March 23, 2008


Easter Expectations
Matthew 28:1-10

We come to Easter worship expecting the ringing of bells, the scent of lilies, the sound of brass and organ and choir, bright banners and joyful music – and we are not disappointed. It is a celebration! And it isn’t just at church. At home there might be colored eggs and chocolate bunnies and perhaps a special brunch or dinner planned for later today. It is still early in the year but spring did arrive officially on Thursday and you can feel the promise of new life – bulbs popping up, more hours of daylight, robins returning. We rejoice, and it seems that even the earth itself joins in. Our Easter is a joyful occasion and that is why we come this morning – to celebrate that joy. That is what we expect.

But in truth, Easter defies any ordinary expectations. Certainly the first Easter did. The women came to the tomb expecting it to be sealed, expecting to express their grief in the place where Jesus had been buried. They did not expect an earthquake, they did not expect the stone to be rolled away, they certainly did not expect an angel saying, “He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.”

They probably should have expected this, though, shouldn’t they? After all, as the holy messenger reminded them, Jesus himself had told them it would happen. And probably even before the angel instructed them to “Go and tell,” they were on their way -- hurrying, running, stumbling. They were terrified by what had happened and, at the same time, they were overjoyed by the possibility of what might yet be.

And then, the thing they least expected – they met Jesus himself. And his words spoke directly to their fear and their joy. “Greetings,” he said – although a more accurate translation of the Greek might be Rejoice! “Rejoice,” he said, and then he added: “Do not be afraid.”

Rather than being paralyzed by their fear, they were to go and tell. And this would be possible because he would be going ahead of them. He was sending them all to Galilee. Instead of remaining in Jerusalem where it all seemed to end, they were to go back to Galilee where it all began. They were to go there and pick up where he left off – that is what he expected of them. They were to go to the place where he taught and touched and healed, where he showed the power of God’s love, where he pushed the limits of conventional religion until it stretched so wide that everyone was included. They were to go back to Galilee and take up that same work – preaching, teaching, healing, touching, loving, including – inviting everyone into this new way of life that he had lived among them.

It would not be easy. They knew full well what had happened to him – these women who had remained at the cross, who had stood by him to the end – or at least what had seemed like the end. They must have known how hard it would be to do what he said. But there he was, right in front of them, giving them a set of new commandments, telling them what he expected of them: “Rejoice, do not be afraid. Go and tell, and I am going ahead of you.” And suddenly all of their expectations were transformed and everything was possible again. They could change the world, because he had changed everything.

Well. That was then and this is now. And how about you? What is it that you expect, really expect? Do you expect to change the world? Have you come here excepting to meet the risen Christ?

If not, take comfort that those women in Jerusalem didn’t expect that either, at least not at first. But there he was, alive somehow, and calling them into a new life, too. There he was, God’s eternal “yes” spoken to the “no” that the world tried to say at the cross.

And the world is still trying to say “no” to God’s power and life-giving love. But God will not be silenced; God is still speaking an eternal, resurrection “yes.” It is still happening, because Christ is alive! We sing it; we say it; let us believe it and live it, too.

And what would it be like to meet him these days? Where would you expect to find him? He himself has told us: he is the hungry and homeless one with no warm jacket to wear on a cold spring day; he is the one who is thirsty for love, a stranger who is lonely and far from home; he is sick or in prison and scared (Matthew 25:35-36). He still wears the face of humankind.

And just as he did then, he is sending us to Galilee, our Galilee, to the place of ministry and service. We are to engage in the same work he did – preaching, teaching, healing, touching, loving, including – inviting everyone into a new way of life.

And what he expects of us is that we embrace joy. He expects us to live without fear even in the midst of a dangerous and uncertain world. He expects us to go and tell, to speak a word of faith, to speak God’s word of “yes,” with our very lives.

That is what he expects of us, and here is what we can expect of him. Wherever we go, wherever we are called, whatever we do in faith, he has gone ahead of us and he is there, waiting to walk with us in our own discipleship.

So remember his Easter commandment: Rejoice and do not be afraid. Be joyful; as the poet has said, be joyful, even though you have considered all the facts (Wendell Berry, Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front). Live without fear and expect to meet Jesus in the midst of our weary and wounded world. Because that is where he is, and he is waiting for us to join him. He is expecting us.

