Lent 5 2017 ~ Spiritual Resiliency & Resurrection

April 2 2017
Readings: Ezekiel 37: 1-14  ~ Romans 8: 6-11 ~ John 11:1-45

Spiritual Resiliency and Resurrection

Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.

This heart felt cry from both Martha and Mary resonates with anyone who’s experienced the untimely death of a loved one.  It can feel like God has somehow let us down. I can tell you that my initial words to God were a whole lot stronger than Mary and Martha’s when my brother died.  It takes a while to realise that God is right there with us at such times, walking with us through the pain to help us find inner peace and new life. In John’s gospel, the raising of Lazarus is the last of the signs done by Jesus before his own death & resurrection.

This morning I would like to use it to consider the many different kinds of death and resurrections we all go through in our lives. Beginning with physical death itself, one of the hardest lessons that we humans have to learn is that death is a natural and necessary part of life.  If nothing and no one ever died there would soon be no room in this world for new life – and we would never move forward. So, as hard as it is, we are all only here for a period of time. What’s important is how we use the time we have.

Within our life span, we suffer all sorts of little deaths that can range from the breakdown of a relationship, the loss of health or mobility, to the end of a way of life.  And just as when someone dies there is a period of mourning before we continue life without them, so too we lament the loss of a relationship, health, or a way of life.

There is an old adage that says what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger.  As much as we don’t enjoy them, mini deaths have the potential to make us stronger – more resilient along the way.  If we allow God to journey with us in our pain to a place of inner peace and healing, we eventually develop a spiritual resiliency that helps us through the difficult times without giving into despair.

For this to happen, its important that we don’t get stuck in the grieving process.  At some point we need to hear and respond when our Lord decides its time to call us into new life. To not respond would be like Lazarus stubbornly refusing to come out the tomb or to allow himself to be unbound and set free.

Yesterday, some of us listened to Trudy speak about life for our Inuit brothers and sisters.  Like First Nations and Metis, the Inuit communities were deeply impacted by colonialism, residential schools and the like. It could have easily been the death of indigenous cultures. They took a really big, life‑threatening hit. But today First Nations, Inuit and Metis are standing up, stepping out from the tomb we placed them in and unbinding themselves into new life.

As Trudy said, one of their strengths is resiliency.  And we, the settlers in the land, are slowly learning how to live respectfully alongside the original inhabitants.  Here at St. Paul’s, we recognize that we are on unceded Algonquin territory and we will be talking more about that in the weeks to come.

Like many churches, St. Paul’s has also been going through the process of death and resurrection; a time of transition and finding the new way forward.   This has been particularly true at the 9:15 service. We have been praying for some time now for a new organist / choir director and things have not unfolded in the timely way we might have expected. But we’ve holding fast to the story of God with us and trusting our Lord to walk with us through the dark night of winter into the new light of spring.

Recently we realized that we had been so busy looking for a single solution from the outside that we had failed to fully appreciate that God was quietly bringing to light the gifts we need from within.  This week, Matthew Bassett stepped forward and expressed a keen interest in learning to play the organ and accompany the choir.  Now we have the people and gifts in place to continue moving forward through this year. With John, Wendy and a strong and faithful choir – and with Matthew on board – the future is looking bright.

I do believe that Jesus is calling his church – this church – into new life.  As we approach this Easter, Jesus calls us to hold fast to the belief that he really does have the power to call us back into life, in this world and the next.  When we are ready, willing and able to fully embrace this truth, then we are finally set free from the fears and resistance that would bind us … and live as people of the resurrection.

God help us to be like our Inuit brothers and sisters and develop a strong spiritual resiliency so that we never lose hope along the way.

Pat Martin +