Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Advent 1

Luke 21:25-36
25 "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see "the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

29 Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 34 "Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."
So, here’s the thing: it is really difficult to hear these words as good news.  This sort of literature, apocalyptic as the professionals call it, has been all sorts of hijacked by Hollywood types and religious goofballs alike.  Passages like this, or the one that we had from Mark’s Gospel a few weeks back, conjure up images of recent billboards proclaiming the end of the world or of Tom Cruise or Will Smith or Bruce Willis saving us all from some horrendous, cosmic event. And while the entertainment industry has supplied some of the way we think about these things, there has been no shortage of those from within the church’s own ranks who have used passages like this one to less than helpful ends.  The Christian tradition is riddled with attempts to pinpoint the world’s ending date and time, and, well, let’s just say that no one has come up with the correct formula, though that doesn’t keep people from trying.  Should you be interested, you can go to the rapture index, a website that uses everything from the current unemployment rate to activities in Russia in their calculations about the world’s end.  And the point here is not to take a cheap shot at such beliefs, as silly and utterly misguided as I believe them to be, but because thinking about these sorts of things gets us to the fundamental point.  What websites like the rapture index and movies like Armageddon have in common is this basic reality of fear.  According to this way of thinking, the sum total of these sort of passages is fear and fear alone. Meaning that, if you have been sufficiently frightened, the work has been accomplished.   
And here’s the thing, you don’t have to be a Bible-belt fundamentalist or a guy who buys thousands of billboards across the country to announce the world’s ending to get lost in this maze of fearful prediction.  This, I think, is something that we all do, because we all encounter events that shake us to the core.  That challenge the very ground on which we stand.  It could be a month long health scare, or a major financial meltdown.  I mean, it is no surprise that a lot of the religious music from the Great Depression era draws on the symbolism of passages like the one that stands before us.  Whose mind didn’t go to a bit of an apocalyptic type place during the stock market downturn in 2008? Or who can fail to hear the apocalyptic tone in the discussions of the fiscal cliff?  Certainly, the one thing that democrats and republicans can agree on is that, when the other side wins, the world must surely be coming to its end.  We all get in on this fear business, and certainly there is plenty of which to be afraid.  The world changes more quickly than we would like, violence at home and abroad, storms ripping apart the East Coast, droughts that lead to a summer of fires, divorce and long-standing illness threaten the stabilities of our families, yes this is fearful stuff.  And even in this passage from Luke, Jesus notes that fear is part of the gig.  Part of what it means to be human in world that we just do not control. 
And while fear is undeniably part of life, it is not the goal of passages like this.  Not by a country mile.  Because look at what else Jesus says, “stand up and raise your heads, for your redemption draws near.”   That sounds like good news, does it not?  News to be greeted with the deepest joy and happiness?  That the one who can make us whole, the one who can forgive us and give the stability and security we so desperately desire, that one is drawing near?  And this gets us to the heart of the matter.  You see, that word that I mentioned a short time ago, that word apocalypse, in Greek, it means something like “unveiling” or “uncovering.”  And the unveiling that is staring Jesus in the face is that of the cross, he is about a week out from that event.  And so this is how the unveiling of God will occur: the Christ will give his own flesh and blood to the disciples in that first Eucharist.  Then he will go to a farce of a trial and suffer for all humanity’s sin and fear.   Yes, he will forgive until the end, promising paradise to thieves and begging the Father’s forgiveness on those who would put him to death.  And, then, in three days time, he will be raised from the dead and continue to be known in the bread broken and the wine poured out, his mercy and forgiveness cascading from age to age.  This is how the divine will be unveiled, uncovered.  Not through human efforts to wrestle the kingdom down from heaven, nor in our attempts to pull the curtain off God in history.  But there, at the cross, in the words of forgiveness that soothe our troubled souls, in the care and consolation that you extend to one another and to all whom you meet, this is the where the fullness, hear me, dear people of God, the fullness of God’s will is made known.  The curtain has been torn.  The divine will has been revealed.
