Gospel Reading: John 11:21-27
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.”
Sermon by The Rev. Dr. Maryann Amor
Today Remembrance Day is probably even more difficult than many of us have experienced before. There is so much war in our world and we all probably want to throw up our hands in absolute frustration and helplessness. Seeing pictures of children who are alone, having lost their families, seeing pictures of buildings and homes destroyed, not fully understanding what is going on in Israel, Gaza, Palestine, Ukraine to cause such an intense level of violence. All of this makes Remembrance Day especially difficult today. Because as we take time to remember those who have worked and continue to work so hard for peace, who have given up so much, including their lives…we might feel ourselves wondering, what was the point?? Why do we keep yearning for peace, praying for peace, seeing people die for peace, when peace never seems to come??
Reflecting on these very difficult questions, today’s Gospel provides us with some insight. We just heard an excerpt from the story of Lazarus’ death, before Jesus raises him. Martha, Lazarus’ sister, is undoubtedly grieving and we might expect that she is feeling some of what we feel today…she is experiencing something awful in her world, something she can’t fully understand and she likely has a desire to give up, to sink into helplessness and despair, not to bother anymore because her beloved brother is gone and nobody was there to help him.
But look at what Martha says to Jesus, “I know God will give you what you ask,” “I know he will rise again,” “I believe you are the Messiah.”
Despite the range of complex and upsetting emotions that are probably weighing Martha down, she isn’t giving up…but she speaks with firm conviction, faith, and assurance in what she knows is true. Despite the awful stuff she is experiencing in that moment, she demonstrates a strength of faith by claiming that she knows, she believes, that God will work. And what happens in the end is that we see that her faith was not in vain, because God acted as she believed God would…Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.
As we mark Remembrance Day, as we attempt to make sense of so much violence and unrest in our world, while remembering those who have given so much for peace, our Gospel is calling us to be like Martha, a people of steadfast hope and faith. Countless men and women would not have fought for peace if they thought it was all in vain, but they gave up so much because they had hope in what is possible. Their sacrifices come from a belief that things can change, that peace will come, that light will triumph over darkness.
And, as Christians, this is our faith…we are called to remain hopeful, to put our trust in God, to believe that God will act to change this world for the better. We are called to have faith like Martha, who in the face of great despair still said, I know, I believe that God will work.
All our prayers, our actions, our lives, need to be informed by this truth, even if it doesn’t feel like God is doing anything. We need to hold onto the belief that God is fully active, even if God seems absent. Because, as our Gospel shows us, God does work in the world, God does bring resurrection in the face of death. Our call today is to trust that God will bring peace, that a day will come when there all wars will end, where nobody will ever have to give up their lives again in a fight for justice and freedom.
The reality is that if we don’t hold onto this truth, if we don’t believe that our God will bring peace, resurrection, to the brokenness of our world, then everything that so many men and women, throughout the generations, have given for the sake of the peace of this world, what was the point? If we don’t hope in God, if we don’t truly believe that God will work to change this world, then we really might as well just give up.
Remembrance Day is about remembering and being grateful for the sacrifices of countless people and it is our responsibility to continue to believe that those sacrifices were worth it. It is our responsibility to be a people of faith, living, as Martha did, knowing and believing that God will work with every person who devotes their life to peace, God will work through them, and beyond them to enact change in this world.
Today, when we look to the news and social media, when our hearts sink as we mark Remembrance Day and as we question what is the point?? Why do we keep yearning for peace, praying for peace, seeing people die for peace, when it never seems to come?? We are must try to be like Martha, who after experiencing the loss of her beloved brother, remained steadfast in faith, saying that she knew, she believed that God would work. As we remember those who have died for peace, our responsibility to them is to believe that through all of their actions, God is working and God is bringing peace, even if we can’t see it. Our call is to hold onto the belief that a day will come when war will end, when nobody will ever have to fight for peace again.
We are responsible to those who have given up so much, we must continue to be hopeful and faithful people for them, we must continue to be hopeful and faithful people for us. Because if we don’t live this way, then we might as well say peace will never come. So, instead, be like Martha, be like those who have given their lives in war, and say, we believe, we know that there will be peace.