5th Sunday in Lent—Year A—April 6, 2014

5th Sunday in Lent—Year A—April 6, 2014

Preached at the Lutheran Church of Framingham

Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight oh Lord, our strength, and our redeemer.

I expect that most—if not all—of you have at some point experienced some kind of death—whether it be the actually death of a loved one, a close encounter of your own, or a different kind of death—death of a relationship or livelihood.

Approaching death can be a very painful ordeal. Being exiled from things that previously brought you life—siblings, snowmen, or society—can be just as painful and life-draining.

This reality is from where Ezekiel writes—it is the situation to which his vision from God speaks. It is from the dark valley of death and dry bones that God proclaims the promise of restoration—not just resuscitation, but resurrection.

It is after the hope of a plea—“Lord, he whom you love is ill”[1]—has faded, and an accusation—“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died”[2]—and Lazarus is still in the tomb—cold, dead, and stinky—that Jesus speaks the promise—“your brother will rise again.”[3] Then and only then, in the grief and sadness, in the doubt and pain, the promise is enacted and death is conquered.

Resurrection is not just something that will happen to Jesus. It is promised to us as well. It is not just something that is in the future—something for the last day. It is a current reality into which we can live now!

And it is not only something that happens to us—resurrection—but it is something that we as a community are invited to participate in, just as Jesus invites Lazarus’ family and friends to participate—“unbind him, and let him go.”[4]

The actual sign—the raising of Lazarus—only takes two verses of this long reading. The rest is comprised of the interpretation on the sign and the explanation to and inclusion of the community. This is important to note, for this tells us that the sign is not only important in and of itself—Lazarus is not the only one affected and his resurrection is not the only important outcome.

There is a message here for Mary & Martha, all the mourners, and us too!

–       Things are not as permanent and final as we might think. There is a saying: “where the world places a period, God introduces a comma—suffering does not have the last word!”

–       There is a resurrected life to live here and now, and in the future—in the day to come.

–       There is some community participation—we are “invited to participate in God’s redemptive work”

–       There is some unbinding and freeing involved.

Sometimes we encounter a relationship that must end in order for the two parties to more fully encounter new life.

Sometimes we might need to walk away from a job that is killing us in order to encounter new life somewhere else.

It is in the midst of pain that the promise of resurrected life might be easiest to hear, but the truth is that opportunities for unbinding, renewal, death and resurrection are all around us. I pray that your eyes might be opened to the blessings of new life that God has already created all around you—whether it is new life for yourself (relief from worry, stress, diagnosis, or hurt) or whether it is the resurrection of someone else, in which you will participate—unbinding them from burden and freeing them from doubt, pain, and isolation.

Resurrection will occur in the fully bodily sense on the last day—and that will be an experience in and of itself—but until then, there is no need to wait. God provides us with abundant, resurrected life now, in many and various ways, so that we might believe and be the inspiration for others to believe as well—for Jesus is “the resurrection and the life.”[5] Amen.

[1] John 11:3, NRSV.

[2] John 11:21, NRSV.

[3] John 11:23, NRSV.

[4] John 11:45, NRSV.

[5] John 11:25, NRSV.

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