claire and i have been having people over to discuss the Lenten readings for the next Sunday. It's really, really helped me to break open the Scriptures for myself, since I've been away from my faith-home for about a month. But I finally got to St. A's today and, since St. A's has been doing the Scrutiny readings, the readings have been different than the ones we've talked about during our Lenten Discussions.
But, both Gospels today talked about grief and about dying and, coming so close to the anniversary of mom's death, it's hard not to reflect on the very specific ways they might apply to me...
The regular Gospel was John 12:20-33. Jesus reflects on the hour that will come so soon, after the false climax of the triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Jesus offers me wisdom that is hard to hear:
"Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honor whoever serves me."
Whoever loves his life, loses it. Lord, that's tough! But it makes some crazy Heaven-sense...loving life may mean a selfish love of things and superiority and the surface. But we can love God and "hate" life and still have joy. But, still, in black and white, it is hard, hard, hard to think about - it's like Mary Poppins measuring stick - no one will fully measure up...
The Scrutiny Gospel (John 11:1-45) was tough for me today - I hadn't been to St. A's for a while and so hearing a staged reading of the story of raising Lazarus for the first time (I remember) since mom died. When Jesus is moved to tears by Mary and the mourners grief, I had some sort of felt sense of what that grief feels like - a tangible, back-of-the-throat, pit-of-the-stomach sense...
"Your brother will rise."
"I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day."
Jesus told her,
"I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?"
She said to him, "Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world."
The thing that strikes me in this story is how easily I become like Martha. Later, she will try to stop Jesus from opening the tomb because of the stench. She fusses around the kitchen while her sister is learning at Jesus' feet. "Yes, Lord. I have come to believe..." says Martha. She means the End Times - she doesn't hear what he's really trying to tell her. Jesus is obviously asking her to believe in him NOW - to believe he is capable of miracles in the here and now and to know that he is the Son of God and that the Creator of the Universe is listening to his Son, whose love for Lazarus will create the miracle that Martha doesn't dare to hope for... Jesus answers all her earthly concerns by saying - "Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?"
That's the hard part in both Gospels - can we believe in the glory of God long enough to put away the Martha-ness of our lives?Can we stop loving our own lives for just a minute? I find that there are longer and longer stretches of time where I just get mired in myself and my feelings. I am not honoring my mom, I am not thinking of my family, I am not focused outwardly at all. I know that's not the way that it's supposed to be. Our lives are so large and so small and so infinitely precious and complex. And, while it's not perfect, it's so much better when we can focus on the infinitely precious, sometimes hurting, always God-loved people in our lives.
The Son of Man is calling...
"Lazarus, come out!"
Come out of ourselves. Come out of what keeps us bound. Then, like Lazarus, Someone will tenderly untie our worldly bindings and let us go...