Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Words of Comfort at the Memorial Service for the Hungarian Exchange Students – July 10, 2010

Grace and peace to you from God our creator, who is with us and is the Lord of life! I send you greetings on behalf of the leadership of the Interfaith Center of the Greater Philadelphia Area. Our brothers and sisters of the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faith communities are united in prayer for healing and wholeness for all who are mourning this day. We share in a common hope of God’s providing in time of need, and we believe that nothing in life or in death can separate us from God’s great love.

The text that was read from the Gospel of John, Chapter 11, brings us into a personal, very moving tragedy in the lives of a family whose brother Lazarus had just died. We meet real people with honest concerns: “Lord, if you had only been here, my brother would not have died,” and “if this man Jesus could open the eyes of the blind, why did he not prevent the death of this brother?” Perhaps you have questions as well: “Why this tragedy?” “Why did these precious young people die?” “Where was God?” I do not know the answer. I do know that the story of the raising of Lazarus tells us all we really need to know.

Jesus, God’s son, is with us in our time of sorrow. He came to be with the family. As the Psalmist says “yeah though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for Thou art with me.” Jesus is with you at this time for comfort, for strength, for all of your needs, big and small.

Jesus feels our pain. The text says “Jesus wept.” This is the shortest verse in the Bible and maybe the most profound. Jesus knew that he would raise Lazarus but he wept anyway. Why? Because Jesus feels our pain, understands our deepest grief and cries with us. I know that Jesus wept out in the Delaware River on Wednesday and weeps with you now in your moments of pain.

Jesus reminds us that death is not the last word. Jesus is the resurrection and the life and in John Chapter 11 he restored the life of his friend. Jesus promises resurrection and hope still today! “Those who believe in me, even though they die, yet will they live.” As sure as spring comes after winter and sunrise after darkness there is life after death as we have faith.

Jesus said to Martha “do you believe this?” Jesus says to us as well: ”Do you believe?” Believe in Jesus and receive him in into your heart and you will live forever. No matter what country you are from, no matter what language you speak. This wonderful promise is for everyone. Jesus is that bridge between God and people that gives us life eternal and makes bridges of peace between people of all nations. My sisters and brothers, have faith and you will see the glory of God.