Our Minister: Rev. Richard Lowson

 



From the Manse

Friends - these are very strange times. I am not taking well to social distancing, I need to be with people and am realising just how important the people I share life with are. We can’t meet together to worship this Sunday but over the next few weeks I will offer some reflections here based on the reading for Sunday (we are looking at broadcasting via the church websites and perhaps you may want to get involved offering to do a reading or prayers) but I will continue to produce something in this format for as long as it is needed. It is just another way of feeling connected.

This Sunday is Passion Sunday and the gospel reading is found in John 11: 1-45

The Death of Lazarus

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’ After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’

Jesus the Resurrection and the Life

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’

Jesus Weeps

When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’

Jesus Raises Lazarus to Life

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’

The Plot to Kill Jesus

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

 

 

Where is Jesus when you need him?         Some thoughts from Richard …..

 

Was I born a “Grumpy Old man”?  I don’t think so, but I can remember holidaying with the girls and giving a time we need to be up and out for. A nine o’clock start would come and go and at 10am we would still be straightening hair, putting finishing touches to make up or deciding on another outfit for the day. Faffing girls. And I know it’s not a gender thing – I know some men who faff for England. But I’m not very good at waiting, I do become a grumpy old man.

In this morning’s Gospel Jesus seems to faff – he takes his time responding to the real needs of best friends Martha and Mary.

A faffing Jesus – is there a time to faff?

 

Martha and Mary are rightly worried about the plight of their brother Lazarus – he’s ill and it’s not looking good. They think Jesus ought to know and send message to him ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ And they wait and wait ……

We can see the story from both sides, this inner struggle Jesus goes through, it’s not straightforward there are so many layers. What should he do? Where does he need to be?

 

But Mary and Martha, back in Bethany, feel all alone that somehow Jesus doesn’t seem to care. The one person they really believe can make a difference is nowhere to be seen. You can almost imagine the conversation (or the thought) “Where is Jesus when you need him most?”

He’ll be grabbing some “Me” time up some hill or in some remote place, or he’ll be playing in boats on Galilee with his fishermen chums, causing a stir at the local synagogue with them hanging onto his every word…. Our brother is slipping away. Where are you Jesus??

It’s a long 2 days for these sisters….

 

In these strange times we may well ask that question: Where is Jesus when you need him?  Where is God in all this chaos? We may feel like Martha and Mary that we are in this alone and get overwhelmed by the landscape that surrounds us.

 

I can’t resist a garden centre bargain – back in October I rescued a Cornus Alba (Siberian Pearls). All life was gone and it seemed there was no hope for this shrub but for just 99p I would take my chance. It promised red winter stems so if nothing else I get a bit of winter colour and some inexpensive twigs. I pruned as instructed and enjoyed my red twigs.

Now I’ve got time to walk and gaze I have seen beyond the red twigs of my Cornus Alba. I now see green buds and leaves, I see flowers forming. I am excited to see new growth, new life from that which I though was lifeless and dead.

 

It is into the hopeless situation, into a grief stricken landscape, into loss and despair that Jesus brings us his the words:

“I am the resurrection and the life”

 

Where is Jesus when you need him? 

As we discover he is not remote and distant, uncaring or unmoved by the plight. He journeys to be with Martha and Mary. He meets them in their grief on the road. He stands with them in their loss. And John gives us this wonderful moment as they approach the tomb. Jesus sees the tears of his friends, he is deeply moved and Jesus weeps. A God who shares our humanity is moved and weeps.

 

This is truly incarnational – as John puts it in the beginning of his gospel “The word became flesh”

 

That is the Jesus I need in these days. A God who is not remote, distant and uncaring – a God who enters the chaos.

 

I spare a final thought for the faffing Jesus torn between the needs of close friends and listening to God. Weighing up the risks involved in walking to Bethany knowing what the future had in store for him. A Jesus caught up in the weeping and mourning and loss of one he loved so much knowing that soon and very soon the tears would be for him.

 

Our lent journey brings us back to a graveyard …. Where we wait … we faff … we hope.

 

I am the resurrection and the life….          Amen.

 

I offer a prayer from the Church of Scotland:

Each new day
we celebrate what it is to be free -
to live our lives in fullness.
This is the eternal gift of God.

But freedom and fullness lives in the simple
in each breath we take
in knowing we have a roof over our heads
in the love of family and community
all the things we might usually take for granted...

Freedom also invites the gift of generosity
to continue to give where we can
to support one another as we are able and go the extra mile
to offer a welcome smile and forget the more formal handshake of yesterday
to be what we have always been called to be - human.

This is not a Church crisis, a worship crisis, nor a financial crisis
this is about the gift of life, which is for all, irrespective of birth, status or circumstances.

As we remember the most simple of these things, may we be inspired to renew calm, peace and hope in every new day.

For in the midst of all storms a Presence is found, and freedom in Christ remains.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

Do look after yourselves and I will write again next week.

 

                                            Blessings - Richard