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April 6, 2014

Human and Divine

“Human and Divine”

Sermon by Lisa Crismore

John Knox Presbyterian Church – April 6, 2014

 John 11:1-45 

Was the message misinterpreted somewhere along the way? Did the doctor make the wrong diagnosis? Was there a project or lesson that had to be finished? Does the human side of Jesus come to light and procrastination set-in? Or was this all about God’s own timing? 

It is a mystery on why Jesus lingered 2 days after receiving the news that his dear friend Lazarus was sick. But once he discovers that Lazarus has died, there is nothing keeping him from going to the town of Bethany. Even when his disciples warn him about the dangers and threats made by the Jews, he is determined to go. 

I think we have all been there. Haven’t we? We get word that a loved one is dying or has died and if at all possible we go to be there with them, family members or friends. 

Death is very interesting. During this past week’s Lenten Bible Study which Frank led, a good portion of the discussion was on death. How have we experienced death? 

I along with others had experienced stories of the person sick waiting until the loved one took a break from their bedside to go home to clean-up or get a change of clothes and then that is when they died. 

But, I also remember my uncle and aunt telling me about their son, who was dying of aids. They had to leave from Indianapolis and get on the next flight to get to Atlanta to be with him. Dick waited for his parents to arrive and four hours later he died. 

I once had a pastor tell me that the time right before death and after death is very special because this is Holy Ground. I remember the special way that one family in this church took care of their sister when she died. I had been called to gather with the family at the house. While some of us sat around the table talking, the women in the family had taken special care to wash their loved one’s body and dress her. This was their special time with her. It was very moving and touching to see this act of love. 

This past weekend I had the chance to go to Champaign-Urbana to celebrate the soon-to-be retirement of Carol McDonald. This was a time for the people who had gone through Commission Lay Pastor / Commission Ruling Elder training to come together, to remember our time going through this program and to give thanks for the impact Carol had on all of us. This brought back a lot of memories during that time. I was also blessed with the opportunity to get caught up with my roommate during this 2 year period. After almost 11 years since graduation, Jan and I had kept in touch. But she had recently moved to Kentucky and I had not seen her since then. 

Her husband had died 5 years ago of an infection in his heart. It was sudden and I had not been able to go and be with her during that time. I was not able to go to his funeral because I had the Easter Festival here at John Knox. But what I do remember is praying with her on the phone and choking back the tears because I was so sad for her. It was clear that she was in deep pain as she was experiencing the loss of her dear husband, Dave. This past weekend Jan shared that there are still times that are difficult as she recalled this past New Year’s Eve just breaking down. She was at a gathering and had to leave to go home and weep. 

In the text from John, we read that four days have passed since Lazarus was laid in the tomb. Jesus finally arrives. Now I am amazed at the communication that goes on in this story as there are no cell phones but the word travels back and forth quickly. Martha has received word that Jesus is coming and goes to meet him. And then she sends for Mary. Both times they question why didn’t he come and save their brother? They are heartbroken because they have lost someone very close to them. 

In the midst of this deep sorrow and pain, Jesus breaks down and begins to weep! The very humanness of Jesus is seen in this moment. The love that is witnessed by the crowd is not translated as “agape” love, which is the unconditional love that is usually associated with him but simply “friendship”. Jesus is their friend who grieves along with them. I wonder if this grief is not only for the right now but in the fact that it hits him for a brief second that in just a short time that it will be his death that will keep him from sitting, eating, talking and doing ministry with his friends. 

I think this is a very moving image because most of the time we think of Jesus as the powerful Messiah. He is the one that walks on water, the miracle maker and the healer. Jesus in this short verse, “Jesus wept or Jesus began to weep” we see him simply as a friend grieving his and other’s loss of Lazarus. 

But in true Jesus form, the divine power kicks in and we hear Jesus switch gears by asking that the stone be removed from the tomb. There is concern for the smell maybe overwhelming but Jesus says, “If you believe, you will see the glory of God!” The grave is opened; Jesus gives thanks to God and says, “Lazarus, come out!” The beloved brother comes out of the tomb. He has the burial linen that was lovingly wrapped around him. Jesus says, “Unbind him, and let him go.” Jesus wants him to be free! 

Finding hope and belief in the power of the resurrection that comes from the Son of God can be difficult sometimes even when we hear this story. The stench doesn’t always come from a dead body. It can come from war, poverty, depression, illness, natural disasters, divorce, overwhelming obstacles and violence. In the class last week, many remarked about how they don’t want to watch the news because it is heartbreaking. 

How do we unbind ourselves like Lazarus? What is holding us inside the tomb? What do we need to free ourselves from to experience God’s resurrection power and hope? 

My dear friend Jan who I had shared earlier had gone through a lot of pain in her life. It was not just the death of her Dave that she has had to endure. But she had gone through a nasty divorce from her first marriage and this broken relationship had a great impact on her children. There was deep pain in her past. I remember that it was a whole year of driving back and forth during our time in CLP training that she actually had 3 children and not 2. They were adults and her third child had withdrawn from her. She had also been deeply hurt by the church where she had to end up leaving and going to another church. 

As we got caught up over this last weekend, it was clear the Christ had resurrected Jan’s life. She looked great! She has a healthy relationship with all 3 of her daughters and is active in her grandchildren’s lives. Jan moved a year ago to Bowling Green, Kentucky and has found a wonderful church. She is even starting the conversation about being added to the Presbytery’s pulpit supply and who knows maybe a Commissioned Ruling Elder. It is clear that Jan has freed herself and believes in Christ’s power of the resurrection. She has seen the glory of God! 

This next week is our last week before we enter into Holy Week. May we give thanks for God’s Son who comes to us as a human, who weeps with us when we are in deep pain and who divinely frees us from death so that we may live. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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John Knox Presbyterian Church
3000 North High School Road | Indianapolis, Indiana 46224
(317) 291-0308