3/30/2022

Listening = Life

 (sermon audio above)

Inspired by John 18:28-40

How many of you have been following, maybe even watched some clips from, the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson? They have been quite the roller coaster, haven’t they? I’ve gone from tears to wanting to throw my phone at the TV! I’m guessing no matter your own political leanings, you have felt the same way. They always seem to bring out the best and worst in people. Aside from politics though, they also make for an interesting anthropological case study in communication. Like many introverts, I’m a people watcher. Not in a creepy way but I am perfectly content to sit back and watch how people interact with each other, as long as it’s not with me! I’m kidding. Not really. Anything from the way they talk, to their body language, facial expressions, tone, volume, listening skills, and more, are things that I for some reason, naturally pay attention to. 

So, as I watched some of the confirmation hearing this past week, I watched for these things, and I noticed a few interesting patterns, and I bet you noticed some of these too. Did you notice the lack of listening skills in many of the legislators? Things like, lack of eye contact, asking a question and then sifting through their papers looking as if they’re not listening, asking a question and then not letting her answer, interrupting, talking over her. I mean, no matter your political affiliation, can we all agree those are very poor communication skills? Amen? I wonder what their mothers would say if they saw them communicating with another human being that way! It’s more than just poor communication skills though, isn’t it. It’s about respect, it’s about seeing, really seeing, the person you’re talking to. 

Because when a confirmation hearing is working the way it should, everyone walks away from it, knowing the nominee better, on both a professional and personal level. For instance, when I was interviewing for this job, I presented all of my previous sermons and was prepared to be asked about any of them. But it’s also in the way people ask those questions isn’t it. It’s one thing to say, Pastor, on such and such a date you preached this and I’d like you to expand on that some more. It’s a completely other thing to be asked, “On this date you said this. Now do you or do you not believe in the virgin birth? Yes or no!” You hear the difference, right? If I had been asked questions in that way, I probably wouldn’t be standing here right now, and would be in some other churches pulpit! And I’m glad I’m not just in case anyone is wondering! 

Simply put, the first example comes from someone who actually wants to get to know the person. And the other is someone who is just not interested in that. Theologian Karoline Lewis writes, “Listening to Jesus’ voice is representative of being in relationship with Jesus.” One more time, “Listening to Jesus’ voice is representative of being in relationship with Jesus.” I would take that even further and say that’s true for any conversation and any kind of relationship: family, friend, or stranger. If you’re not going to listen, you’re not going to connect, and the relationship goes nowhere. Whether you’re talking about one that lasts a lifetime, or five minutes in line at the bank. You really wanna wow someone, try zipping the ol’ lips, and listening. Especially us men. Amen? 

But back to Jesus. In today’s story, we find ourselves finally done with the events of Maundy Thursday, as it is the next day, the morning of the events of Good Friday now. And Jesus is on trial, if that’s what you wanna call it. If they called this a trial, then it was a sham of a trial. So, the Jewish leaders bring Jesus to the Roman governor’s palace, Pilate’s palace. And just a quick sidenote here. Older translations would instead say, “the Jews” here instead of “the Jewish leaders.” Which is both inaccurate and antisemitic. This wasn’t a blanket judgement upon the entire Jewish community as it has been expressed in the past. This was the Jewish leadership driving things here, an elite, powerful, privileged group. This is one of the biggest reasons I don’t use old translations. Words matter, and we can do better. But let’s keep moving. 

Jesus and Pilate have a short but fascinating conversation. However, I use that word lightly because one of them is better at conversation than the other, because one of them has some really poor listening skills. Pilate is asking some great questions, it’s just too bad he didn’t listen to any of the answers, nor care enough to actually do any real investigation here. And that’s really at the heart of the matter here, isn’t it. If you don’t care, you’re not going to listen. And since he didn’t listen to Jesus, he didn’t see Jesus.  

He didn’t see Jesus for who he really was, and he certainly didn’t get to know Jesus in any real, meaningful way. We know this because of Pilate’s last question to Jesus. He asks, “What is truth?” If he had been listening, the question would have been, “Who is truth?” Because Jesus just got done describing himself as the truth, but Pilate just wasn’t listening. And the cost of that unwillingness to listen, was the very life of Jesus. A failure to listen, led to death. 

