Alive

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Alive

John 11:1–44 (NRSV)

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 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.”

When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

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Why Time Matters. Part 4

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So it is that regardless of whether we look to the past, present, or future, there is no absolute certainty regarding what is to come. All of it requires some leap of faith over gaps in the information. How then, do we plan for the future? Is it even realistically possible or are we simply deluding ourselves?

Giving up is a legitimate response. We can crawl into a survival mode, preparing at once for everything and nothing. There may be very real reason for the despair, depression, and anxiety that plague many people who cannot see hope in their future. I’ve heard it said before that pessimists are slightly more in touch with reality that optimists are, and if there is no real way of knowing what tomorrow may bring, there may be some truth to that. Even if that saying is wrong, it would be the pessimists in for a pleasant surprise rather than the optimists caught off-guard by a curveball. Some of us may laugh at the idea of those who make bomb shelters in their basements, preparing for the end of the world – but there may be a semblance of real preparation and security in that kind of attitude. If they are delusional, it is more likely along the lines of their belief that they can do anything to change the inevitable. The bomb shelter mockers might instead choose to live in carpe diem terms, not in that they are somehow optimistic about the future, but believing they lack the power or the motivation to change what might be considered an inevitable outcome.

These options come into play on a daily basis as people receive medical “death sentences”. You have six months to live. Some immediately change their diet and exercise, trying everything to tack on a few more weeks, months, even years – even though the outcome is indeed inescapable. Sometimes they put themselves through a great deal of suffering and indignation in exchange for the possibility of an extension. Others resign themselves to the inevitable and try to maximize the little time they have left, often shortening that time considerably because of the choices they make. Some, choosing to take control of the situation themselves, end their lives intentionally. The thing is though, no one, not even the best of the medical profession, can be entirely sure when death will come knocking and under which pretense. We’re still simply reacting to shots in the dark, not knowing from which way they are fired.

We are not in control of our lives, any more than we are in control of the world around us. That is a fact. So what hope do we have? Our only hope is that there is something in control and that it has vested interest in each of us. Religions that fail to juxtapose power and compassion, justice and mercy, will always ultimately fall short of the hope that they promise. Our reason and technology, devoid of the divine, can promise no more than the power of our own hands, the sharpness of our own minds, or the compassion of our own hearts – in a ironic way, the option of independence, should we choose to live life on our own. Unfortunately, those of us who choose to cast our own lots must bear our own burdens, and extensionally, the burdens of anything else we deem under our own control.

So it comes down to this: if there is any certainty in life, it must come from something outside of us. If there is any security in life, it has to come from some kind of benevolent caretaker overlooking the world. I’m not making a proof for the existence of any particular god(s) here, I’m just putting the cards on the table and letting you compare them to the hand you have been dealt.