Romans 8:6-11, John 11:1-45
March 17, 2002
This past week I found myself walking from home to the Library here on the northside and then heading toward Bridgeview plaza. As I got near the end of Kane street, walking along minding my own thoughts, I was accosted.
A mother and dog and three-year-old child were in their front yard. Starting from the far side of the yard the little girl started heading in my direction. I looked at her as she came and her face lit up and she opened her arms wide and she came and put both arms around my leg while proclaiming, "I love you."
Her mother seeing this quietly said to her daughter by name, "... you're weird." I merely said to the daughter, "Thank you," and to the mother, "Expressions of love and building human relations are very important."
And the scene was over. I have since thought of better responses and really should have paused a bit longer than I did.
Do you remember this line? "Unless you become as a child you shall not enter the kingdom of GOD." There is something of the openness of love, especially love of a stranger, that Jesus meant when he sees within us the ability to be present to one another as that little girl was to strange me.
This kind of experience and spillover into our scriptural picture of GOD. I think that unless you can see GOD as a little girl who comes determinedly across a yard with her eye on you, exclaiming before arriving that she loves you, and reaching wide to embrace you -- you have an incomplete picture and experience of GOD.
Listen again to a little of Paul's writing to the Church at Rome and La Crosse. "Those who trust GOD's action in them find that GOD's Spirit is in them--living and breathing GOD! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to GOD leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life."
We are talking here of being unwrapped from the grave of self to be open to the spacious life of walking across a yard to let a stranger know you love them.
Paul continues, "It stands to reason, doesn't it, that if the alive-and-present GOD who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, GOD will do the same thing in you that was done in Jesus, bringing you alive to GOD? When GOD lives and breathes in you (and GOD does as surely as GOD did in Jesus), you are delivered from dead life. With GOD's Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ's!"
Your body will be alive as Christ's! is quite a statement of faith. Let's affirm that together. "My body will be as alive as Christ's!" (repeat)
Can we believe that? How will that happen?
Here is another extension, like seeing GOD as a little girl. St. Luke's will be as alive as Christ!
Can we believe that? How will that happen?
Listen to the Lazarus story again.
Friend Lazarus is dying.
Jesus does not ride to his rescue to simply cure what is ailing him.
Jesus waits and waits and does not arrive until Lazarus is four days dead, which means he is really good and dead, no question about it.
Martha and Mary and mourners weep at this loss.
Jesus weeps with the weepers and Jesus weeps because the weepers weep without seeing life beyond death.
Jesus prays, "Thank you!"
Jesus calls, "Lazarus, come out!"
Jesus says, "Unwrap him."
Think for a moment about your life and our life together. Does there not need to be some call to us to come out as people as alive as Christ?
Our gay and lesbian neighbors talk about coming out and the freedom and spaciousness that gives their life. As Christians we need to talk about coming out as GOD-filled people and the freedom and spaciousness that will give our life.
We need to hear the call to be unwrapped.
A little girl this last week unwrapped me by coming across a yard, looking me in the eye, saying, "I love you", and wrapping me in her arms. I won't forget that.
That little scene has buoyed me up for the rest of the week. I would like for you to experience just a bit of that coming out of the blue to you. I am going to ask you to go to someone you don't know very well (that means you don't just turn to the person next to you ) and look them in the eye and say, "I love you" as you spread your arms and give them a hug.
I certainly don't deserve GOD's love. I certainly don't deserve my beloved Brenda's love. I certainly don't deserve the love of St. Luke's and the Church. And yet it is constantly offered.
You certainly don't deserve GOD's love or mine or anyone else's.
This business of being unwrapped is not something we deserve. It is simply GOD's way.
We grow from being unwrapped, as Spring unwraps the flowers. It is not that we grow to a certain level of value and then we are unwrapped. No, we are first unwrapped by an undeserved love.
Whether you deserve it or not, GOD loves you, Jesus loves you, St. Luke's loves you. I love you. You are filled with love to overflowing. Be unwrapped to share it. Jesus calls to you, "Come out!"
Now, as I have already indicated. Find someone you know the least. Simply be the love GOD has for you and share it with them.
I thank you, GOD, that you have called us out and unwrapped us to reveal a little girl inside each of us who is full of life enough to be weird and offer love to a stranger. Now, GOD I ask that you help us break the boundary of these church walls and offer your love and our love to strangers we meet this next week and invite them here to also experience being called out and unwrapped. Amen.
Copyright 2002. Wesley White, Pastor of St. Luke's United Methodist Church. 1022 Caledonia Street, La Crosse, WI 54603.