And because of that revelation, because God has been unveiled in the flesh that is Christ, stand up.  Raise your heads and lift your hopeful, expectant hearts.  Your redemption continues to draw near to you.  So near, in fact, that you will soon eat and drink of it. No doubt, uncertainty and fear remain.  We are subject to forces beyond our control, things like health and aging, political maneuvering, interest rate increases, all the rest of it.  There is no way to avoid any of that.  God’s world is a place of great beauty and great instability, and this side of heaven we will continue to experience this uncertainty, and not even the faith will protect us from these things.  But here’s the thing, because God has been unveiled in Christ, we need not fear where God is in the midst of all this.  Yes, in, with and under all the moments and events that make up your life and mine, from history book worthy happenings to the smallness of a Tuesday morning, yes, in all of that, your redemption in Christ is secure, is certain.  Politicians will come and go, the stock market will rise and fall, and as I was recently reminded, your health is not guaranteed, even if you should be preaching on a Sunday morning.  Yes, all of this is fleeting and unstable, but not this: not these words of the Lord that will endure forever: You are mine. You are forgiven.  You are free.  These words are the sure and certain ground on which you may make your stand, for they are the words of Jesus Christ.    And out of that certainty, please do feel free to disregard the nonsense and the hysteria that would again subject you to a spirit of fear and further deepen the divide between you and your neighbor, no matter if that nonsense is based on a Mayan calendar or the shrill voices of talk radio.   Yes, feel free to now see the mercy and generosity of God present in all things and in all circumstances, and that that may befall you will only bring you closer to the mercy of God.  For you have seen the divine will, have drunk of divine glory.  And in it, you are free.  The tree is ripe.  Your head is raised.  Your redemption near enough to taste.  In Jesus’ name, amen. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Christ the King

John 18:33-37
33 Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" 34 Jesus answered, "Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?" 35 Pilate replied, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?" 36 Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here." 37 Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."

 “My kingdom is not of this world,” says Jesus, and this is a word that we need to hear ever and always, but perhaps especially this weekend.  After all, we are but a few days past Black Friday, and if you are anything like me, there are parts of this pre-Christmas time, in the church we will call it Advent, that are already exhausting.  And perhaps what is so exhausting is the out and out worldliness of all it.  Sure it comes wrapped to us in the nostalgia and good feeling of the season, in the wholesomeness of children opening presents and loved ones drinking cocoa, but make no mistake, this time is as cutthroat as it gets. It is about standing in line for all hours of the night so as to get a good deal on a flat screen t.v.  It is about circling the parking lot 34 times before battling it out with one other car for that coveted spot.   Darwin himself could have never imagined the survival of the fittest type battle that is the mall the weeks before Christmas.  Bottom line, the season we are happening upon can be about just the stuff of this world, about expensive gifts and all the rest.  And look, if you are willing to stand in line for hours on end for a cut rate deal, more power to you; I might just hire you to do some shopping for me within the next few weeks.  And certainly we need to speak out against the excesses, but this speaking out shouldn’t keep us from enjoying some of the wonderful things about this year.  Thoughtful gifts, warm cheer, loved ones, all the rest of it.  This is good stuff.   The point, though, is that what is immediately presented to us, presented to us in the nonstop white noise of the season is that this time is about stuff.  About getting as much of it as cheaply as possible and thus having a successful Christmas season.