Have you ever thought of listening skills as a life and death type of skill? Have you ever thought of your listening as having the power to bring life or death? If not, I would like to challenge you to think of listening that way from here on out. And for extra credit, if you really want to challenge yourself, ask a woman in your life, how the power of being listened to, or not listened to, has played out in her life. Ask a person of color in your life, how the power of being listened to, or not listened to, has played out in their life. Ask a survivor of domestic abuse, ask a survivor of rape, ask a survivor of child abuse, ask an adult child of alcoholism, how the power of being listened to, or not listened to, has played out in their life.  

We see the ramifications of this all around us: the lopsided percentage of incarcerated black men in our nation’s prisons, the number of suicides among our transgendered siblings, child abuse and deaths that occur after social services have been involved, or an encampment of people living in horrible conditions on Dewitt in your own backyard. There is power in listening to bring life. And there is equal power in not listening to bring death. I’d like to end by sharing a portion of the current confirmation hearings. Her honor Ketanji Brown Jackson speaks of this power after Senator Alex Padilla asks her what she would say to young people today facing challenges. And this is what she said:


A total stranger on the sidewalk, listened to her. Listening is always done with your ears my friends. A total stranger, a black woman, saw a young black woman at Harvard, listened to her body language, listened to her skin’s pigmentation, listened to her facial expression, listened to the context of her surroundings, and because of that stranger’s listening skills, not only was she was able to see her, for who she really was, but was able to give her a word of truth, that brought, and clearly continues to bring, life to her. Listening, with your ears, with your eyes, with your heart, has the power to bring life. Not listening, has the equal power to bring death. Just ask Jesus sometime. Will you pray with me? Precious Jesus, we’d like to take a moment and thank you, to thank you, not only for persevering that sham of a trial, but also for using that experience to be the best listener we will ever meet. Thank you for never tiring of listening to us, for seeing us as who we really are, children of God, and for taking every opportunity to strengthen that relationship. Give us a heart to do likewise. Amen.

3/21/2022

When We Go Low, Jesus Goes High

 Inspired by John 13:31-38; 18:1-27

I’d like you to take a moment and think about the course of your life, from birth to this very moment. Think about all the twists and turns, the paths you’ve taken, the paths you’ve avoided, the choices you’ve made, the things you’ve left undone. And in all that time, I’d like for you to pick out a moment when you feel you were at your lowest. And I don’t mean saddest or depressed. I mean, a moment when you really screwed up. What a way to start a sermon, right! I promise, we’ll end on a high note! But for now, I really want you to select that lowest moment, that moment in your life when you were just wrong, and there was just no other way to look at it. So wrong it’s probably embarrassing to even think about right now. You might be thinking that the person next to you is trying to guess what that moment is for you. Trust me, they are too busy reimagining their own screw-up right now! 

Ok, does everyone have their moment? Now, can someone share, I’m kidding! I’m kidding! I would never ask you to do that! This memory is just between you and God. Now, hold that thought as we dive into our story for today. As we discussed last week, we are in an extended Holy Week. Last week we read the story of the events of Maundy Thursday, and today we are still there. Our reading begins with Jesus and his closest followers still sitting at the dinner table, Judas had just left to go and do what he felt he had to do, and Jesus gives them a new mandate, which is where we get the name Maundy from, by the way, mandate, and the new mandate was, of course, to love one another, as Jesus had loved them. But Peter of course just can’t leave well enough alone, can’t keep his big trap shut, and insists on knowing where Jesus is going after this. Jesus said they can’t come but that’s not good enough for Peter. 

Jesus says you can come later Peter, but not now. Still not good enough for Peter. Oh Peter. So, Jesus shuts him up by predicting his denial. Which must have felt like a punch to the gut for Peter! Can’t you just imagine him saying, “Well, where the hell did that come from?” Especially because Peter was still riding the high from the foot washing! I mean, his feet are still fresh and clean from when he exclaimed, wash my hands and head too, because he finally got it, he finally understood one of Jesus’ teachings, that in order to be bonded with Jesus, he needed to be served by Jesus. So, here is Peter still riding that high, only to be brought crashing down by this accusation of Jesus’ that he will eventually deny him. That must have been a lot to handle for Peter. I mean, he’s kinda known for missing the mark but to deny Jesus? That seemed like a pretty low accusation. 

