“Do you know what I have done to you?”

Grace and peace to you as we, people of faith pause in this moment, In this holiest of weeks Closer and closer to the one whom the Creator God loved and sent, Jesus Christ, Our Savior and Lord.

 Is it possible for people of faith today,

To empty of ourselves the things that hold us back

from fulfilling Christ’s commandment?

There are many people whose knowledge and wisdom should bring us humbly to their feet in respect.

Within the African Yorbua people and culture, young children are taught

The proper way to greet their elders

Without speaking, a young man would lay himself before the elder’s feet

A young woman would kneel and bow her head

Before greeting

The elder would then, motion for them to rise with a blessing on their heads or embracing them with an unconditional love.

How counter-cultural and odd does that meet our eyes?

Many, many cultures and peoples of the world have this same similar, humbling way of honoring those who have come before.

So curious it is that it is done at their feet.

Why?

Because it is our feet that have been carrying our movements,

Our journeys

Forever, it seems

Our feet carried us through unknown places as we explored lands throughout Creation

Sustained the burden of a people fleeing from exile

Bore the weight of a people running towards freedom

Carried the cries of a people marching for justice

When there was no other way, our feet resonated the rhythm

Giving us the strength to move and conveying hope Encouragement

Faith

And even as our feet become ragged with weariness

Tattered and scratched with the roughness of the road

We must continue to carry what the Good News of Jesus Christ is for all of Creation

And that Good News is that Christ cared for us so much…

That He humbled Himself

Taking our feet into His Hands

Baptizing and renewing us, so that we could carry what the Gospel means to everyone

Lord, not my feet but also my hands and head!”

We hear our own joy in Simon Peter’s exultation

Of wanting to be submerged in anointing by this Teacher,

By the Son of God

Who had witnessed the healing power and unconditional love

Jesus Christ had for those whose He encountered and whose humbled lives were discarded by the rest of the world

… as if they were useless as cloudy basin water.

You will never wash my feet.”

Peter struggles to see that the Son of God deliberately empties of Himself

To experience the sufferings of these ancient people, their pains, their grief and their affliction

To comfort those places where their souls ached

Pouring soothing water, refreshing their very being

For Peter the impropriety of Jesus

A man of importance and notoriety in this ancient society

To deliberately ridicule his status

Reduced it to unworthiness,

Affecting those who followed him

Aligning themselves with someone seen as tainted

Peter’s actions leaves us questioning

The audacity of placing limitations

On who Jesus is and what Jesus gave to them

Yet, as people of faith we sometimes in our searching and our questing

Place our own limits on what the Creator God is able to do.

Especially when we are faced with a Jesus that challenges us and exposes our uncomfortableness with what Jesus Christ has commanded us to do.

Do you know what I have done to you?”

There is no answer that can be conveyed through mere words

But through Jesus Christ, the Son of God

Who reaches across the cosmos to where we are

Every time we shelter those from life draining pain

Those who have been forgotten in and outside our community

Every time we honor those who have embraced Creation with their feet,

Elders who carry within their souls, the wisdom and the love of God

Every time we gently scoop up life giving water

Saying a prayer over those that we are familiar

And those who are strangers

Allowing waters to pour gently over

We live out what the Good News of Jesus Christ is for us today

Just as it was for the disciples

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.

Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

The Good News of Jesus Chris is CLEAR.

Regardless of who we are or whom we are not familiar

Whether we are in agreement or not

We as sisters and brothers in Christ

Throughout all of our wanderings and our journeys

Meet at the crossroads

BENEATH THE CROSS

HERE is where we all humbly bow our heads

Laid out

Laying out our burdens

HERE beneath the Cross

WE ARE ALL EQUAL

And HERE is where Jesus Christ, Risen, Resurrected, Defeating both death and the grave

Reaches out to embrace us with LOVE THAT SURPASSES ALL UNDERSTANDING

HERE is where we should meet one another

To be reminded of who we are

And what the Creator God Almighty

Has called us to be

BONDED IN LOVE to the Triune God

And to one another forever!

(Telling the story of an end of the semester worship service at LSTC where the Seniors walked through the font, and the middlers with towels knelt down to wipe their feet in silent prayer and how moving a reminder this way that we too, have been called as disciples of Jesus Christ to baptize one another in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, blessing one another to continue proclaiming what the Good News of Jesus Christ and the power of the Gospel means to everyone. It does not matter what you have been called to do: to ministry, to teaching, to healing, to being with a neighbor and the stranger.)

Come, let us live out the commandment of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

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Death Is Not The End

Grace and Peace to you as we people of faith, continually journey through this season of Lent, towards the one whom the Creator God has sent, Jesus Christ Our Savior and Lord. Amen

 Sometimes movies, which are our guilty little escape

Can remind us of the little tender slices of our reality.

There is a scene in one of my favorite movies that resurfaced a couple of weeks ago during a bereavement workshop that both I and Charlotte Gilman attended.

For those of you not familiar with Steel Magnolias, the movie captures the friendships and lives of six Southern women in Louisiana.

This particular scene opens near the end where M’Lynn remains alonge at the gravesite of her daughter who has passed away from an illness.

One by one, all of M’Lynn’s friends delay returning home and instead rejoin her by the casket,

trying to find words to fill up the unbearable and stinging silence of the reality

that none of them wanted to find themselves at that moment.

