In the New Testament, the word "brethren" describes a community of men and women who chose another way of living: the way of Jesus. The Church of the Brethren, begun three centuries ago in Germany, still draws people who want to continue Jesus' work of faithfulness and loving service.
Though the Brethren as a group have existed for three hundred years, we subscribe to no formal "creed" or set of rules. We simply try to do what Jesus did.
Jesus brought a message of life, love, and hope. But he offered much more than inspiring words: He understood that people's spiritual needs also include day-to-day human ones — food, health, rest, comfort, friendship, and unconditional acceptance. "I am the way," he told his followers. He showed them how to trust, how to care, and how to help.
Steadily, lovingly, even radically, Jesus went about saving the world — by serving its people. Because we believe his message, we seek to do the same. from http://www.brethren.org/about/
We are so near to Jerusalem. To Jerusalem, and Calvary, and the cross. In fact, the text says we are "two miles away," in this place
of death and mourning, at the grave and with those who gather nearby, troubled in spirit: the family and friends of Lazarus, including
Jesus. And we are, in church time, only two weeks away from the Empty Tomb. How fitting, then, and how challenging, to read, on this
Fifth Sunday of Lent, this text of the raising of Lazarus, set firmly within, even entangled with, the controversy and plots that
swirl around Jesus.
There are those who see in the words and the works of Jesus--even in the healings--a blasphemy that deserves death. But Jesus claims to be doing the works of "the Father," so even the worries and warnings of his disciples do not keep him from making his way not only to Lazarus' tomb, but also to his own place of suffering, death, and, eventually, resurrection.
All done for God's glory
In fact, the controversy (and notice) this incident brings is part of the plan, Jesus says, because it is all done "for God's glory." Frederick Niedner, in his beautiful reflection in the February 26, 2008 issue of Christian Century, explains that, "in John's Gospel, glory and glorified are code words for the crucifixion," so Jesus' "crucifixion is the hour of his glorification." But first, there is his own, quite understandable grief over the death of his friend.
In the story of the raising of Lazarus, there is so much of the human experience of loss: receiving word of a loved one's illness and need; decision-making, timing, and complications, even risks and dangers to be considered; frustrations, questioning, and lack of understanding on the part of those closest to us; grief and mourning by loved ones, and the community encircling them, perhaps not all with the purest of intentions; audacious hope, the profession of faith and a wistful "what might have been"; limited understanding of what we ourselves are saying, of the potential of what we are saying; courage, anger, and weeping; familiar, powerful echoes of other moments in the story we share.