All Saints, King City, Anglican Diocese of Toronto, Saturday, 26 May, 2022
“I am the
resurrection and the life. Those who
believe in e, even through they die will live, and everyone who lives and
believes in me will never die.”
we? This may seem like an odd question
with some obvious answers. We are in a
church. We are at a service of
thanksgiving for Ed. We are with Aileen
and her family to show our love and support for them. Yes, all these things are true, but more can
be said about where we are.
We are in
the love of God. We are in the presence
of the living Christ. We are in the
church, the gift of the Holy Spirit. In
short, we are in the kingdom of God. The
kingdom of God is unlimited love, unquenchable life, and inexhaustible
power. The kingdom of God is where Jesus
speaks the good news of the Gospel. The
kingdom of God is a place where death has no dominion.
is no place for death in God’s kingdom can be a difficult truth for us to grasp. Even for those of us here today who are
believers, knowing as we do that Easter is just a few weeks away now, this
truth is difficult for us to grasp.
It’s difficult to grasp for poor Martha, in our gospel reading. When Jesus asks her if she believes that he
is the resurrection and life, she responds somewhat evasively. “I believe you’ve come from God”, she says
in effect, “I believe that you’ve been sent to do something”, but she can’t
quite make the connection that she is standing in front of Jesus. She doesn’t seem fully aware that she is in
the presence of the inexhaustible and all sustaining life and love of God.
afford some pity for Martha. Martha is
crushed by the enormity of her brother’s death.
A faithful Jew, she would have known the bleak honesty of the psalmist,
who we heard say that our life is a fleeting thing, that our days “pass away
quickly and are gone”. Such was the
understanding of the Hebrew scriptures.
The prophet Isaiah wrote that we are grass, and we wither when God blows
on us. Isaiah and the psalmist would
have agreed that only God’s word is eternal.
find it difficult to believe in God, but we still believe in death. Like Martha, we can be crushed and oppressed
by our own experiences of loss. Our
culture sees death as an ending, the cessation of life, the end of embraces and
loving words and glances, the ceasing of habits and rituals and all the things
that make us love those dearest to us. We
are taught that death is an awful thing, a terrible tragedy, and so the culture
does its best to hide death from us.
us differently. He speaks to us from
the kingdom of God. Jesus reframes the
words of the psalms and the prophets.
Jesus replaces the bleak honesty of Psalm 90 with good news. His breath is not death but life, the very
breath of life that Ezekiel saw being the valley of dead bones to life. The very speech of Jesus is life, his words
are, as John noted at the start of his gospel, the eternal word of the eternal
Father who comprehends and inhabits the whole cosmos, from whom everything came
into being. Earlier in John’s gospel,
Jesus says that 51Very truly, I
tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.’ (John 8.51).
John’s gospel, Jesus tells his friends “Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Believe in God, believe also in me. 2In
my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.”. As always Jesus is speaking from the kingdom
of God. His father’s house is the whole
cosmos, it is the vast eternal domain of God, the source of life. We need to always remember this essential truth about Jesus, that he is the
all-sustaining, all-nurturing, all-renewing life of God, was clearly understood
by the first Christians. Paul writes
that “all will be alive in Christ” and that Christ came to destroy the last and
final enemy, death. In Second Timothy
we hear that (2 Tim 1:10) Jesus has “abolished death and brought life and immortality
to light through the gospel”.
point it’s fair to ask, if Jesus is resurrection and life, who stands to
receive this gift? Since Jesus asks
Martha if she believes, is there a minimum level of belief that Jesus is
looking for? When Jesus says “whoever
keeps my word will never see death”, what sort of commitment is Jesus looking
for? Asking these questions is fair
game, though the questions themselves come from a place of anxiety, certainly
made more anxious by the psalmist’s fear of God’s wrath and indignation.
need to keep in mind that the psalm is paired today with the good news of the
gospel, that the psalmist’s own anxious questions are answered out of the
fullness of God’s love. Why does Jesus
raise Lazarus from the dead? John never
tells us anything about the extend of Lazarus’ belief or the depth of his
faith. He only tells us that Jesus loved
his friends, Lazarus and his sisters, and had compassion for them. Dallas Willard is surely right when he says
that love and life begin from God and come to us as God’s initiative. As Willard says, “God has invested in us, has
a purpose for us, and likes us. God has
the resources to keep us in existence and to cause us to thrive”.
is no need for anxiety on Ed’s behalf. I
don’t believe that God for a moment denied him God’s endless love and
inexhaustible life. I can’t speak from
any knowledge of Ed, whom I did not know, though I love and give thanks for the
story of Ed’s final reconciliation with God.
Whatever issues Ed may have had with God and the church in his earthly
life, I am confident that Ed’s reconciliation opened into an even more profound
and complete understanding of God’s love and God’s friendship as Ed was
transformed from an earthly existence into a spiritual one.
we? We are in the kingdom of God, a
place of God’s inexhaustible love and eternal life, where death is no
more. My prayer for us all is that God
in Christ Jesus grant us the understanding to know that death, our final enemy,
is no more, Mau God grant us the grace to live and grow old without fear, knowing
that we will be united with Ed and with all those we love in the fullness of
God, who is life and love without end.