Rev. January Kiefer performs the scripture from John 11 that was the basis for her sermon.
Eighteen people were remembered at the June 7 Memorial Service at the Kansas East Annual Conference.
Featured preacher, Rev. January Kiefer, gave an impassioned retelling of the passage in John where Jesus raises Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus, from the dead before delivering the sermon.
“There are so many gifts in that story,” Kiefer said. “To me, it’s one of the richest stories in the gospels. Martha touches me.”
Kiefer said the relationship between faith and doubt is one of the central themes in the gospels, and she’d always thought of doubt as a hindrance to faith.
“I’ve come to see that doubt can be a handmaiden to faith,” she said. “It pushes us forward, urges us on and fills us with a kind of fire to get closer and closer to the one named Jesus.”
Kiefer said she is grateful to Martha for her fear, for her experience of victory and for coming to expect to see the glory of God.
“What a gift,” Kiefer said.
The second gift Kiefer finds in the John passage is the shortest verse in scripture, “Jesus wept.”
“What an amazing statement,” she said. Scholars still argue over what the original passage meant. Did Jesus cry, wail, moan, get angry?
“How about all of the above? Isn’t that how we feel when we are grieving? I think we don’t weep enough. We are so eager to leave the distress of our sorrow,” she said. “We sprint so quickly through the valley of the shadow of death; we need to spend some time there. We need to weep.”
Kiefer said when Jesus came to Mary and Martha’s home, he didn’t immediately raise Lazarus from the dead. Jesus gave the community time to mourn.
“It is in the mourning that we discover the presence of God,” she said.
The third gift in the John passage is the command Jesus gives us that invites us into the hard and holy work. Jesus asked the people gathered to take away the stone. Then Lazarus came out of the tomb, and Jesus told the people to unbind him and let him go.
“That’s our work. That’s the amazing work that we are called to,” Kiefer said. “God gives us the gift of life, love, mercy, grace, wisdom, courage and peace, but he calls us to liberating work. We need our brothers and sisters to help unbind us and let us go.”
When our loved ones cross over that final river and join that great divine holy God, more fully than we could ever know on this side, we should be cheering them on.
“We should be weeping. We should be expecting to see the glory of God, and we should be shouting, ‘Alleluia! Thank you, Jesus. Godspeed. Godspeed. Godspeed. Unbind them. Let them go,” she said.
Kiefer said her prayer is that, like Martha, we will come to experience the glory of God and know and trust that when we believe in God, we receive the gifts of life, of love, of joy and of the peace that passes understanding.
Deceased clergy honored were Doretta Baughman, Clarence Haber, C. Lincoln Johnson, Paul Horton Kapp, Frances Manson, Wayne Newlin, Gilbert Peters, Walter Simpson, J. Ray Swearingen, Howard Washburn and William Woodruff.
Deceased clergy spouses honored were Robert Brown, Judith DeLaughder, Donald Goering, Caryl Kallus, Jane Stevenson, and Rosanna Thompson.
Also honored was Susan Steuber, administrative assistant to Bishop Scott Jones for the past 7 ½ years, who died June 3, 2012.