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Faces of Faith — Life after loss

Losing someone you care about is never easy. Loss may come because of a prolonged illness or an unexpected incident. Regardless of the cause, the loss is followed by a time of grief. We miss the one we lost.

Last year was difficult for our family. We experienced significant loss when my wife’s parents both passed away within three months of each other. One loss was expected; the other was a complete surprise. They were both wonderful in-laws I had grown to cherish since I married into the family almost 29 years ago. I am so thankful for family and friends around us who allowed us to grieve and continue to support us.

In the 11th chapter of John’s gospel, we read the account of Jesus losing someone close to him. One of his good friends, Lazarus, became very sick and died in a matter of days. When Jesus arrived in Lazarus’ home town of Bethany, he was quickly greeted by Lazarus’ sister, Martha. Her first words to Jesus were ones of frustration and even blame, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21, NIV). Martha went to tell her sister, Mary, that Jesus had come. Mary ran to where Jesus was, fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32, NIV). Looking beyond their frustration, Jesus saw two women who were confused and hurt because he hadn’t come sooner and healed their brother. He was deeply moved and even shared tears of loss with them.

Woven into this account are clues Jesus gave to help us see that death does not have the final say — there is hope for life. In verse four, Jesus stated that Lazarus’ sickness would not end in death. In verse 11 he told his disciples he was going to Bethany to “wake-up” Lazarus. When Jesus was talking to Martha he said that he is, “the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25, NIV). The end of this story in John 11 is Jesus calling Lazarus to life out of the tomb. The Bible account doesn’t say what happened next, but I think there was an amazing party in Bethany that night; a celebration of the life giving power of Jesus Christ.

This story reveals a key in dealing with the loss of a loved one. Jesus said that if we believe in him, we will live even if we die (John 11:25). These words give me confidence that my mother-in-law and my father-in-law, even though they died, they still live. They believed in Jesus as their resurrection and life with all of their hearts, as my wife and I do. One day we too will die, but still live in heaven.

In a few weeks, on April 20, we will celebrate Easter. Easter is all about rejoicing in the resurrection of Jesus. His resurrection defeated death. Good Friday is always followed by Easter Sunday.

The Montesano Ministerial Association is sponsoring Lenten lunches and services each Friday up through April 11 at alternating churches in Montesano. The soup lunch begins at 11:30 a.m. followed by a short service that ends by 12:45 p.m. The lunch and service for March 28 will be at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and the April 4 lunch and service will be at Montesano Church of God. The April 11 lenten lunch and service will be at Montesano United Methodist Church. These are free and open to all. There may be a donation basket at some locations with all donations going to help the Montesano Ministerial Association help community members in need.

I encourage you to join the churches in Montesano as we gather at 7 p.m., April 18, at Calvary Chapel for a community Good Friday Service. I also encourage you to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection in church on Easter Sunday.

Rev. Bruce Swanson is the pastor at Montesano Assembly of God and the President of the Montesano Ministerial Association.