This homily was preached at the funeral for Ms. Pat Gohman, a beloved member of St. John and St. Mark.
O Thou, far off and here,
whole and broken,
Who in necessity and bounty wait,
Whose truth is light and dark,
mute though spoken,
By Thy wide grace show me
Thy narrow gate.
“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.”
I love Martha.
Martha is a feisty woman
who gets things done
and challenges Jesus
even as she remains firm in her faith.
She is firm in her belief,
but she is not afraid to tell Jesus
what she thinks
about how he’s running things.
Remember when Jesus
came to their house,
and Mary just sat at Jesus’ feet
while Martha worked around the house?
She looked straight at Jesus and said,
“Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me
to do all the work by myself?
Tell her then to help me.”
Man, I love Martha.
Maybe I love Martha so much in this reading
because I love Pat Gohman so much.
Maybe I am too immersed
in our current situation,
but I read Martha in this story,
and I hear Pat asking these questions,
telling Jesus that she doesn’t quite think
he’s doing what ought to be done.
Pat told me more than once
that this is one reason
she enjoyed the Episcopal Church.
She loved the freedom to ask questions
and she clung to the grace
in telling God just what she thought
of a particular situation
without someone telling her off for it.
It grew, rather than hindered, her faith.
I always loved her for that,
for recognizing that this is part
of being a truly faithful,
committed disciple of Jesus.
And that’s why I see Pat in Martha –
in both, we have been given
someone who loves Jesus enough,
trusts her relationship with Jesus enough,
to ask him what in the world he is thinking,
to quit slacking off, and, of course,
the humility to learn from the Lord
something she may not have thought of before.
This, too, is part of being a truly faithful,
committed disciple of Jesus.
But this story isn’t really about Martha, is it?
If you remember, this little clip
that we get today
is set within the larger context
of the raising of Lazarus –
the brother of Martha and Mary.
But it’s not about Lazarus, either.
Surprise, surprise – the story is about Jesus.
This is all about Jesus.
Jesus receives Martha’s questioning
in this story and the others,
her criticism of his timing,
her demands that he make Mary
help her out a little.
He does not call her a dummy,
a sinner, or out of line.
Instead, Jesus gently responds to her concerns,
tells her Lazarus will rise again.
Martha continues to work through this,
returning to what she knows
about resurrection and the last days.
But Jesus responds, as he often does,
in a very odd way.
“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.”
These words, the words that began
our liturgy today,
take Martha’s question
and her trust in the resurrection
“on the last day”
and bring it right in front of her,
right in front of us.
Jesus does not point
to an idea about resurrection.
He does not speculate or give an argument
for the mechanics of resurrection.
No. He points to himself.
I AM the Resurrection and the Life.
It comes back to Jesus every time.
It comes back to who he is
and what we are – what we have – in him.
This is why, as I said earlier,
I think it is at the heart of discipleship –
it is a mark of a deep faithfulness and devotion –
to wrestle with God until God blesses us,
because in that wrestling
we are so deeply tangled up with God,
and we come out of it
covered in bruises, bumps,
dust, and divinity.
It is in this deep act of intimate faithfulness,
a faithfulness Pat cherished so much,
that we catch a glimpse
of just how far God has come to be with us,
that God is right next to us,
hearing our questions, concerns,
doubts, and hopes.
Not long ago, Pat told me
that if I were the one
to preach at her funeral,
I had better not make her out to be perfect.
because I’m not interested in perfect.
Pat was a good and faithful disciple of Jesus,
and, like y’all, I loved and admired her for it.
Like Martha, she loved Jesus enough –
knew him well enough –
to ask him questions
and to get after him a bit,
to commune with him often at this Table
and to pray for strength and guidance
every morning in this church.
All of this drew her again and again
into the life of the one
who is Resurrection and Life,
and she now shares life
more fully with the One Who Loves her,
even as she awaits
the Resurrection of the body.
May we aspire to that same love and faithfulness
that draws us so deeply
into the life of Jesus –
the One who is our Resurrection and Life.