Sunday, March 29, 2020

Dying and Rising in the Time of COVID-19

This is the third week we have had to physically distance ourselves from another.
And I am guessing this is changing for all of us.
It seems real now that we are entering our third week.
It really does seem that our "normal" life is changed.
And I am wondering how you all are dealing with it.
I imagine that like me it is becoming more sad.
That this reality we are currently in is unsettling.
It is not what we want from our lives at this moment.
I want to suggest this morning that what we are experiencing together is death.
We are losing so much of what we thought the world was for us.
Every day I have to learn to let go of something that I thought was "normal", and embrace what is now.
It is not easy to go through death.

I have to tell you that so far our assigned Gospel text have been perfect for what we are facing.
They seem to capture this moment.
From shock, to the initial acceptance of what is happening, to the grief that goes with knowing that things are no longer the same.
And that is what our Gospel this morning is about.
It is about a death that leads to a changing of the world.
One of Jesus' friends Lazarus dies.
And then Jesus brings his friend back to life.

Let us start with the death part.
One of my favorite things about this story is how human every one is.
All these people are crying, because they lost a friend, brother, or whatever.
And Jesus cries too.
And then the text acknowledges what we all know about death.
It stinks!
There is no way to say it other than that.
When we experience a death it is awful.
Most of the time when I meet with people going through the loss of someone they love I tell them, "This sucks! And that is my professional pastoral advice."
Any other way to see it just tries to dress up death in some mushy way that it doesn't deserve.
Death stinks.
For me this acknowledgement of the reality of death is helpful.
It is cathartic.
It is why we get together at funerals and cry together.
It is our way of saying that death stinks, and we acknowledge the pain that we are going through.

And let us be honest this COVID-19 stinks.
I preached last week about all the ways that we might see God at work in this time.
And all those things are true.
But this week I also want to acknowledge that this stinks.
If you are feeling sad, and lost, and anxious I want you to know that you are not alone.
There are lots of people out there feeling the same way.
And it is ok to think that this whole thing stinks.
And maybe it will be cathartic to know that others are just as sad, lost, and anxious as you are.

But you will notice in our Gospel this morning that is not where Jesus leaves us.
We are not left in death.
We are not left in that stinky place.
Jesus is the resurrection and the life.
And because he lives so do we.

And this is the other thing I get to tell people about their loved ones death.
Yes it does stink.
But it is not the end of the story.
Their loved one is alive this very day with God.
Their loved one is at peace, and wholeness.
As a pastor one of the things I love is to proclaim that promise when people are experiencing death.

I want to give you the same message this morning.
This is not the place we will stay in forever.
It is the time we are in now.
And when we come out of the tomb.
When we find ourselves on the other side of this things will have changed.
There will have been death, but also there is resurrection.

I can't say exactly what that will look like for any of us.
But I know it will be there.
I want to share something that one of our members shared with me this week.
It was about a woman who was talking to husband about not being able to get her hair colored during this time.
She told him that during the quarantine will be baring our true hair color as roots begin to grow in.

And her husband looked into his wife's eyes and she was reminded that the heaviness of this pandemic—financially, emotionally & mentally, has not escaped our family.

Because what he said next reminded her that it’s in the trials, in the troubles & in the tribulations, we’re gifted with a deeper experience of God’s surpassing wisdom — & that’s when he said it...

“I have a feeling it won’t just be hair roots — but our faith roots, too.”

Because that spiritual gray I’ve been bleaching with busyness...

And that job title I’ve been wearing as an identity...

And that stock number I’ve been depending on as my anchor...

And that social environment I’ve been using to fill voids...

And that place of worship I’ve been relying on as my foundation...

And those loud gatherings I’ve been trusting to drown out my thoughts....

And those non-essential shopping sprees to cover my pain...

Yep, they’re being e x p o s e d .

There’s no dying, coloring, highlighting, low-lighting, Balayage-ing, covering, hiding these roots.

And since God is not a God of condemnation, but of revelation from the One who is our safehaven; no shadow of shame will cover our face (or hair) ~Psalm 34.5

It’s here IN this time of stillness where God gently reveals the roots, exposes the gray & blankets us in His confident hope.
A hope saturated in a Love which enables us to whisper in the darkest of moments... “I do not fear bad news. I confidently trust the Lord to care for me!” Replay & repeat.

And that is what this is for us.
It is turning to God in trust.
It is us standing outside a stinking tomb, our friends, our loved ones inside.
And hearing God say, "Come Out"!
And living again.
This time will reveal to us that we can't trust in much in this life.
And that the things we have leaned on are going to die.
But in that place God will grow new things in us.
That is the continuing story of our faith.
Dying and rising.

In this time of that we are experiencing dying, I hope that you can trust and know that God is also rising new things in you through this time.
Trust in God's love to bring us through this.

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