Giving Up: I am the Resurrection and the Life

April 5, 2020 – Pastor Vannae Savig

We’re grateful for you and the gifts of God that you bring to our community. As a church we partner with the liberating presence of God to cultivate joy, hope & belonging as Jesus invites us into freedom, keeps us free, and helps us to free others. We pray that whether this is your first time watching us this morning, or you’ve been a part of our community for a while, that you will feel the invitation of the Holy Spirit to join in with our vision. We would love to be your church home.

I’m so excited to be preaching to you from home! There’s an intimacy about sharing with you from this space. So hi from my home to yours! Hopefully my kids don’t bust in during this. It is Palm Sunday! Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter Sunday that begins the Holy Week. It is the day that we remember and celebrate the day that Jesus entered into Jerusalem as Savior and King. As Jesus rode a donkey into the town of Jerusalem a large crowd gathered and laid palm branches and their cloaks across the road, giving Jesus royal treatment. The hundreds of people shouted “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Usually on this particular day, churches pass out palms to each congregant, and then if you’re like my mom, you turn your palms into a little cross that you hang up by your mirror. At any rate, on this palm sunday we will continue our Giving Up series.

We are in such a difficult time not just for our country, but for the entire world. And we are experiencing fear, anxiety, and grief. I read an article recently about how the world right now is experiencing collective grief. We realize that so much has changed and we have experienced grief over the things we have lost. We are grieving the loss of normalcy, we’re grieving the loss of community and connection, and grieving the lives that have been lost. So what do we do with this grief? Let’s see what Christ says.

Today we will be looking at Christ’s I am statement: I am the resurrection and the life.

I’m reading from John chapter 11 verses 21- 26. Sisters Martha and Mary send a message to Jesus. Their brother Lazarus is very sick. They want Jesus to come and heal him. For a variety of reasons, Jesus doesn’t immediately come to the rescue. This delay causes no small amount of anxiety and sorrow. But the delay also gives Jesus a surprising opportunity to show God’s glory and power.

Lets read:
21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

In this passage, Martha responds like quite a few of us would. I mean here she is grieving over the death of her brother. She’s upset because she knows that Jesus could have saved Lazarus, but he didn’t’ show up in time. Or rather, the time she wanted him to be there. And now Jesus is responding with your “ brother will rise again.” And it makes sense that she’s kind of like, “yeah I know. At the end of time.” Then Jesus responds with truth. He starts talking about the now and the not yet. The kingdom now and the kingdom come. Jesus is referencing his resurrection that’s coming, but also talks about that there is life after this life. That one doesn’t die when they believe in Christ, that there’s more than this life. Jesus offers Martha hope. Jesus is reminding Martha that her hope is not in some specific event or set circumstance. Her hope—our hope—is not in a pain-free life. Jesus wants Mary and Martha to shift their hope from earthly circumstances and set that hope on Him. Martha’s eyes are on the closed tomb of her brother but Jesus wants to move them onto the future empty tomb of her brother and eventually her Savior. Death is a certainty for all of us, but Jesus has come with an offer of new life.

Martha and Mary come to believe in Jesus in a much deeper way. And this gospel story, invites us to join with the biblical sisters in this faith journey in the midst of our own grief. Jesus’ response to death and grief, is hope and faith.

So I’m not saying that you shouldn’t grieve, or that you should give it up for lent. Grief is real, and difficult. Grief can overwhelm us. We can experience grief about many things: we can feel grief when a loved one dies or when a relationship ends, when change or transition has happened. We can even experience anticipatory grief; grief for the things to come. Though difficult, grief is a necessary process when you have lost something or someone. Anyone who’s ever experienced a serious loss knows that the feelings associated with grief are valid emotions and are a necessary part of mourning.

