All posts by pamjw

About pamjw

I am a Methodist Minister, currently unable to be in active ministry due to chronic illness. This is, I hope my opportunity to interact with the world. Of course anything I say here is my own opinion, and not endorsed or reflective of anyone else.

He Wasn’t Here

This week’s lectionary reading is incredibly poignant for the time we find ourselves in.

I suspect this post rambles a round a bit, but I offer it dredged from the bottom of my brain-fogged head.  Feel free to engage with me as we work out our theology for these times together.

 

Rembrandt van Rijn - The Meeting of Christ with Martha and Mary after the Death of Lazarus - 1962.116 - Cleveland Museum of Art
Rembrandt van Rijn – The Meeting of Christ with Martha and Mary after the Death of Lazarus

Lazarus gets sick, his sisters ask Jesus to come to him. But he doesn’t – at least now when or how they think he should…

John 11:1-45  (GNT)

The Death of Lazarus

11 A man named Lazarus, who lived in Bethany, became sick. Bethany was the town where Mary and her sister Martha lived. (This Mary was the one who poured the perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was sick.) The sisters sent Jesus a message: “Lord, your dear friend is sick.”

When Jesus heard it, he said, “The final result of this sickness will not be the death of Lazarus; this has happened in order to bring glory to God, and it will be the means by which the Son of God will receive glory.”

Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he received the news that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was for two more days. Then he said to the disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

“Teacher,” the disciples answered, “just a short time ago the people there wanted to stone you; and are you planning to go back?”

Jesus said, “A day has twelve hours, doesn’t it? So those who walk in broad daylight do not stumble, for they see the light of this world. 10 But if they walk during the night they stumble, because they have no light.” 11 Jesus said this and then added, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I will go and wake him up.”

12 The disciples answered, “If he is asleep, Lord, he will get well.”

13 Jesus meant that Lazarus had died, but they thought he meant natural sleep. 14 So Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 but for your sake I am glad that I was not with him, so that you will believe. Let us go to him.”

16 Thomas (called the Twin) said to his fellow disciples, “Let us all go along with the Teacher, so that we may die with him!”

Jesus the Resurrection and the Life

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had been buried four days before. 18 Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Judeans had come to see Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother’s death.

20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “If you had been here, Lord, my brother would not have died! 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask him for.”

23 “Your brother will rise to life,” Jesus told her.

24 “I know,” she replied, “that he will rise to life on the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will live, even though they die; 26 and those who live and believe in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord!” she answered. “I do believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

Jesus Weeps

28 After Martha said this, she went back and called her sister Mary privately. “The Teacher is here,” she told her, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up and hurried out to meet him. (30 Jesus had not yet arrived in the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him.) 31 The people who were in the house with Mary comforting her followed her when they saw her get up and hurry out. They thought that she was going to the grave to weep there.

32 Mary arrived where Jesus was, and as soon as she saw him, she fell at his feet. “Lord,” she said, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died!”

33 Jesus saw her weeping, and he saw how the people with her were weeping also; his heart was touched, and he was deeply moved. 34 “Where have you buried him?” he asked them.

“Come and see, Lord,” they answered.

35 Jesus wept. 36 “See how much he loved him!” the people said.

37 But some of them said, “He gave sight to the blind man, didn’t he? Could he not have kept Lazarus from dying?”

Lazarus Is Brought to Life

38 Deeply moved once more, Jesus went to the tomb, which was a cave with a stone placed at the entrance. 39 “Take the stone away!” Jesus ordered.

Martha, the dead man’s sister, answered, “There will be a bad smell, Lord. He has been buried four days!”

40 Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believed?” 41 They took the stone away. Jesus looked up and said, “I thank you, Father, that you listen to me. 42 I know that you always listen to me, but I say this for the sake of the people here, so that they will believe that you sent me.” 43 After he had said this, he called out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 He came out, his hands and feet wrapped in grave cloths, and with a cloth around his face. “Untie him,” Jesus told them, “and let him go.”

The Plot against Jesus

45 Many of the people who had come to visit Mary saw what Jesus did, and they believed in him.

Good News Translation (GNT)Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society

 

Why doesn’t Jesus do what they want, what they think is right??

He wasn’t here,
he didn’t come.

Our brother was sick
and Jesus
did not
come to him.

He left him alone
to suffer
without
being with him.

How can he have done that?
Did he not care?

If he really loved us,
cared about him,
would he not have been here
holding us,
making everything ok,
saving him?

