Reverend Wendy MacLean, Christ United Church, Lyn March 27, 2020
Lent 5 John 11:1-44

 Jesus was good friends with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Their home in Bethany was a place of comfort and safety, where Jesus could go to rest. Jesus was travelling with his disciples when he received a message that Lazarus was ill. Jesus was not worried or concerned. He waited till Lazarus was dead before he went to Bethany. When Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been dead for four days.

 At the end of a very busy day, the nurse announced the next patient. “Doctor, the Invisible Man is here.” The doctor answered: “Tell him I can’t see him.”

There is so much we can’t see these days, including each other, except by social media.  This has a strange twist, though:  We see OURSELVES when we see each other (on ZOOM, FACETIME, DUO, MESSENGER).

 We have a whole new vocabulary: social distancing, social isolation, flattening the curve. We are adapting to a new reality we couldn’t have imagined two weeks ago.

Jesus, keep your distance. Two meters.

Martha was furious with Jesus when he kept his distance. Where were you when my brother died?  It is hard to reconcile Jesus’ delay with the love he has for his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Jesus knew Lazarus was dying, and he deliberately delayed coming.

If you had been there, he wouldn’t have died!

Thousands of people around the globe, and throughout history could cry the same thing:
If you had been there, my brother/child/spouse/parent wouldn’t have died.
 
This week the Premier of Ontario, Doug Ford, declared that all non-essential services must close. It seems strange that in this time of global crisis, the church is a non-essential service.

If you had been there...

Sometimes we are more present because we are absent. We begin to see what was invisible to us before. We can agree that gathering in the building is not essential, but we must insist that prayer and faith are essential services. They cannot be quarantined. They are the only antidote we have to fear.

“If you had been there, my brother wouldn’t have died.” Is Martha angry when she accuses Jesus? “But even now I know that he will rise again.” Martha reassures Jesus of her faith. “God will give you whatever you ask,” she reminds him. Yes, your brother will rise again, Jesus tells Martha.

 This is cold comfort. Martha believes what she has been taught by her faith tradition. But she doesn’t want to wait till the end of the world to see her brother again.

Jesus wants her to really understand. He wants her to believe what this means in a whole new way.

Are his words reassuring to you? I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though she/he die, she/he will live. And whoever believes in me shall never die.

Do you believe this?

Yes, yes, but oh—help my disbelief—Because we want our brother (my sister/ parent/child/spouse/friend) back. We want their hugs, their voice, their presence.

Mary runs out to meet Jesus. Where were you? If you had been here... Jesus asks her: Where have you laid him?  Mary echoes what Jesus has said to his disciples all along: “Come and see.”

 Jesus wept.

At the side of thousands and thousands of people, Jesus sits and weeps.
He does not keep his distance.
“COME AND SEE!” we say to him, in our fear, in our sadness, in our longing for help.

 Jesus brought Lazarus back to life in a drama that prepares us for the mystery of his own death and resurrection. He prepares us for the loss of his physical presence. After his death he distances himself, until we have our sight back, and can see him again. With us.

 Closer than our breath. With us forever.
Nothing can separate us from this love of God, who came to us as one of us.

Jesus wept. He knew it would be hard for us to understand. It takes forever. And (this is the good news) —it takes only one breath, one moment of trust: I believe. Help me. Help our world. This is the essence of faith.

With Christ, we know the body is hurting. Like Christ, we weep for the world.

We are an essential service. We must comfort, feed and bless.
In this way, we are Christ’s body in action.
In Christ we find the light and love that can never die.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God. We can keep our distance, but God never will.
 
We continue our worship with the offering. May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy. Psalm 126
Christ United Church, Lyn

We are still here in spirit!
During this time of social distancing
keep in touch (not literally).
Please do not forget your offering.
A generous spirit can cross the divide
that keeps us from being together
but can’t keep us from serving God
with our gifts.
You can give on-line through Canada Helps:
https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/christ-united-church/
If you want someone to pick up your envelope from
your home,  call: 613-498-3225 and a volunteer will pick it up.

Please let your offering cross the distance as a sign of hope, comfort and blessing.
Reverend Wendy MacLean