Rejoice and do not be afraid. Go and tell! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! He lives! And remember this: he is with us always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28.20b).

(c) Martha C. Highsmith

March 22, 2008

Holy Saturday


This is a day of silence. All earth holds its breath, waiting, waiting.

For Jesus’ first disciples, it was the Sabbath, the day they rested, prayed, gathered around the light. But it must have seemed that the light had gone out forever; it must have seemed that all was lost. He was dead and buried, and gone forever, so they thought.

But something was happening on that Holy Saturday. The scripture says that “the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does” (1 Peter 4:6) and tradition holds that Jesus spent this day preaching to those who had not heard the Word of life in their lifetime. “[Christ] was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison” (1 Peter 3:18-19), rescuing the damned from an eternal separation from God. Even in death, he was preparing for tomorrow, preparing to speak the ultimate Word of Life, a Word so powerful that it could reach beyond the grave.


If you are spending this waiting time preparing for tomorrow, check here and here for information on “green” Easter eggs.

March 20, 2008

Good Friday

This is a stressful time on campus as students who are about to graduate contemplate their futures. There is always anxiety about getting a job or getting into graduate school – making the right decision. I think it is very hard not to sell out. Many of the students I know leave school with huge amounts of debt, and it is tempting to take the job that will pay off the fastest, no matter what it is. But that path of least resistance is often not the path of faithfulness, and perhaps it has always been so:

Then there was the nameless carpenter who made the cross. He was a skilled workman. He knew full well what the purpose of that cross was. If you questioned him he probably would have said: “But I am a poor man who must make a living. If other men use it for ill, is it my fault?” So say all of us who pursue jobs which add nothing to human welfare or which hurt some people. Does the work I do aid or hinder human beings? Are we crossmakers for our modern world? There are many, many of them. (Morton Kelsey, in The Cross: Meditations on the Seven Last Words of Christ)

So to my friends who are making career decisions, I echo the question: Does the work you are contemplating aid or hinder human beings? As Frederick Buechner describes it:

“Vocation” comes from the Latin vocare (to call) and means the work a [person] is called to by God. There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of society, say, or the superego, or self interest. The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need to do and (b) that the world needs to have done. If you find your work rewarding, you have presumably met requirement (a), but if your work does not benefit others, the chances are you have missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work does benefit others, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you are unhappy with it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a) but probably aren’t helping your customers much either.… The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. (Frederick Buechner, in Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC)

The world has too many crossmakers as it is. Choose work that brings life, not death. Choose life!


And on this Good Friday, you may wish to take a virtual walk with Jesus through the stations of the cross.

Maundy Thursday

We call this Maundy Thursday. It is a strange phrase, because of that unfamiliar word—Maundy—not one that we use in any other context. It means commandment and is similar to words that we do use—mandate and mandatory.

But what is there in this Thursday that is mandatory for us? Is it just that we must walk through this sad time of betrayal to get ready for what will come tomorrow, and the next day—and the next? Maybe. Is it necessary somehow for us to feel abandoned, to suffer at the hands of those closest to us, just as Jesus did? Maybe. Are we required to confront our own capacity for betrayal? Maybe that, too.

In some ways, I find Maundy Thursday the hardest part of week before Easter, in some ways even worse than Good Friday. By Friday it is all done, or at least set in motion in some irretrievable way. On Saturday, he is dead and in that moment it seems so final. But Thursday -- Thursday, it could all have been changed. At least, it seems there was that possibility. It did not seem so irreversible. It is the point in the chain of events where there are still choices, decisions to be made, options available. Maybe Judas could have changed his mind on Thursday night.

Yes, it seems there are options, and even so, we know how this will turn out. And maybe those who gathered around the table with Jesus knew it, too. This was not the first time they had shared a meal. They must have eaten together hundreds of times. Heaven knows, he would eat with anyone, he was not picky about that. That was part of what had stirred up all the trouble.

But this was not just any other meal. It was different. There was something not right, a heavy, nameless anxiety, and even though they could not have said exactly what it was, it must have weighed on them, settling in the pit of the stomach like a stone.

