Lent 5; Gospel John 11:1-45 and Sermon

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(Transcript automatically generated.)

The holy Gospel according to John the
11th chapter now a certain man was ill
Lazarus of Bethany the village of Mary
and her sister Martha Mary was the one
who anointed the Lord with perfumed and
wiped his feet with her hair her brother
Lazarus was ill so the sisters sent a
message to Jesus Lord he whom you love
is ill but when Jesus heard it he said
this illness does not lead to death
rather it is for God’s glory so that the
Son of God may be glorified through it
accordingly though Jesus loved Martha
and her sister and Lazarus after having
heard that Lazarus was ill he stayed two
days longer in the place where he was
then after this he said to the disciples
let us go to Judea again the disciples
said to him rabbi that Jews were just
now trying to stone you and are you
going there again jesus answered are
there not twelve hours of daylight those
who walk during the day do not stumble
because they see the light of this world
but those who walk at night stumble
because the light is not in them after
saying this he told them our friend
Lazarus has fallen asleep but I am going
there to awaken him the disciples said
to him lord if he has fallen asleep he
will be alright Jesus however had been
speaking about his death
but they thought that he was referring
merely to sleep then Jesus told them
plainly Lazarus is dead for your sake I
am glad I was not there so that you may
believe but let us go to him Thomas who
is called the twin said to his fellow
disciples well let us also go that we
may die with him
when Jesus arrived he found that Lazarus
had already been in the tomb four days
now Bethany was near Jerusalem some two
miles away and many of the Jews had come
to Martha and Mary to console them about
their brother when Martha heard that
Jesus was coming she went and met him
while Mary stayed at home Marcus said to
Jesus Lord if you had been here my
brother would not have died but even now
I know that God will give you whatever
you ask of him jesus said to her your
brother will rise again Martha said to
him I know that he will rise again in
the resurrection on the last day jesus
said to her I am the resurrection and
the life those who believe in me even
though they die will live and everyone
who lives and believes in Me will never
die do you believe this she said to him
yes Lord I believe that you are the
Messiah the Son of God the one coming
into the world when she had said this
she went back and called her sister Mary
who told her privately the teacher is
here and is calling for you when she
heard it she got up quickly and went to
him now Jesus had not yet come to the
village but was still at the place where
Martha had met him the Jews who were
with her in her house consoling her saw
Mary get up quickly and go out they
followed her because they thought that
she was going to the tomb to weep there
when Mary came where Jesus was and saw
him she knelt at his feet and said to
him Lord if you had been here my brother
would not have died when Jesus saw her
weeping and the Jews who came with her
also weeping he was greatly disturbed in
spirit and deeply moved he said where
have you laid him they said to him Lord
come and see
Jesus began to weep so the Jews said see
how he loved him but some of them said
could not he who opened the eyes of the
blind man have kept this man from dying
then Jesus again greatly disturbed came
to the tomb it was a cave and a stone
was lying against it jesus said take
away the stone Martha the sister of the
dead man said to him Lord already there
is a stench because he has been dead for
days jesus said to her did I not tell
you that if you believed you would see
the glory of God so they took away the
stone and Jesus looked upward and said
father I thank you for having hurt me I
knew that you always hear me but I have
said this for the sake of the crowd
standing there so that they may believe
that you sent me when he had said this
he cried with a loud voice Lazarus come
the dead man came out his hands and feet
bound with strips of cloth and his face
wrapped in a cloth jesus said to them
unbind him and let him go many of the
Jews therefore who had come with me
and had seen what Jesus did believed in
him the gospel of the Lord
so I confess one of my very favorite
Bible passages in the entire Bible is
the valley of dry bones reading that we
heard today from Ezekiel which I’m aware
is at time seen as an unconventional
choice because it’s not particularly
filled with love and and sunshine it’s
not an easy passage that these are not
particularly easy times are they the
idea of God coming to us in beautiful
gardens and times of milk and honey and
plenty is beautiful and those things are
gifts from God but the miracle of a God
who can reach us even in our darkest
times that’s what catches my soul and
leaves it breathless to know that the
places where no one else can reach the
places where hope has left that God can
still go into those spaces in our world
and in me and can breathe life into
those places that feel broken or empty
but without hope that’s a God that I am
humbled and honored to serve there’s a
few things five of them in fact but as I
was meditating on this passage from
Ezekiel really stood out to me and I
wanted to share them with you the first
is that in the very beginning of the
it’s made very clear that these are not
just bones we’re not just talking about
after life has passed these are old dry
bones these are the bones of a passage
of time these are the bones where the
mourners have gone home where the
hopeful have surrendered hope where
people have begun already adapting to a
new normal
accepting that death of things that were
once very beloved has come and there’s a
purpose to that if there’s the thought
that a person has just fallen asleep if
we’re just hitting the pause button and
then getting right back to life as
normal there’s not time to really
process knowledge or grief there’s not
time to come to a deeper understanding
and there isn’t generally change the
kind of change that makes us look hard
at systems at the way that we do things
but the way that were there for each
and the ways that were not just like