“My Kingdom is not of this world,” and beyond the sort of “Jesus is the reason for the season” type trope, we would do well to remember this reality.  As we are inundated with messages about stuff, about giving and receiving it, this sort of carnival of commerce has actually nothing at all to do with Jesus.  And though we may feel it this in a particularly pointed way this time of year, given how much various shadowy entities want us to equate love with the steepness of price, i.e. to really love someone is to get them the most expensive gift imaginable, yes though the gulf between that kind of mentality and the kingdom of Christ is pretty clear this time of year, the distance is sort of always present, has been from the beginning.  I mean, just look at Pontius Pilate.  A brutally practical kind of guy, one for whom “truth” meant whatever would keep him in power and would keep his bosses happy,  might makes right and all the rest of it, it is not as though he has the easiest of times understanding and relating to Jesus.  A kingdom that will not fight to protect itself?   A king that is so indifferent to worldly power that he does not bother to provide any sort of reasonable defense of himself?  What exactly is the point of being in a powerful position if it will not get you ahead in this life?  Why be a CEO if not for the mansions?  To a guy for whom self-preservation was the greatest good to be protected, this makes absolutely no sense at all.  And then insult to injury, Jesus says that, had Pilate any understanding of the truth, Pilate would listen to him. 
“My kingdom is not of this world,” and so the problem runs a bit deeper than the excesses of this season.  Because really, this Jesus is just as confounding to us as he to Pilate.  He simply does not play by the same rules of the world that you and I inhabit on a daily basis. I mean, he hangs out with the poor, the miserable, the forgotten and calls them the beloved ones of the kingdom.  He gathers religiously impure women and men with greedy hands to his side as disciples and companions.  He forgives those who harm him; he will pray to his Father that those who will put him to death will receive mercy.  He preaches totally crazy things like forgiveness is the only way into true security, and that he, he is the embodiment of all eternal truth. This is a really difficult thing to understand.  It is hard to build a marketing campaign around this sort of thing, because, at bottom, this is not about manipulating people to your own end, which is why Pilate cannot get a hold of this Jesus and why he has so little to do with the excesses of the coming season.   I mean, so unexpected is this guy that even John the Baptizer, even the one set apart by God to prepare this Jesus’ way cannot recognize him.  For the Baptizer will declare that it takes the work of the Holy Spirit to illuminate and identity Jesus. Otherwise, Jesus will remain the enigma that Pilate experienced him to be. 
“My kingdom is not of this world,” and by this point, I think the truth of that should be well-established.  But just because the kingdom is not of this world, that does not mean it fails to take shape in this world.  And that is the miracle of Christian faith.  That no matter how strange this Jesus is, no matter how different the rules that he plays by,  no matter how hidden he would remain from our sight without the work of the Holy Spirit, the kingdom comes to us never the less.  The Holy Spirit, you see, continues to draw us deeper into the faith that the Spirit alone can impart; indeed the Spirit continues to beckon us to the cross and open tomb, continues to give us the faith to see that this Jesus is the Christ, and that in Him is all for which we long.  This is the great gift of the faith that God gives you.  That this other-worldly king comes to you and lives in you by faith, and you in Him. Even in His seeming strangeness, his utter difference from us and our values, He remains closer to us than even we are to ourselves.  This otherworldly One makes his home with you, gives you the power to be children born of God.  And what is more, you yourselves may now live out of this power, out of your identity as heirs to Christ’s kingship.  For all that He has he has given to you.  Yes, in your generosity to the ongoing mission of Centennial Lutheran,  in your feeding the hungry and clothing the poor, in your inviting others into Christ’s forgiveness in this place, indeed in all that you do, you do now as children of this God, as subjects of this king.  So take heart and good cheer, dear people of God.  Though we enter a season that will  inevitably wear us down as much as it builds us up, please do not confuse all the buying and selling, all the harried efforts to get people to and from the airport, all the last minute runs to Kings Soopers or even that small and subtle mourning for those who are not here, yes please do not mistake any of that for Christ’s Kingdom.  For when that dust settles, Christ’s kingdom will remain.  And oh yes, the words that old hymn, “the kingdom’s ours forever.”  Thanks be to God, amen. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Nov. 11, 2012

Mark 12:38-44
38 As he taught, he said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40 They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation." 41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."