He knew. He knew that God had given all things into his hands and that he had come from God and was going to God. And so he got up from the table, laid down his robe and wrapped a towel around himself. He poured some water and began to wash their feet and wipe them with the towel.

He had done some strange things, but nothing like this, at least not to them. He had touched the untouchables, he had raised he dead, he had confronted the religious leaders, he had restored sight to the blind and multiplied the loaves. And they had watched, they had been with him. But they had not been the recipients of his action in quite this way—until now, at the end.

And wasn’t it just like him to take this simple little ritual of welcome and stand it on its head? Of course, they were used to washing their own feet. Any good host would provide the necessary container of water and a towel. It was almost a habit. But it was the most menial of tasks, something not even the lowest Jewish servant could be ordered to do. And here he was, down on his knees, taking their tired dusty feet in his hands and washing and drying them, the towel around him becoming soiled with the dirt from their feet.

He washed them all – the faithful who would follow him to death, the doubting who wanted to believe but could not, the one who would deny him, the one who would betray him. He washed them all. He poured out the water on all of them; just as he poured out his love. No exceptions, no test of worthiness, just the service of love from their Lord on his knees.

But it was not what they had hoped. It was not what they wanted. They did not want a savior who would be kneeling down before them. They wanted a savior who would cause their enemies to kneel down before them. They wanted their savior to come in the world’s way of power and might, and instead he came in God’s way, on his knees. It must have seemed that he had betrayed them, that his taking the form of a servant was somehow a reversal of roles that almost mocked their hopes and dreams.

No, it was not what they wanted. And truth to tell, it is not what we want, either. We, too, want a God who will conquer our enemies, one who will affirm that we are entitled to the power and might that we claim as our own, who can make things turn out the way we want, or at the very least, solve our problems. Instead we find ourselves confronting the One who kneels at our feet.

Our Lord does for us what he did around the table that night. His love is poured out on us like sweet water. He cradles our lives in his hands, soothing hearts that have grown tough and hard and callused, cleansing the places in us that have been soiled by the journey of life. He kneels at our feet and he pours out his life for us. He kneels in obedience, in obedience to the Holy One who sent him to this work, but also in obedience to us.

Because the choice is ours. This is Thursday and we have time to change our minds. There are still options available. We can receive love from his hands or we can nail those same hands to the cross. And the terrible part of his love for us, almost too much too to bear, is this: he will honor our decision, even if it is our will to reject him.

But know this: even if we deny him, if we doubt, if we desert him, if we betray him—he loves us still. Even in our rejection, his love is poured out for us. He empties himself, giving us all he has, all he is, until it must seem there is nothing left. But the love he gives comes from an endless supply, endless because it is of God and endless because it is always being multiplied in the world.

He has set us an example, that we also should do as he has done to us. We also should lay down our robes, that which gives us identity and status and protection. We should allow ourselves to be open and vulnerable. We should lay down our lives. We also should kneel down in service to those whom we love and to those who have deserted us and those whom we know will betray us. We should pour out our love for each other. And in order to do that, we must empty ourselves of judging and power and pride and disappointment and anything that is not Love. Then we can do as he has done.

This is his mandate to us: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This is his mandate. It is not easy, sometimes not even possible, unless. . . unless we know in our heart of hearts that we are loved and loved to the end. And then, of course, all things are possible.

Our Lord and Teacher kneels before us. The grit and grime of our journeys cling to our lives. He pours out love over us. He is tender and gentle with us, with the places in us that are bruised and sore, with the parts of our lives that have grown hard and callused and unfeeling. He lays his hands on us, his wounded hands, on the places that have grown weary, the parts of ourselves where we feel the effects of the hard traveling that has brought us this far.

He washes us as a service of love. He takes the stain of our sin upon himself. And bathed in his love, we are refreshed, restored, made clean.

Do you know what he has done to us? Do you know that we must do the same?

(c) Martha C. Highsmith

March 19, 2008

Five Years of War

Dr. Martin Luther King wrote this many years ago, and it is still true:

If we assume that life is worth living and that humans have the right
to survival, then we must find an alternative to war. In a day when vehicles hurtle through outer space, and guided ballistic missiles carve highways of death through the stratosphere, no nation can claim victory in war.

