An Already Life in a Not Yet World
All Saints’ Day
November 4, 2018
We live in an already/not yet world.
In the already, Christ has risen and the realm of God on earth has begun—a realm defined by peace, justice, grace, mercy, and, most of all, love. In the already, we gather today to live more fully into the realm of God. In the already, the holy waters of baptism will be poured onto Henry’s head, welcoming him into the household of God. In the already, we read the names of the Faithful Departed, and celebrate the way they have and continue to impact our lives. In the already, we gather around the table and share a meal.
And yet, the not yet is never far away. In the not yet eleven people who had also gathered to live more fully into the realm of God were murdered at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg. In the not yet, nearly half of the rivers and streams in the US and more than one-third of our lakes are polluted and unfit for swimming, fishing, and drinking. In the not yet nearly half of all Americans report feeling alone and isolated. In the not yet one third of families in New London country struggle with food insecurity.
And yet, the already is never far away. It was evident in those who gathered across the country last week to stand in solidarity with the Jewish community and right here in our church as we packed over 10,000 meals of mac and cheese for those struggling with food insecurity in New London county.
And yet…you get the picture. Our lives are a constant push/pull between the already and the not yet. Which raises the question, how do we live an already life in a not yet world?
In today’s Gospel reading we encounter Jesus in the midst of this question.
Our story begins with Jesus arriving on the scene. He is confronted by a grief stricken Mary. Her heart is shattered, for her beloved brother, Lazarus has died.
What happens next is an already moment in the midst of not yet grief. Jesus joins Mary in her grief and weeps.
Initially this doesn’t seem like such an unusual occurrence, after all, his friend has died! But Jesus had arrived with a plan. He had revealed to his disciples shortly before this moment that “Lazarus is sleeping, but I am going in order to wake him up.” Lazarus return is imminent, yet Jesus pauses to join Mary, Martha, and those gathered in their grief.
It seems a very not yet thing to do. Grief seems antithetical to the already world described in our other readings today—Our reading from Revelation even says “mourning and crying and pain will be no more.”
Jesus joining Mary and Martha in their grief is about more than just tears—it’s about compassion. Grief grows out of a compassionate heart, a heart that is soft. A heart, that, upon witnessing the pain of others, draws near and weeps with them.
The events of this past week reminded me just how challenging of a prospect it is to keep our hearts soft. As news of yet another mass shooting broke, the temptation to isolate myself from the news was immense. Its feels easier, in a moment that so exemplifies the not yet, to wall myself off from my own grief and that of others. However, it is exactly that temptation which leads to a not yet existence.
An already life is one of deep and compassionate love. One where we join those who grieve, weeping, crying out, or sitting in silence for our not yet world.
And the already life is about action.
Jesus sits with Mary, Martha, and the other mourners, weeping over his lost friend. Suddenly, he rises and strides resolutely toward the tomb. He orders the stone sealing the tomb to be removed and it is, despite Martha’s concerns about the smell. He offers us a prayer to God and then, in a booming voice commands, “Lazarus, come out!”
All wait with baited breath as Jesus stands before the gaping maw of the not yet tomb.
And Lazarus comes out.
The remnants of the tomb still cling to him, and Jesus commands them to pull them off, freeing Lazarus from its deathly, not yet grip.
We grieve with those who grieve, and then we stand up, stride resolutely forward, and act, in defiance of our not yet world.
We reach out across cultural, ideological, religious, or racial lines to partner with our sisters and brothers in the fight for justice and peace. We pick up trash, recycle, and fight against climate change. We move to the margins of our society and ask how we can help. We feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and fight for the rights of the orphan, the widow, and the child among us. We exercise the freedom and liberty that all deserve by casting our vote.
We may be living in a not yet world, but today is an already day and we are an already people.