Our hope has to be big enough for God

Preached at Cynthia Sherman's Memorial Service
John 11:21-27New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[a] Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah,[b] the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
 
Martha and her sister Mary had sent for Jesus to come.
 
Their brother Lazarus was dying.
 
Lazarus was also a good friend of Jesus.
 
Martha and Mary kept waiting for Jesus while Lazarus grew sicker and sicker.
 
Still no Jesus.
 
Lazarus died.
 
And then Jesus showed up.
 
And after Jesus finally shows up, Martha looks at Jesus and says, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
 
"But even now ... But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of Him."
 
Jesus then responds to Martha, "your brother will rise again."
 
At which point, I imaging Martha kind of shaking her head.
 
Shaking her head like we sometimes do when someone we love, and miss, and want to be with more than anyone in the world dies.
 
And some well meaning person tells us "she's in a better place."
 
Or worse, "it's God's will."
 
Thanks.
 
My heart is broken open, I have cried so much I can't cry anymore, and I feel hollow and numb inside.
 
I appreciate that you are trying to make me feel better. 
 
But your words are not really a lot of help to me right now.  
 
Your words do not bring back what I have lost. 
 
So Martha , politely gives Jesus the socially expected response.
 
“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 
 
That was the normal, pious thing for Martha to say.
 
As a good Jewish believer, Martha believed in and waited for that great last day.
 
That great last day when God would put everything right.
 
That great last day when all those who hunger will be fed.
 
That great last day when the poor will be raised up.
 
That great last day when the mighty will be made low.
 
That great last day when those who mourn will be comforted and God will wipe the tears from every eye.
 
That great last day when death will swallowed up in victory, and the dead shall be raised.
 
But Jesus, that only happens on the last day.
 
And the last day is probably going to take a while.
 
But thanks anyway for trying to manage my grief. 
 
Or maybe make yourself feel better because you did not get here on time. 
 
Not a lot of real help to me now, but thanks. 
 
*
Then I picture Jesus, still crying over his friend Lazarus, looking at Martha with the most tender love.
 
No Martha.
 
No Martha.
 
You do not understand what I am saying to you.
 
I am not just trying to make you feel better. 
 
Martha, your hope is not big enough for God.
 
“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die."
Jesus is telling Martha.
 
For those who , like Lazurus, believe, and trust, and live in Jesus and let Jesus live in them, Today is God's last day.
 
Not some impossible to envision future.
 
Not in some place far far away.
 
But today, and right here, in God's eternal now.
 
I am the resurrection and the life.
 
I am here with you Today.
 
I am here with your brother Today.
 
Your brother Lazurus  lives in me Today, believes in me Today, and is alive Today.
 
Martha, your hope has to be big enough for God.
 
*
And Jesus is saying the same thing to those of us in this room who are mourning the death of our mother, and our sister, and our cousin, and our friend.
 
Our hope has to be big enough for God.
 
We may have seen Cynthia struggling to find the strength and energy to go and learn in her Education for Ministry Class, or in her ministry with the Amos Guild, or in driving Claire to rock climbing every week. 
 
We may have seen Cynthia laughing, and joking, and serving others while she also worked at the difficult task of feeding herself the nutrients she needed to keep going.
 
We may have seen Cynthia weak on her bed.
 
We may even have seen Cynthia's beautiful earthly body that God made reduced to ashes and placed in a small box.
 
But our hope has to be big enough for God.
 
Our hope has to be big enough for God, who has raised Cynthia up to new life eternal.
 
Our hope has to be big enough for God, who, in the twinkling of an eye, has resurrected Cynthia into a glorious resurrection body whose beauty, and strength, and power in the Lord is beyond all of our imaginations.
 
Our hope has to be big enough for God, who has brought Cynthia to Himself, where Cynthia now sees God face to face.
 
Our hope has to be big enough for God, who has enrolled Cynthia in that great cloud of witnesses and saints who gather around God's throne and still do God's work in love, and strength, and in community with us here and everywhere the Church gathers throughout the Earth.
 
And now we have the privilege to offer the Cynthia's life back to God.
 
We offer Cynthia's life back to the God who was her creator, the God who was her redeemer, and the God who was her sustainer.
 
We offer Cynthia's earthly life and earthly body, and all of our lives and bodies as well, and receive back the Gift beyond all price.
 
We freely receive back from God a Gift that we can scarcely ask for or even imagine.
 
Life.
 
Life abundant.
 
Life eternal.
 
Life through God.
 
Life with God.
 
Life in God.
 
This is our hope.
 
Our hope in God.
 