The church cannot be silent while humankind faces the threat of nuclear annihilation. If the church is true to her mission, she must call for an end to the arms race. I am convinced that if we succumb to the temptation to use violence in our struggle for freedom, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and our chief legacy to them will be a never ending reign of chaos.

Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude.

Dear Friends, let us pray for peace -- and let us work for it, too.
Lord have mercy; Christ have mercy; Lord have mercy.

Thirty Pieces of Silver

Then one of the twelve, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I betray him to you?” They paid him thirty pieces of silver. And from that moment he began to look for an opportunity to betray him. (Matthew 26:14-16)

Judas is our scapegoat this week. He is the one who bears the guilt of all of us. We have made him a kind of monster in our minds, someone who did something unthinkable, who committed the scandal of selling out and doing in his friend and companion. But, if we are truthful with ourselves, we know in our hearts that we have all betrayed Jesus, we have all taken our own thirty pieces of silver.

Our thirty pieces of silver are those things we have wanted more than we wanted to follow Jesus. Sometimes our purse of betrayal holds “ambition” or “fitting in and being popular” or “failure to forgive” or “lack of compassion” or “blindness to the needs of another.” I will spend some time this day naming thirty things that I have sought instead of seeking to follow Jesus. And (God have mercy) I don’t think I will have a hard time coming up with the list.

What is on your list? Can you name your own pieces of silver? Try it and then .... give it up. We keep careful accounts, but somehow it seems Jesus does not. Consider this story (from Madeline L’Engle, in The Rock That is Higher):

There is an old legend that after his death Judas found himself at the bottom of a deep and slimy pit. For thousands of years he wept his repentance, and then the tears were finally spent he looked up and say, way, way up, a tiny glimmer of light. After he had contemplated it for another thousand years or so, he began to try to climb up towards it. The wall of the pit were dank and slimy, and he kept slipping back down. Finally, after great effort, he neared the top, and then he slipped and fell all the way back down. It took him many years to recover, all the time weeping bitter tears of grief and repentance, and then he started to climb again. After many more falls and efforts and failures he reached the top and dragged himself into an upper room with twelve people seated around a table. “We’ve been waiting of you, Judas,” Jesus said. “We couldn’t begin till you came.”

And maybe this is the ultimate scandal -- not what Judas did but rather what Jesus is still doing. No matter what we have done, no matter how we have sold out, Jesus is waiting for us, ready to welcome us back as his friends and followers. Let us look at our lives honestly this day, but do that knowing that when Jesus looks at us, it is with unbearable love.

March 18, 2008

Holy Tuesday

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent,
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

O my people, what have I done unto thee.

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence.
Not on the sea or on the islands, not
On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land.
For those who walk in darkness
Both in the day time and in the night time
The right time and the right place are not here,
No place of grace for those who avoid the face
No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice.
O my people, what have I done unto thee.

From Ash Wednesday by T. S. Eliot

March 17, 2008

And then what?

On Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem – a “triumphal” entry, so the tradition says. But I think it was more a parody than a parade. He was on a donkey, not a great white horse. Rather than being high and lifted up over the crowds, he was in the midst of them, on a low beast of burden. Of course, he would be “high and lifted up” but it would not be seen as a triumph and there would be jeering then, not cheering. There were crowds when he rode in, but I suspect that means a few brave souls rather than thousands shouting hosannas. And were they, even then, mocking him? Who knows?

Whatever the circumstances of this strange procession, it wasn’t going to lead where they wanted. They wanted a king, a ruler, someone to conquer the Romans and restore the chosen people to what they saw as true power. Instead they got an itinerant preacher who seemed to care not at all for the risks he was taking with his radical talk. Whatever they thought was going to happen, it probably wasn’t what did. Not in their wildest nightmares could they have imagined that this little march with the palms would lead to his being condemned along with common criminals and executed.

And what was the point of the procession anyway? Mark says this: “Then he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple; and when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.” (Mark 11:11) The parade seemed to go nowhere. He was running out of time, it was late and they were all tired, so they went to spend the night with some old friends in a nearby town. And that was that. Or was it? Jesus returned to the temple the next day and drove out the moneychangers, overturning their tables, and, in effect, spitting in the face of the Pharisees.

