“God’s Been Here Before”

Ezekiel 37:1-14 and John 11:1-45

29 March 2020

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

1

Prayer.

 

On the shore of the Chebar River in modern day Iraq

Slept a faithful prophet of our Lord.

He, and many other exiles from Judah,

Lived in a prisoner of war camp,

Enduring terrible suffering, deprivation, and humiliation.

Babylonian captivity was the Lord’s punishment for

The House of Israel defiling their own soil by their own sinful ways and deeds.

(Ezekiel 36:17)

 

There is no more profound example of quarantine or self-isolation

Then a prison.

 

As is often the case

God uses dreams as a means of revelation.

On this evening twenty-six hundred years ago

The prophet was visited in his sleep.

He described his Divine vision

 

The Lord informed Ezekiel

That when he preached to those dry bones

They’d all come together in a rattle.

Flesh, skin, and sinew would be knit together, and

The breath of the Lord from the four winds

Would bring them life.

 

The dead would live again.

Graves would be opened and the people of Israel would be restored to their land.

 

“I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord.”

(Ezekiel 37:14)

 

And so, it came to pass.

Babylon fell.

Israel was restored.

God kept the promise.

 

God is faithful;

Even when we do not know what to do.

 

The Exile and Restoration

Wasn’t the Lord’s first plague, redemption, and restoration;

Remember Moses and Pharaoh?

 

In the isolation of our homes,

I hope we can recognize the fact, that,

While none of us has ever seen a pandemic of this scale

God has been here before.

 

God’s been through this and has prevailed.

 

…………………..

 

The Gospel narrative of Jesus raising Lazarus is long and well known to most of us.

 

From my Sunday school days, I remember …

  • Jesus delay in going to Lazarus bedside,
  • Mary’s complaint for Jesus failing to make haste,
  • The danger Jesus was in by those who wished to stone him to death,
  • His grief, raw, human grief, streaming down his cheeks, as he cried over Lazarus.

 

I remember …

  • Jesus praying fervently that resurrection may lead the crowd to belief,
  • Jesus calling out to the tomb where the body of Lazarus lay,
  • Thinking to myself, wow, he must have stunk being four days dead.

 

I was a volunteer medic on the local ambulance.

I know what four days dead smells like.

 

In the privacy of my own self-isolation this past week,

Studying the text, meditating and praying upon it,

I have come to see a part of the story of the resurrection of Lazarus

That I had never seen or experienced before.

 

A house that is in mourning

Is no different than a house in Babylonian exile,

Is no different than a house that is in isolation or quarantine.

 

Jesus becomes the same

Divine vision of restoration

When he meets Martha

Who comes forth from her Bethany home to greet him as he approached.

 

Jesus tells 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?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

(11:25-27)

 

Resurrection and life,

Opening the eyes of belief,

Revealing Jesus to the world,

That all – the whole world – may believe.

 

Resurrection and life.

Life abundant?

you betchya!

 

Jesus is resurrection and abundant life.

 

We learn in the following chapter of John how abundant life can be

When the resurrected Lazarus, Mary, and Martha entertain Jesus for dinner.

They feast abundantly.

Lazarus reclined at table with Jesus.

Martha waited on them.

Mary anointed Jesus with oil, filling the house with fragrance.

(12:1-3)

 

………………

 

Jesus is resurrection and abundant life.

 

Hang on to this anchor,

This stake in the ground,

For this is a cornerstone of our belief.

 

Jesus is resurrection and abundant life.

Burn it into your memory.

 

Lazarus was dead, and his loved ones were in mourning.

Jesus raised him to life.

God breathed life into his old dry bones.

 

Life became abundant once again,

As abundant as Israel being returned from Exile,

As abundant as life will become when science wins,

And this pandemic is defeated, destroyed, and fades away.

 

Jesus is resurrection and abundant life.

 

God has been through this before;

And prevailed!

God is with us now;

And winning!

God will see us through these days, too,

As difficult as they may be,

And God will bring us life,

Life abundant.

 

Beloved,

God’s always faithful.

God is always is true.

Rest assured, God’s greatest gift of grace

Is Jesus Christ;

Our rod and our staff,

Our good shepherd,

Our resurrection,

Our abundant life.

Amen.

…………………………………………………………………..

Lenten Reflection on Holy Communion

 

We are fasting from Holy Communion this Lent, anticipating the moment the fast will be broken at Maundy Thursday worship during Holy Week.

 

It’s a big deal; the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Take. Give Thanks. Break. Give.

 

We follow the 4-step example of Jesus when he fed the crowds and served his disciples. 1) Jesus took the bread. 2) Gave thanks in prayer to his Heavenly Father. 3) He broke the bread. 4) And Jesus shared the bread.

 

I’ve spoken about the first three actions of Jesus on prior Sundays. Today, let us think about Christ’s act of sharing the broken bread and poured cup.

 

Bread and cup are given to modern disciples, just as Jesus gave to his disciples at the Last Supper. All who desire to draw close to Christ and intend to lead a Christian life, together with children, are invited to receive the bread and cup.

 

United Methodist do not refuse or deny anyone who presents themselves desiring to receive; though John Wesley regrettably did so on one occasion, which brought scandal and hurt, resulting in him fleeing the American colony of Georgia. Because God is the primary actor in a Sacrament, human subversion or denial is not allowed.

 

The consecrated bread and cup may be delivered by lay members of the church. When bread is given, we are reminded of the body of Christ, broken for us; God’s great sacrifice for us and our salvation. When the cup is shared, we are reminded of the blood of Christ, shed for us; washing us clean of our sins.

 

Barriers that inhibit belonging and full participation of those desiring Holy Communion must be identified and overcome. Intellect, ambulation, disability, diet, physical distance are some of the challenges that must be addressed to ensure full inclusion. Consecrated bread and cup may be taken by assistants after the service to those who are homebound and others unable to attend.

 

Giving should be personal: using the individual’s name (if possible) while making eye contact. Serving each other acts out our faith that Christ is the giver of this holy meal and that we are receivers of Christ’s grace.

 

Some celebrants will commune first. My preference is to be the last served. After all have been served, the table is to be returned to order. Left over bread and cup may be distributed to the poor, as was the early church practice, respectfully consumed, or returned to earth and God’s creation.

 

Next Sunday, I’ll conclude our Lenten discussion of Holy Communion. Amen.

 

[“The United Methodist Book of Worship”, 1992. p.27-31]

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