"Come Out," Pastor Kinsey
“The dead man came out!” Amidst the tears of the many wailing mourners, and of the weeping of Mary and Martha, and finally Jesus’ own tears – there is no more confounding verse in John’s story than, “The dead man came out!”
There have been so many tears this week, following the senseless tragedy at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
This past Friday evening, as part of a national movement, our local Jewish congregation, Emanuel, invited all of our Edgewater neighborhood to Shabbat services. A number of Unity folks took up the call and attended, as a part of a large, overflowing crowd. Rabbi Marantz with his guitar strapped on, and Cantor Friedman with her beautiful voice, led the worship by inviting one guest after another to come up to the Bema and say a word, recite a poem, speak part of a responsive liturgy, share a testimony, or give a blessing. A young woman who was to lead her Bat mitzvah the next day on Saturday, and who sat in the front row with her proud family, was even invited up, warmly introduced, and read Torah sripture to us! I was honored too, to be invited to say a word on behalf of ECRA, our neighborhood religious association. The eclectic diversity was awesome!
And so, the tears and sadness, was well tempered by the deep and beautiful truth being conveyed in words, and even more so, I’d say, by the sheer fact of our presence together, which embodied the message that, Love is stronger than hate!
When one of our communities are attacked, all of us are attacked! We will not stand idly by – We will stand in solidarity! We are Children of Abraham, from the same root, branches of the same tree. (Our only Unity complaint, btw, was why do they start at 8pm? That’s too late, for us goyim!)
This is a huge and positive change, even within my lifetime. The belief in interfaith cooperation, has grown, even as this recent sharp increase in anti-Semitism has been allowed, even encouraged, to show its hateful face. We gathered together to “call out” death-dealers, and to raise up a resilient bright light of active, non-violent love and solidarity!
Jesus, “called out” Lazarus, with a commanding voice, in our Gospel reading today. “And the dead man came out,” John says.
Jesus says that he wants to do this, for a couple of reasons. 1) to show Martha, one of the sisters of the dead man, that if she trusted in Jesus as a purveyor of life, as a healer, and anointed one, that she, would see, the glory of God! Martha had basically complained to Jesus that he took too long to come to their house! If he had come immediately he could have healed Lazarus, who he knew, was ill. And, it’s true, Jesus doesn’t come right away, on purpose! He tells his 12 disciples that he’s going to wait a couple days. ‘This illness in not unto death,’ he confides in them, but rather it’s for God’s glory. So they stayed put, two more days!
Seems rather callous doesn’t it? What could Jesus be up to?
And secondly, he seems intent on gaining a wider audience, a bigger following, to establish a movement of believers. John records Jesus praying out loud: “I knew that you always hear me, Father, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here…” and then he calls Lazarus out from the tomb.
So, what do you see? Do you see glory?
“The dead man came out,” says John! Which is a logical contradiction, of course – at least to our minds of reason, to our human cultural conditioning of fear, and illness, and death. Dead people don’t walk out of their graves. Personally, I’ve buried two parents. So, hello St. John: What are you talking about!?!
I believe, there is a deeper meaning, living within the action of this story of calling out, Lazarus. Seeing by the eyes of faith, we might note, is a different type of vision – like seeing the wind, by noticing the leaves of the trees blowing. Though the Spirit is invisible, it does not negate the life-force of God, blowing and working through our lives and our culture.
Jesus came to reveal the glory of God’s gift of life, that “in God there is no death.” But it’s not like our faith is what makes God’s goodness happen. God’s grace comes as pure gift.
Our whole collective culture, that we build up and create, in and around our lives, in and around our communities and institutions, in and around our cities and countries, are rooted in life, or in death. Our faith is our courage and trust(!), that in God there is no death. Our faith is our acceptance, that God is calling, and continues to call us out, from the dark places that are holding us back, holding us down, holding us hostage to fear. God is calling us out, blowing the wind-of-the-Spirit, in, and around, and through us as a constant good news opportunity.
So when we refuse to hate in return for hate, refuse to be fearful in the face of violence – no matter how senseless and ugly – we give witness to the Light, and participate in the life of God’s glory, that it may take root, and grow, and thrive.
Going to Shabbat as a Christian would have never occurred to me, not too long ago. But today, it seems like a very important expression of my faith, and my belief that a Tree of Life can take root and grow, and its branches overshadow what is fearful and hate producing, in our culture.
Today we celebrate All Saints, by remembering those we know, those we have loved and who have loved us. Also those who have struggled in this life, relationships and moments with them we would like to take back, or wish we had a do over with, if they were still here. We remember those who were our rock for us, and we have never been the same without. Those we barely knew who died too young. Those family who we loved; And those who were estranged from us.
We celebrate and remember the saints we have named. And we also celebrate those saints who are yet to be born.
There is an old Scandinavian tradition that the communion rail around the table is in the shape of a semi-circle because, whenever we gather around to receive the bread and wine, in the meal of love and forgiveness, it encourages us to imagine the saints who have gone before us, and the saints yet to come, all at the one table of the LORD, all together with us. They are dining with us somewhere around the imaginary, other half of the circle, that is not visible, but certainly present, as real as the power of love.
We celebrate that on this All Saints Sunday, God is calling us out of our fear of death, of fear-itself, and into the culture of the power of forgiveness and love. We can’t do it all, on our own, but only in supportive communities, with those who believe along with us.
Though we may feel like the grave cloths are still clinging to our hands and our feet, binding us, and the struggle to believe is overwhelming, we know Jesus is
Even amidst all the tears, Lazarus, the dead man, comes out, a living contradiction, and testimony, to the glory of God, that can never die.
And so, with all the saints, with all the children of Abraham, with the awesome diversity we can create in our communities – our faith is nurtured and is alive. Together, the power of Love, is stronger than hate and death.