“How you holding up, honey,” Trudy (played by Dolly Parton) gently inquires M’Lynn who can only respond with one word, fine

The silence is almost uncomfortable as each woman begins to stutter out something, trying to bring comfort and each time, you can see M’lynns face twisting into annoyance.

“It was a beautiful service,” offers up Clairee (Olympia Dukasis)

“The flowers were the most beautiful flowers I have ever seen,” matter of fact states Weezer (played by Shirley McLaine)

And then Annelle (Darryl Hannah’s character) delivers the punch line that should be put in a book on funeral etiquette of

Things not to say to the bereaved

“Miss M’Lynn? It should comfort you to know that Shelby is with her King. We should all be rejoicing.”

M’Lynn without missing a beat snaps back “Well you go on right ahead, I don’t feel like rejoicing. I guess I am just selfish, I’d rather have her here.”

Out of the depths I cry to you O Lord, Lord hear my voice.

Death is woven unfortunately into our lives

We’ve all been there, out there standing on ground that is hallowed and sacred

Yet, ground that seems a little hard and harsh under our feet

And the winds, no matter what the season and even if the sun is shining

Seems to pinprick our flesh into feeling cold and lifeless

That scene in Steel Magnolias, we have at one time or another been in M’lynn’s place

Overwhelmed by meaningful friends and family who attempt to offer up some words of wisdom or healing, and yet-

Sometimes those words are more painful

Because perhaps they too are uncomfortable way death tends to tighten its hold on us,

Paralyzing us,

Smothering us

Mocking us

Reminding us

Of our defenselessness

And so helplessly they flounder, trying to offer up some semblance of hope

Telling us Death is not the end.

That they are in a better place

Saying this with much gumption and gusto

Because we are people of faith right?

We believe surely as Martha believed, in our Gospel text this morning;

Even while mourning she is unwavering in her faith, saying: “But I know God will give you whatever you ask of him.”

Perhaps many people who were gathered around the tomb where Lazarus laid

Who had heard of this Savior called Jesus

And knew of the close friendship between both men

And had heard of the miracles before

Waited with their breath trapped within,

To only be released through witnessing the grace and mercy

That God, the Creator had not forgotten God’s promise

Caring even for those people who perhaps did not have importance or status,

unrestricted by the man made limitations made on God’s Laws

And yet would it be unimaginable to think

That there were ancient people among those who were sitting shiva

Would also be jarred into turmoil

With the sudden presence of Jesus Christ

Because perhaps maybe they just didn’t believe

These supposed signs and miracles

Or even in the presence and the reality of the Creator God

Because of their own perilous journey

Think about the crowd, those intermixed within

Suspicious

Doubtful

Angry

“What makes Lazarus so special?”

“Hm, now we get to see if those parlor tricks of his work!”

“Why didn’t this Jesus come and heal my brother when he was ill?”

“Hmph, who does he think he is? Who died and made him king?”

I think as people of faith we forget

And are not cognizant of people’s own journey through the valley

Saying that Death is not the end ,so we should be rejoicing sometimes does not bring comfort

People of Faith, when faced with death

We too, Struggle with the pain

With doubt and with an unshakeable fear

That what if this is it, and death is the end?

Which can be more painful when their loved one is taken away, suddenly

And therefore, they question all of the good that person may have done or accomplished in their lives

And their lives are cut short

Think about where you would fit in among that ancient crowd of mourners, gathered at Lazarus tomb

Think about where you have been in a crowd of mourners at a gravesite?

I’m sure many of us lowered our heads, or closed our eyes

The pain of families wracked with another Fort Hood shooting

Had to vibrate somewhere within us

The shock of families thrust into chaos as a landslide washed away

Precious lives that they loved

Had to grip at our souls

The agony of waiting for thirty days now, of families connected globally by one flight number, Flight 370

Has to leave us clenching our fists

The distress of families locked in a cycle of violence on our urban streets; of communities trapped a world away of civil violence

Who Death seems not to end, but rob them of life and love

Have to leave all of us, with our hands open, with our voices dry and cracked

From ceaseless weeping, crumbled and scattered among the dry bones

“Lord, if you had just been there, my brother wouldn’t have died.”

But yet…

Jesus weeps.

In those moments when there is no other explanation

Is it strange to imagine Jesus standing at a graveside,

In an abandoned alley

Beside a hospice bed

Near a run down, broken house

Outside a military bunker

Alongside a hospital ER room

Jesus wept.

There is Good News.

Jesus not only weeps, but Jesus becomes disturbed

And the Good News is that because of who Jesus is, of His Ministry and Mission

Because Our Creator God loved all of us so much

And weeps when we weep

Death is not the end

Jesus Christ stands before death itself and commands death to release its hold on us…

BECAUSE DEATH IS NOT THE END

The Good News of Jesus Christ is that Jesus Christ weeps for us, weeps with us because Jesus Christ loves us eternally.

And therefore this risen Christ, having experienced death calls us from the throes of death-

“COME OUT!”

Jesus Christ calls us from the situations that cling to us, robbing us of our lives, freeing our spirit

“COME OUT!”

Because Jesus Christ has been given through the power of the Holy Spirit, because God Loves Him and loves us

Nothing in this world-

No situation

No pain

No suffering

Not even death itself

Can separate us from the healing light, unconditional love and the resurrection of eternal life with God!

Thanks Be To God