Where were you
when we needed you?

***

We know the theology,
that one day,
in eternity,
all will be well
and all will be healed.
But what about now?
What about our brother?

Jesus,
where are you?
are we not important to you?

They may have thought that Jesus didn’t care, didn’t understand or just couldn’t do anything about it. They were really angry with him – quite justifiably perhaps. But actually Jesus already knew what was happening – he was already on his way to them, fully aware of what the situation was.  He was coming to do the Right Thing – that might be different to what they desired.

When he was met with Mary and Martha Jesus stood among them and wept.  What a powerful image that is. Jesus stands among the pain, despair and feelings of desertion and weeps with them – and then does something.

Clearly physical resurrection is not going to be what happens for everyone – and how painful that can be, particularly at this time in our world history.  But he still stands there among the pain and anguish and weeps as we weep – I firmly believe that because I have known it in other devastating times.  Please do not think that is a glib phrase, easily trotted out.  It is my experience and my hope.

The other reading for this week is Ezekiel 37:1-14, the famous passage about the Valley of Dry Bones. To me, with my illness, the main part of which is dryness in every part of the body that produces fluid, this passage speaks very loudly. The bones were dry, beyond help or restoration, and yet new life and hope was promised.

The new life that we see will be very different.  I am acutely aware that there will be some loved ones missing from it. There will be devastation – and that is tragic and gut-wrenchingly painful. Few of us will be immune. I myself am in the highly vulnerable category.

But somehow, eventually, piece by new piece, we do find a new way to live with the pain and brokenness and ultimately to know hope again. The dry bones of life as we knew it will have breath again and there can be life anew.

These are painful times we are living through.  There are no easy answers, to try and give them would be very wrong.

But we can bring to God our emptiness, our pain, our fear, our anguish and whatever other emotion (or probably a whole roller coaster of them) we are feeling. The God of brokenness is with us.

(I wish this song was a bit slower – but we have what we have!)

 

 

 

This was shared on Facebook, which puts a different slant on this reading:

now (John 11)

Now,
it is no longer
an exegetical puzzle
to be solved in our study;
it is no longer a pericope (a passage from the bible)
with which to wrestle;
it is no longer a (really)
long reading to get through;
it is no longer a story
we blow the dust off every 3 years.
now,
it is our story;
now
it is about us;
now
it is us inside that
dank, dark tomb:
stinking of fear,
wrapped in the bands
of loneliness;
blinded by the handkerchief
of weary worry.
now,
we hope,
we pray,
we yearn,
we listen
for just a footstep,
just a tear dropping on the ground,
just a whisper of Jesus
pacing before the stone,
growling in his spirit
in anger and frustration,
before he cries out,
in hope and joy and life,
“come out!”

now,
we are not casual bystanders;

now
we are Lazarus

waiting . . .

(c) 2020 Thom M. Shuman

 

 

For now, may each of us know God’s blessing and peace,
may we know he stands with us
and weeps with us in our fear and despair
may we know his presence
and may his blessing be
with each one of us
those we care for,
those we are worrying about,
those who are ill,
and those we have lost,
today
and always

Amen

Failing to See The Obvious

John 9:1-41 

If you prefer a version read to you you can find it here

(GNT)

Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been born blind. His disciples asked him, “Teacher, whose sin caused him to be born blind? Was it his own or his parents’ sin?”

Jesus answered, “His blindness has nothing to do with his sins or his parents’ sins. He is blind so that God’s power might be seen at work in him. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me; night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light for the world.”

After he said this, Jesus spat on the ground and made some mud with the spittle; he rubbed the mud on the man’s eyes and told him, “Go and wash your face in the Pool of Siloam.” (This name means “Sent.”) So the man went, washed his face, and came back seeing.

His neighbors, then, and the people who had seen him begging before this, asked, “Isn’t this the man who used to sit and beg?”

Some said, “He is the one,” but others said, “No he isn’t; he just looks like him.”

So the man himself said, “I am the man.”

10 “How is it that you can now see?” they asked him.

11 He answered, “The man called Jesus made some mud, rubbed it on my eyes, and told me to go to Siloam and wash my face. So I went, and as soon as I washed, I could see.”

12 “Where is he?” they asked.

“I don’t know,” he answered.

The Pharisees Investigate the Healing

13 Then they took to the Pharisees the man who had been blind. 14 The day that Jesus made the mud and cured him of his blindness was a Sabbath. 15 The Pharisees, then, asked the man again how he had received his sight. He told them, “He put some mud on my eyes; I washed my face, and now I can see.”

