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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

Come And See And Believe - November 01, 2015

“Come and see,” Mary and Martha and all the mourners of Lazarus say when Jesus asks where the body has been laid.

It is one of the main themes of in the Gospel of John. Jesus says it the first time. He's talking to those he's just called as his first disciples. “Where are you staying?” they had asked Jesus. “Come and see,” he says to them ... Come and see where God incarnate is dwelling – it is among mortals.

“Come and see” is the answer Nathanael gets when he poses a question to Philip – “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Between the lines what Nathanael is suggesting is that the Messiah that Moses and the prophets wrote about could not be coming from Nazareth – surely the Messiah would come from Jerusalem or some other place grand and powerful enough to produce such an important and long-awaited person. Not some little po-dunk town of simple and common laborers.

“Come and see” is what the Samaritan woman tells her people following her encounter with Jesus at the well … Come and see that the Jewish Messiah has come to dwell among everyone, not just the chosen ones.

In these ways, we the hearers and readers of this gospel, the story of Jesus of Nazareth, are invited to come and see so that we may believe that Jesus is indeed the Messiah – God come to live and breathe and experience the world as we mortals do.

But in today's reading, the come and see is turned around on Jesus. And it seems strange … it catches our attention. I think it's supposed to.

The story of the raising of Lazarus gives us a picture of Jesus' human walk like few others. Jesus was greatly disturbed and deeply moved in grief over the death of Lazarus, the one he loved. It was not only Lazarus he loved. The story also tells us he loved Martha and Mary and cared deeply about the whole community in which they lived.

They invite Jesus  to come and see where Lazarus has been laid in a tomb and he goes with them. As they walk together to the tomb – Jesus and the sisters of Lazarus and the mourners – Jesus becomes one of them, one of that group of mourners. He is moved by his own pain of loss and the loss he sees in the faces and tears of those around him. Jesus himself begins to weep.

He is totally swept away into this intense human experience of death and loss that each of us walks through at some point in our lives. Like he would if he came among us today, Jesus meets people who grieve because of the pain of separation in losing a loved one – a spouse, a parent, a sibling. He meets others who grieve over the loss of potential that comes of physical death – as in the death of a young person, death due to tragedy or terminal illness. Some of the people he walked with in that group  may have been grieving from a place of fear – fear of their own deaths, fear of the deaths of others in their lives. Or maybe their grief sprang from a sense of regret – regret over things said and done, or not said and not done.

Our feelings of grief swirl around in many different places of our hearts and minds and what this story shows to us so beautifully is that Jesus knows that. He came and saw and believed that these feelings and experiences are real and difficult. While they are part of what forms us, gives us strength and perspective and deepens our empathy with others, they also leave scars and can be the sources of some hard lessons too.

But in the story of the raising of Lazarus we also get Jesus' divine response to the pain of death humans bear. Jesus is speaking to us when he reminds Martha that through her belief she would see the glory of God; he calls to us when he calls Lazarus out of the tomb and out of death; he frees us when he commands the mourners to unbind Lazarus and let him go free of the wrappings and trappings of death. Jesus assures us that this death and loss we bear in life is not the last word … that we may be confident that our grief is answered in his victory over death. It is our victory over the grip of sin and brokenness we experience as individuals and as a community of faith.

As we gather today particularly mindful of those who have died and gone before us, we also celebrate our belief that, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, they have returned home and await all of us there in a glorious cloud of witnesses.

And so now we pick up the gospel's theme in our lives as disciples of Jesus  – “come and see.”

Come and see that Jesus walked among us and experienced the heart-breaking weight of death and loss and sin.

Come and see that God in Jesus loves us so much that he died to free us from that sin and rose from the dead to release us from the grip of death and open for all the gates to the Kingdom of God.

Come and see a community that gathers and is nourished around a table of forgiveness …. a community that gathers and is refreshed in a flowing font of eternal life in Jesus.

Come and see a place where, washed of this sin and redeemed by the grace of God alone, we are absolutely freed to love and support each other in our grief and loss and dance and sing with each other in our joys and triumphs.

Come and see …. and believe that our God says the last word is life, eternally, in the company of saints and the understanding love of our Redeemer – Jesus of Nazareth.

Amen.

Pastor Ann Gonyea

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~ contact@edenonthebay.org

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