I don’t think it will be too controversial to suggest that we, as humans, don’t always keep our priorities straight, that we are easily distracted by the wrong things.  And this, of course, is not intended to just make you feel bad or guilty or something like that, but this is the place where we try our best to tell the truth about who we are.  So yeah, we get distracted by the wrong things, and we do so pretty constantly. We just have a difficult time avoiding spectacles, averting our eyes from glitz and glamour; in the end, after all, we like to be entertained.   This is not intended as a cheap shot, but when you think about all the hungry people in the world and the fact that, as a country, we just watched two campaigns spend 2 billion dollars in their bids for the White House, one sort of begins to get the point.  Would that the church could get people to line up to help the poor and suffering in our midst the way that Apple is able to generate lines for the release of the new Iphone.  And this not to say that we mess things up all the time, or that we don’t overcome our own addiction to glitz and newness.  One thinks here of the incredible generosity occasioned by any tragic event.  A couple Fridays back, it took NBC a couple hours and a few talented musicians to raise 23 million dollars for the Red Cross’s efforts to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy.   So the point is not that we are always messing up our priorities, just that we are always in danger of doing so.  Vigilance, then, is always required. 
Which seems to be the same point that Jesus is making here in Mark’s Gospel.  Now let’s back up just a bit to get some context for what is happening.  Though we skipped over the triumphant entry and all the rest, we are in the part of the story that is leading right to the crucifixion.  We here are in Jesus’ last week before that gruesome proclamation that he has made three times will come to pass.  He and his disciples have come to Jerusalem, come right to the nerve center and there is trouble everywhere brewing.  So when Jesus speaks ill of the Scribes, he is putting in the verbal knife to the very people that are presently conspiring to put him to death.  It’s fair to say that the guy is not easily intimidated, huh?  So, as Jesus surveys the religious scene that is he knows will, in some way, lead to his death, the contents of his words take on a different tone, a more urgent tone.  Be on guard he says: do not let the flash of the scribes fool you.  Don’t be overly impressed by the length of the words or the beauty of their robes, don’t begin to genuflect just because they have the VIP seats.   Appearances can be deceiving afterall. Reality is rarely, if ever, what it initially appears to be.   Because it is these same jokers who will steal a widow’s last penny to buy a new suit, and so really don’t buy into their piety that rings so false and hollow.  Those long and sanctimonious prayers, those are only said so that you, you and not God, may hear them and think better of the men saying them.  This is not true religion. 
And here we should be a troubled; our own presumptions thoroughly challenged.  Our own notions of respectability and values torn apart like the heavens at the very beginning of Mark’s Gospel.  Because what is at stake is whether or not we can see, can perceive, correctly.  Whether we can, in the words of Martin Luther, call a thing what it is.  And this becomes all the more difficult when we are asked to take up this task against even ourselves.  I mean, how deep our participation in that which can only commend itself to us by its glitz and glamour. Let’s be honest for a moment, if Peyton Manning and a woman, and for the heck of it, let’s say a woman who hadn’t showered for a bit, whose clothes were ratty and her speech slurred, yes, what if they both came in off the street walked in at the same time, who among us would not prefer that Mr. Manning, and not this woman, would sit down in the pew next to us?  You cannot better believe that, in this scenario, I would do whatever it took to make Mr. Manning comfortable (can you imagine the tithe that guy could provide?), and whatever happened to this woman, well, it wouldn’t be the first time she was ignored, huh?  A quick prayer for forgiveness, a momentary thought given to this poor suffering woman and away we go.  And here’s the thing, our whole culture is based on this sort of thing, based on us understanding our own value in relationship to the glitz and the glamour, our nearness to powerful and beautiful people.  I mean, I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I have been during my few brief handshakes with mid-level rock musicians, how that made me feel like I was discovering something new and wonderful about myself.