But Peter isn’t the only one having a low moment. We then skip ahead to after the meal was over. And yes, we skipped four whole chapters, which I’d encourage you to read on your own. Those of you who follow the daily readings in the devotions for home will read most of that section. It’s known as the Farwell Discourse, and if that sounds boring, it is not but it is long, it’s what I have called in past sermons, Jesus’ Looooong Goodbye. All four chapters are just Jesus talking to them, at that same dinner table, giving them his final lessons, his final words of wisdom. But since we’re focusing more on story, we skipped that and find ourselves after dinner. Jesus and his closest followers leave and go to a garden. And if you hear “garden” and think Garden of Eden, or at the very least a place of peace, safety, and serenity, then you’d be right on target. That’s exactly what you are supposed to be thinking here. 

Because this was a familiar place for them. It was a place that they had often returned to, maybe to escape the crowds, maybe to feel closer to God, maybe to pray, maybe to reconnect with each other, maybe to reconnect with the earth. It was a safe place, a peaceful place, a sacred place for them. And this was the place that Judas chose to hand Jesus over to the Roman and Jewish authorities. And this is what made his betrayal so downright disgusting. This was the lowest of lows. Talk about a punch to the gut to not only Jesus but to all of them—violating, desecrating, what was once a sanctuary for them. Theologian Karoline Lewis writes that this was the real betrayal of Judas. Again, the downright lowest of lows. But the lows don’t end there. 

Peter decides that now would be a good time to pull his sword out. I’m imagining the rest of the gang thinking where the hell the sword come from? Thomas is like, “Am I the only one that didn’t bring a sword?” Peter reaches back with his sword in what looks like an act of bravery but turns out to be quite the opposite. He strikes and cuts off, not a soldier’s ear mind you, a servant’s ear! How low is that? What are you thinking Peter! 

They’re not thinking. They’re reacting, and their true colors are showing. And their true colors are not painting a masterpiece, their painting a nightmare, one after another! Jesus comes to the rescue, stops Peter, and steps between his flock and the incoming wolves. When Jesus said a few weeks ago, “I am the good shepherd. I am the gate. I am the door.” He wasn’t kidding. He was being quite literal in fact. And they got to see his words, his heart, come alive right before their eyes. 

I wish I could say that was the end of these characters' low points but after they arrest Jesus and take him away, Peter finds himself outside the place they are interrogating Jesus, in the high priest’s courtyard. Interestingly, the Greek word here that we translate as courtyard literally means sheepfold. Peter is now in the sheepfold of another shepherd, the high priest. And when asked if he was a follower of Jesus, he says no. Twice! And when asked if he was in the garden with Jesus. He says no again. Now, this can be taken one of two ways because this is different than the way that the other Gospel writers tell it. The other three have Peter being asked if he knows Jesus, and Peter outright lies and says no. That’s not how John tells it. John has Peter being asked if he was a follower of Jesus and if he was with Jesus at the Garden. 

So, when Peter says no, he may not be lying here. Meaning, when he says no, he might be saying that due to his recent and current behavior, he has not actually been following Jesus. And when he cut off that servant’s ear, committing an act of violence in the name of Jesus, something our world has seen too much of, he in fact, was not with Jesus, but couldn’t have been any further from him in that moment. I really like this version of Peter’s denial and this interpretation of it because it places Peter as judge, only instead of judging others, he had judged himself. He was at his lowest of lows, behavior-wise and in every other way, and he knew it. 

Ok, so we have explored how these characters behaved in some of the worst ways imaginable. Why did we just do that? More importantly, why did John include these stories? These were his friends, why would he air their dirty laundry like this? Just out of spite? Did he think he was superior to them? No. He included these stories, included their lowest of low points in their lives, in order to highlight, to lift up, Jesus and his behavior. Especially in light of what Jesus was about to do. 

For it is in their weakness, and ours, it is in their brokenness, and ours, that Jesus is glorified—as the great shepherd of the sheep, the gate, the door, the Word made flesh, the lamb of God, the light of the world, the living water, the bread of life, the resurrection and the life, the servant of all. All these things and more is what Jesus is for you, even when, especially when, your behavior is at its lowest of lows. As he was for Judas. As he was for Peter. As Jesus is for all of us. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Unconditional Humanity

 Inspired by John 12:1-8; 13:1-17

Today we have yet another example of just how different the Gospel of John is from the other three, and why so many over the centuries just haven’t figured out what to do with it. The story I just read to you is usually read on Maundy Thursday. We are nowhere near that day so why are we reading it now? Well, today’s reading was from chapters twelve and thirteen, and the crucifixion doesn’t occur until chapter nineteen. 

