Bryan Jaster, Winchester, VA
What is something traumatic that happened in your life? What did you do in response?
Beyond Death’s Stench
Mikah Meyer is on a 3 year journey to visit all 417 national parks and discover the power of healing and love.
Imagine being 19 years old and having one of your parents die. When Mikah Meyer was 19 his father died suddenly of esophageal cancer at the age of 58 years. He was devastated. His father would never see him grow up and be able to celebrate life with Mikah. The assumption that his father would live to be 80+ years old was shattered. The realization that life isn’t infinite and that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed hit hard.
His father loved to travel and Mikah set a goal that when he was 30 years old he would hit the road and set the world record for being the youngest person to visit all the national parks while sharing along the way that life is worth living and to appreciate time and people while we have it. So, at 30 he did.
Once he started his national park tour something happened that had begun in his life as a 19 year old. That year was the first year when he met an adult who was openly gay. Gay before that was a topic that wasn’t even spoken of. So after meeting more people in his 20s and making public that he was a gay Christian, he began to encounter many who felt they weren’t loved by their church or by God. He thought that sharing that part of his life during his tour of national parks would decrease financial support from congregations. Living out of his van, he visited congregations on Sunday mornings and relied on the hospitality of friends and strangers to continue his journey.
However, he decided to share that part of his identity after being contacted via social media by a young teen who was in the closet about being gay. The teen reached out after finding out about his past work setting up “Queers for Christ” in Washington, D.C. The teen thanked Myer for letting him know he wasn’t alone and that he could accomplish his dreams, just as Meyer was accomplishing his.
So now honoring his father’s life, he travels living out of a converted van as an openly Gay Christian, performing as a contra tenor singer who sings for his supper. He preaches at congregations about living God’s limitless, boundary-less love and proclaims that we are all children of God, worthy of love. He has been able to stay on the roads because America’s Christians have funded a gay man to set a world record. He has currently visited 368 of the 417 national parks and will finish April 29, 2019 at the Lincoln Memorial.
Check out more of Mikah’s journey at https://www.mikahmeyer.com/
- How many national parks have you been to? What would be a challenge to trying to see all 417?
- What is a favorite place you like to go to experience the beauty of creation?
- Mikah Meyer experienced death face-to-face when his dad died. How did he respond? What can we learn from his actions? What big dreams do you have that God might be calling you to do?
- What is something that you feel is “off limits” to talk about at church, in school, or in your family? What is one way you can start a conversation about it and promoted loving people who may be different in some way?
All Saints Sunday
(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings
For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.
“There is a stench”
Death stinks. Literally, death stinks. Bacteria quickly break down proteins in dead bodies into cadaverine and putrescine—and the stench rises. Death stinks too for those who mourn as the reality of loss and death of a loved one takes hold. There is a stench in death.
Before our story begins in John 11, Jesus made mud and healed a man of blindness. This action made “the Jews” or perhaps we could say “the religious authorities” irate. When they ask if he is the Messiah, Jesus’ answers do not appease them. They accuse him of blaspheming and try to arrest him.
The stench of death continues. Jesus gets word that Lazarus, whom he loves, is ill. Jesus says this illness will lead to God’s glory. He waits a few days and the disciples are puzzled that he would go back to the place where he was to be stoned to death. He goes anyway, and finds Lazarus to be dead four days. Martha says, “If you had been here my brother would not have died.” She proclaims Jesus to be the One, and then goes back and tells Mary that Jesus is in town.
Here is where our text picks up the story, John 11:32-44. The Jews and Mary are weeping. Jesus is disturbed, first when seeing their pain, and then upon arriving at the tomb of Lazarus. Jesus being “disturbed” in Greek is like him making the snorting sound of a horse when he encounters the stench of death in the grief of the Jews (remember they were the ones who tried to arrest and stone Jesus), Mary, and Martha. Greatly moved by Lazarus’ death and the love for his friends is Jesus when surrounded by the stench of death.
Jesus stands at the cave and commands for the stone to be taken away. Martha protests that “there is a stench” because Lazarus has been dead four days. There is nothing to be done for Lazarus now and he can do nothing for himself in death.
Jesus response to the stench of death is startling: “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” Jesus next prays, thanking God for hearing him and hoping that the crowd might believe God sent him.
Then he shouts, “Lazarus, come out!”
With those 3 words Jesus flips the stench of death upside down and writes a new script where death is defeated by the way of resurrection, life, and love. With the words “unbind him and let him go” we see the completion of the seventh sign in John’s gospel of Jesus’ identity. From now on being in relationship with Jesus means we face death and pain with him. It means learning that, in spite of the stench of death, Jesus can and will bring life. Nothing is ever so dead that it keeps Jesus from bringing life for us. Abundant life is always ever now.
- Why do you think Jesus delayed in going to Lazarus’ tomb? When was a time when if felt like God waited too long and then something truly good happened after all? How can we trust that God will bring life out of death in our world?
- Abundant life is now and resurrection is now. What is one way you can share the abundant life that God gives with someone in class or your neighborhood? Make a plan and do it!
Find a dead, decaying animal. Really. Find an animal that smells like death. Be smart about handling it and smell the stench of death together. Unlike our recent ancestors, most of us don’t come in close contact with the death of animals or human family members. If you are adventurous, take a trip to a morgue or schedule a visit to see cadavers in a research lab.
Another option: Duckweed or other high-protein plants emit smells like decaying flesh when decomposing. Get some duckweed and let it rot for a week in advance. Then smell it.
Once you have allowed your noses to recover, talk about what death smells like.
When else have you smelled something dead?
Have you had a close friend or family member die? What was that like? Were you sad?
When has a relationship died? When has a relationship healed or experienced new life?
Oh God, the stench of death is real and so are your surprising ways of bringing abundant life. Challenge us to live and love like your son Jesus today in your creation and with the people we encounter now. Thank you for rolling away the stones in life, calling us to “come out” of our tombs, and unbinding us so that we might live again each day. Amen.