But beware.  Beware because in the Kingdom of God, Peyton Manning or the religious professional or the powerful CEO, none of these are more or less than important than the poor widow.  And what is  more, genuine participation in the Kingdom of God is dependent on this realization, on realizing that the Kingdom of God is not be found in the glitz and the glamour, not in rubbing up against the powerful and prestigious, not in ourselves becoming powerful and prestigious, not in our being noticed,  but rather first in the small and humble.  In the woman tossing in a few pennies that was all she had to live on.  This insanity, this is most closer to the Kingdom than the well-thought out and well managed giving programs of the wealthy around her.  And this is because the Kingdom must render to us its Kings, a God who, in Christ, will also not without anything.  Will give wildly and recklessly and will do so at the cross.  The Kingdom is to be found in the place where this Christ is headed, to the cross where sin will be judged and forgiven,  the place where divine anger and divine mercy will be poured out.  This place where the proud scribe will be brought low and the poor woman raised up.  This is where the Kingdom of God will break in, will break up our destructive patterns of being beholden to things that initially give us a thrill but don’t mean that much in the final analysis.  Yes, in that which initially appears small and meager, things like wine poured out and bread broken, things like these words: “for Christ’s sake, you are forgiven, you are loved.”  And this is the miracle of the Kingdom, these things that start off small, and yet, in their smallness, will render unto you the very eternity of God.   That in the gifts of bread, wine and Word, the Christ will toss his righteousness into our very lives, and will break us open to view and care for all in our midst, be it an MVP quarterback or the heartbreakingly average.  And so, as we begin to think about stewardship for this coming year, this is the place that we must start.  Not in the amount of money that we can or can’t give for this year, not in thinking that the church, like so many other organizations, is yet another drain on our resources.  Rather, this is where we start: in the love of a God who withholds nothing to give us the Kingdom.  A God, who out of sheer and reckless love,  has claimed us in the cross and grave.  A God who has thrown in his lot with us poor and trembling sinners and will remain with us until all is accomplished.  Yes, so what does it mean to relate to our time, to our money, to our skills and ability, to our familial and other relationships, yes what does it mean to relate to these things as those claimed by this God’s fierce love?  If we are honest, it might look a lot closer to that widow than we are comfortable with.  In Jesus’ name, amen. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

All Saints

John 11:32-44
32 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." 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" 37 But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" 38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days." 40 Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, "Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 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." 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."


I once heard a movie quote that goes something like this: “that’s what living is, the six inches in front of your face,” and whether or not that should be the case, it strikes me as being pretty true.  The problems of getting through each day, what with health issues, getting the children to school on time, making sure the bills are paid, making sure there is enough money to even pay the bills, and oh, the transmission on the car just went out, and we are late for dinner with the neighbors, and aren’t we going to finally take that vacation we have been planning on for several years, yeah but what are we having for dinner and did I tell you my niece was coming into town this weekend, and so it goes, day in and day and day.  Too much to do with too little time in which to do it.  So living really does become getting through whatever is immediately in front of us.  Our lives take on the hurried character of attending to whatever problem is right in front of us, and then doing this again and again and again, with very little hope of zooming out to see a bit of the bigger picture that is at work, and because our lives have taken on this totally manic pace, days like this become all the more important.  Important because here in this place, we are given the space to zoom out a bit, if only for a few moments.  And that zooming out, enlarging our focus from beyond the very present problems that greet us with each waking day, that takes on a very different meaning for today’s worship service.  And here’s the thing; our focus could not be any grander than it is today, because today, this day, we look towards the horizon of our deaths, towards those who have already gone before us and just what our own eternal destiny might be.  How’s that for a zooming out?   
