It is just after the time when it’s too late.
Our prayers are guided this way. We pray leading up to the time when it is obviously too late. And then we explain why he didn’t show up. Why he didn’t answer.
When our prayers are answered the ways we ask, we give God thanks, and remember it as a way to explain that God indeed does answer prayers.
When our prayers are not answered the ways we ask, when they are not answered in time, we explain that God knows better. We talk about his soveriegnty, and our need to trust him.
We say things like, “Our ways are not God’s ways,” and, “We will know when we should know.”
And in many ways, we come up with explanations either to give God credit, or to let him off the hook.
We pray, and still families fall apart.
We pray, and still jobs are lost.
We pray, and still the famine continues.
We pray, and still we are abused.
We pray, and still we abuse.
We pray, and still the fire burns it all the way down.
We pray, and still the gunshots are fired.
We pray, and still the son is lost.
And so, we say, God knows best. Our ways are not his ways. We will know when we should know.
But not Martha. She is angry.
She had faith, and called him early. When he got sick, she sent for him to get there.
But he did not. He was too late. And she let him know, “If you had only been here.”
And this time, of course, he was not too late. In the ways that he is never too late. There is no too late. Time waits for him, and he does not need time to work in his favor.
And this time, the too late was just on time. When the stone gets pushed out of the way, he comes stumbling out wrapped up like a mummy.
And we talk of the sovereignty of God, Jesus’ power against death, his ways as being other than our ways.
And we are comforted, for a moment. The story helps us take a deep breath, and say to ourselves, it is never too late for him.
But still, we are sitting in the aftermath of
families that have fallen apart.
jobs that are still nowhere to be found.
famine that is murdering millions and millions.
abuse that does not stop.
abusing that cannot stop.
crumbles of chard homes, businesses, churches.
gunshot wounds and hospital noises.
gravestones of our sons and daughters.
And to say the he is never late feels poisonous escaping from our lips.
Martha says, “But even now, I know that God will give you whatever you ask him for.”
In some ways, this makes it worse because we are sitting in the murky puddles of loss and hopelessness.
In other ways, this makes it better because we know that we have seen you more than once defy time and loss and death.
Help us let this make it better.
And when it does not, and we cannot, call for us as you called for Mary, from our mourning…
Pine Tree Dr.