I AM and you will be

sermon on John 11:6-8, 14-27, 32-50

 

Life and death, death vs. life. It’s the defining struggle. And this is a crucial moment.

The narrative of Jesus’ life obviously is accentuated as we get to Holy Week—from Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, to Good Friday and on into Easter—and we live in realtime through the final week of Jesus’ life. Today’s story happens not long before that, maybe just a few weeks before the end.

Yet it’s halfway through the Gospel of John. That interesting note is not unusual to John, that half of the story of Jesus is this stuff right at the end. He lived for somewhere over three decades, but most of what we relate to are these final moments of his life.

John tells today’s story as a crucial moment, a turning point, causing the lead-up to the end. This is the final major sign of Jesus, and is the final of the I AM statements we hear in our series, and it all points toward his death. But also, then, to life. Those two ends challenge each other intensely.

Let’s start at the beginning and find our way forward, from death into life. The story started while Lazarus was ill but alive, with the detail that Jesus waited to go to him, two more days. He then arrived four days after Lazarus had already died.

In the story, this emphasizes that Jesus isn’t working mere bits of resuscitation, putting a bandage on or a small cure. His healing is for wholeness. God’s work is best made known, Jesus indicates, by him not being there in this case.

There’s no reason to take that detail as more broadly applicable. It isn’t that Jesus doesn’t care about wellness in smaller ways. It’s not that God refuses to help until things have gotten to be so bad that only a miracle would matter. It’s not that Jesus ignores everybody in need, failing to show up for a few days. No, that’s not God’s normal practice or standard operating procedure, but just a revealing detail here to highlight the larger truth.

So Lazarus is dead.

Thomas rightly observes that going with Jesus back to Jerusalem will mean more death. By the end of today, it’s clearer than ever that that’s what’s in store for Jesus. But he goes anyway, goes to the sisters of the dead man (as Lazarus is called in the story, to reinforce the difficult fact).

With one sister, Jesus talks theology. They have a mini-Bible study to help her faith. She is able to look past the dreadful present circumstances toward something more, toward hope.

The other sister, not so much. She only weeps. Jesus doesn’t try to lecture her or offer explanation, to whitewash over it and say everything will be okay. Instead, he weeps with her.

That’s the kind of Jesus many of us first need in such moments, not a distracting from our grief but dwelling in it with us, in empathy. I try to practice that myself when I’m met with tears, not to explain away, but to reside in the sorrow with the person. It’s not about right answers and certainly not just to cheer them up. It’s recognizing the validity of sorrow, and sharing it.

Of course it can’t end there, though. A Jesus who only was compassionate could be consoling but wouldn’t offer anything to end the sadness. We need more from him, especially in the face of death.

So he continues to the tomb of the dead man and calls him out. The unbinding and letting him go isn’t only about unhitching the fasteners on Lazarus’ coffin, but is about freeing him for life, taking away the deadly confines so he may be released back to live fully and abundantly, as it’s supposed to be.

In that way, the next time Lazarus appears in the story is at the family supper table, restored to his place with his sisters, to companionship and camaraderie, to the nourishing of life, to support each other.

If this were a fairy tale, we could arrive at that conclusion and say “they all lived happily ever after.” The good guy faced overwhelming odds, but somehow saved the day. Death was vanquished. Loving relationships were restored.

But this is not a fairy tale. This is the reality of our world. Life was endangered. But death was not the end. But life will not yet be the end, either. Lazarus is raised, brought back to life. And yet death will not give up so quickly. No sooner is Lazarus out of the grave than the authorities confirm their resolve to put Jesus into a grave. They argue it’s better to have one man die. The logic of scapegoating abounds, but is never so finely tuned as it claims to be. Within a few verses, they’ll have discovered that Lazarus is a popular attraction, so they’ll also want to get rid of him, too. The cycle of violence can never be satisfied with one death, but keeps churning through more victims, and fails anyway to add authentic life for those who are caught up in it and perpetuate it. It’s a vicious rhythm that needs to be broken.

So it stands that Jesus meets death with life while the world responds over and over by obstructing life with death.

Looking for other models around us of this perpetual pattern, I’d suggest not to presume to look outside as spring emerges. The back and forth of seasons can mischaracterize summer as life and winter as death. Since it’s God’s good creation, we should better see winter also as part of God’s work for life, not a separation from it. Always in creation, God is striving to bring life from death, newness from where there was nothing.

We may look elsewhere for the meeting of life and death, where our creative God is bringing life from death, even while the world tries to counter with more deadliness and destruction.