And though we rush from idle thing to idle thing, though our culture has raised distraction to an art form, and certainly one that tends towards the sinful, the reality of death is never really that far from us.  Not when those in our worshipping community have lost mothers and sisters, sons and brothers, dear friends, a beloved pastor.  So this fresh-faced kid has no intention on lecturing you about the importance of acknowledging our deaths in the face of the culture’s unbelievable and even demonic denial about such things.  The reality of death is never really that far from us,  just as it was not too far from our distant mothers in the faith, Mary and Martha.  They had just lost a dearly beloved brother, one who went by the name of Lazarus, and suffice it to say that they were dealing with it in two very different ways.   You can see Martha, all action, channeling her grief, channeling all that emotional energy into making funeral plans.  Making sure that the obituary was written, the food ordered and the flowers beautiful. For Martha, the emotional comedown will be at a later point.  In that stillness after the funeral, after everyone has gone home and she sits alone.  Then the sorrow will hit, but for now, so long as there are things to do, Lazarus’ death can remain an abstract problem, something, in the end, to be fixed and solved. Mary on the other hand, well, she is that raw nerve, that visceral embodiment of the shock, the pain and the utter grief of death.  She is a blizzard of sorrow, weeping and wailing loudly lest anyone miss the point that her brother has died.  She simply cannot abide the cold and distant injustice of his death, and when Jesus does finally show, a bit too later for her liking, you can better believe that censoring herself is not exactly her first priority, and please do not gloss over her words as though they were less accusatory than they actually are.  From Christ’s feet, she hurls these words: “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  How’s that for a greeting?
And while we certainly expect those who have just lost a brother to be deep in their grief, what is, perhaps, unexpected, is to see just how deeply affected Jesus is by all of this.   Though he has had plans on raising Lazarus from the beginning, saying things like Lazarus is asleep, that his sickness will lead to the glory of God and not to death, that doesn’t keep him from experiencing the fullness of these sisters’ pain and indeed his own.  When he sees Mary looking more like a heap of grief than an actual person, and when he converses with Martha, her grief turned into an abstract problem, and when he steps into the stench of his friend’s already decaying body, four days is a long time, after all, he, himself, is overcome by it all.  “Jesus began to weep,” or “Jesus wept,” depending on your translation, the shortest verse in Scripture, because what else is there to say?  What words could be added to a vision of God, deep in the flesh, so deep, in fact, that he sees how that flesh decays, grows old and finally begins to decompose and stink.  And that is where the glory of God is.  Not out in some distant place unaffected by the small human dramas, but right there, right there at the tomb and its stench.  Right there where all our myths of self-sufficiency, all our stoic dreams of being able to hold it together in the face of tragedy and pain, all our abstracting away the real problem of this life, namely that it ends, yes, right in that place where all of that is put to rest, there is the glory of God.  And not a cold and indifferent glory, but a glory that weeps along side you, a glory that feels your pain, feels your loss so deeply that He, He the Christ who is God’s glory, He, the very embodiment of all that is eternal and true, He, himself is moved to tears.  And then moved to action, calling forth his dear friend from the tomb, unbinding him and, with that strong and divine word, calling Lazarus forth from his tomb.
            And so as we come to this day, this day heavy with our grief and our own hope, hear these words.  You are loved by a God, remembered by a God who knows your pain as his own, a God who comes to your graves, to the graves of those whom we have lost this year and in the years past, yes a God who is there weeping beside you. You are never abandoned in your fear and your pain.  Your grief and sorrow is never too thick to keep God’s tears from mingling with your own.  For it is in the small, undignified and deeply human moments that the glory of God in Christ shines forth.  Ah, but there is more, so much more.  While few, if any of us, can boast a Lazarus like-like raising, there exists a more glorious resurrection that awaits you.  That great day in which all tears will be wiped away and you will see God face-to-face.  Yes, that great day when all the sin, shame and fear will be cast out and God will be all-in-all.  The wine poured out and the banquet table overflowing with good things.  And make no mistake, those whom we remember today, they already shine in the glory of their Lord.  They see Him face-to-face and drink deeply of His mercy and kindness.  They sit at the banquet table with Lazarus, Mary and Martha, reveling in the goodness of a God who called them out of their graves. And you, you are those bound for that eternal glory, as well.  In the words of the old hymn, the Lord has promised good to you.  So when you return to those six inches in front of your face, return to the daily problems that make up our time here on this earth, do so as one who is destined for God’s glory in Christ.  Do so with the full knowledge that Christ’s eternal love is not just six inches in front of you, but is the very God in whom you move, live and have your being.  And that is true in this life and the next.  To Christ, then, be all glory, praise and honor eternal.  Amen.