On Sunday, he rode in that strange little procession and the people cheered him on. Were they cheering on Monday? Or were they wishing he would show some moderation, stop baiting the powers that be, not make trouble for himself – and for them? Were they with him in the temple? Or were they already trying to ignore the fact that they had ever known him?

It seems he came to Jerusalem to reclaim the faith for God, to replace a life of ecclesiastical commerce with a life of prayer. But I don’t think that is what they wanted. And I’m not sure it is what we want, either…..

March 16, 2008

A Mystery

Today is the Sunday of Palms and Passion, and we covered the Communion Table with a quilt I made. It was made as a “mystery: quilt – more on that to follow.

The quilt is green and rose and purplish-maroon. I find even its colors to be a mystery – I, who am so fond of yellow and blue. And yet these colors are of my choosing, or perhaps they are colors that somehow chose me. Out of a thousand bolts of cloth, these were the ones that seemed to be right, these hand-dyed and batiked fabrics.

But as mysterious as the color choice was, it is not the colors that have given the quilt its mystery; it is its construction. Each month at my quilting group, we received an envelope with a set of directions. The first month, we were instructed to buy some yards of dark fabric and some of light fabric and some of contrasting colors, and I bought the green and purple and rose. The second month, I cut this mysterious cloth into strips and squares and sewed some of the pieces together. The third month, I cut some of these pieces into triangles and sewed them to some of the strips. Month by month, piece by piece, the quilt came together, but its overall design was a mystery until the end.

When the quilt was done, I found that it was the Garden. The green fabric, dotted with bright crimson blots, seemed to be the grass splashed now with sweat that had become like great drops of blood falling to the ground; the maroon batik with tropical leaves was, in truth, palm branches, trampled and discarded and broken in pieces; the rose-colored fabric with artist-like strokes seemed to be the Holy Spirit brushing over all. And when I saw the mystery being revealed, I stitched the whole with designs of crowns of thorns and crosses, piercing the fabric through with my needle.

The quilt is long-since finished, and yet the mystery remains. This Gethsemane quilt is a parable in cloth of the mystery of faith. The quilt is created by a pattern, a design that is careful and complete – and not of my own devising. The instructions are given, bit by bit, and patience is required to wait, to finish each step, to sit with the unknowness of this mysterious process.

This is the essence of Gethsemane, of the garden. It is experienced as a mystery, shaped by the hand of the Creator, with the full design of its meaning only revealed in the fullness of time. It is a place, a time, filled with unknowness, unknowing, pierced by the very threads that hold it together.

March 9, 2008

Fifth Sunday of Lent

A Near Death Experience

John 11:1-45

There has been a tradition at Carnegie Mellon University for faculty members to be invited to give their last lecture. That is what they would want to say to their students if they knew it was the last time they would address them. Last September, Professor Randy Pausch gave that lecture and for him it was not an academic exercise: it was the real thing. He has pancreatic cancer and had just been give maybe three to six months to live. He’s still living but has just stopped chemo because it really isn’t working any more. Death for him is not an abstraction. It is a reality that has shaped how he is living these days. In his lecture – you can see it on line – he talks about fulfilling his childhood dreams. And he says this: That he is not going to talk about death, but about life and how to live.

It is an amazing lecture – powerful and honest and moving. He is looking his own death squarely in the face, and doing that by living his life to the fullest. And perhaps most amazingly, he does not seem to be afraid.

That is surprising, because it seems that death is the great and secret fear of humankind. It is the one thing in our world that ultimately remains beyond our control. In modern times, we have solved many of the mysteries that baffled our ancient sisters and brothers. We can plot the path of storms; we know how the human body works; we can move mountains. In fact, we can do pretty much whatever we put our minds to. But we cannot avoid death. We can prolong life, yes, but we cannot avoid death. We will take heroic measures to keep it at bay. There are all kinds of medical interventions possible at the end of life these days, and almost all of them are intended to delay, postpone, push back the darkness of death.

I think that is because it is the final great mystery. For all our modern brilliance, we cannot truly understand what happens when someone dies. One of the professors at Yale, a doctor, has written a book titled “How We Die.” In it, he describes the physiological characteristics of death. But even with all his medical knowledge, he has not been able to explain why death comes when it does, what happens during death, or what comes next.

