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In Suspense

John 10:22-30 and “A Blessing for That Space of Yes/And” by Kate Bowler

Fourth Sunday of Easter

May 8th, 2022


By Nicole M. Lamarche


Thank you for being here today on this fourth Sunday of Easter. Each Sunday I ask for your prayers before I offer a word, but I need it especially today. Tune into our heartbeat, to the Great Spirit, to the birdsongs, and the sounds of being together like this…

Gracious God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.


“Clearly something is going on. The question of course is what? And what does it all mean?” That is how Kai Ryssdal began Thursday’s segment of the public radio program called Marketplace. And I listen regularly tuning into whether the music is happy or sad. He was of course referring to the stock market but this sentiment and these questions felt relevant in other areas of human life and the life of our community right now too.


Clearly something is going on. The question of course is what?


He went on to speak to another so called expert who compared this moment to a hangover, saying it’s as if we are all “wasted, confused, stumbling”…he went on, “we are just going to go through these phases of ups and downs, intense volatility until everyone can figure out what is going on…”


These are the adults in charge? He ended with, “it’s a long painful hangover and that’s what it will feel like for a while…”


That sounds terrible to me. But I think it points to the truth that we are in a new era on planet earth, a new era in our country, a new era in our community and even in our church.


And right now it feels chaotic and sad, and it also feels unresolved.


It is an uncertain place, the in-between, the question mark space, the spot where we are in a sort of…suspense. And it is heavy. Because we were already in the between and then this week in the life of our church, we lost more of the ones we loved and I feel it deeply. In these weeks and months between the death of Anne and Erv and Bill and Robb, we have lost legacy builders, people who invested deeply in this, in us, in creating community in different ways. It just doesn’t feel right to have them gone.


It feels like not just people we loved have died, but paradigms too, pillars for us, structures that held us. Just last Saturday Robb was leading us all in an important operational management team meeting. He was quite literally forging the new direction of part of our governance framework.


Bill was instrumental in creating the Friday morning Men’s Group, which is an important and powerful place for connection and community that will go on. Erv was a game changer for hospitality here and I have heard of so many occasions where he and Jo went out of their way to make others feel at home. Anne created many of the tapestries for this church, crafting art with fabric and love, a symbol of our stories and lives woven together in a way, forever. And Robb joyfully embraced not just the sausage making of church, but the vision casting. Even at his stage, at his age, he was willing to get in the ring and he would often ask us how what we were doing was helping us follow Jesus? It’s kind of an obvious question, but sometimes he was the only one asking. He was willing to have his heart broken for this thing we love, willing to give sacrificially of treasure and time.

So along with the grief, I honestly feel a bunch of question marks. How can we live in this new terrain of uncertainty and volatility, this place of in between with them?


It is confusing and it does feel as if we are stumbling, going through these phases of ups and downs, as if waiting for enough of us to figure out what is going on…


In this story in the Gospel of John, we encounter Jesus teaching in the context of another religious festival. And like often happens, a lot of the people around him, just don’t get it, they just don’t understand. What unfolds, shows the theological disagreements that had developed in that time over whether he was in fact so connected to God, that we can meet God’s character through him, that we can understand more about who God is by knowing him. But as Thomas Troeger wrote, “people who like black-and-white answers and who prefer plain meaning to subtlety and allusion may find the Gospel of John frustrating.”


And we can actually even hear the frustration among those around Jesus, when they ask him "How long will you keep us in suspense? Jesus answered, "I have told you, and you do not believe…” You don’t get it. You don’t believe it. You don’t see it.


When I read this story this week, it made me ponder all that we miss when we are stumbling around confused. What if Jesus is telling them that they have what they need? They have the answer they need, but they are just having trouble seeing it. I have told you, but you don’t believe…


As we have explored over these last two weeks here together, one of the invitations for us in this moment I think, is being willing to be uncertain, curiosity over certainty. Being willing to be in that yes/and, in between place. Being humbled by how little we really know. And also what if holding this space, being present in this in between, actually allows us to see what we need to, to know our answers and recognize them when they come.


Some scholars suggest that instead of “How long will you keep us in suspense?” a more accurate translation of the question to Jesus is something like “How long will you annoy us?” How long will we be in a place like this?


Because that’s the truth of how it feels sometimes to be where many of us are, to be in the uncertain middle place, the in-between, the question mark, the unknown, the suspense, the space what was and what is becoming, is annoying.


Which means here, some will try to resist, or try to bring back an old paradigm for the hope of some kind of certainty, even though it is false.


Because it’s challenging to have to keep showing up in this place, not knowing exactly what it will look like, with some of what and who we loved gone.


We think of evolution as that six-million year process that brought us from apelike creatures to this, but it is clearly happening, in us right here and now, prying us all open in a way.


And do you know what? I feel like this is a hard, but also a holy place to be.


Because this same place, this moment of suspense is actually someplace important too. It isn’t to be dismissed. It isn’t to be numbed or avoided. We must let ourselves grieve and then we notice what must remain from what they gave us. We see with clarity what must be preserved.


Doing this I think lets us see how to live out their legacies that long to have a life here beyond their bodies. How do we live out what these pillars left for us? How do we quiet ourselves to hear what they need us to hear?


I love what Kate Bowler writes in words to us today, she is a professor and writer living with stage 4 cancer. She says” blessed are you, settling yourself there

in the space of yes/and,

where all that is true can be welcomed

not because it is easier, but because it is real,”


That’s the thing about this in between time, it’s real and that feels holy.


I just expected Robb to walk in today and ask me why we still don’t have a better welcoming system for the 9 a.m. worship service or how I feel about his latest structure map and I confess his voice and questions won’t soon leave me and I honestly don’t want them to.


The presence of these absences do feel like something like Anne’s banners, fragments for us to hold, pieces to keep, to weave their lives and their hopes into ours now.


Clearly something is going on. A new thing is coming into being. How will we pick up the legacies gifted to us? How will we claim them, hold them, and promise to give them life here and now?


What if that question from Jesus to his crowd and to us was just as much about inviting those who were moved to shift from needing to believe in the movement, to needing to see it all and understand it, to being it? What would they do without him? How will they live his teachings without him? What of his legacy would they pick up, claim, hold and promise to give their lives to and pass on to those who come after?


We are in a hard, but holy place, suspended in the yes/and. And I know that there is a gift here too. Without their voices, their questions and love of this, of us, we are forced to now look forward, to use what they taught us, gave us, gifted us with. It’s a chance to do what they would have us do, to take what they loved and add to it, build on it, give to it what is needed so it has life for this generation and the next.


Beloved of God, in this new terrain of uncertainty and volatility, in this time of in between, of confusion and stumbling, waiting for us to figure out what is going on… What if Jesus is telling us that we have the answers we need? What if this is a place to see truths we wouldn’t otherwise have seen? In our grief, we remember that we have each other, that with God, we are part of the answers to our own questions. We remember that in this place, all that is true can be welcomed, not because it is easier, but because it is real. What if Jesus is inviting us from that place of looking to others and needing to see something more so we can believe in the movement, to being it? Our saints now look to us and the holy hum of the Universe calls to us.


May this be so. Amen.



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