I don’t know about you but I really don’t want to read six chapters on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday this year, so what we have is an extended Holy Week, beginning today with the Maundy Thursday story and ending in the actual Holy Week in mid-April. Now, for a liturgical nerd like myself, this really goes against my liturgical grain! Maundy Thursday is for Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday should stay on Good Friday, is what my little seminary fairy is screaming from my shoulder! 

In fact, I seriously considered just not doing this the way it’s laid out for us and just doing my own thing. I mean, I’m the pastor, I can do that! But then a curious thing happened. I went on Facebook, and saw that a bunch of other pastors were feeling the way I was about this. And as I read their comments and gripes and rants, each sounding more and more like the Pharisees of old who were more concerned with the letter of the law than the spirit of the law, I thought to myself, “Ewww, I don’t want to be one of those! Those are exactly the guys that used to get on my nerves in seminary. I can’t become one of them! So, I grit my teeth and said, we are going to continue reading through this Gospel as it’s laid out, even if it doesn’t coincide with the liturgical calendar, and see what happens. 

I mean, I’m always telling you all to step out of your comfort zone, right! Well, if I’m gonna talk the talk I better walk the walk! So here we are, on the second Sunday of Lent, reading the Maundy Thursday story. Geez, I can barely say that out loud without gagging. All the more reason to do this! This is good for me! And I hope for you too. Because what I’ve discovered so far has been pretty profound. Separating these readings from the usual holidays has been a meaningful exercise for me and again, I hope it will be for you too. Because if we’re honest with ourselves, don’t these stories have something to tell us every day? Not just on the one day of the year that we read them? I think so. So, let’s see what this one has to say to us, today, on the second Sunday of Lent. Whew, ok, we can do this! 

So, I added a bit to the reading. We were only assigned to read from chapter thirteen but I added a bit from twelve because there is a very important connection and you may have already picked up on it. From chapter twelve, we read the story of Mary anointing Jesus’ feet. Now, just imagine that scene in your mind’s eye. Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead, and they host a dinner party for him. Seems like a reasonable way to say thank you. 

So, there they are, in the middle of dinner, not an insignificant detail, when all of a sudden, Mary decides to put her fork down, grab a huge, expensive jar of essential oils, walks over to Jesus, kneels down, and begins to wash his feet with the oil and dry them with her very own hair. I imagine a sudden hush falls upon the invited guests, as all their eyes are fixed on what is happening, trying to make sense of it. If that looks to you like an awkward moment, I assure you that it was! 

But aside from the awkwardness, this was a very intimate moment for Mary and Jesus. And by intimate I don’t mean sexual of course, but intimate in every other way for sure. They were close before but after an encounter like this, they were most certainly connected in a way they hadn’t been before. Which is one of the beautiful things that happens when one person serves another. Think of it this way. The relationship between parent and child is one of the closest relationships that there is during our time on earth. Why? Because in spite of the parent being the elder, being the one in control, being the authority figure, in spite of all that, the parent begins the relationship with their child by serving them. 

In their most vulnerable state, the parent serves the child—cleans them up after bathroom accidents, scoops up their vomit from the floor, assists them when they can’t walk on their own—now that I say this out loud it sounds like I’m talking about a drunk person but you get what I’m trying to say here. It is in servanthood to the child that a parent establishes a bond that is like no other. 

And for those of you who have experienced the reverse, when the child serves the parent in old age, when they return to a most vulnerable stage, you know that the relationship takes on an even stronger bond, when you thought it couldn’t get any stronger. All due to one person choosing to serve another. This is the bond that happens with Mary and Jesus, and just to make sure they don’t explain this away, just to make sure they don’t say something like, “Oh, there goes Mary being Mary again!” or “Well, she’s just a woman, what does she know.” 

Which, in their misogynistic society, was very possible. So, just to make sure that they don’t lose this lesson that Mary teaches them, Jesus decides to follow Mary’s lead, and teach it again, at another dinner party, their last dinner together as a group, just before their planned third and final Passover together. Again, picture this scene in your mind’s eye if you can. They had just arrived in Jerusalem, just had a big reception with palm branches and all. And Jesus decides to have a more intimate moment with his closest followers, over a meal, before all the chaos of the Passover festival begins. And so, there they are, eating dinner, being their usual jovial selves. Maybe laughing and carrying on like they normally would. But Jesus is a bit more subdued this evening. Maybe they noticed, maybe they didn’t. But there is a more somber tone to Jesus tonight. 

