April 16, 2011 - Ashes and Grave Clothes

April 16, 2011 - Ashes and Grave Clothes
Rev. Melissa K. DeBono

John 11:28-44

Jesus finds his friends in the deepest grief. For this family, caught up in the larger story of God With Us, this is a turning point. For years they made the most of life together, three siblings knit together as family. When Jesus arrived after Lazarus’ death, their imaginations could not even fathom how greatly he would change their lives.

Mary and Martha are marked by cold, grey ashes from their hearth, the Jewish symbol of mourning and sadness, as well as repentance. When energetic Martha hears that Jesus is finally coming, she goes out greet him as an honored guest. Mary keeps the posture of the mourner, waiting to receive Jesus visit, but Jesus never arrives to comfort her. Instead, he sends a message that she should meet him at the edge of the village. In respect for tradition, Mary makes no attempt to groom herself, only tucking the edges of her dark shawl more tightly around her face. She is still marked with the ashes and torn clothing of grief.

Her meeting with Jesus overwhelms her, and the tears return as she greets the rabbi in the customary way. They all had hoped that Jesus would come in time to save Lazarus, but he had proven unable to do anything about their deepest hurt. Nevertheless, she is still respectful, and he is still compassionate, as they weep, side by side, near her brother’s tomb.

In a few confused moments, everything is turned upside down. Her days of mourning and grief are erased, and her expectations of Jesus are not just restored, but multiplied. Where there was death, Jesus brings life. Where there was mourning, he brings joy. Lazarus lives.

We journey through these days of Lent through the ashes of hurt, sadness and regret that mark our journey. We have suffered losses than God has not prevented. We are longing for comfort that never seems to come. Perhaps we don’t even know what to ask for. May we be like Mary, Martha, and Lazarus who discover that God does not abandon us, even in death, but truly heals us, even if it leads to the cross. The time is coming for us to put away the ashes of sadness, take off our grave clothes and live like we have been re-born.

Holy God, in you we find the hope of new life, and in you we find healing from every grief. Enable us to live each day in a miracle of new life. Amen