In these weeks, probably a clearest portrait is in school classrooms, places of life, of learning, of growth. We should recognize God’s work there, because caring and sharing of knowledge, discovering our place in the world, nurturing talents, assisting the little ones—this work of teachers and students is the work of God giving life.

We’ve witnessed again as that was countered with death, as a school for fostering life was met with bullets and all classrooms became filled with fear. Death trying to take the place of life.

But the students stood up on the side of life. We heard from our own young people last Sunday that this has gone on too long, that enough is enough, that it needs to change. Students paused Wednesday to grieve 17 deaths, and then walked out to demand that their lives be valued and supported. That is godly striving for life over death.

We’ll see whether that specific struggle for life can be sustained, or whether it is squelched and death again tries to prevail as authorities ignore young people and discourage them, indirectly and directly harming their liveliness.

We notice the pattern in other places, that roads are for fostering our connections and vocations, but news of a bridge collapse brings death, and so godly striving would lead to improved infrastructure spending and well-studied engineers and safer streets.

Or that weather patterns provide for life on this globe, but hurricanes enflamed by climate change bring devastation, but God responds for life through noisy offerings for relief efforts and striving to mitigate the worst of global warming’s disastrous effects.

Or I reflect on how 15 years ago I was an intern preaching against invading Iraq, that the “shock and awe” of our God isn’t about violence against enemies but persistently and quietly and even now is for life and freedom.

Or this is also in gradual gains against nuclear threats; in the hope of North Korea talks, God works life over death.

Or God’s work as protecting life-giving water sources and wetlands against perils from pollution or short-term profit.

Or in hard family conversations to talk through difficulties: that is God working through death for life.

We notice God’s work for life over death even within our own bodies, of God’s constant renewal in healing your injuries, in expanding your possibilities, continuing to create you anew within each cell and with every breath. It may seem as you age and feel decrepit and wearing out and await a looming funeral that death will have the final word, but then especially we look to God’s promise of life.

See, we may notice this struggle everywhere and always. But it’s not in the individual cases of whether life can conquer death. We are all Lazarus and Jesus is always Jesus. So we trust the outcome, even though we somehow wind up acting like we don’t know the end of the story. We pretend like there’s still a question of whether godly life will finally be able to overcome death. Or we dismally forget and declare with news stories and our sad days that life has lost.

And this time of year in church may even tempt us that way further, to doubt by pretending we don’t know the end. As the authorities threaten Jesus, we figure again the nastiest powers and biggest bullies will always get their way. Bittersweet Palm Sunday cheers a king who will be killed, executed before the week is out. Good Friday feels like the most emotional day of the church year. At Easter two weeks from now, we feign surprise at resurrection, (if it even matters,) as if we didn’t expect Jesus to rise from the grave and thought death does rule and life might not win, that God had been beaten, that the victory was not for us.

But we know the end of this story. Like a favorite movie, we may still be moved as it continues on, still be swept up in the action. We know the struggle is real. We still take time to grieve together. We weep at death. But we also laugh in its face, because we know the end. We know Alleluias are waiting to burst forth. We know tears will be wiped away. We know it is not just Lazarus who will be restored, but all our relationships, all our fractured pains healed, all creation renewed.

I AM the resurrection and the life”—yes, we know this, Jesus. You are always and fully life for us.

We trust it.

We remember it.

We celebrate it.

We already live, alive, freed from what would bind us, freed from what confines us, freed to live abundantly, ceaselessly, boldly with love.

We are called out from death.

And we keep living into it, now and forever.

 

Hymn: The Word of God is Source and Seed (ELW 506)

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The Verb Became Flesh

 sermon on John 11:1-45
This is a hard Lent to preach with these lectionary Gospels. It feels like getting up after Shakespeare at a talent show and saying, “um, I wrote a love sonnet to my toothbrush but could only come up with 13 lines.” I mean, just what’s one supposed to say after these amazing dramatic passages? With today’s grand finale, I’m not going to touch the Psalm or valley of dry bones or God’s life-giving Spirit dwelling in you, though they’re plenty sermon-worthy. It’s just they end up as background compared to this Gospel.
 
And for the focus on John, again since there’s no way to hold onto all of it, I’m going to try approaching it by focusing on Jesus’ actions. Partly I’m recalling a classmate pointing out that in the Spanish version of this Gospel of Juan it is “el Verbo” that becomes flesh—the verb, an active God at work in our bodies, our lives, this world.
 
