Reflections of the Spirit


Reflection on the readings: Isaiah 61: 1-3a and John 6: 37-40 December 4, 2005

“He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken ... to comfort all those who mourn...”

All of us are here tonight because someone we have loved has died and left us with grief and sorrow. If this was a recent death or was a long time ago, it does not really matter. When we experience the death of someone whose life was connected with ours, a part of us died too. We grieve the loss of others, but we also grieve our own coming death. In so far as we shared the good things in the life of another, their death is also our death.

Pain and loss are not what you or I think of as a positive experience. So what is this message in Isaiah that God brings us “good news” ? Where is the good news in tragedy, pain and loss?

Did Jesus consider the news of the death of his friend Lazarus “good news”? We are told in scripture that he wept. When rebuked by Martha and Mary for not having saved Lazarus, we are told that Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb and restored him to his grieving sisters.

Was that an illustration of God’s “good news?” If it is, good news for whom? If we understand that story in the bible, Lazarus then had to die twice – his return to his Father and Creator was called back and he had to go through the experience of death again. What is the good news in that story?

What would bind up our broken hearts as we are promised in the reading from Isaiah? What would comfort us in our mourning?

What have you shouted to God from the depths of the anger that is part of mourning and grief? What did you say to God for his part in bringing you all that pain? Did you say, “ I wish I had never loved. I wish I had never been part of my loved one’s life. I wish I had never been born or had never been able to know loss.” ?

Would you or I find comfort in having our dead loved ones back with us so they would need to die again? Or even more horrible to consider, would we want our loved ones to live forever on this earth and never die?

When we spin those questions every which way and around again we cannot say that we never want to die and that we never want our loved ones to experience death either. We don’t want a life in which we can never know the pain of loss, because then we would have a life empty of love.

Is there any way out of this trap of living, loving and losing? If every good thing that ever happens to us is going to end up causing us loss and great pain, that does not sound too good. It sounds more like a plan devised by an evil trickster, not a loving , living God.

How did I just describe God? Did I say God is loving and living? Maybe I should just stop my rambling confusion here and take a look at our second reading from the Gospel of John:

“Everything that the Father gives me will come to me and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me .... and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but will raise it up on the last day.... This is the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.”

Those words show me how the love of God can take human death and suffering, and make even this an event of great good news! Death and all that it entails will be defeated, not by dying twice like in the case of Lazarus, not by never dying at all, but by being given a new life with our God.
The really good news is, in the words of Jesus , that not one will be lost.

Maybe that is not good news to those Christians who want to believe in a condemning God, who see a God who lies in wait for frail humanity to fail so he can pounce on us, condemn us for our failings, and throw us into eternal punishment. There are probably some people who think the good news of our reading applies only to a select few (and of course, they consider themselves among those selected few.) To think this way requires one to skip part of this message of Jesus. The message of Jesus shows us the infinite love of our Father, and that the good news is for all.

The good news resounds, resonates and refutes the doom-sayers who would have us quake in fear of meeting our God.

Jesus must have run into that kind of people in his day too. It was for them that he told the story of the prodigal son.

Although the son hesitated and knew he did not deserve the compassion of his father, the father dropped everything while the son was yet far away, and ran to him with open arms. He returned the ring of sonship to his finger and called for a great feast. When the son was enfolded in those arms of his father, he was not confronted, condemned, zapped and sent off to a fiery and painful hell for eternity.

So where do the Christian doom-sayers get that kind of image of God? I guess it is also good news for us that the doom-sayers cannot erase and rewrite the words of Jesus.

It is good news for us that Jesus, in the Gospel of John, shows us the wonder of God’s love, a love so great, so powerful, that no human sin can ever shut it out, and so great that Jesus can say with confidence, “ I will lose nothing of all that he has given me.”

Who knows God the Father the best, the Christian doom-sayers, or the very Son of God, Jesus, our Lord and Saviour?

The Father that Jesus knew so intimately, and whom he revealed to us, is a God who invites with the warmth of his love. He is not a God who extorts compliance with fear and threats of pain and punishment.

As we remember those who have gone before us, and as we contemplate our own passage to the Father, we are called to believe the words of Jesus. We are called to believe his promise of eternal life, and therein find the joy and comfort that God holds for those who mourn. Therein lies our hope. Therein lies our salvation, and therein lies the good news!

Gerald Regnitter / Candesna Cun Wakan Hoksina


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