Called to Life


Called to Life

We are in the season of lent and our passages today look at how God calls us to life. As we journey towards Jerusalem, Holy Week and Easter we are reminded of the call God does put on our lives. The Covid-19 Pendemic has changed much of our daily life, including how we worship. This morning, rather than providing an audio file I have recorded a video to help build the sense of connection. It was my intetion to provide both an audio file and a video file, but there are limits on how many apps can use the mic on my phone at the same time. 

I hope that the sermons are of value to you during this time and that you and your loved ones are safe. 

Scripture: Ezekiel 37: 1-14 & John 11: 1-45


In one of her short stories the writer Annie Dillard has a scene in which a family is sadly gathered at a grave to commit a loved one’s body to the earth. At one point the minister intones the familiar words from I Corinthians 15, “Where, O Death, is thy sting?” Upon hearing that, one of the family members looks up.  He scans the sorrowful faces of his family and sees all around him row upon row of headstones in the cemetery. And then he thinks to himself, “Where, O Death, is thy sting?  Why, it’s just about everywhere, seeing as you asked!”

It’s just about everywhere, seeing as you asked. (Scott Hoezee)

Where to we even begin with where we find ourselves today? We are living through a Pandemic the likes of which our generation hasn’t seen before. We are being asked to do things that we have never been asked to do before. Stay home. Don’t go out. Don’t visit family, don’t visit friends. Don’t go to work, only go out for the essentials. Worship is cancelled. And amidst it all we receive the daily tallies. A few generations ago, they looked to the paper to get the count of those who died in WWII. Today we get the numbers of new cases and those who have died. We get those numbers not just for Canada where we live, but for the United States, indeed for the world. We know those numbers are likely to get worse before they get better.

It’s just about everywhere, seeing as you asked.

Of course, death isn’t just seen in the present Covid-19 crisis. Death is all around us. It fuels the TV drama’s that we watch. Most police procedurals begin with a death. Death is found in the movies and abounds in video games. Death has become so normalized in culture that we don’t react well as a society when real death approaches. When we are forced to deal with its outcomes. We are ill equipped to do that on an individual level, now we are being asked to do so on a societal level.

It’s just about everywhere, seeing as you asked.

We are living through extraordinary times. The scent of death is in the air and we all fear that things will get worse before they get better. No one is really sure what will happen, how we will overcome this current crisis. We are trusting in one another, our health care system and elected officials to make the right decisions for us. But no one really knows and that has a direct parallel to our readings this morning. No one believes in the power of God in the passage from John. The passage from Ezekiel is equally astounding. No one expects what happens to happen.

It’s just about everywhere, seeing as you asked.

I am the resurrection and the life. This is the pivotal word of God that we find in the passage from John. That through Jesus we are brought through to new life. When we look at both Ezekiel and John we find two passages where God brings life out of death. God spoke and the valley of dry bones comes to life. God spoke and Lazarus exits the tomb. The dry bones and Lazarus, a man who has been dead for three days, hear words from God and respond. When God speaks, we should listen. God spoke and the cosmos sprang into existence.

Prof. Melinda Quivik writes, “Neither Lazarus nor anyone else present is said to believe in Jesus’ power. Just the opposite is the case. The crowd does not expect the dead man to emerge when the stone is rolled away. The people assume that death is final, irrevocable, and there is no remedy for it.” (Melinda Quivik)

It’s just about everywhere, seeing as you asked.

God’s solution to death was, unsurprisingly, rather ingenious! Theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg is someone who understands—as best anyone can understand such a mystery, that is—what Jesus as the resurrection and the life means. Pannenberg said that what happened on Easter was the future breaking into our collective past. The new life Jesus brought was quite literally our future taking place at a distinct moment in history. (Scott Hoezee)

God breaks through, God shatters the bounds and barriers of death. God finds new ways. What does that mean for us as the church? Prof. Joy Moore puts it this way, “We are the church who gather for corporate worship and scatter for service in the spheres of influence God affords us.” (Joy Moore)

What does your sphere of influence look like today? No doubt the physical implications of it have changed due to Covid-19, but you still have access to all the people you once did. Perhaps, the physical distancing, the isolation will allow you to see that sphere of influence in new ways. And then like God, we break through with good news.

What we don’t do is find ourselves entombed like Lazarus. We do not allow the present circumstances to isolate us beyond what is necessary for health and safety. As a church, as a community of faith we must through this present time find new ways of being. Just as the valley and Lazarus found new life, so must we.

In saying this I don’t attempt to wipe clean or ignore what is happening in the world right now. There is terrible suffering and death. People are living in fear because of Covid-19. People are fearful of catching it and dying or they are fearful about what the response of isolation will do to their personal finances and security.

What I know and believe is this, God did not send Covid-19 as some form of punishment for our sin. There is no transgression that has been committed by anyone which would result in God sending a viral plague upon us. Covid-19 is not a response from God to help heal the planet, God did not do this. To believe that God is punishing humanity is to disregard the entirety of the Gospels and the message of Jesus Christ. A message which preaches life.

What I know and believe is that God weeps with humanity right now that we must suffer. That on every hospital bed Jesus Christ embraces those that suffer, the Jesus Christ feels that pain and wishes that it were not so.

When I say that there is an opportunity for the church during this time, it is this. It is time for us to leave the tomb, just as Lazarus did. To leave the tomb of our sanctuaries, to be present in the world as people of love, grace and mercy. People who follow in the way of Jesus Christ. People who care and love one another and the fellow traveller that they meet.

Jesus tells us, “I am the resurrection and the life.” At this time and at all times we need to believe that and we need to live that out. As Christians we are a people of hope. Easter, the day of resurrection, is in two weeks and this has been the darkest Lent in recent memory. But we can hope for a better tomorrow, we follow Jesus Christ, the Morning Star and Chief Cornerstone. As a community of faith and a society we can exit this time with lessons learned and voices full of joy and hope. I see examples of that when I speak with you, when I witness the acts of kindness and compassion.

Where is hope? Well it’s just about everywhere, seeing as you asked. Thanks be to God and amen!

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.

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