Fifth Sunday in Lent A 201
John 11:1-45 The Rev. Leonard Oakes HCSM April 10, 2011
Good morning!! Would you kindly look at the person next to you, share a smile and say, “Whatever happens, know that I love you and I care.”
The reason I asked you that is because there is so much anxiety going on in the world today. There is suffering in every corner of God’s world, and people suffer for different reasons. People suffer because of natural calamities, such as tsunamis or earthquakes. But the ones that have caused massive suffering are of human making, particularly the making of those who lord over others. In many countries with long time leaders, people are demonstrating in the streets for freedom and good government. In spite of the euphoria of the evangelists of the global market over the past years, the promised economic prosperity of the global market has not benefited the largest and poorest segment of the population. Metaphorically speaking, contrary to the expectation that a rising tide raises all boats, the rising tide raises all yachts. Worse, the world’s poor do not even have boats, and they are drowning in the tsunami of corporate profits.
Deep inside us we are grieving and crying. We are crying because we see the pervasiveness of the forces of reaction and death, and it seems that we are not making significant progress after years of struggle. We are crying for the world we love so dearly, yet often serve so poorly. We are crying because we are growing weary. We are crying because we may succumb to compassion fatigue and may lose hope.
We cry like the little girl who was late getting home from school. Her mother became more and more worried as the afternoon wore on. When she finally arrived, the mother said, “Where have you been? I’ve been worried sick!” The little girl responded, “Well, I was almost home, but then I saw Suzie sitting on the curb crying. Her dolly was broken.” Her mother, relieved, said, “Oh! So you stopped to help her fix her dolly?” The little girl with the wisdom of the universe said, “No [mom], I sat down on the curb, and I helped Suzie cry.”
We cry because of the seeming absence of answers to our prayers.
Just the other night, the eyes of the world was focused at the United States of America, the land of the free, the land of hope and the land of milk and honey. Not as a promise of a future and or a blessing of a day but a political gridlock over whether our leaders would agree to pass a budget or end up going home leaving the government to shutdown. After so much anxiety felt by millions of American people and thousands of the families of our men and women in uniform and those who work in federal government and those who depend from them, the brain of the government agreed to pass the budget and called it “We chose to make history” I wondered if someone shouted, “God, if only you are here, this would not happen!!!” To which God waited until the last minute to prove His love and finally redemption and celebration.
Martha, in the Gospel read this morning, displayed the same feeling we and the world had been having for these past days. She grieved over the loss of her brother Lazarus. She said to Jesus, “Lord had you been here earlier, my brother wound not have died.” She had been praying that Jesus would be there when her brother was yet sick. There is no question that Jesus loved Martha and her sisters and Lazarus. But when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Two miles away from Bethany!This is hard for us to understand and hard to handle. Here’s Jesus who is known to have loved this family but when he heard his friend was sick, what does he do? It is difficult to understand that Jesus deliberately waited. We are so used to critical illness being a signal for immediate action. And the first thing that comes to mind is God. We pray, “Please Lord spare my brother from death” Or “please Lord save my child from the doom of cancer” God’s presence is very much needed in that very moment. We needed comfort. We needed answer, but there was none.
My little girl Hailey came to me one time showing me her hurt finger saying, “Daddy, I have a boboo” I just looked at the finger and said, “Ah, that will be all right.” and sent her on out. She ran to her mother, weeping and crying, and her mother said, “Oh, dear, does it hurt so much?” My little girl said, “No, mommy, it’s just that daddy didn’t even say, “Oh.” That is what she wanted, somebody to say “Oh” with her.
When we don’t get that “Oh” we say, “Why?” That is the question we all ask, “Why Lord, Why would innocent children and people suffer from destructions? Why my sister, she didn’t deserve to suffer and die? She is so young. Why don’t you answer my petitions?
When you have gone to God for help which you feel so desperately need and nothing happens, when your heart is breaking over something and you need God to say “Oh”, but the heavens are silent, it is tough to understand, tough to accept, tough to get any kind of grip on.
But what the gospel is telling us is that a delay in answer like that is not a sign of God’s indifference or his failure to hear. It is a sign of his love. The delay will help us so that Christ may be glorified through it.
Jesus deliberately delayed going to Mary and Martha because he loved them and knew this would strengthen their faith as they learned the ultimate outcome which God would work through Him.
That is hard lesson to accept. I have struggled over this many times myself. But it works. Something we expect and long for does not occur and then, suddenly, sometime after we think that everything is lost and that there is no hope, God does something remarkable that totally reverses our view.
We may never understand the side of heaven when our prayers are not answered. If you are always trying to figure them out, they will only bring frustration and confusion. We only have to learn to trust God and learn how to keep our heart pure before Him and we will find ourselves exactly where we are supposed to be. It may not be easy, but in the end, God is going to use it to our advantage.
One of the most important aspects of faith is trusting God even when we don’t understand. Martha displayed that faith when she said, “Lord I believe in the resurrection in the last day.”
There may be some of you today who is suffering from illness or a member of your family or friend is suffering from pain and cancer and you are so depressed. There are those of you who are already at the end of your rope in the hope of finding job security and almost losing your grip. Know that we are here and we love you. Even in your times of greatest difficulty, even if the bottom falls out, even when it took you months searching for jobs and you haven’t found an answer, you don’t have to be distraught and let yourself get all worked up. When you are in times of loneliness because old age or physical incapacity has strucked you and you can’t do the things you used to independently do and you are just waiting for your hours to come and be taken away. Remain at peace, be with joy, and keep a smile on your face because that is all part of fighting the good fight of faith. Be encouraged in knowing that God is still in control of your life. He created you and me and He knows our circumstance. Don’t sit down around depressed and discouraged. God has His ways. “My thoughts are not your thoughts; my ways are not your ways” says the Lord. We must wait and quietly trust, knowing that God is working out something for us.
Our attitude should be, “God, I trust you. I know you can do what I can’t do, and I’m committing my life into your hands.” That attitude of faith pleases God. People, who have made-up minds, people who say, “God, I’m going to trust you whatever happens. I trust you in good times and in bad times are people of good faith.
Let us therefore quit living frustrated because our prayers weren’t answered the way we wanted it. Quit being depressed because you haven’t found a job a place to stay. Keep pressing forward, there will always be resurrection and Jesus will lift you up. Keep your joy and enthusiasm for God is in control of your life. He is guiding and directing you.
If you are currently in a tsunami of life or facing severe difficulties, hear God speaking to your heart and rise above it. Believe that God has a plan for your life.
My friends, if you will learn to embrace the love of God, you can rise above where you are now. You will overcome every obstacle and you can live that life of victory that God has in store for you.
Let us not allow the beauty of the day just pass by. So once again if you may, turn around and give the people around you a big great smile and say, “Whatever happens, know that I love you and I care.”
Let us bless the Lord Day by day. Amen.