Monday, April 11, 2011

I Am Real Life, Messy, Complicated Life!

Recently I read a book someone in the congregation lent to me called “90 minutes in heaven.”
It is a book about a man named Don Piper who dies for 90 minutes and miraculously comes back to life.
He describes what it was like to go to heaven.
His description of heaven is of a wonderfully joyful and comforting place.
However, most of the book is about his struggle to live after this experience.
He becomes very upset with God that he is not allowed to stay in heaven.
Don becomes upset with God now that he has to struggle through recovering from the injuries he sustained.
It is some of the most excruciating pain he has ever experienced.
It got me thinking about our Gospel story this morning about Lazarus.
Is he mad at Jesus for bringing him back to life?
What was life like for Lazarus after he is raised from the dead?
After going to heaven and seeing the joy and comfort that waited him was he upset that he had to come back to life and suffer more.
After all he is going to have to eventually go through the whole thing again.
Lazarus will grow old and die.
It brings up another question is it easier to be dead then to live?

There is a joke about a rabbi, a priest, and a Lutheran pastor.
One day they were having a discussion about death.
The rabbi asked what you would want people to say at your funeral.
The priest said, “I would like everyone to remember how I preached the word of God and tried to do God’s will.”
The Rabbi said, “I would like to be remembered as a man of peace, and goodwill.”
The Lutheran Pastor said, “I would like everyone to say look he’s moving!”
Often times we think of our faith as a way to get us to do all the good things that we want people to say about us at our funeral.
But really life is more than this it is about the journey; it is about the way that we experience God now today.

Much of Christianity has been presented to us as a way to have the assurance of eternal life.
And I have heard sermons on this very text that makes it sound like the whole reason for being a Christian is to receive the reward of heaven after we die.
I think this is a very narrow and not helpful view of Christianity.
For following Jesus is not just about the reward of heaven.
It is about the comfort, strength, and life we receive from knowing Jesus now.
Following Jesus is about living a full life now.

We don’t merely follow Jesus to receive rewards that await us.
But we follow Jesus because when we do we receive those rewards today.
For example, anyone who has ever given of their time for a greater cause knows this to be true.
If you ever volunteered to help someone in need you know that a real life is found in helping in giving of ourselves for someone else.
The rewards of giving are greater than we can imagine.

This is what Jesus says to Martha.
She knows about the resurrection in the last days.
But Jesus adds that he is not only the resurrection he is also life.
Life is now!
Life is today!
Don’t merely live for some future time when you get the rewards but celebrate it today.
Life for today.

We all know that life is not always easy.
Sometimes it feels like living is harder than dying.
When we die we receive eternal joy, there is no more suffering, no more wondering what it all means.

I had a friend who was always searching for her calling in life.
She had lots of gifts but could never figure out where to apply those gifts.
She wanted to be a doctor, a lawyer, maybe a preacher.
Everything was about what she would be some day.
Eventually she figured out that it wasn’t about that.
It was about what God had made her today.
What was the life that she was meant to live now?
She learned not to look over the horizon but to take every day as it came.

We can get so wrapped up in what we will be, or what we wished we would be we forget that God has given us a life today.
There are things today that God has called us all to.
We only can live out those things now.

We can get so worried about the heavenly home that God has prepared that we forget there is work to be done now.
There are people to love, joy to spread, and grace to receive.

We can get wrapped up wondering where God is for us.
We become like Martha and Mary, “Lord if only you had been here.”
We often feel this way.
That God is silent or absence from us.
Really what is going on is that we are stubborn.
We don’t like the answer God is giving.
We would rather have our own way instead of following the way of Jesus.
We want everything to go smooth.
We want life to be easy and have easy answers.

It becomes too easy to give the easy answer instead of living with the hard truth.
This for me is the constant challenge of my faith.
I want to always skip to the easy answer.
So and so is dying, “Don’t worry they will be in heaven soon.”
I am really struggling with my health, “Just have faith and everything will work out.”
I don’t know what God wants me to do, “There is a plan just hang in there.”
This stops us from having to live right now.
It stops us from asking some real hard questions about God and our lives.
It stops us from having to deal with the struggles of life.
And I believe it stops us from living in the moment of grace.
Because we can shuffle off all real emotion and real life to some future time or into a quick easy sound bite.
What I have discovered is that faith is harder than that it is more complex then easy answers.

When we go through hard times and experience the struggles of life we do learn from them.
We grow from those struggles.
Most of the time we also grow in our faith as our relationship with God changes and becomes stronger.
This is the problem with the easy answer is that it stops us from struggling with some of the more difficult parts of life that really do lead to deeper meaning and value.
Saying that we follow Jesus so we can go to heaven is too easy.
Struggling to know Jesus in all the things we go through in life gives us real life and a real relationship with Jesus.

I want to leave you with the thought today that “Everyone dies but not everyone lives.”
To know Jesus as your Lord and savior is to have life.
To know Jesus is to have real life, messy life, with all of its struggles, questions, and complications.
We can’t have this life when we skip over the harder parts of our life with slogans and easy answers.
To know Jesus is to have life in abundance.
To have the dry bones of this life have spirit blown into them.
So today let us leave this worship serves and go out and live.
Live in grace, love, and joy.
Love everyone, cry often, give of yourself for others, pray unceasingly, struggle with the hard questions, embrace today, and know that your work is a calling from God.
In short, know that Jesus is the resurrection and the Life, real life, messy complicated life!

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