…as you heard in the children’s message is to trust that what happens beyond death is to be celebrated, along side weeping…the stench and sting of death never fully passes…but with time, the beauty of the love that all the saints leave behind, grows and deepens into an ever sustaining spirit of life. That’s what we embrace here today, and it’s what we embrace every day, multiple times a day, without an app, but in the presence of Jesus Christ who is always with us. 

We Remember Them

At the rising of the sun and at its going down
We remember them.
At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter
We remember them.

At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring
We remember them.
At the blueness of the skies and in the warmth of summer
We remember them.

At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of autumn
We remember them.
At the beginning of the year and when it ends
We remember them.

As long as we live, they too will live;
for they are now a part of us
as we remember them.

When we are weary and in need of strength
We remember them.
When we are lost and sick at heart
We remember them.

When we have joy we crave to share
We remember them.
When we have decisions that are difficult to make
We remember them. 

When we have achievements that are based on theirs
We remember them.

As long as we live, they too will live;
for they are now a part of us
as we remember them.