My first year in seminary we were all required to meet each week in a small group called Curriculum Conference. I was surprised to learn that one of the members of the class, lived on a farm in a nearby suburb—a sheep farm. All winter long as we talked about our lives and our experiences as new seminary students, we watched Liz knit scarves and sweaters from fine wool of vibrant colors—wool from the sheep she and her husband raised. The last meeting was held at her house because it was lambing time. We marveled at the gentle lambs—they seemed to be all legs, covered with white fluff. We held them and they nestled into our arms.
As we celebrated Resurrection Sunday and continue in our Alleluia season of Easter- there appears to be a feeling of relief within us. One that looks forward to a life spent in hope yet we are aware of the realities of life such as sickness, social disparities, and violent tragedies. Somehow Easter makes us optimistic by assuring us that through grace and our faith in Jesus Christ, All is Well.
Tonight we stand at the intersection of time’s finitude and eternity. The time where all of creation, guided by this new light in Christ Jesus is led to an empty tomb. A tomb where Christ was laid and where Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others arrived to find their Lord to be missing. We read that two angels witnessing their prostration before the tomb asked, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” Imagine the confusion that must have set in. Implicit in the next lines is the fact that these women had been with Jesus as He taught.
In the 19th century, a medical doctor named J. C. Stroud explained the odd flow of both blood and water from Jesus’ body as a violent rupture of his heart. “Stroud theorized that a hemorrhage had taken place through the heart wall into the pericardial sac, there was a clotting of blood, separating it from the serum … —a convenient thesis that gives preachers the opportunity to stress that literally died of a broken heart.” Another 19th century doctor theorized that the soldier had actually pierced his bladder as well and that it was urine that flowed out with the blood. Doctors in the 1950’s and 60’s estimated the water probably represented serous pleural and pericardial fluid. “Since the pleural cavity is just inside the rib cage, even a shallow lance thrust could have opened it and the two parts of the blood have come out relatively unmixed.”
For me, preaching at a funeral, much like preaching at a wedding, is an essential part of my call to ministry. When else are there so many people in church for whom Jesus Christ has little impact on their daily lives? There is no more pregnant time for birthing new life in Christ.
I have a pair of earrings that I cherish. Each is a small disc of old dull gold, with decorative engraving around a tiny pearl. Some years ago I dropped one of them and stepped on it, breaking the disc off the ear wire. I was quite sad when I realized what I’d done.
In today’s reading from the Gospel of John we see Jesus struggle with the reality of what is to come. In this Gospel he goes knowingly to his death, yet he has struggled with the truth that approaches and accepted his fate.
I grew up the only church-going member in my family. My great grandmother, Vesta had taken me to church a few times as a child. While at a Billy Graham convention in Denver, Colorado, I remember standing in the nosebleed section of the old Mile High Stadium when the altar call was made for those who desired to begin a relationship with Jesus.
“The Bible’s Moses cuts himself shaving. He is afraid, he is a liar. He does many a thing under the table before being Up There with the other Tables.” So says Hélène Cixous, French literary critic and feminist. True, and we could also add murderer, stutterer, unsure of himself, hot headed, unpredictable, and often a big disappointment.
But the Bible’s Moses is also one who sees God face to face and lives, whose face shines with the blinding Shekinah glory, which must be veiled before other mere mortals.
How many times have we seen an adult trying to comfort a screaming baby? Have you ever been mystified and at the same time frustrated when regardless of what you tried, you had no success? For a new parent it is a relief when one can finally begin to understand what a baby needs by the sound of their cry.