On Wednesday, we remembered who we are and where we come from on Ash Wednesday. I reminded us that we are sinners unworthy of the love and grace of our Creator yet freely and unconditionally forgiven through the sacrificial love of our Savior.
I reminded us that we are dust and to dust we shall return. Life is the journey we take through the time and distance from dust to dust. The writer of the wisdom literature Ecclesiastes reminds us that along that journey there are varied times. Chapter 3 says:
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
As a nation, we are in a time of mourning for the 17 students and teachers who were killed in a mass shooting Wednesday in Parkland, Florida. We mourn that the kids should be enjoying times of laughter and dancing but there was Wednesday a time to die. So, we mourn and weep. We search for answers. We have moments of silence.
Then, we start a war over who allowed it, what caused it, who or what is to blame for it, how to stop it from happening again; and we blame each other. All this plays out on social media. We post memes that are hateful or ignorant. We either disregard our faith or post bad theology.
Bad theology like this.
Dear God, why do you allow so much violence in our schools? Signed, concerned student
Dear concerned student, I’m not allowed in schools. [signed] God
Folks, corporate school prayer hasn’t been allowed since 1963. School shootings have been a growing concern since 1999 with Columbine.
Yesterday, our Safety Team participated in ALICE training to prepare them to respond to an active shooter. Major David Birk led the training at Bethlehem Lutheran church with Rev. Michelle Terry as our host. There will be more to come in a couple weeks about our safety team and security plan. But, I’d like to share with you some good theology from Facebook, from Pastor Michelle’s Facebook account. She said:
“I’ve seen a number of memes suggesting school shootings are the result of no (mandatory) prayer in schools, or that God was not with the students during (insert particular) mass shooting because we kicked God out of schools. It gets me every time. Which is why I will once again get on my soap box…
That is not how God works.
You can’t kick God out of anywhere. And Christ is with us everywhere, and especially, particularly, definitely in places where people are suffering. Always. Every time. Zero exceptions.
God’s love is unconditional. Even if we do make God mad, God does not abandon us.
God is hurting with and for all those grieving right now, and God is right beside them in their grief.
“Jesus wept.” – John 11:35”
That brings us to our text today. If your Bible has headings for a story or chapter, your Bible gives this story the headings, The Death of Lazarus, Jesus Comforts the Sisters of Lazarus and Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead. Some Bibles boil to Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead. For 44 verses, all we want to remember is the last 2 verses about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.
43b Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
We want to focus on these 2 verses out of the 44 verses because the other 42 verses are too honest of our life’s journey from dust to dust and we just want to jump right to resurrection. The season of Lent is the journey from death to resurrection. It begins with the reality that we must die and walks right up to the cross of Jesus’ death. We must know that resurrection requires death. And, death means a time of mourning.
Mourning means a time of questioning. Questioning is the thing we can all relate to as we have mourned or prayed fervently for a sick friend. We need to stop and remember the experience of grief of Mary and Martha who questioned.
Martha asked, why weren’t you here to prevent this? And, she blames Him for Lazarus’ death, because had He come earlier, Lazarus would still be alive.
Mary too says, why weren’t you here? Lazarus wouldn’t have died had you been here.
My question is: Why did Jesus delay where He was before going to Bethany to attend to His sick friend?
What was so important that Jesus waited 2 days before going to His sick friend? The Bible doesn’t tell us that He could have stayed where He was and healed many people. The Bible doesn’t tell us why He didn’t go heal His friend. The Bible doesn’t tell us why He let His friend die.
Well, I want answers. It’s not good enough that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. We all want to know why those students and teachers died, but some survived. We all want to know why our loved ones die, but others are healed.
We all want answers and grief gets ugly when we turn on each other and blame one another for death. There are no answers that are easy or that apply to every person, illness or injury. I can’t explain why bad things happen to good people. I can’t explain why some people are healed and others are not. I can’t explain why a young man, young men, open fire on innocent students, teachers, movie goers, concert goers, or co-workers. I can’t explain how to stop it.
All I can offer is the smallest word of hope. It is the shortest verse in the Bible and the one we must all memorize, tattoo on our hearts for times like these.