The following sermon was preached by Jacob Gawlik, LSTC student, in Augustana Chapel at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago on Thursday, April 14, 2011.
Lord giver of new life,
Awaken our hearts to the promise of new life you grant us,
That we may embrace your gift and freely share in it with your world. Amen.
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” These words are certainly familiar to us. Odds are each of us at some point have or will utter some variation of this phrase in our lives. I recall my friendMark’s experience. WhenMarkhad become a freshman in college he believed full heartedly that he was finally independent and no longer needed to feel attached to his family life. He was out to set his own path and that was just the way it was going to be. Though he often received phone calls from family, he rarely answered them promptly. When he did, he would be quick to develop an excuse to have to be going. After all, he had better things to be doing.
One evening after classes, Mark noticed the light on the answering machine. This was nothing new to him but since the light had been on the day beforeMarkfigured that perhaps, it wouldn’t hurt to listen to the messages. The first message was from his mother. “Mark just calling to remind you to call your grandmother for her birthday tomorrow.” Markof course was not sure if he had forgotten or if he just didn’t have the energy to want to remember. Perhaps he would call after dinner. “After all the whole day is Granma’s birthday” he thought.
The second message began to play it was also from his mother “Mark, I need you to call home when you get a chance.” “Not now mom,”Marksaid to the machine, “I’m just not in the mood.” His words were over shadowed by yet a third message from his mother, “Mark, Granma had a heart attack this morning.”
As if a gut response Mark reached for the phone to call home but the message was not over, “she is dead Mark. Please as soon as you get a chance call home.” But he couldn’t. Markfound himself laying on the floor weeping. “Why the death of my Granma now God, if I had spoken to her the night before would I not have broken her heart.” Why God? We ask this question often, why God? Why is there pain? Why is there loss? Why God?
It is easy to ask this question. After all, we want to believe in a God who is good. A God who is ultimately loving. And yet we all have found our selves at some point asking why God? In the Gospel for today we seeMaryandMarthaasking the same question why God? MaryandMarthaasked thatJesuscome to be with them sinceLazarus,Jesus’ beloved friend was ill. And instead of acting,Jesuswaited.
Why God? Isn’tLazarusyour friend? Two days after receiving the newsJesustold his disciples they should go visitMaryandMartha. But after waiting two days, the disciples were now afraid to go since they feared they would be harmed on their way.
So Jesus tells them “My friend Lazarus is not doing well, and I’m sure he has been laid to rest.” His disciples however misunderstood him saying, “Well ifLazarusis sick, sleep might do him some good.” Jesuslooked at his disciples and said to them, “My friendLazarusis dead.”
Upon hearing this, the disciples accompanied Jesus on his journey. When they finally arrived,Lazarushad been dead for four days. SoJesuswent and foundMaryandMarthaand while speaking with the sisters they both toldJesus“Lord, if you had been here, our brother would not have died.”
Why God? AndJesusbegan to weep with the sisters for the loss ofLazarus. Through the tears,Jesusasked the sisters whereLazarushad been laid to rest. In sorrow and morning,Jesuscame toLazarus’ tomb. The sent of decay filled the air. It is not surprising thatJesuswas greatly disturbed by all of this. After all, he could have been there. Jesusapproached the entry to the tomb in agony for the loss of this beloved friend, andJesuscried out “Lazarus, come out!”
So often, this has been our cry. A cry of brokenness and sorrow. It is Mark’s cry, “Why God why did my Granma have to die?” The cry ofMaryandMartha, “Lord, if you had been here, our brother would not have died.” These tears are our tears, our sorrows. And so we cry out to our Lord God. We scream and yell. We feel abandoned. Left with a wound exposed to the world. Where are you God? Why do these things have to happen?
We look to find meaning in what feels like a broken world and what do we end up finding. We find our perfect God made human. We findJesusweeping. We findJesusbroken where we are in our sorrow and grief. We findJesusgrieving along side us because our pain has becomeChrist’s pain. We are confronted with God incarnate in these moments of pain and sorrow. And we become witness ofJesus’ humanity in our world. Because it is in these moments of deep despair and sorrow, God is with us. God is by our side weeping and broken by our side. Jesussays to us though tears on the cross ever before us “life is precious. You are my beloved creation. And you mean everything to me.”
In these moments, we are not abandoned at all. We are accompanied byChristcrucified. Christwho knows our pain because he lived our pain. We findJesuswith us because we needJesuswith us. And God with us isChristincarnate. ChristJesusour Lord and God in flesh among us. And so we findJesuswith us in front of the tomb and he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesussaid to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
God with us, you have unbound us and set us free from the tomb with the promise of new life in you. Grant that we may hold your presence near to us so that even in the mist of deep sorrow we can know you share our tears.