Lazarus needed to be in the tomb for
several days for people to understand
well it wasn’t just he got sick we
thought he was dead there was a need for
people to know that the old had passed
away so that they could truly recognize
that Jesus came to bring a new thing in
this Ezekiel passage these bones have
withered and dried the time has passed
and gone by so that when Jesus when God
of the Old Testament at this time
breathes life into this thing
and creates a new thing it is only able
to be attributed to the power of God’s
holy transformation sometimes we need
time to grieve the things that pass away
so that we can have space for the new
things that God is calling us to to grow
and emerge and then only then when we’ve
learned how to move boldly into the
can God reveal I was with you the whole
time and I am using this time to create
a new thing to breathe life into that
which you had stopped seeing or given up
on the other thing that I noticed from
this passage number two is that this is
very grounded in the physical these are
real bodies not just thoughts not just a
metaphor these are bodies physical
bodies that rise up that are given the
breath of God which we know as the Holy
Spirit and that those bodies are told to
walk to stretch to breathe to move
because in that life that merging of the
spiritual and the mental the physical is
also celebrated in this time that we’re
stuck home in front of our zoom and our
Facebook and our computer classes
or telecommuting from work it’s easy to
become dissociated from the body to
forget that our body was created out of
this earth breathed on by the Holy
Spirit and is holy and sacred it is a
testament that God is still working so
when I read this passage I realized that
in it while a recognition of death to
the things that must pass away there’s
also a powerful affirmation of the life
that exists the heart that continues to
beat the blood that continues to move
the air that continues to swirl the
muscles that continue to gather around
the bones in this body that as long as I
can move and stand and breathe I have a
constant reminder that God is present
even in our walking are stretching our
yoga God is reminding us they’re still
there they’re still with us in this
space and that is holy number three
truth and reality are often hard this is
not a pretty passage quite frankly not
any of them today were particularly
chipper or cheerful we are dealing with
the hard facts of death and quite
frankly that’s part of what’s going on
in our world today
many of us are struggling with
sheltering in place many of us are
struggling with trying to find ways to
stay occupied or entertained to process
anxiety boredom or frustration but some
of us know people who are sick some of
us know people who have died and before
this is over we will know more there
will be more stories and it will become
easy to be discouraged to feel that it
is a time of overwhelming loss and
sadness and grief and that sadness and
grief it’s real and it’s not just ok to
feel it it is wholly to feel it Jesus
weeps in our gospel passage the
community comes together to grieve
wrapping lovingly around Mary and Martha
we are called to share this grief with
each other because even though God is
always with us is with us in our breath
and our bodies is with us in the
resurrection of hope through these
difficult times there is going to be
that time in the middle where we are
called to be like the Jewish community
was to Mary and Martha to wrap around
each other to hold each other to grieve
with each other to tell stories to
celebrate memories our Jewish friends
this process sitting Shiva and after a
death they gather in the homes and sit
and share food and they tell their
favorite stories or memories are jokes
about the person who has passed on we
will be called to remember when these
bones have life breathed into them and
are raised up as a new thing the world
will look different and it is okay to
celebrate and to remember even to grieve
and cry and mourn the loss but know that
through all of it God remains constant
and present the fourth thing that I
really noticed from this passage and
maybe you didn’t even catch it but the
rocks you’re the Word of God I love that
that yes it’s bones yes its people yes
its bodies but even creation responds to
the Word of God
stones roll away rocks in valleys
covered with death respond to God there
is nothing outside of God’s control even
the things that we consider absolutely
unmovable absolutely hopeless there is
hope in the one that created them even
the stones the flowers the grass and
trees God is in control and is able to
work through even this broken and sinful
world even this really crazy and
challenging situation to find ways to
bring God’s people and God’s good earth
to a time of celebration healing and
the last thing the fifth thing that
struck me from this passage as I prayed
and meditated over it was the frequent
mention of Brad as I said before the
breath that we know is often referred to
as the Holy Spirit the breath of God
that brings us life we are called to
live in this time what I know it might
seem like an ironic message when we’re
reading passage after passage about
death but death is part of life endings
are part of the cycle that leads to
beginnings change transition and fear
boredom or frustration or part of the
cycle that leads to victory to renewal
to rebirth to energy and inspiration and
even to joyful celebration our buildings
are shut down our church is not our
spirits are not our hearts are not our
faith is not our families are not our
friendships and our connection and our
community the community of the Saints
that is joined across all time and all
space every faithful person who has
found God and who has allowed the breath
of the Holy Spirit into them and lived
it out in this world we are still joined
in community a sacred community that
even in the times when you feel most
alone is wrapping its arms or
you and lifting you up there is no such
thing as isolation in Christ the breath
of God that breathes through this
passage that breathes into the bones of
our loss and our grief and gives us new
and different life in him it is with us
and even when we struggle to feel it it
is holding us up and will continue to do
so amen amen