Because Jesus knows that he is in the midst of the lasts. The last meal with them. The last teachings. The last laughs with them. The last hugs. He knows these are the lasts. And so, in the middle of the meal, once again not an insignificant detail, Jesus puts his fork down, gets up from the table, takes off his robe, and ties a towel around his waist. By this time that sudden hush descends upon them, everyone stops chewing, food still in their mouths as they stare at Jesus trying to figure out what is happening. Maybe some of them were thinking, for crying out loud can’t we have one meal without someone doing something weird! Jesus feels their stares but continues. In just his underwear and a towel around his waist, he grabs a big basin, fills it with water, and begins to wash their feet—following Mary’s lead who had just washed his days before. 

Peter protests, bless his heart. And who could blame him! This was a ridiculous scene! This was even more ridiculous than Mary washing Jesus’ feet! But at least then they could write it off as just Mary being Mary again. How could they write this off? How could they make sense of this? Jesus simply responds with, “Unless I wash you, you won’t have a place with me.” And like a lightbulb going on above his head, something just clicks within Peter and he gets it! He gets it! 

That same bond that Jesus and Mary now had, he was offering to Peter and the rest of them. A bond in serving one another, in all their vulnerabilities. A bond in servanthood. Our reading ends with Jesus saying, “I have given you an example: Just as I have done, you also must do. I assure you, servants aren’t greater than their master, nor are those who are sent greater than the one who sent them. Since you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” 

In other words, this bond we now have, you must make with the rest of the world. A tall order, I know. And it’s a tall order because we now know that this kind of bonding can only come from serving one another, in all our vulnerabilities, and without condition, I might add. And how do we know this is to be done without conditions? Jesus didn’t exactly say that. But, he showed it. Because Jesus washed everyone’s feet that night. Everyone’s. Even the feet of Judas. There are no conditions that need to be met in order to be washed by Jesus, to be bonded with Jesus, to be loved by Jesus. And neither should there be as we attempt to follow his example. I had the pleasure of attending another Board of Supervisors meeting because that same ordinance was up for a vote that would greatly harm our unhoused community. 

And I say that sarcastically because it was anything but pleasurable. It was quite frustrating in fact. I sat next to Pastor Alex from Sierra Foothills and had to lean over and tell him to take deep breaths, as we sat there and had to hear so many comments about “those people” that were dehumanizing, and criminal labeling. But more than that, I heard many conditions being laid down. Conditions that pertained to drug use, behavior, previous residence, mental health, or their willingness to accept assistance or not. And this story of the washing of feet compels us to ask, are there any acceptable conditions before providing basic human amenities like food, water, shelter, safety, and love? 

I’ll make it easy for you, the answer is no, not if you’re really listening to this story. The only way our housing “problem” is going to be solved is if we can stop seeing it as a problem, and begin to see it as a responsibility—a responsibility to serve. And more than that, an opportunity—an opportunity to bond with our community in servanthood. But let me warn you, it’s a powerful bond, and you won’t walk away the same people. And like any other relationship, it ain’t gonna be easy, and will be filled with lots of awkward and uncomfortable moments. Like washing someone’s feet while everyone’s trying to eat dinner. But this is our calling, on Maundy Thursday, and every day. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Facing Death

 Inspired by John 11:1-44

For those of you who weren’t able to make it on Ash Wednesday, it was a Bible story filled with power and strength and fortitude for the journey ahead! Why? Because Jesus knew what was ahead. He knew that things were about to get very heavy, very fast. Hence, the story of the raising of Lazarus. In the middle of Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s version of the Jesus story, the cleansing of the temple, the scene where Jesus violently knocks over the money changers tables at the temple, whip in hand, doves and other sacrificial animals running for their lives, in their Gospels, that is the last straw for the Jewish leadership, that is what causes them to begin to plot his death. 

Not in John’s Gospel. You may remember that we read that story way back at the beginning of our read through of this Gospel, back in chapter two. We’re now in chapter eleven, smack dab in the middle of John’s telling, and the turning point for John is the raising of Lazarus. This is the event that caused the Jewish authorities to begin to plot his death. Oh it’s been on their minds for a while but this was it, now he had to go. It was one thing to heal on the sabbath or claim to be a messiah or prophet but this? Raising the dead? Who could do that but God? Who could do that, indeed. 

