In Between

At any moment, someone is crying, someone is laughing.  At any moment, someone is yelling, someone is whispering.  At any moment someone is lifted up, someone else is torn down.  At any moment, someone rejoices, someone mourns.  At any moment, someone is finding, someone is losing.  At any moment, someone is born, someone is dying.  At any moment there are many good times of undeserved blessings from above.  At any moment there are also difficult times living in a fallen world with broken people.

We are promised one day everything will be put right and made whole again.  Until that day, we live in in-between times, waiting for hopes to be fulfilled.  Some wait for the disease to run its course eventually passing from life to death.  Others wait for the external scars and internal wounds to heal.  Others wait to win battles waged within their warring natures.  For these and others, we wait.  These are the in between times in our lives.

Jesus’ learned his close friend Lazarus was ill.  When he arrived, Lazarus had been dead for four days; beyond resuscitation.  The rabbis believed the soul hovered for three days and after that, there was no resuscitation.  This is a specific moment of life and death.  It’s a moment, deliberately prolonged.  It is a moment where some cry, some hope, some believe, and some criticize.  There is a plethora of ways to unpack this moment.  I want us to hear the gospel message of living in the in-between moments.

The disconcerting problem was Jesus hadn’t shown up.  His sisters seem passive aggressive since their initial message only informs him of illness.  They each, separately, run out and lay a guilt trip on him. “Lord, if you had been here, our brother would not have died.”  His words are cloaked with meaning, “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“.  He isn’t saying he’ll be admired.  He alludes to his resurrection and how raising Lazarus speed his own death, which leads to his resurrection, which we participate.

Jesus says “Your brother will rise again“, they think he means last days.  Belief in the resurrection of the body was introduced in Daniel, espoused by Pharisees, and accepted by the people of Jesus’ day.  Mary thought Jesus was saying something we say at funerals to comfort the grieving.  He isn’t just assuring her of the resurrection at the last day.  He is affirming eternal life begins at the moment we accept Jesus’ offer of relationship.

We realize it is an in-between time for Jesus as he approaches Lazarus’ tomb.  Jesus is at a moment between life and the death that awaits him on the cross.  Though he will rise again, like Lazarus; that does not negate the pain, suffering and dying he chooses to walk through for our sakes.  Jesus was walking into the heart of conflict, hatred, accusations, false witnesses, whippings, beatings, thorns, nails, and swords.  There were those who squawked, “Where are your followers now?”  He didn’t stop the process.  He didn’t save himself.  He continued on into death and the tomb.  We see how to walk in the between times as he waits in his own in-between time?

1.  One thing Jesus does in the in-between time is weep.  Jesus knew he had the power to raise Lazarus.  He knew Lazarus was safe in heaven with God at that very moment.  Yet, still he wept.  When John says Jesus was deeply moved and troubled, his words literally mean Jesus groaned violently and was shaken to the depths of his being.  Everyone loses their breath when they stand at a grave and cannot deny its reality.

Tears are shed in the in-between time.  No matter how sure we’re of God’s promises or how strong our hopes, we cry when someone dies.  Death isn’t a sunset that gives way to sunrise; death makes us stand still.  Every grave marks people we have loved, and our hopes are embalmed there and our dreams dashed.  Accepting death in theory is not the same as accepting it in fact.  In those moments when we weep and it is not a lack of faith.  Mary, Martha, and God as human self; wept tears at the sorrow of the in-between time.  Whether we’re at a funeral, witnessing injustice, hearing bad news; we can cry as we live with the reality of the confusion and chaos of this world.  There are in between moments when we will find ourselves in tears.

2. In the in-between time there is work to do.  Even as Jesus gave earthly life back to Lazarus, Jesus still had the cross ahead of him.  Jesus could have raised Lazarus any number of ways.  Instead, he chose to ask others to roll the stone away and he asked others to help take off the linen shroud.

God seeks human cooperation in accomplishing heavenly purposes.  God doesn’t have to, God chooses to.  Jesus invites his followers to join God in the work of redemption; be part of rolling away the stones and removing the grave clothes from those entombed in fear, loneliness, failure, resentment, or wounds.  We don’t raise people to new life in Christ but God lets us help.  That is a privilege we share with heaven, and it is not to be taken lightly.

Joining a faith community is accepting God’s invitation to join something bigger than ourselves than what’s going on in our lives.  Connecting to people of faith is God’s idea of how to have the richest experience of life.  This happens as we tell our story to those who might find their longings met by God through us.  The body of Christ is the place where we roll the stones away and take off grave clothes for each other.  Church work is good work if you can get it and it is what we do in the in-between time.

3. In the in-between time there is hope even when certain events of life and death take our breath away.  Hope is the one thing we cannot give to ourselves.  We are usually self-reliant.  Eventually, all of us will be a victim sooner or later.  Life can become over our heads before we know it; and someday it will be six feet over our heads.  What do we do when we become lifeless or unable to help ourselves?  We cannot muster any amount of effort to create our own hope in a difficult in between time?

Hope comes to us in the between times as near as a friend who listens patiently, or a teacher brings out the best in us; or a person who helps us to see other things are possible.  Hope can be engendered from kind words spoken; reconciliations made; people reunited or any act of goodness offered.  It is through others that come along beside us and help us hold onto hope in the in between times because they helps us believe things will be different because of their concern or expression of love.

A snail started to climb a cherry tree?  Birds in a nearby tree sniped their ridicule.  “Hey, you dumb snail, where do you think you’re going?”  “Why are you climbing that tree?” others chimed in.  “There are no cherries on it.”  “There will be some by the time I get there,” replied the snail.

This illustrates the truth that no matter how helpful others may be in buoying our hope, hope cannot be based exclusively what other people can do for us.  Genuine, deep water hope is based on a foundational trust that God walks with us in the in-between time.  God sees us weeping, enables us to keep on working and trusting God to do what only what God can do.  As we creep, creep, creep, God is the one who makes sure everything we are creeping towards will be there in all its fullness when it is time.  Even when a moment may feel like our last moment, there is not a grave beyond the reach of God’s resurrection power?  God’s resurrection power doesn’t come from us; it happens to us!  It happens as God’s spirit is the breath that speaks to give us hope; bringing us back from the dead.

A Pulitzer Prize winning photo shows Randall Champion hanging lifelessly upside down from a power pole in Jacksonville, Florida.  He has just taken 4,160 volt.  J. D. Thompson is straddling the pole in full harness, holding his partner’s head and giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  Photographer Rocco Morabito took the picture, ran to call an ambulance and made it back in time to hear Thompson shout, “He’s breathing!”

Imagine a moment when we don’t even have enough life in us to try but God comes to us and gives us back our breath.  Imagine the joy in heaven God gets when he hears the angels shout: He’s breathing! She’s breathing!  At any moment God can surprises us in our lifelessness with new hope.

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Published in: on April 11, 2011 at 8:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

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