In spite of that activity, though, the first verbs with Jesus in this reading are passive. He listens to hear the message the sisters send. That’s a decent beginning, with the assurance that God hears our prayers and requests.
 
Much harder is his lack of response. Jesus waits. He does not go. Last week, we observed the longest absence of Jesus in the Gospel, 28 verses where the story continued without him. Now comes this longer timespan. In fact, deathly long. The two days Jesus remains and doesn’t go help can only makes us fret and feel frustrated. He said the illness wouldn’t lead to death, but—unless he means something very different from the reality we understand and experience—death came.
 
Maybe this two-day wait is preparing us for an even more difficult three days beginning on Good Friday, fearfully fretting whether we lost our bet, lost hope, if God is a loser, a failure, if we’re forsaken. Or maybe on those three days Jesus is busy conquering death and hell. More still, the wholeness of our lives can feel these long waits seeming too separated from Jesus, with no help we yearn to receive, just deafening silence.
 
The next verb might interrupt our discouraged isolation, even in the face of death: Jesus goes. His disciples warn that he’s probably going to get himself killed (which is precisely the truth), but he goes charging into danger to confront evil powers. He has courage, and he encourages his followers. Whether you heard and spoke it as ironic resolve or the battle cry of being outgunned in a Western, Thomas says, “Let’s go die with him.”
 
After Jesus goes, then he finds. That’s an important part of his engagement with our worries and suffering and our existence. Later details will be closer and more emotional, but first Jesus comes and finds us where we are.
 
Following that isn’t a direct verb, but is a question mark in the dialogue as Jesus inquires, prompting our response. “Do you believe this?” he asks. Do you trust me with life? Do you expect more than what you see right now? Do you know where to look for help? He challenges us with Martha to work on our theology, to keep pondering, to figure out what we believe, since that makes a difference.
 
That’s his encounter with one sister, but with Mary, it’s something else. He calls her, and she needs that beckoning into relationship. She needs maybe the chance to complain, to lament, to launch questions back. After all, our theological preparations involve practice trusting, but we trust in God and not in our explanations. It’s God who saves us, not our beliefs. And Mary needs that deeper, core moment. I don’t like head/heart contrasts, but she does seem to be operating at a gut level, maybe in grief of not being able to think straight. So Jesus doesn’t test her faith or question her theology. He sees her weeping and is also greatly disturbed. We, too, need this emotional God, a God who can be moved, who isn’t passionless but enters our pain, with empathy and compassion, knowing our hurt by having experienced it. Here, at last, is a God who responds to us.
 
The next verb is famously identified as the shortest verse in the Bible. Two words. Jesus wept. Maybe it’s the shortest because it says it all, that a God of constant sorrow is so remarkable there’s no more to say. Or maybe it’s so miserable, so tragic that we don’t want to dwell on it any more. (A side note: it portrays the paradox of our faith that a similarly brief verse of two words says, “Rejoice always” (1Th5:16). Somehow our heart, our very being is in joy even though and through weeping. Both are with God.)
 
To continue, the crowds rightly question how the tears of Jesus matter. On the one hand, having One who understands your crying and abides with you is such good news. But we desperately need God’s love not just to be sad with us, but to do something about it, to be able to bring us past it, to change things.
 
So change things Jesus will. He comes to the grave and commands that the tomb be opened. Even in her faithful trusting, Martha is resistant and protests the idea, warning (in my favorite verse of the King James Version) that “he stinketh.” That shows this is a closer encounter still. Jesus had been present with theological questions, pointing toward truer belief. He’d been present in groaning and weeping and sorrow. But now he will face death and will not be repulsed into giving it the last word.
 
Standing firm, the next two verbs are conversational. First, Jesus prays. Though there’s the odd sense of God talking to Godself, it reminds us that God isn’t defined by independence, as the highest authority, but is always God in relationship, in communication. The next obvious step, then, is that Jesus speaks to the dead man. Even death will not sever relationships with him. His voice, this Word of God, the active Verbo-in-the-flesh calls one he loves into new life.
 
Perhaps the summary is in his last command: “unbind him and let him go.” The work of Jesus, present in our bodies and active in our lives, the task of God is love and compassion, understanding and encouragement, is constantly creating and undoing all that binds and confines you—the sin and harmful relationships, the despair and lack of understanding, the grief and trauma, the injustice and illness, the identities and histories that held you captive.
 
