Watch “Easter 2, Bible Study Introduction, Unsettling Go…” on YouTube

This is a link to some videos that some folks in Saskatchewan conference have put together about Palestine and Israel. Easter 2, Bible Study Introduction, Unsettling Go…: http://youtu.be/0n65dQB_eYA

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Good Friday

Some reflections on Good Friday:

“What is Truth?”

Jesus says “I was born into the world for one purpose – to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who seeks truth hears my voice.” Pilate responds “Truth, What is truth?” What is the truth Jesus bears? It depends on your perspective.

Truth:  God’s saves only those who believe in Jesus.

Truth:  God’s saves everyone – all people and all creation.

Truth:  Jesus is the only way to know God.

Truth:  Jesus is one way of knowing God.

Truth: Jesus died for our sins.

Truth:  Jesus died because of sin.

Truth:  Jesus came to show us how to get to heaven.

Truth:  Jesus came to show us how to live.

 Depending who you talk to all these are true.  What is your truth?

 

Good Friday Reminds us that it is painful to watch someone or something that we love die. It marks the end of love, of hopes of dreams. It puts our whole world into chaos and questions everything we knew to be certain. As we stand at the foot of the cross and watch Jesus die, we look around the world and see death and violence around us too. And Jesus tells us that he will live again. Do you believe that life can follow death?

Witness Death – Witness Life

This is a reflection based on the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:1-45)

It is a strange story…A story of life and death and life again. It is a story that mimics and expands the story of Jesus’ own death and resurrection which we will hear in a few weeks.

It begins with a message being sent to Jesus telling him that Lazarus is ill. Jesus is unconcerned and announces that this illness, whatever it is, will not end in death and he continues ministry where he is for a couple more days. After discussing Lazarus’ illness and death, along with the potential for stoning, Jesus and the disciples go to see Mary and Martha.

Lazarus has been dead for four days and the community has gathered around Mary and Martha to offer their support. Martha goes to Jesus and says “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” She follows this up by affirming Jesus and God’s power for life. “But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Martha and Jesus have a conversation about resurrection.

 Common logic of Jesus’ day, and even our own time, tells us that resurrection is impossible. N. T. Wright suggests that “resurrection does not mean being “raised to heaven” or “taken up in glory” . . . Resurrection is not simply death from another viewpoint; it is the reversal of death, its cancellation, the destruction of its power.”[1] Within certain sects of Judaism there was a belief that there would be a resurrection at the last day and when Jesus tells Martha that Lazarus will live again Martha affirms this belief.

 Jesus corrects her assertion that resurrection will happen at the end and suggests that, with him, resurrection is imminent, not in some distant time and place but in the immediate future. According to the Women’s Bible Commentary, the author of John wants people to know that “through faith in Jesus, death loses its power and life gains new power.”[2] Martha struggles to wrap her mind around what Jesus is telling her. She affirms Jesus as Messiah but is unable affirm that resurrection for Lazarus is imminent. We might also struggle to expect resurrection. Logic tells us that it is impossible.

 Matha calls Mary to see Jesus and the whole crowd of people at their home follow her. Mary is not as understanding as Martha. She accuses Jesus “If you had been here, he would not have died.” The crowd that has gathered also accuses Jesus saying, “if you could heal a blind man, why couldn’t you save Lazarus from death?” Mary is weeping and Jesus weeps with her. We see Jesus showing human emotion and being touched by the death of someone he loves and the pain of Lazarus’ family. Mary is weeping because Lazarus is dead and as far as she can see, this is the end. Perhaps she is wondering what will happen to herself and Martha without a male relative in the house. Jesus weeps for Lazarus but he also “weeps because of the powerful destructive power of death that is still at work in the world.”[3] Mary doesn’t understand Jesus’ power for life.

 With all the weeping, they arrive at the tomb and Jesus asks for the stone to be removed. It is Martha who reminds Jesus that Lazarus has been dead four days and opening the tomb will be a smelly business. Even though she affirmed Jesus as Messiah Martha doesn’t understand Jesus’ power for life either. Neither sister is really able to grasp the power that Jesus has in the midst of their grief and loss.

 And then, Jesus calls to Lazarus and he walks out of the tomb. Imagine the shock and surprise of the gathered crowd to see a dead man walking. Mary and Martha struggled with seeing their brother alive. I’m like Mary and Martha in that I struggle to believe in a physical resurrection in the present life. How could Lazarus come back from the dead? How could Jesus himself be resurrected? The raising of Lazarus is not really about a physical resurrection or “a freak act of nature but it is a demonstration of God’s power for life.”[4] Physical death reminds us of our vulnerability. With Lazarus’ death, Mary and Martha become vulnerable to the whims of a culture in which unattached women had little value. The death here is not only Lazarus’ but also his sisters’ ability to live. And so Jesus weeps for both. Jesus weeps because the power of death is at work in the world.

 In many ways this story foreshadows the story of Jesus’ own death and resurrection. In both stories we see people who have gathered in the face of death to bear witness. The have gathered in fear and anger and frustration that the world is not as it should be. They have gathered to witness the death of innocent people.

 But the word brought to them in Lazarus’ resurrection and in Jesus’ resurrection is that death does not have the final say. In Lazarus’ death we see the connection between the “intimate and the cosmic: the pain of this family reminds Jesus of the pain in the world.”[5] In Jesus’ death we also see how the pain of Jesus followers is the pain of the world. We cannot separate our personal pain from what we see in the world. Neither can we prevent the pain we see in the world becoming our own pain.

 When I consider Jesus’ death on the cross and the people who witnessed that death, I am reminded of all the other deaths in our world that need witnesses: the creation that is being destroyed, aboriginal people that live with the results of residential schools and the reserve system, immigrants who live with racism, LGBT teens that live with bullying, people who live with limited income and struggle to make ends meet. All of these people need witnesses to the deaths that they live every day. This is the pain that Jesus was witnessing in the death of Lazarus. It is the pain the disciples witnessed as Jesus died.

 The resurrections of Lazarus and Jesus are intended to remind us that all this death and pain is not the end. By witnessing to death we can also be bringers of new life. We are resurrection people but we cannot be resurrection people without witnessing death. Without death, resurrection does not exist. Without death there is no miracle. I’m not convinced of a physical resurrection but I am convinced that resurrection happens on a daily basis when people stand strong in the face of pain and violence and death. Our creed reminds us to “resist evil and proclaim Jesus crucified and risen.”[6] And so we stand in the midst of pain and proclaim resurrection. We proclaim that the way things are, is not how they should be. We weep for what we see and pray and hope and work for resurrection in this world.

[1]. N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of Resurrection, http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_BR_Resurrection.htm

[2]. Gail R. O’Day, Women’s Bible Commentary, ed. Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1988), 386.

 [3]. Gail R. O’Day, Women’s Bible Commentary, ed. Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1988), 387.

 [4]. Gail R. O’Day, Women’s Bible Commentary, ed. Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1988), 386.

 [5]. Gail R. O’Day, Women’s Bible Commentary, ed. Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1988), 386.

 [6]. A New Creed, http://www.united-church.ca/beliefs/creed