Homily for March 26

Image by Karl Isakson


I didn't have a preaching assignment this weekend so here's 
a homily I preached on this gospel 12 years ago...
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For whom do you grieve?

A spouse? a parent? a child?

a brother, a sister? grandparents? friends?


For what do you grieve?

A broken relationship? a lost job?

a home or a place you lived?

a dashed hope? a broken promise?


We all have many experiences of grief

and Jesus grieved, too,

as he does here for his friend, Lazarus.


The whole story is told in the verbs:

Jesus hears… his friend is very sick

Jesus delays… waiting two days before leaving for Bethany

Jesus arrives… too late, it seems

Martha prays... Oh, if only…

Jesus consoles… his friends

Jesus promises… life yet to come

Jesus is deeply troubled… by the grief all around him

Jesus weeps… over the loss of his friend

Jesus prays… in grief, he turns to his Father

Jesus calls out... and Lazarus is raised


Is our experience much different?


We hear the news… things aren’t good for someone we love.

We delay, we deny… we don’t want to believe it.

We pray for all to be well…

We arrive… we come to face the loss.

We wonder why God let this happen… “Oh, if only…”

We console one another…

We are deeply troubled… we weep.

We hope… for life beyond the loss so heavy in our hearts.

We believe… even in our grief, we believe.


Like Martha and Mary, we “send word to Jesus,” we pray

when we fear we’re about to suffer a great loss.


Like the two sisters we wait for the Lord

but the Lord does not always come in time:

often, it seems, the Lord delays,

and we are left in the sadness of our loss.


Yet, still, we turn to the Lord who delayed

and persist in asking that he come to us,

be with us and comfort us in our grief.


Deeply disappointed, deeply troubled,

that God has not done what we prayed for,

has not done what he could have done,

we believe, at the same time, that in all things,

even in our greatest losses, the Lord is still with us

and will one day bring us all to life, together, with him.


The beauty of this gospel is how it reveals so clearly

that Jesus is one with us,

that he knows our suffering through his own experience:

that like every one of us, he, too, was troubled, deeply,

and knew the heartache of losing a loved one;

that he, too, prayed in his grief, trusting his Father,

even when it seemed too late for prayer.


Through Jesus and with Jesus,

we see that there’s life after loss, there’s life after death,

that God is with us in our joys and our sorrows

and will one day give us what Jesus gave Lazarus:

life beyond the grave

in the company, once again,

of those we love and those who loved us in this life.


We hear this gospel in the season of Lent

as we prepare to remember, solemnly,

how much Jesus grieved for us.


Jesus grieved the loss of friends

who betrayed and left him in his darkest hour,

even crying out from the Cross to his Father:

“Why have you abandoned me?”

while at the same time

entrusting his grief, his loss, his suffering

to the same One,

“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”


Jesus grieved our sins, yours and mine.

He grieved our failings and selfishness by carrying our burden

that we might be untied from the death’s wrappings

and freed for life, for ever, with him.


At the altar,

we offer the sacrifice Jesus offered on the Cross.


At this table, we receive the Eucharist,

the gift of the life the Crucified, now Risen.


In this supper we have a taste and a sip

of the banquet prepared for us

in that life with God where there is no grief but only joy,

where there is no loss, for all is found,

where there is no death but only life for ever,

in peace, 
in Christ.




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