Soon and Very Soon
 — Rev. Phil Hobson

November 4, 2012


Psalm 24
John 11:32-44

Grace and Peace to you this morning. Grace and Peace.

(Sung)
Soon and very soon, we are going to see the king.
Soon and very soon, we are going to see the king.
Soon and very soon, we are going to see the king.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, we’re going to see the king.

No more cryin’ there, we are going to see the king.
No more cryin’ there, we are going to see the king.
No more cryin’ there, we are going to see the king.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, we’re going to see the king.

No more dyin’ there, we are going to see the king.
No more dyin’ there, we are going to see the king.
No more dyin’ there, we are going to see the king.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, we’re going to see the king.

This is the song I sing to Mira when she is fussy and doesn’t want to go to sleep. I discovered it worked when the children’s song CD was in Mary’s car and a fussy little girl was in mine. I popped in the choir concert CD from two years back and she calmed right down. If my singing made you sleepy, that’s okay. It is the sermon. I was reminded of this song by the words in Isaiah. The Gospel of the Old Testament as some have dubbed it, is speaking a promise, a divine promise, a promise that God will make all things new:

  • A feast, life in abundance, where before there had simply been devastation and desolation.
  • Destroying the cloud of gloom and darkness that is over not just this people, but all peoples.
  • Death itself will be swallowed up, and every tear wiped away.
  • The people freed from shame.

This was not simply news that the world is good and getting better. These divine, impossible promises were spoken by the prophet to a people in exile, a people taken from their home. These divine, impossible promises are spoken to us.

Isaiah says that these promises will take place “on this mountain,” meaning Jerusalem, the Temple mount, the place now laid waste by the Babylonians. The Babylonians were not the first empire to take over this region. They displaced the Assyrians. Two separate empires have come through, destroying the land, the people, the culture, and now also the Temple of the people of Judah.

How hard must it have been to hear these promises:

A holy feast with fatted calf on this hill, Lord? This hill where the rubble of your great temple once stood? This land that is no longer home to your people? This people who are scattered from northern Africa to the Tigris and Euphrates? Really? You are going to tell us that after we have been wiped out and sent off afar, we are going to be feasting again on this hill? Isaiah is either crazy or he is offering a promise from God, because the answer to all of these is yes, and more: no more gloom, no more death, no more tears, and no more shame.

In the Gospel of John this morning, the story is not about the peoples and the nations and the restoration of Israel. It is about Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, the friend of Jesus, who is now dead.

This is a complex and difficult story, but stories of grief usually are.

In John’s Gospel, Jesus is not in charge of the timing of things. From the wedding at Cana where he tells his mother that it is not yet his time, to the wait before coming to Lazarus, to the garden of Gethsemane, to the prayers for his followers, Jesus knows that it is God’s time, not his. This is a difficult piece for us to hear, because we often blithely give lip service that “God’s time is best,” but when it comes to what we want, especially the healing of our loved ones, we want it in our time, don’t we?

When Jesus finally shows up, Mary and Martha, each berate him. “Had you been here, Lazarus would not have died.” How often in grief do we ask the “if only…” questions?

Even Jesus must wait on the time which God gives. And in this waiting on God we see Jesus as oh so human. He is deeply moved in spirit and troubled when they lead him to the tomb; he weeps; he is deeply moved again when they get there.

Jesus is grieving because a man he loves has died. He weeps because people he loves are grieving.

“Roll away the stone.”

Four days in the tomb, Jesus. This is not going to be good. But they do it.

“Lazarus, come out!”

In our mortality, death is the enemy, the final enemy some have called it. The death of our loved ones leaves us grieving. Our own deaths leave us frightened. But there is a promise. One beyond our mortality, beyond our ability, beyond our earning or deserving, but a promise given nonetheless:

  • A feast, life in abundance, where before there had simply been devastation and desolation.
  • Destroying the cloud of gloom and darkness that is over not just this people, but all peoples.
  • Death itself will be swallowed up, and every tear wiped away.
  • People freed from shame.

Jesus is clear that what he is doing is not just about his beloved friend Lazarus. It is about the glory and the promise and the power of God. It is hard to understand. And it can be hard to trust. But that is what our faith is. Trusting in the God of resurrection, the God who makes all things new, the God in whom we are safe, in this life and the next.

Soon and very soon, we are going to see the king.
Soon and very soon, we are going to see the king.
Soon and very soon, we are going to see the king.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, we’re going to see the king.

No more cryin’ there, we are going to see the king.
No more cryin’ there, we are going to see the king.
No more cryin’ there, we are going to see the king.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, we’re going to see the king.

No more dyin’ there, we are going to see the king.
No more dyin’ there, we are going to see the king.
No more dyin’ there, we are going to see the king.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, we’re going to see the king.

Thanks be to God.

Amen.