LENT LETTER March 29, 2020 “All the Light We Can See”
Notes from the pastor ~
Comedian Steve Martin gave a series of classes on the art of ……well, comedy. I chanced across it the other day and found some valuable life lessons. He said, “A lot of people that are starting out ask me questions; questions like: ‘How do I find a good agent? What is the best way to advertise to get the best exposure for the best price?’ Things like that. What they need to be asking, I think, is, ‘How do I get good?’ That’s what they need to work on – getting good.”
How strange it is to be a church without a building. For those of us who have stopped in, or even drove by, our place of worship, I get it. I understand that sinking feeling in your stomach: that sense of loss, that sense of dread that this may go on for a very long time. We’ve put our hearts and sweat and resources into this building we call the church. We’ve been good at it, and it has made us better. But now, everything…is…on…hold.
Or is it?
We’ve heard it before: “The church is not its steeple, the church is its people.” This is true enough, but even the persecuted Christians in the time of Peter and Paul could sneak down to the river to worship. My point is that we don’t miss our buildings so much as we miss the fellowship of the Spirit in our time of worship. The act of worship feeds our weary souls: the singing, the sacraments, the hearing of God’s word, and oh….did I mention singing? They are part of who we are. But it’s time, at least for a while, to do things different. We are without the tools that we know and love; maybe what we need to do is work on getting good. We can work on getting good at seeing the hand of God in this world we live in today. The gestures of kindness, the offers of help to those who are out of work or out of touch: this is what being Christ in the world is all about. So, heads up. Keep your eyes peeled. You might be surprised at how much the “church” can do in a hurting world. You might be surprised at how good we really are, even when the “church” can’t go to church.
Another piece of advice that Steve Martin gave his students was, “Never open your set by saying, ‘How ya doing?’ You’ve just wasted the most important part of your routine. It’s the only chance you get to make a first impression. Don’t blow it by saying something like that.” Well, I’m going to break that rule and ask, “How are you doing?” l want to know – we all want to know. Maybe this is another way we can get good. In this time of isolation, maybe we can get good at being a downright nuisance to each other. When you think of giving someone a call, don’t stop because you don’t want to be a bother. Be a bother. Be a light in someone’s life, even if it is a bit blinding or annoying at times. When this is over we will surely look back on the folks that helped us to keep it together. We’ll look back on the people that had the courage and took the time to remind us that God doesn’t give up on us and neither does this collection of Jesus lovers that call themselves the church. When this is over, you will look back and say to yourself, “Yea, that was good. That was real good.”
“Shambolic” – according to my trusted dictionary, the word shambolic is defined as “chaotic, disorganized, muddled, or confused.” My guess is that it comes from the word “shambles,” which makes sense: trashed, wrecked; in total disarray. This seems to be the setting. Jesus gets word from the sisters Mary & Martha that (vs. 3) the one you love so very much is sick. The disciples know of the special love that Jesus has for Lazarus. He was what we now refer to as extended family. There was a special bond. So when Jesus didn’t jump up and demand to get going, they were confused, I’m thinking. When he announced a few days later that they were going to Bethany they balked, reminding him in no uncertain terms that there were folks over there that would do him harm. “What’s going on? What’s he doing? I don’t get it.” The disciple by now were aware of the power of this man’s ministry. There were good things in their future; great things. But this – this could wreck it all. This was shambolic.
A thousand sermons have been preached 1000 different ways on the return of Lazarus from the dead. It is steeped in metaphor, it is steeped in truth, and it is steeped in mystery. The sad truth remains that although the scoffers and naysayers saw it with their own eyes, some still refused to believe the absolute power bestowed upon the Christ; power over death itself.
There is a piece of this story that I will always cling to, however. It is said to be the shortest verse in the bible and one we might overlook. It is verse 34, “Jesus wept.” I find myself in the middle of this vivid story full of sights and sounds and smells and it gets me every time – “Jesus wept.” All I can say is, “Thank God, Jesus wept.” It speaks to our understanding of Immanuel – God with us. It speaks to our understanding of a God of mercy; a God of compassion. It speaks, once again, to the humanity of Christ. It gets me every time: that Jesus, who is the most accurate description – the best way we have of knowing – the heart of our God; it gets me every time that he stood at the grave of one that he loved so very much – and cried.
As Holy Week approaches, I invite you to stand in the absolute love of Christ our Lord. Be thankful in all things, rejoice in all things and keep in mind that now more than ever we are a resurrection people. We are an Easter people. Amen & Shalom