Rev. JoAnn Huber is a dear mentor and loving minister from whom I glean spiritual and physical nourishment. It’s my honor to share her homily from last Sunday which she delivered at The Forest of Peace.
Fifth Sunday of Lent, April 6, 2014, Written and Delivered by JoAnn Huber
Well, here we are the 5th Sunday. Today’s scriptures invite us to look more deeply – at ourselves, at God’s Word, at the modeling we receive from Jesus.” From Ezekiel we hear God’s voice saying “I will open your graves and have you rise from them. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.” Important to recall that Ezekiel was preaching to a people in exile in Babylon. It was the grave of exile he was speaking of. Many were grumbling. The old wanted to leave for the “promised land”. The young wanted to stay put, as many had become prosperous and comfortable living in exile. God’s plan was to teach the people in long exile through struggles, mistakes and suffering. Nations, like people, cannot reach maturity without passing through the death of pride and their own ambitions. Seems to me we are often much like that ourselves. So easy when we are comfortable to lose sight of what is important, to become blinded to what good may await us. It is also easy to get sidetracked by the seeming normalcy of injustice when we are comfortable. This section of Ezekiel is preceded by the bit about raising dry bones. It invites us to look at what we may have buried – placed into exile inside ourselves that we may avoid, or indeed, even refuse to look at. Look we must, and look deeply if we are to have new life. God does not want us to remain in exile – stay dead inside.
In our Gospel Lazarus is raised from the dead and we go woo hoo! What a sight that must have been! Yet the point of the story is not the raising of Lazarus. It is about Jesus and what Jesus calls us to as well. This is the last of seven signs in Sunday of Lent with next week being Palm/Passion John’s gospel. “Signs” were to be testimony to the presence of God in Jesus. (John did not call them miracles.) Shortly after this Jesus will be tried and put to death. Jesus was told his friend was ill and delayed going to him
for two days. He arrives to find Lazarus dead and Martha and Mary grieving. Mary and Martha – two sides of a single coin – one the worker, one the contemplative – each showing us how to live and love. Jesus hears Martha say she has come to believe he is the Christ, she then goes to get Mary who comes and kneels at Jesus feet. They deeply know him so you might think he would rejoice, yet, Jesus wept. For me this begs the question why did Jesus weep? The Word also says he became increasingly upset. How come? Some of the Jews in this reading say he wept because he loved Lazarus so much. Perhaps, yet, I wonder??
Jesus had been traveling and teaching for almost 3 years. He had offered many signs/miracles to reveal who he was and yet very few could see. Perhaps he wept from frustration/sadness over that lack of vision. Many had yet to learn to see with their hearts and not just their eyes. The raising of Lazarus convinced many to follow Jesus and put his life in fresh danger – this raising put Lazarus life in danger as well, as the chief priests made a plot to kill him as he, too, was turning people to Jesus. Perhaps Jesus wept because he knew what was soon coming for him. Mary and Martha “got” Jesus. They had looked deeply – saw with their Hearts – and so had new priorities. They believed. They didn’t need proof, though they did want their brother back and can you blame them? As unmarried women in a culture that gave them little or no standing – indeed under the law they were children – ones with no rights. Yet they saw something bigger in Jesus and had responded to the call to new life. Perhaps even, through Martha’s words of acknowledgement of Him as the Christ, and Mary’s willingness to sit at his feet they called Jesus – called him forth and supported him into the final stage of his ministry – the one leading to the cross. Could they have so deeply taken in his words that he must die? Indeed in less than a week Jesus would be back in Bethany sharing a meal. Martha would be serving and Mary would be washing his feet with expensive perfumed oil usually reserved for burial.
Why did Jesus weep?? For what do I weep?
During Lent each of us is called to look deeply into our own tombs. Many tombs stand open if we will only look. Tombs of loss, disappointment, devastation, wars. Lazurus personifies the person, and perhaps nation, wounded by sin who is in the process of dying unless Christ calls forth new life. Are we not all in the process of dying one way or another?! We are each called to new life. Called to conversion from where we are to something new. Conversion to what? Conversion from one religion or another is often how we look at that word and we even have folks joining the Catholic church at Easter, many of whom are said to convert. Again, conversion to what?
In whatever religious form it takes, Jesus invites us to convert to lives of justice/compassion/courage and faithfulness – ultimately we are to convert to love – over and over again. Jesus went against or broke rules in many directions as he lived/modeled a life lived in love. Risky business this. Yet, have courage – go visit. What hurts, sadness, mistake are you hanging onto? What twinges have you left unaddressed? Go there, look into the tomb – look deeply! Do not be afraid.
God raises God’s people many times – and sometimes even daily!!
Ezekial 37:12-14 Psalm 130: 1-8 Romans 8: 8-11 John 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33-45