I have experienced quite a bit of grief over the years, so I know the grieving process quite well. I know the feeling of knowing things will never be the same again. I know what it feels like to not be able to pull it together. I know how it feels to cry out to the Lord, hoping this feeling will go away. I know how suffocating the pain of grief can be. And I remember after a particularly difficult loss, I was really struggling. My oldest brother had died unexpectedly. When it was time for my brother’s funeral, we had to fly to Minnesota for the service. I remember thinking that there was no way I could even get on the plane, let alone go to the service. I guess I thought that if we didn’t actually bury him then it wasn’t really happening. He wasn’t really gone. The night before the funeral I had a dream. In my dream my brother came to me and told me that he was ok. And he was glowing and so happy. I woke up and knew that God showed me that so that I could go to the funeral. I suddenly had the strength to bury my brother. God gave me what I needed to keep going. God reminded me that there is more than life on Earth, that God has more than I could even begin to understand. God showed me the hope of Jesus. But I just had to believe. We have to believe what He says, rather than let the grief consume us. We choose to have hope. Hope in the resurrection, hope that there’s more than just this world, hope in the next right thing. Even if we are still moving through our grief, we should keep going toward Christ and with Christ.

Like the Frozen 2 song says,

“So I’ll walk through this night
Stumbling blindly toward the light
And do the next right thing
And, with it done, what comes then?
When it’s clear that everything will never be the same again
Then I’ll make the choice to hear that voice
And do the next right thing”

Martha believed that the resurrection is an event; Jesus showed her (and us) that the resurrection is a Person, and happening now. Martha’s knowledge of eternal life was an abstract idea; Jesus proved that knowledge of eternal life is a personal relationship. Martha thought victory over death was a future expectation; Jesus corrects her, showing that victory is a present reality. When a person is raised to a new life in Jesus, that person is fully alive in Christ. Jesus is the life and the resurrection of you and I today. We have been raised to a new life in Christ. We have life abundantly because he lives.

Now just because there’s hope, doesn’t mean that you can’t grieve. And just because you grieve doesn’t mean you can’t have hope. (pause) Grieving is a part of life, and something that we shouldn’t try to downplay or avoid. We have to let God take us through the process, and keep in mind to try and see Christ in the midst of it all.

I think I often feel like I’m not a good christian if I feel sad or let myself grieve. Like if I really truly believed then I wouldn’t feel sad. I wouldn’t struggle the way I usually do. But this just isn’t true. Christ knows what we’re going through and he doesn’t expect us to just get over it. When Jesus is with Mary and Martha in our text from earlier, you read the line Jesus wept. Jesus felt compassion for the sister, he felt the grief that they felt. In the Garden of Gethsemane we see him grieving again, weeping over his coming death. At the heart of the Christian faith is Jesus who says he’s always with us—and who stared at grief and loss square in the face. Isaiah described him as a “man of sorrows and familiar with suffering” and “acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). On the cross, Jesus took grief and loss to unfathomable depths, such that the forsakenness he endured caused him to cry out the Why? The depth of your grief doesn’t imply a loss of faith.

When someone is experiencing a loss, community is one of the ways God can remind you to hope, to remember Christ is the resurrection and the life.

Jesus grieves with us, and when we grieve with each other it’s a way for us to participate in the hope that Jesus provides. In Matthew in the Garden of Gethsemane, we see that he asked his disciples to enter into the experience in company with him: “My soul is sorrowful, even unto death; remain here and watch with me” (Matthew 26:38 ESV), it’s important not to grieve alone. In Jewish tradition it’s customary after a loved one passes to be in a time of shiva. Shiva is a period of mourning that usually lasts seven days. The mourner sits on the floor or a stool and their loved ones come and sit with them and bring them food. Traditionally the friends pray for the mourner. But mostly they sit with them. You sit with your friend and don’t engage in chit chat. You only talk if your friend wants to speak. I’ve always liked the concept of shiva because your community sits with you in the muddiness of grief with you. You don’t have to be alone. Like Christ, your community can be there for you in your grief. That doesn’t mean the grief goes away, but your community can offer the hope of Christ in your time of need.

In grief we do not lose hope in God. Jesus, even in mourning, knew that the day is coming “when all tears are wiped away” (Revelation 7:17, 21:4 ESV). And so our Lord Jesus did not grieve as one without hope, and neither do we. Hope in God’s redemption and ultimate victory allows us to grieve well. Hope is the thread that guides us through grief to the Father’s House, to our rest, and into the presence of Jesus where there is joy forever more.