Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ, Amen.
Can I ask you all to allow me to indulge in a moment of nostalgia? As of last Thursday, it has been 26 years since we learned that Jessie Spano had developed an addiction to caffeine pills. 26 years can you believe it!?
If you’re in your late 30’s and early 40’s you likely know what I’m talking about. For the rest of you, let me get you up to speed. Saved by the Bell was the high school sitcom of the 1990’s. Originally set in nowheresville Indiana, the show was inexplicably relocated to Bayside California where it followed the shenanigans and melodrama of six teenagers, Zack, Kelly, Slater, Jessie, Lisa and Screech. These characters were the epitome of high school stereotypes and I loved them all. I’ve seen every episode, multiple times. My college roommate and I used to quiz each on obscure trivia. Zack and Kelly’s song on the jukebox, A12.
Jessie Spano was the feminist intellectual class president of the bunch. She was gunning for class valedictorian, she was an achiever. In the episode in question, Jessie was studying for a big geometry test, she was singing in a girl group called Hot Sundae – obviously, and just trying to keep on top of life. The geometry was flummoxing her, so she started taking caffeine pills so she could stay up later.
One of her good friends confronts her about the issue and in the greatest piece of teen melodramatic acting, Jessie screams, “No time. There’s never any time. I don’t have time to study, I’ll never get into Stanford, I’ll let everyone down. I’m so confused.”
Because it’s so true. There is no time. We live in a culture that wears busyness like a badge of honor and yet it doesn’t help. There’s still not enough hours in the day to get it all done. Somehow it still feels like life is slipping through our fingers. Doesn’t it? I mean no matter what steps we take, no matter how hard we try, the hours, the days, the years just go faster.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are seasons of life that can seem brutally long. Sleepless nights when raising an infant, enduring teenage years of caustic indifference, your first years in the workforce when you’re working for too little and receiving too little appreciation.
But blink and it’s over. There’s truth to the old cliche, the days are long but the years are short.
So there’s this pressure not to waste it. Because time is gone before you know it. After years of marriage, a dear woman from this congregation was getting ready to lose her husband, and she left his death bed and said, 67 1/2 years was not enough. No time. There’s never any time. No matter how rich life is, now matter how full life is, we always want more and time remains elusive, it just slips through fingers no matter how hard we try and cling to it.
There’s a statement that appears two times in chapter 11 of John’s gospel, in our abbreviated version today, it only shows up once, but I love it for its poignancy and its honesty. In our reading it’s spoken by Mary, the sister of Lazarus, the dead man. Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
She’s right of course. If anyone could have done something. If anyone could have prevented, should have prevented Lazarus’ death it would have been Jesus. Jesus who thus far in John’s gospel has turned water into wine, healed people, fed five thousand people and restored a blind man’s sight. Why couldn’t Lazarus have been added to that list? Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
But he wasn’t. Jesus was slow to arriving at Bethany where Lazarus lay dying. If we read early in chapter 11 we discover that Jesus actually took his time getting there. Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was ill. Jesus received the news in time to act, but he chose to hang out for a couple extra days before setting out for Bethany, by the time he arrived it was too late Lazarus was dead. Lord if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.
Jesus had time. There was enough time, but time ran out. And now Lazarus is dead.
Lord if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.
In 1941, in Stalag VIIIA, in Gorlitz Germany, in a Nazi prisoner of war camp, a gorgeous and ethereal piece of music debuted. There was no heat in Barracks 27 and yet the warmth, hope, and beauty emanated from the four musicians who played for the first time, “The Quartet for the End of Time.”
Olivier Messiaen, who penned this sublime work with the help of other imprisoned musicians, had grown tired of the measured and metered rhythm of life in Nazi war camp. He’d grown tired time being beaten out by a drum – one, two, three, four. “Instead, he devised rhythms that expanded, contracted, stopped in their tracks, and rolled back in symmetrical patterns.” Together they wrote a piece that is marked by instructions to play portions of the piece infinitely slow, or tenderly or ecstatically, or with love.
Jesus said to Martha – “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.”
In Jesus, this one who walked among us, who experienced the fullness of what it means to be human, we see that not even death can constrain his power and his presence. In Jesus we see that we are no longer under the tyranny of time, we are no longer bound by the finite but you and me and all the baptized belong to God’s infinite and unending love and care. We share in Jesus’ victory over death and celebrate that the grave clothes no longer hold us in bondage.
Today there is no time. There is no time that is not filled with the self-giving and life sustaining love of Jesus. There is never any time that does not belong to our God. May that truth give us courage and freedom to live as God’s people today, to live infinitely slow, tenderly, ecstatically with love. Then may God’s promise enable us to trust that our tomorrows will forever be wrapped in God’s loving embrace. Amen.