As a last word of this Lenten season, he reorients you, renews your head and heart, your gut-feelings and physical potential, assures you of his presence and promise in baptism, overcomes death, and sets you free with his love. That’s more than I can say; it can only be enacted in your life.
 
 
J — The holy gospel according to John.
 
ALL — Glory to you, O Lord.
 
M&M — Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”
 
J — But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”
 
ALL — The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?”
 
J– Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” ALL — 8The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?”
 
ALL — The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.”
 
J — Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
 
ALL — Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
 
J — When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.
ALL — Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother.
 
M1 — When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him,
 
M2 — while Mary stayed at home.
 
M1 — Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”
 
J — Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
 
M1 — Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
 
J — Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
 
M1 — She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”
 
M2 — And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him.
 
J — Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him.
 
ALL — The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
 
M2 — When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
 
J — When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?”
ALL — They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”
 
J — Jesus began to weep.
 
ALL — So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
 
J — Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
 
M1 — Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.”
 
J — Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
 
ALL — So they took away the stone.
 
J — And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
 
ALL — The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth.
 
J — Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
 
ALL — Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.
J — For the Word of God in scripture,
M1 — for the Word of God within us,
M2 — for the Word of God among us,
 
ALL — thanks be to God.
 
 
 
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Saints, Death, Weeping

sermon for All Saints Sunday (John11:32-44; Isaiah25:6-9; Rev21:1-6a)

A fair question to ask is why in the world would we think of this facing death again today as a joyful festival?

Memories, even of those we really admired as saintly, are helpful and to be cherished, but are no celebration.

On the worse side, some of us can’t walk into church without it calling to mind those we miss. It may be you can’t help but dwell on losses you grieve, the people who shaped you and brought you to church in the first place. Or that one of the last times you were in a place like this was to say goodbye at a funeral service. There are such intense emotions that it’s painful even to come through the doors, that it’s almost too much to face. I understand that, and some of that feeling is exactly what we’re dealing with today.

But before we go into more of that, I also want to put aside a different idea. Some feel uncomfortable in church because of grief and overwhelming sadness. But there are also those who feel uncomfortable at church because they suspect it’s not a place for them. If I could weed out one persistent comment and stop it from crossing people’s minds or lips, it would be the idea of being unwelcome at church or that God would be opposed to you. Too many times to count, I’ve had people say that if they walked into a church, lightning would probably strike or the roof would cave in. It hasn’t happened.

I’m not sure where that view of God comes from or how it gets fueled, but I’d wish never to have to hear it again. Because whatever causes it, that is not the God we have, not the God of the Bible, not the God embodied for us in Jesus. If you think God is out to get you or doesn’t like you or thinks you’re not good enough to be around, then you’ve got the wrong idea of God. Just the reverse, if you’ve got that notion, then God is eager to be with you, already on your side, particularly when things are bad.

That, then, brings us back to the hard confrontation of death today. Being at church can be tough because we face this mostly head on. When you’re watching sports or reading a book or working on a project, mostly you can keep distracted, with death out of your mind. Even following the news—and even when it’s just awful news—still that can mostly seem far away and not need to be dealt with. Even in late autumn days, turning chillier and darker, when trees are getting bare, still we divert our focus to the colors of beautiful leaves. Or we think about compost, and somehow separate that distinction, that leaves break down to become new soil that will nurture future life. That’s a gain, but death in our families isn’t. That kind of death is loss.

At church, we don’t talk around it. We don’t say you need to brighten up and act happy, as if you’re not actually torn up. That’s an important distinction. Sometimes this faith gets manipulated into some sort of antidepressant or motivational poster. God gets misused to whitewash over the pain or to skip ahead. We end up with trite phrases like, “she’s in a better place.” I don’t have to tell you that consolation is crap. For the people around me who have died, the place I want them to be is still with me. That would be better. I’ve also been there with too many of your loved ones whom we’ve placed in the ground, buried in a cemetery, kept in an urn. That’s not a better place. If we ignore that part of our reality then our faith becomes some escapist lie. It isn’t that we don’t hope for more, but if we jump too quickly to the end—or, still worse, if we impose that on others amid the despair of death and brush aside their sorrow, then that is not honestly our faith.

So, again, just as we don’t have a God who is out to punish those who haven’t been in church or feel like they’ve done something wrong, as God won’t ever withdraw a promise of blessing for you, neither do we have some sort of fairy tale God who always has a smile on and watches cute cat videos while ignoring our reality and dreaming that we’re all living happily ever after. That is not our God.

