Monday, April 11, 2011

The Jesus Interruption - Day 29


That’s what was happening in the whole city of Jerusalem when Jesus entered on the first Palm Sunday. Other translations say “stirred” or “stirred up” or “moved” or “in an uproar” or even “trembling with excitement.” (This is what happens when a Greek word is hard to translate; it takes a lot of English words to convey the fullness of its meaning.)

Or we could just use our word of the season - INTERRUPTION! Jesus broke in between the life of the city, causing a disturbance that percolated up from his disciples until it every single soul in the city could feel it.

What would it take to interrupt the entire population of the city of Jerusalem? It was a big city, vibrant and cosmopolitan, a center of trade, culture, and religion. There may have been as many as 80,000 people living there at the time.

This Sunday is Palm Sunday, the beginning of the holiest week of the year for followers of Jesus. We gather to worship this week, already knowing the story that unfolds, but ready to experience it once more.

Sunday, a parade of palms in the morning and walking the way of the cross in the afternoon. Monday, evening vespers. Thursday, remembering the last supper Jesus ate with his disciples. Friday, reliving the story of Jesus’s passion and death. Saturday, waiting in the darkness of the tomb through the night in an Easter vigil. Sunday, celebrating the sunrise and the resurrection of the Lord.

May we all experience the holiness of this week as a powerful interruption, capable of creating citywide turmoil, in the very center of our souls.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

The Jesus Interruption - Day 26

Lent 2011 - The Jesus Interruption
Each week of this season, we will be entering into the experience of an individual whose life was interrupted by an encounter with Jesus. This week - Lazarus, Martha, and Mary (John 11)

It stinks when you open up a tomb in which a dead body has been sealed for four days. Not meaning it “stinks” as in it isn’t the greatest situation, but that it really smells bad.

I love it that Martha pointed this out to Jesus, don’t you? As far as I can tell, Martha is in the Bible only twice, once in Luke 10 and once here, in John 11 and 12. And she is pragmatic to the core both times we encounter her.

Pragmatic, down to earth, no nonsense - Martha. In Luke, she is so occupied with doing stuff that she forgets to sit down and listen to Jesus. In John, she tactfully, and quite pragmatically, reminds Jesus that tombs tend to stink after a few days.

It reminds me of the woman at the well, who suggested Jesus would be unable to draw his water without a bucket. It reminds me of Nicodemus at night, who pragmatically suggested that it was going to be impossible to re-enter the womb of one’s mother.

Could it be that being practical, down to earth, no nonsense somehow misses the point? In all of these stories, the ones who took a stab at practicality had to be nudged a bit by Jesus in order to get to where he wanted them to be. Is being a Christian impractical?

No, that doesn’t seem right to me. I believe that my faith has many direct, practical implications on my life in many and various ways.

So maybe it’s more about getting stuck. Stuckness prevents you from moving. You get stuck in moments and are unable to progress. Nicodemus got stuck on “born again;” the woman got stuck on the bucket.

Martha got stuck thinking about stinky tombs and almost missed what Jesus had to say.

You get stuck in a tomb …

One way to say it might be that Jesus is in the business of getting people unstuck from wherever they find themselves and moving them to a better place.

Lazarus, come forth!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Jesus Interruption - Day 25

Lent 2011 - The Jesus Interruption
Each week of this season, we will be entering into the experience of an individual whose life was interrupted by an encounter with Jesus. This week - Lazarus, Martha, and Mary (John 11)

Why does Jesus cry?

When he heard of Lazarus's illness, he delayed two days before leaving where he was. He intends for this delay to reveal God's glory in a way that, apparently, would not be possible if he had left immediately. This is to be a divine sign of power through which witnesses will experience God's presence in a way they never have before.

And this makes Jesus sad?

He knows that Lazarus will rise, doesn't he? Why the groaning? Why the distress?

Some will say that it reveals his humanity. That it shows his raising Lazarus was an act of human compassion. After all, there were more folks than just Lazarus who had died that day, and he didn't raise them. The thinking is that it was his special relationship with Martha, Mary, and their brother Lazarus that compelled Jesus to raise him, pressed his compassion button.

And yet that interpretation puts this story at odds with some others that John tells. I believe John is trying to reveal something about Jesus's divinity, not his humanity. He is trying to get people to belive that Jesus is "the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing, you may have life in his name" (20:31).

Could it be that John was trying to reveal something about Jesus's divine character rather than his humanness? Could it be that John was allowing us to see the Son of God cry so that we would know that God has compassion for the human situation? Could it be that John is addressing our theodicy question in this tale of death, grief, and then rebirth?

Could it be an encouraging thought to know that even God cries sometimes?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Jesus Interruption - Day 24

Lent 2011 - The Jesus Interruption Each week of this season, we will be entering into the experience of an individual whose life was interrupted by an encounter with Jesus. This week - Lazarus, Martha, and Mary (John 11)

Just how significant do we allow Jesus to be? How deeply do we believe he is capable of going into our lives? Exactly how powerfully do we anticipate he will interrupt us in order to bring about the transformation that is possible in our new life in him?

Surely we underestimate, however we imagine it. I mean, whatever we think Jesus is capable of doing, it seems to me that we ought to magnify it a million times and then we would only be glimpsing a very tiny fraction of the potential.

In John 11, Jesus interrupts death itself!

Lazarus, in the tomb four days already, cold, wrapped in cloth, tomb sealed with a boulder - Jesus proclaims, “Lazarus, come forth!” - and he does.

There is no hardness that Jesus cannot soften, the rigor of death or the rigidity of the mind. There is no coldness that he cannot warm, the coldness of the tomb or the insidiousness of hatred. There is no seal that he cannot break, be it over a tomb or over your heart.

He will call out, “Come forth!” and you will. Wherever you are, Jesus will find a way to interrupt you, so that you can live a new life.

Lent gives us the time and space to listen for him, deep in our own tombs of grief, pain, brokenness. He is calling us even now. On Sunday we who hear him calling will gather to worship, emerging from where we are into where he wants us to be. Lazarus, come forth!