Sermon Lent 5A Sunday April 10th, 2011
Bread of Life Friends, I feel as though God has done some resurrecting around our community this week. Those 5 young adults from the US who have been living with some of us and ministering to kids in our congregation and in our college sort of breathed a breath of God’s fresh air into me and some others too.
There are still young “20 Somethings” in the world who trust in the Word of Jesus enough to give up money, status, home and family to go on the road and put themselves in all kinds of challenging places for the sake of the gospel.
There are Christians in the world and in our Lutheran global community who live in close community, intentionally practicing Christian fellowship at close quarters for the sake of seeking the Lord and speaking of the Lord to a generation needing a living relationship with the God who created them and gave himself for their forgiveness and new life in Jesus’ cross.
God arranged for this last week and he again delivered on his promise of breathing life into his people in various ways.
Can you believe again today that God is in the business of restoring hope and life into tired or doubting or distracted “old bones”?
That vision of that valley of dead, dry lifeless human beings rattling to life at the sound of God’s sweeping breath of life says that God is into renewing and resurrecting battered and tested faith. “Can I put life in these old dry dead people? asks God of the Prophet. “Only you know, Lord”, responds the Prophet. Then the Prophet sees God answer his own question as the bones rise, the flesh gathers and the bones rattle with God’s breath of life. What a vision to see! Yes, God can and does put life into lifeless people.
And what about this detailed and heavily laden account of Jesus resurrecting his close friend Lazarus we hear of today. This is Jesus’ last and sign of his new life coming into the world. It is just before his final and greatest sign – his own resurrection from the dead.
This smelly resurrection is a sign; a sign of what Jesus’ cross and his own resurrection do for people he loves. Jesus has the power, the authority, the love, the commitment to raise us up to new life in dead sinners. Jesus raises us up. Jesus gives us a hope that no one or no thing can give us – a hope of resurrection; now and at the last. This hope and this power and authority which comes to us in the Word of Jesus is life – life that only God can give and does give.
Paul knows God’s breath of life – he knows the power of the Spirit working faith and love into his own soul when he says…..
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,
he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies
also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
The Spirit lives in you and me. He is at work always. Sometimes he presents a particular way of renewing and bringing hope back to a place.
I think God has been sending a message of hope and challenge to us who have experienced things this last week. This is not only through the encouraging ministry of those 5 young adults from the US (and Denmark), but also in the work of John, our Principal, as he carefully navigated his way through two very positive meetings with parents across the school this week. Hope is in the air, I reckon. Why shouldn’t it be? Hope is the Easter Lord coming to us again.
The hope is that God is here and God knows me and wants the very best for me – in all circumstances.
The Challenge is that I need to seek that hope – not just in my mind but by real risk. Here’s an example from our own community this week.
Leanne, Mike, Ben/Cecilia and Carrie and Phil were all probably unsure as to what having a young American in their home for week would be like. This stranger would get to see us up close and personal because we were going to let this person into our home for a whole week. What if this stranger did not like us? What if we did not like them? What if they misunderstood us and judged us harshly? It was a risk to let these young Americans into our homes and our community. Same for me as a Pastor. What if they say things I don’t agree with? What if they tell our college kids things about the faith in ways our church would disagree with? What of they got it wrong when dealing with staff. What if they let staff down and so made it that little bot harder for staff who are way out on the edge of faith and the church to draw nearer? Should I let them lead the whole service last Sunday and preach the sermon?
God asked us to let them in, and I believe, Him, into our lives this week in a way that we all found challenging. We had many questions and we felt there were risks associated with letting God into our homes and our community in this different way than normally happens.
With faith in his goodness and trust in what we have learnt so far about Jesus’ way of doing things, we did it. We took the risks, left the many questions unanswered, left things a little loose, let things be a little uncontrolled and messy. By God’s Spirit, we put faith in God’s ability to draw it all together for the good of those who love him.
You can hear how God responds to our little actions of putting our hand up and letting him into out lives or letting him take us into a zone than is a little uncomfortable. He blesses that risk-taking faith!
Mary, Martha, Lazarus, a whole community of mourners, a community of scoffers and a whole world of sinners saw the risk that God took in taking on the darkness, evil and sin of humanity on that cross. We have seen the risk he took in becoming human and enduring all that he let happen for the sake of love – for yours and my sake.
In our baptism we are living, breathing bones made flesh and breathed on by the breath of God – the Word of God seeping deep into our souls.
Easter is coming. Palm Sunday songs will turn to dark silence and sleep on Maundy Thursday. We will gather with fellow Christians from the Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions on Good Friday to reflect on our own death and resurrection and we look into face of Jesus in his suffering. Easter Sunday we will know the light and the hope of God in Jesus empty tomb.
But will we “go with it”, friends? Will we let God speak to us this time around? Will we put our hand up, put away our fears, get rid of our distractions and let the Spirit of God take us into uncomfortable places or comforting places – usually both?
Breathing bones we are. We are God’s framework of real life in Him. By our baptism we have been revived to life and by our baptism we are called to follow his lead. We thank the Spirit of Christ for the renewing work he has done through the New Vision Team and our college leadership and for the work he promises to do as we open ourselves up to his word and his call this holy week coming soon.
Breathe on me, breath of God,
fiII me with life anew;
that I may love all that you love
and do what you would do.
Public Domain, Original form of melody
from Aaron Williams ‘Psalmody in Miniature’, London, 1778.
TiS 407, LHS 129