This takes us into our Gospel reading, where Jesus encounters the death of a dear friend, one he loved. Here, as in other places, death makes Jesus angry. It says “he was greatly disturbed.” And then he began to weep. In some versions of the Bible, that is the shortest verse. John 11:35 is only two words: Jesus wept. (There is one other verse that competes for brevity, but we’ll have to come back to that.)

For now, we should probably notice this most encapsulated theological statement of our Scriptures. What does it say to us that the briefest conception of Christ, the most summarized synopsis, the tiniest little kernel we can compress God into is this weeping? I’d say that it focuses our belief on a God of compassion. A God who sympathizes with our hurt and sorrow and pain. A God who is absolutely and utterly with us, in dejection and disappointment and despair. Who laments with us and aches with us. One who knows that death stinks really, really bad. When we face that, it’s right to be sad and broken and confused. We can’t ignore sorrow. So God knows this pain and our longing and our tears. Jesus wept.

It struck me as remarkable this week that when our readings from Isaiah and Revelation tell us that God will wipe away every tear, that that includes God’s own tears. God also longs for something else, the time when mourning and crying and pain will be no more and death will be no more.

Again, we’ll come to that. But we ought to reflect a moment more on this God of compassion, because that identity is both good and bad, to be treasured yet also not fully satisfying.

We know the blessings of sharing in grief, of being able to lean on each other. That’s among the central reasons to gather in church, especially when our lives have been fractured. I heard St. Stephen’s described that way this week, that this community helped in time of loss: in the death of a son, as a husband was struggling with terminal illness. It is the blessing of Bold Café and Soup for Schools groups, this intimate support network that can offer care and be there together in the roughest times. This is part of why it’s important to be invested in the life of the congregation, because this compassion, this shared love and concern, is such a reciprocal relationship of harvesting what you’ve put into it.

To have God identified with such compassion is the ultimate in caring proclamation. More, this love won’t fall apart, is not dependent on your investment in it. God doesn’t get distracted or have to leave to attend to other business; God is with you always. You can always lean on God and share with God. The old song goes:

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!

Oh, what peace we often forfeit; oh, what needless pain we bear—

all because we do not carry ev’rything to God in prayer!

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged—take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our ev’ry weakness—take it to the Lord in prayer.

So for one who encounters your suffering with you, it can’t get any closer and more intimate than that.

Yet—and here’s the part that isn’t so satisfying—compassion only goes so far. Misery may love company, but we need some company that doesn’t love misery. It’s good news that God isn’t against you, that—just the opposite—God is with you especially when you really need it. But having a God who knows your sorrow and your longing is not quite enough. You also need a God who can and will do something about it. A God who not only shares your tears but will, indeed, wipe away those tears, and every tear. We have this sense that death shouldn’t happen if the Lord is with us.

At this point, my proclamation to you falters. There’s a hiccup in this good news. God went into death for you, was killed on a cross to destroy death, and rose on the third day to conquer the grave and give you the victory…but, well, this doesn’t exactly feel very victorious or glorious or celebratory at this point. God, it seems, didn’t decide simply to undo death, to erase it, to make everything suddenly better. I don’t like that. I don’t like that we are still here grieving, that we’re stuck with our tears, that we still have to confront death that destroys our good relationships and steals loved ones away from us, or sucks away our own happiness or wellbeing or life.

I can proclaim to you that death is not the end. It has not won. There is more to come. And that changes everything, even if it’s all too eventual and gradual for what we’d wish here and now today. There’s a promise we have now, but we experience it not yet. Jesus rolled away the stone from his loved one’s tomb. His own stone was rolled away on Easter. And no grave will capture or bind you or your loved ones or any of the beloved of God, any of God’s good creation. That is the promise. God will wipe away every tear, and death will be no more. Then we’ll join together at the feast.

Even as we’re still stuck in the messy middle and it can seem so hard to go forward—to face another day, to get out of bed, to hear what the doctor has to say, to deal with our memories, to worry about forgetting, to live in this world—even though that is so much of our reality now, we trust the end of the story. And that changes everything. We don’t need to pretend things are okay when they aren’t, don’t need to stop grieving.

Instead we grieve with hope. I said we’d come back to the other shortest Bible verse. In the original language, there’s a verse that’s shorter than the compassion and shared sadness of “Jesus wept.” It’s not only shorter; it’s a counterpoint that also looks past our present sorrows, since “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us” (Romans8:18). The shortest verse? “Rejoice always.” (1Thessalonians5:16)

Hymn: In Deepest Night (ELW #699)

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