There are others who have written about their own experience with death. You know the stories: someone’s heart stops beating of the operating table, or someone has a terrible accident, or something like that, but they live to tell about it. If you’ve ever read or heard any of these stories, you’ll know that these folks focus more on what happens to them spiritually rather than physically. They often talk about moving in the direction of a great light, about feeling a sense of peace, about wanting to go rather than remain in the land of the living. For many of them, there is no more fear about death once they have had this kind of experience. But they can’t explain what happened to them. The doctors can’t explain it. The scientists can’t explain it. No one can explain it.

Death remains the ultimate mystery, and we do not deal well with mystery. Despite all our knowledge and skill and sophistication, we are no different from primitive peoples. Death makes us feel helpless and afraid. That is one of the reasons that Lent is such a somber season in the church. During Lent, we take an inevitable journey toward death. There is nothing we can do to avoid what is coming, just as there was nothing that Jesus’ disciples could do, although they tried. They did not want him to go to his friends at Bethany because the authorities were trying to do away with him. They wanted him to lie low, not stir up trouble, keep out of sight. And he would not. They were afraid he would be killed. And Thomas, without a doubt, was ready to die with Jesus. “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” And so they went, into a place of danger, a place of death and despair.

When they got there, they found that Lazarus had been buried for four days. Sorrow surrounded them; there was weeping and distress. Even Jesus was overcome with grief. But he called Lazarus forth out of the tomb, out of death, with a power that was beyond any earthly power, and Lazarus obeyed, stepping out into the light of day, the light of life, still bound by his grave cloths, with the smell of his own death filling his nostrils.

I wonder what that was like, but the scripture is silent on that point. Lazarus does not speak, does not tell us what it was like to be dead and buried for four days, to be beyond life and then called back. Lazarus has entered deep into the Mystery, and he has no words to tell of that experience. But if I find that frustrating, the scripture gently chides me. Because this story is not about Lazarus and his experience of being dead. This story is about seeing the glory of God in Jesus Christ and believing. This story is not preparation for understanding our own death. It is preparation for understanding life.

The heart of this story is not what happens at the open grave. It is what happens in the exchange between Jesus and Martha:

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

“I am the resurrection and the life.” How will they remember that in only a few short weeks when he is crucified? How will they remember that when his tomb is open and empty. How will they remember that when he is among them again, the same and yet completely transformed? Will they understand?

No, they will not, because resurrection is an even greater mystery than death. The events that will take place in Jerusalem, in the garden, on the road to Emmaus, will defy understanding. The resurrection is not something they will be able to explain, to figure out. They will want proof, like Thomas. They will want to hang on, like Mary. But none of that will happen. Because the resurrection that Jesus talks about is not something to be analyzed. It is something to be believed. It is not like a question that has an answer or a problem that has a solution. It is a mystery that must be experienced.

When Jesus says: “I am the resurrection,” he is inviting us to enter into that mystery. But unlike what happened to Lazarus, resurrection is not something that happens to Jesus – it is who Jesus is. Jesus is the resurrection. Where there is death and nothingness, Jesus is. Where there is grief and despair, Jesus is. Where we have given up hope, Jesus is.

And in the end, it is not about death at all, but rather about life. Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” And he is inviting us to be resurrection and life also. After all, we are the Body of Christ, aren’t we? And that means that in spite of our brokenness and our woundedness,we are alive.

One of my favorite poems ends with this line: Practice resurrection. It seems to mean that resurrection is not something that happens to us only once, but that it is a continuing state of being. To practice resurrection is to practice Christ, the one who is the resurrection. It is to be always moving in the direction of life, offering life to others, living life abundantly. It is to understand that all of life is a near-death experience, in a way. It is living without fear, with faith.

There is no need, anymore, to fight death. Our Lord has already done that for us. Death has been conquered, once and for all. We will not, of course, escape a physical death. Not even Lazarus was able to do that in the end. But here is the great mystery that unfolds at the tomb: Death is not the end of life. There is a life in us that will not die, because Christ is in us. There is life in us and resurrection, too.

Jesus says: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” And then he asks a question – of Martha and of us: “Do you believe this?”

Do you?

(c) Martha C. Highsmith