Tag Archives: anguish

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

Happy Christmas?

“Happy Christmas”, the ubiquitous greeting of the season (or even worse “Merry Christmas”).

When did we come by this insistence on being happy in life?

Many people are in a circumstance that is far from happy – but still we think they should be. Especially linked to the ‘perfect’ family Christmas.

But life is not like that.  People are in pain, missing someone, missing anyone, alone, hungry, sad, struggling with bad news or any number of other situations that mean they are not ‘happy’ – but that does not mean Christmas, or more especially God, is not for them or with them – but it doesn’t have to be happy.

Today happens to be the Feast of the Holy Innocents. A Day to recall Herod’s fury at being outwitted by the Magi and God and takes it out on the infants of Bethlehem:

Matthew 2:13-18 (NIV)

The Escape to Egypt

13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.“Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:

18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,

    weeping and great mourning,

Rachel weeping for her children

    and refusing to be comforted,

    because they are no more.”

Rachel is weeping.  She cannot be comforted.  There is no comfort for a child ripped from its parents in whatever circumstances.

Culturally we are rubbish at acknowledging people’s pain and anguish.  We certainly don’t like public displays of it.  Much easier if people could at least play along at being happy.  But that is not acknowledging real life.  Rachel is weeping.  That is how it is.  Real life and emotion are allowed.  There is no sticking plaster, no chivvying to cheer up, she is comfortless.  That is her reality – and it is ok to be so.  A healing will grow, she will be able to live with the raw pain, but not today.  Today is a day of pain and raw emotion.  And God is in that.  He sits with it, with her.  God holds her and all who mourn, and weeps too.  Our pain is God’s pain.

Surely, church should be the one place where we should be able to be real and honest, to open up to how it really is; but we are not much better at it.  We should give space for however people are feeling – bad and good.

Christmas has long been a struggle for me.  I know I am far from the only one.  This year is even worse, the Circle of Life has gone very wonky.  Yes there is hope and promise – but not today.  “Happy Christmas” grates.  Yet to be honest I’m not sure how you phrase it better.

Why do we have to be happy?  Yes I am grateful that God is born in human form, but does that mean I have to be ‘happy’, fixed grin, false jolliness and the lot?  Surely if the good news of God born among us means anything, it means that he is with us in the good times yes, but also in the dross and pain.  That is what the coming of Jesus, and the power of it, means to me – that he is with me however I feel.

I’m with Rachel in her pain.  So are many others.  I’m musing on a culturally acceptable way we can acknowledge that, and get away from the assumption that just because it’s Christmas everyone is having a fabulous time.

So I wish you the ongoing love, hope, peace and comfort of the Christ-child.  God born among us.  God with us – whatever the circumstances we find ourselves in, whatever time of the year.

Thank you Lord
for coming to earth,
for coming to reality,
for experiencing human life,
good,
bad
and indifferent.

Thank you
that your presence is not just for good days,
but for how it is;
that I don’t need to pretend,
or put on a good show
for you,
because you know.

Thank you
for your presence
in happiness and joy,
but also in pain
and weeping.

May I walk
in your presence,
hope,
comfort,
and peace;
and know you with me
whatever the circumstances

A Faithful God vi

The Plot against Jeremiah

18 Some of the people said, “Let’s get rid of Jeremiah! We will always have priests to teach us God’s laws, as well as wise people to give us advice, and prophets to speak the Lord’s messages. So, instead of listening to Jeremiah any longer, let’s accuse him of a crime.”

Jeremiah Prays about His Enemies

19 Please, Lord, answer my prayer.
Make my enemies stop
    accusing me of evil.
20 I tried to help them,
but they are paying me back
    by digging a pit to trap me.
I even begged you
    not to punish them.

Who can I cry to but you?
Who knows the reality
of all that is happening,
but you?
Who understands rejection,
false accusations,
having your help
thrown back in your face,
but you?

That is why I can turn to you,
cry out to you,
trust you,
because you have been to these places
and you are with me
as I face them.

Faithful God,
I cry out to you,
in my pain,
my anguish,
my fear.

Please God,
hear me,
answer me,
make it stop.

Faithful God