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Simply Live

John 11:32-44

The Rev. Jon Roberts

4 November

2012

St. Pauls Episcopal Church

Naples, FL

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” 38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” 40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

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Christ with Martha and Mary by Jacques Pilliard, 1814-1898

We must live simply,
So others may simply live.[1]

On the day we commemorate all the Saints we find a common element of simplicity. For those who were patient, brave and true, who lived and fought for the Lord they loved and knew, a simple life was what they hoped to have.

Once upon a time there was a man who decided to live the simple life by selling and giving away all he possessed. Upon doing so, he went to the nearby monastery and told the headmaster his intent to become a monk. The headmaster told him there was a prerequisite for entry. “Yes, yes, go on”, said the man who always determined to take on every challenge full throttle. “You are required to take a vow of silence for a duration,” said the headmaster. “No problem,” the man said, and off he went. For five years, he didn’t say a word until one day he came to the head monk. Seeing him, the headmaster said, “Yes, John, it’s good to see you. You have a remarkable vow of silence. Do you wish to break it?” John looked at him and said, “Bed Hard” and with that he tromped out of the office and slammed the door. The monk and his assistant were dumbfounded, shrugged their shoulders and went back to work. Five more years pass by and the community is amazed that John continued to be silent. At year ten, he stomped back into the office and was greeted once more by the headmaster. “Hello John”, he said. “Are you going to speak?” With the invitation, John looks at him and his assistant and says, “Food Cold.” He turns around and slams the door on his way out. Both monks look at each other, shrugged their shoulders and went back to work. Even more amazing is that John, so determined with his vow of silence, went another five years without speaking. Now, at year fifteen, with much more conviction than before, he trapes into the office, and announces, “I Quit!” This time, he leaves for good. The assistant looks at the headmaster and says, “I don’t get it. Why did he leave.” The head monk says, “I don’t know why you’re surprised. He’s been here fifteen years and all he ever does is complain.”

As Christians we are called to possess a certain degree of patience, bravery and truthfulness in order to share with the Saints. So many people who come to Florida, come in their retirement. They are looking for the good life. They want to relax. Yet, one trip to the doctor’s office and you hear him say, “It doesn’t look good” and your life changes. One trip to the bank and you discover it’s not going to be enough. One phone call and your heart breaks with the sound of a child in anguish. Life sure can become busy in a blink of an eye and lose its simplicity. The fact of the matter is we have to work at keeping things simple.

In an article in the Smithsonian magazine, there was a good article, post-hummus, of someone important. If you have an iPhone, iPad, or iPod you’ll know who he is. Steve Jobs, before he died, said he studied people and found the hardest thing for us to do, is to keep things simple. By our nature we like to complicate matters. We get caught up in the details. We go to our cave or our cell and spend years thinking of what to say or what to do, yet never really change. How hard that becomes for those watching. How hard it has been for us to watch the news and not let our hearts go out to those who live on the northeastern coast lately.
With the latest storm called “Sandy” we need to pray that there will be a few saints who can keep things simple. In the midst of so much devastation, chaos and loss, they are going to need more than food, gas or shelter. They are going to need prayer and they are going to need love. Prayer is the most powerful thing we can do right now because it shows our compassion.

Let’s move along to the gospel. Mary, the sister of Martha, now takes her turn to be the worried one, the complainer. Remember it was Martha who wanted help in the kitchen, while her sister was out lulling at the feet of Jesus. Now we see Mary running up to Jesus and what does she say? “Jesus, if only you had been there, none of this would happen.” If you had been here my brother would not have died. It’s your fault.
In the wreck after a storm, after a diagnosis, after a bankruptcy this may be very tempting and very natural. “Lord, if only…” The next thing we read in scripture points to the simplicity of God. It says, “Jesus wept.” He didn’t minimize their loss. He didn’t ignore Mary. It says that Jesus wept. Could it be in those two words we have our good news for today? To be a saint, to be patient, brave and true, must mean we have a single source of power and strength. it begins with Jesus wept. But if we remain with the weeping, it would be a tragic and sad story. The story goes on.

He told them to move the stone. The stone which was so hard to move, Jesus said “Move it.” Then he said, “Lazarus, you come out of there.” Jesus instructs us to move the stones out of our own lives and to come out. Stop living in complaint. Stop living in isolation. God does not want us to be silent. He wants our lives to be illustrations of his love for all people. When we weep for those who have lost so much, we share in his heavenly kingdom. Being compassionate for others is a good place to begin if you want to be a saint one day. Teach others how Christ moved the stone from your life in the simplest terms. Teach them how He called you out. We must live simply, so that others may simply live.

[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/how-steve-jobs-love-of-simplicity-fueled-a-design-revolution-23868877/
[3] John 11:32-44

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