Sunday, April 2, 2017

God Does Not Smile When We Suffer - Fifth Sunday In Lent 2017

My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. -Psalm 130:6

Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves… I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live. -Ezekiel 37:12-14

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. - John 11:33

Jesus was transformed 
by the love of those who welcomed his family 
when his family fled from Herod
who sought to kill him and a bunch of other kids in his youth. (Matthew 2:13)

Returning home, he grew up to preach 
that all love of the o/Other, 
and all welcoming of the stranger
was also loving and welcoming him: 

“Whatever you do unto the least of these,” he said, 
“you do also unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)


“anyone who welcomes me 
welcomes also the one who sent me.” (Matthew 10:40)

Welcoming and loving others 

is welcoming and loving God. 

This is what Jesus taught. And this is what Jesus lived. 

This we spoke of the first week in Lent. 



We read of Nicodemus, 
who came to Jesus covered in shame, 
and hiding, in the the night, 

looking to learn what might save him.

Nicodemus expected judgement. Penance. Maybe a few Hail-Mary’s.

Instead, Jesus embraced him. 

Nicodemus expected a homework assignment. 

Instead, Jesus asked him not to learn, but only to unlearn. 

To let go. 

To give up his shame. 

And in its place, to put on a promise:

I came into this world not to damn, but to save. 

I am here with you not to bring pain, but to bring life. 

I want you to have life, and to live fully. 

In abundance.

This is what Jesus told Nicodemus. 

You don’t have to be a big man.

Instead, Be a child.

Be free. 

Go and live. Play.  

Nicodemus we spoke of the second week in Lent.


The third week in Lent we met a kind woman who shared with Jesus. 

This woman had dared to love more widely than her culture allowed. 

She had made mistakes, suffered pains. 

Strangely, it seemed:
To the church people, 
that her suffering wasn’t enough, 

and so the church people decided to add to her suffering.

The salted her wounds with judgment. 

And they ostracized her.

They put her away, over there, outside of their love. 

“Her love of others,” they believed, “had made her profane.” 

But love, Jesus insisted, is not what ails us. 

In fact, it might even be what sets us free. 

Love casts out fear, he showed us—not people. 

Love is the Spirit that breathes life into our dry bones! 

This woman gave Jesus water. Even though Jesus was a stranger to her! 

And God took a drink. 


In the story the woman of secrets became a woman with a story. 

She told it. 

And thousands, her whole village, was healed! 

The woman who loved Jesus, 
we spoke of the third week in Lent.


Finally last week, 

We read the story of the man who was healed on the Sabbath
while religious people were arguing 
over wether he was allowed to get healed or not.

“Who sinned?” asked the religious people. 

Why did he turn out like this, suffering, unshaven and poor? 

Who is to blame for his poverty? 
He is at fault for the poor state he is in, isn’t he? 

This is what the church people insisted with their questions. 

“No.” Jesus huffed. 

“He has not sinned. His parents have not sinned.”

And besides, that’s not really the point. 

Did you know that God desires that he be healed? In fact, this is glory to God!: 

That people find more life, not more shame. 

That people be resurrected by love, not imprisoned by judgement. 

And so the man who could see also became Jesus’ disciple. 

This we spoke about last week. 


It has become apparent by now,

in our readings for Lent,

that despite what we may have perhaps been taught or believed at one time or another, 


faith in the presence of Jesus, 

is not about guilt and shame. 

Rather, the Spirit of Love, as we read scripture and live life reveals to us that suffering is not a gift that a good God desires.  

As we have said each week in Lent: 

“God did not come to make bad people good.”

Or, we might add: to make people suffer.

Christ did not become flesh to make shame omnipotent and omnipresent. 

Or to make us paralyzed by the guilt piled up from our pasts. 

No. God does not like suffering. 

God doesn’t like it when we suffer.

God doesn’t smile because we feel bad. 

Even if we’re feeling bad because we think we did something really bad. 

God doesn’t take joy in human suffering. 

Rather, Jesus came for those whose who do suffer. 

Jesus did not come to bring more death, but so that the whole world might have more life. 


“I am the Resurrection and the Life.” This is what Jesus said. 

His project is salvation, “salve,” healing. 

His love does not fit inside any bounds. 

Not inside a church or a synagogue. 

Not inside a list of rules or a book of laws 
or even a Lutheran catechism. 

Not even the big one. 

God’s love is bigger, un-contained, expanding. 

Because Jesus’ Love is the wind. 

The Spirit. 

It blows this way and that. 

It even blows into Lazarus’ tomb, into our dry bones. 

So that those who were dead might dance, 
so that lifeless bones might find new Loves, 
so that our bodies and spirits 
might be unbound, 
rising from the stench, 

and stretching toward the light of new Life. 


Jesus came not to make bad people good. 

Jesus is not that shallow. 

Jesus came to bring dead people back to life. 




What does resurrection look like for you? 


  1. I know a dozen folks who need to hear these words, today. Thank you for this.

    1. Glad to hear it. I first heard this in seminary: that Jesus came not to make bad people good, but to bring the dead back to life. I feel like it may have been from someone like you? Or was it Lila? I don't recall, but I'm grateful for the lesson! It is been repeated often this Lent! It was Rubem Alves who taught me that God does not smile and pain, and that a good God would not desire suffering as a gift! He writes about is in Transparencies Of Eternity. Peace, sir.