16 Some of the Pharisees said, “The man who did this cannot be from God, for he does not obey the Sabbath law.”

Others, however, said, “How could a man who is a sinner perform such miracles as these?” And there was a division among them.

17 So the Pharisees asked the man once more, “You say he cured you of your blindness—well, what do you say about him?”

“He is a prophet,” the man answered.

18 The Jewish authorities, however, were not willing to believe that he had been blind and could now see, until they called his parents 19 and asked them, “Is this your son? You say that he was born blind; how is it, then, that he can now see?”

20 His parents answered, “We know that he is our son, and we know that he was born blind. 21 But we do not know how it is that he is now able to see, nor do we know who cured him of his blindness. Ask him; he is old enough, and he can answer for himself!” 22 His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, who had already agreed that anyone who said he believed that Jesus was the Messiah would be expelled from the synagogue. 23 That is why his parents said, “He is old enough; ask him!”

24 A second time they called back the man who had been born blind, and said to him, “Promise before God that you will tell the truth! We know that this man who cured you is a sinner.”

25 “I do not know if he is a sinner or not,” the man replied. “One thing I do know: I was blind, and now I see.”

26 “What did he do to you?” they asked. “How did he cure you of your blindness?”

27 “I have already told you,” he answered, “and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Maybe you, too, would like to be his disciples?”

28 They insulted him and said, “You are that fellow’s disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples. 29 We know that God spoke to Moses; as for that fellow, however, we do not even know where he comes from!”

30 The man answered, “What a strange thing that is! You do not know where he comes from, but he cured me of my blindness! 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners; he does listen to people who respect him and do what he wants them to do. 32 Since the beginning of the world nobody has ever heard of anyone giving sight to a person born blind. 33 Unless this man came from God, he would not be able to do a thing.”

34 They answered, “You were born and brought up in sin—and you are trying to teach us?” And they expelled him from the synagogue.

Spiritual Blindness

35 When Jesus heard what had happened, he found the man and asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

36 The man answered, “Tell me who he is, sir, so that I can believe in him!”

37 Jesus said to him, “You have already seen him, and he is the one who is talking with you now.”

38 “I believe, Lord!” the man said, and knelt down before Jesus.

39 Jesus said, “I came to this world to judge, so that the blind should see and those who see should become blind.”

40 Some Pharisees who were there with him heard him say this and asked him, “Surely you don’t mean that we are blind, too?”

41 Jesus answered, “If you were blind, then you would not be guilty; but since you claim that you can see, this means that you are still guilty.”

Good News Translation (GNT)Copyright © 1992 by American Bible Society

 

Failing to See the Obvious
Lent 4 Year A John 9:1-41

I am me, I am who I am, with what I have.  But that day I found myself the centre of attention – well an argument actually.  Someone started trying to use me and my condition to score points.  They were wanting to trap this Jesus we’d all heard so much about – but they wanted to use me to do it.

How was my disability caused?  Had I done something wrong, or my parents?  It seemed a given to them that illness and misfortune were caused by what they call ‘sin’- which seemed to mean getting their rules wrong.

But Jesus stood up to them, made it clear that whatever had caused this it certainly was not because of anything either I or my parents had got wrong, nothing we had done at all.  This was really important.  So many people lived by the understanding that bad things did not happen to good people.  Bad things happening to you had to mean that you had done something bad.  We like things neat and tidy.  We like to know who or what to blame.  But Jesus was quite clear that was not the case.

The sad part about the whole episode is that the only thing that seemed important to the Pharisees was that the Sabbath Law has been broken – or at least their interpretation of it!

Having got nowhere with their first argument, they tried a different tack.  Perhaps this is some set up.  I was never really blind at all – Jesus was just using me to try to make it look like he was a prophet.  They were beginning to get worried that there are those who are thinking that Jesus might be the Messiah.

The leaders want to keep the lid on all this.  But it very soon becomes clear who the blind ones are.

The one who was blind meets Jesus and finds he can see.  The one’s who believe they have the understanding of everything meet Jesus, and it turns out they can see nothing because of their prejudices.  They need to open their eyes – and who knows what they might discover.

Lord
may I open my eyes to you.

May I see
the things you have to show me.

May I not be closed-minded
but wanting to discover more of you.

May I never think
I know everything there is to know,
or have you sorted,
but be open to new possibilities.

Surprise me Lord
I pray