And our God will not disappoint us.
 
Amen
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
John 11:21-27New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[a] Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah,[b] the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
 
Martha and her sister Mary had sent for Jesus to come.
 
Their brother Lazarus was dying.
 
Lazarus was also a good friend of Jesus.
 
Martha and Mary kept waiting for Jesus while Lazarus grew sicker and sicker.
 
Still no Jesus.
 
Lazarus died.
 
And then Jesus showed up.
 
And after Jesus finally shows up, Martha looks at Jesus and says, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
 
"But even now ... But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of Him."
 
Jesus then responds to Martha, "your brother will rise again."
 
At which point, I imaging Martha kind of shaking her head.
 
Shaking her head like we sometimes do when someone we love, and miss, and want to be with more than anyone in the world dies.
 
And some well meaning person tells us "she's in a better place."
 
Or worse, "it's God's will."
 
Thanks.
 
My heart is broken open, I have cried so much I can't cry anymore, and I feel hollow and numb inside.
 
I appreciate that you are trying to make me feel better. 
 
But your words are not really a lot of help to me right now.  
 
Your words do not bring back what I have lost. 
 
So Martha , politely gives Jesus the socially expected response.
 
“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 
 
That was the normal, pious thing for Martha to say.
 
As a good Jewish believer, Martha believed in and waited for that great last day.
 
That great last day when God would put everything right.
 
That great last day when all those who hunger will be fed.
 
That great last day when the poor will be raised up.
 
That great last day when the mighty will be made low.
 
That great last day when those who mourn will be comforted and God will wipe the tears from every eye.
 
That great last day when death will swallowed up in victory, and the dead shall be raised.
 
But Jesus, that only happens on the last day.
 
And the last day is probably going to take a while.
 
But thanks anyway for trying to manage my grief. 
 
Or maybe make yourself feel better because you did not get here on time. 
 
Not a lot of real help to me now, but thanks. 
 
*
Then I picture Jesus, still crying over his friend Lazarus, looking at Martha with the most tender love.
 
No Martha.
 
No Martha.
 
You do not understand what I am saying to you.
 
I am not just trying to make you feel better. 
 
Martha, your hope is not big enough for God.
 
“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die."
Jesus is telling Martha.
 
For those who , like Lazurus, believe, and trust, and live in Jesus and let Jesus live in them, Today is God's last day.
 
Not some impossible to envision future.
 
Not in some place far far away.
 
But today, and right here, in God's eternal now.
 
I am the resurrection and the life.
 
I am here with you Today.
 
I am here with your brother Today.
 
Your brother Lazurus  lives in me Today, believes in me Today, and is alive Today.
 
Martha, your hope has to be big enough for God.
 
*
And Jesus is saying the same thing to those of us in this room who are mourning the death of our mother, and our sister, and our cousin, and our friend.
 
Our hope has to be big enough for God.
 
We may have seen Cynthia struggling to find the strength and energy to go and learn in her Education for Ministry Class, or in her ministry with the Amos Guild, or in driving Claire to rock climbing every week. 
 
We may have seen Cynthia laughing, and joking, and serving others while she also worked at the difficult task of feeding herself the nutrients she needed to keep going.
 
We may have seen Cynthia weak on her bed.
 
We may even have seen Cynthia's beautiful earthly body that God made reduced to ashes and placed in a small box.
 
But our hope has to be big enough for God.
 
Our hope has to be big enough for God, who has raised Cynthia up to new life eternal.
 
Our hope has to be big enough for God, who, in the twinkling of an eye, has resurrected Cynthia into a glorious resurrection body whose beauty, and strength, and power in the Lord is beyond all of our imaginations.
 
Our hope has to be big enough for God, who has brought Cynthia to Himself, where Cynthia now sees God face to face.
 
Our hope has to be big enough for God, who has enrolled Cynthia in that great cloud of witnesses and saints who gather around God's throne and still do God's work in love, and strength, and in community with us here and everywhere the Church gathers throughout the Earth.
 
And now we have the privilege to offer the Cynthia's life back to God.
 
We offer Cynthia's life back to the God who was her creator, the God who was her redeemer, and the God who was her sustainer.
 
We offer Cynthia's earthly life and earthly body, and all of our lives and bodies as well, and receive back the Gift beyond all price.
 
We freely receive back from God a Gift that we can scarcely ask for or even imagine.
 
Life.
 
Life abundant.
 
Life eternal.
 
Life through God.
 
Life with God.
 
Life in God.
 
This is our hope.
 
Our hope in God.
 
And our God will not disappoint us.
 
Amen
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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