The story opens with Jesus hearing about his dear friend Lazarus being sick. He intentionally chooses to wait it out, to not go to his dear friend’s bedside. More than that, he intentionally chooses to wait for him to die. He tells his followers that this will not end in death. Which is a bit of a stretch, I mean, he isn’t lying here, this story doesn’t end in death, but it certainly included it! A small detail that Jesus keeps to himself. The fact that he intentionally waited for Lazarus to die sounds a bit cruel on the surface. But we know Jesus, and we know he is anything but cruel. Oh he may be a bit off-putting at times, with just as much of a chance as you or I to wake up on the wrong side of the bed, but cruel, no. So, why did he do this? 

Aside from the crowds getting to see the power of God at work in the raising of Lazarus, which is a large part of his motivation here, I also think it’s about facing death, head on, face to face, in all it’s ugliness, stench and all. Yes, he wanted them to see that death had no power over him, but I believe with all my heart that he also wanted them to find that power within themselves, the power to look death in the eye, in all its forms, and to be able to say you have no ultimate power here. 

Oh death is powerful, make no mistake, I don’t have to tell you that, but ultimate power, no. You can search for ultimate power all you want Death, but you won’t find it here so move along. In fact, you won’t find it anywhere according to Jesus. Because this place belongs to Christ. And by this place I mean from the dirt on the bottom of your shoe to the space dust at the end of the universe. It all belongs to me, says the Lord. But you go right on ahead and keep looking for that ultimate power that you crave so much, Death. Knock yourself out. 

This past Tuesday, we held a prayer vigil for the people of Ukraine. It was well attended. We began outside with candles and made our way in here to pray and to sing. The song that we sang was the national anthem of Ukraine, in English of course. The melody was gorgeous but I gotta tell ya, it was the words that really captured my attention and I’d like to share some of them with you now. It begins like this… 

Ukraine is not yet dead, nor her glory, nor her freedom,

Upon us, fellow Ukrainians, the skies shall smile once more.

Our enemies will die, as the dew does in the sunshine,

And we shall rule in a free land of our own.

Souls and bodies we'll lay down, all for our freedom.

Onward, to battle,

Time to rise,

Time to gain freedom!

Call us from beyond the grave,

To the holy battle.

Souls and bodies we'll lay down, all for our freedom.

Our persistence and our sincere toils will be rewarded,

And freedom's song will throughout all of Ukraine resound.

Her fame and glory will be known among all nations.

Souls and bodies we'll lay down, all for our freedom. 

That is a very different national anthem, isn’t it! And I’d totally understand if some of it is a bit off-putting, I mean, “our enemies will die” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue like “twilight’s last gleaming” does it! But I was captivated. And here’s why. Our national anthem is dripping with victory and triumph. Oh there’s allusion to battle for sure but you walk away from that song feeling like a winner, right! Which is the point! And in my na├»ve small world that I am privileged to live in, I thought all national anthems were like that! I had no idea of the privilege inherent in our own national anthem until I heard Ukraine’s. Imagine if our national anthem began with “The United States of America is not yet dead.” Can you even imagine that? How un-American does that sound! 

But it’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it. What I love about their national anthem is the same thing that I love about our story for today. It unabashedly faces death. It looks death in the eyes and says I’m still here. What else you got! Knowing full well that more death might be the answer to that question. Because that’s all death knows how to do. There’s a fearlessness to their national anthem, a different kind than found in our own. We U.S. Americans like to think we invented fearlessness but the kind found in their national anthem is different. It’s raw, it’s real, it’s honest. It’s the kind that says, we may be dead by the end of this song, but we will not let fear nor death, have the last word. 

I think we could learn something from that. And I also think it’s what Jesus was trying teach the crowd surrounding the raising of Lazarus. It’s what he was trying to teach Martha. Martha trusted in the resurrection, in the afterlife. That was not the issue. The issue was that Jesus was there to tell them that that new life, that resurrection life, could be had now. It’s not reserved for some future far off place—but was meant for the here and now. And in the raising of Lazarus, Jesus urged them and us, to face death head on, with Christ, look it in it’s ugly face, and say, not today. Not ever. You will never have the last word, not when we have the living light of the world, with us, in us. May we all allow this Lenten season to continue to transform us in such a way that we too, can muster up such fearlessness, to tell Death where to go. Thanks be to God. Amen.