This morning the prophet Ezekiel reminds us that God is with us, that we can call on the One who created everything that is, even when it may seem, at moments at least, that we are left alone to face our peril.
The pressing needs of the world – of our physical reality – cause us to look for solutions all around us. We want to be able to forage and obtain what we need, whether in the form of household supplies found in the back corner of a cabinet or a perfectly timed visit to the grocery or by scouring to find a church food pantry that, by grace, has managed to remain stocked and open, at least for today.
When Jesus finally comes to Bethany – after the death and burial of Lazarus – his action is too late in eyes of Martha. But it is for times such as these that he is able to enter into our lives most profoundly. He may not restore our circumstances, routines or bank accounts just as we’d like them to be, but he will guide us through this challenging time of uncertainly in a way that, as our 12-step friends say, is indeed miraculous.
Already we see kindness and welcome in a way that is inspiring. When nurses and doctors report for duty with limited protective gear, when patients seek out Covid-19 testing or care for other critical needs, no one is concerned about politics or religion or bank accounts. The focus is on doing the best next right thing.
In today’s Gospel reading (John 11:1-45), after Lazarus’s death, some of the people said “‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man kept this man from dying?’”
The expectation that people of faith must or will be rendered invulnerable flies in the face of the stories of Holy Scripture. Our naked vulnerability is the birth place of the divine gift of compassion. Perhaps Christ is creating a space for a reign of true compassion in a country and world that often have been dominated by instincts in collision, by the visceral desire for more power, money or special privilege. “I’ll share mightily with my neighbor once I make sure I get mine, once I make sure I have enough.” Those of us who have found ourselves caught up in this game at one time or another know that, left to our own devices, there is never enough.
God’s compassion is intended for all. In God’s perfect economy, no one gets left behind or brushed aside as expendable.
There is nothing wrong with reaching out and tending our own needs and sense of loss and pain. In fact, it is imperative. We must “place the oxygen masks on ourselves first.” But as that sense of breath and flow is restored (just for today), let us set our sights on our neighbors (wisely defined as “everyone in the whole wide world,” by my 9-year old son), on the most good for the most people. Let us set our sights on love – the very heart of compassion. For it is the one thing that increases in our lives when we share it.
Our world as we know it is being changed. It may seem that “‘Our bones have dried up, and our hope is lost.’” But God will bring us back, not to our vision of the world, but to his. Already God is sharing his breath through the four winds, so that the best of humanity may rise up and walk together.