Welcome to this space and time in the name of Jesus Christ. Jesus tells his disciples that where ever two or more are gathered he would be there. I believe that is true today. We are gathered in are physically separated spaces, but I believe that the Spirit of Christ resides with each of you as we worship this morning.
We are in difficult times. We all can testify to it. So far in Henry County, there are no reported cases of the coronavirus COVID-19. Yet, we also know that there can be cases among us, and the gives us pause before we leave the house to go out into public space for any purpose. So we mostly stay at home.
We also know that it is even more challenging for those who going through tough times that have little to do with the virus.
My best friends are a couple by the name of Andy and Ann. In the past month, Ann’s sister has been the center of their lives as her husband laid dying in a hospital bed. Six weeks ago, Andy and Ann drove from their home in Ft Washington, MD to drive to Delaware to be with Ann’s sister and the rest of the family. So, for six weeks they have provided support and care for Ann’s sister as they journeyed through this ordeal of the dying.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the process of finding a space for hospice care outside of the hospital was excruciating slow for the family. As they waited Andy and some of the family took on the arduous task of cleaning and repairing the couple’s home which had suffered neglect after many years of illness.
Ann’s sister refused to leave the side of her dying husband not wanting to be away when he finally left this life. It so happened that the one evening that she went to get some much-needed sleep, he died at 1:00 am in the morning
It was a terrible ordeal for this family, much as it must have been a terrible ordeal for the family of Lazarus.
John tells us that Lazarus was a friend of Jesus. The family had sent for him because Lazarus was sick. Jesus delayed for a day or two then headed out to go to Bethany to see his family and the friend. He did so despite the opposition to the idea by the disciples for they knew Jesus was a marked man in Judea where Bethany was located.
When Jesus arrived, Lazarus has been dead for several days. The sisters of Lazarus Martha and Mary accuse Jesus. “If you had been here…” How much is this like what some of our own feelings about God in this time of stress. “Why haven’t you done something?” “Where are you God when we need you in this world?”
Ann’s family are devout Catholics. Ann herself is a cantor for the church. But I can imagine in their pain and hurt and confusion they would have said to Jesus too, “If you had been here…”
Jesus in response wept. He wept for his friend. And he wept for the family and their disbelief. He weeps for us, for our pain, and too for our disbelief.
Even the crowd was saying “if he had been here…he healed the blind but could not keep this man from dying.”
We know what happens next. The stone is reluctantly rolled away. Jesus calls Lazarus from the tomb. Lazarus walks out wrapped in strips of cloth. They are told to remove the cloth, to unbind him, to make him free.
We can speculate on why the delay, but I think that Jesus states it clearly “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” Then Jesus makes it clear that the glory of God is the glory of the Son, so that they may believe that the Father had sent him.”
In the many conversations over the phone and by text with Andy over the past six weeks, I have wondered where the glory of God would be seen in the story of the unraveling lives of this family.
The brother-in-law died last weekend, and now they had to have a funeral with the restrictions brought by the current pandemic. No more than 10 could attend the funeral and burial. Where was the glory of God
It occurred to me that the glory of the Father and the Son had already been revealed. It is in the gospel story. It is in that Jesus, the anointed Son of God, not only wept for us but died that we had a means of grace in reconciliation and restoration to life eternal in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as told by prophets of the Hebrew Bible.
It is the same for all of us. The story of the gospel, which is the story of Jesus revealing God’s love through his death and resurrection is true for all of us. That we have not been able to meet in the buildings on Patrick Ave and Mount Bethel Circle does not have any effect on the work of Jesus through the cross and in His resurrection. It is still true. It cannot be changed.
And I think the glory is also in Andy and Ann being present for the sister and the rest of the family. They put their lives on hold for six-plus weeks in order to do this. They made a sacrifice. They lived the gospel out for Ann’s sister, and for the world too.
In the end, this is the best we can do. We are to be carriers of the Gospel, which is the story of Jesus Christ, in word and deed. We do in the best and worst of times. This is the Christian story.