November 7, 2021 - All Saints' Day
I don’t often turn to the King James Version of the Bible, for I find wading through the Elizabethan language to be problematic. But this week’s Gospel reading is an exception. Let me read for you one passage from today’s Gospel in the standard lectionary version and then the King James Version:
|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 four days.”||Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.|
John is the Gospel of signs. There are seven signs – seven miracles – scattered around the first twelve chapters of John’s Gospel, and the raising of Lazarus is the seventh sign, revealing that Jesus is indeed the Christ. (For those of you wondering, the seven recorded miracles are the changing of water to wine, healing the royal official’s son in Capernaum, healing the paralytic at Bethesda, feeding the 5000, walking on water, healing the man born blind, and the raising of Lazarus.) But as much as this sign is about Jesus, it is also about us.
We are all Lazarus.
We are all dead and lifeless. We are all wrapped up little corpses, bound in our grave clothes which the world puts onto us. We are stiff, and we have all begun to smell a little.
Until Jesus calls us out of the tomb! Until he orders everything that binds us and holds us down to be stripped off and tossed aside. Until he breathes his holy breath into us again and makes us a new.
The Body of Christ, the baptized, the Communion of All Saints – we are all Lazarus. We stink until Jesus calls us out, frees us, and gives us life. All members of the church, living and dead, throughout all ages, are bound together by this one fact: we all have been called out of the tomb and been unwrapped.
In a sense, the raising of Lazarus isn’t just a miracle that Jesus performed thousands of years ago in a land far away. It’s the work of Jesus today!
I don’t know about you, but I’m glad that Jesus still calls us out, because I still need it. I still stinketh.
Sometimes, when we look to the future, we are blind, and we simply can’t see the possibilities, just like the man we heard about in last week’s Gospel story. This has been the hard work that the Planning Our Future group has been engaged in over the past year. There are sufficient resources available to us in this congregation to allow us to meet and exceed everything that we need and want to do, but it does take each and every one of us working together!
Overall membership in the church has certainly been declining. We’ve seen it in our neighboring parishes. We’ve seen it within our own parish. We don’t have many financially wealthy members. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t an abundance of resources at hand. We need only look inward to inventory our own people’s talents! Then when we find ourselves in the wilderness, we can look around and discover the abundance of resources available to us. We can ask Kerwin to clean the gutters, or Mike to take pictures, or Carol to bake, or … you can identify something that every person here can help with!
Jesus said to Lazarus, “Come out.” Lazarus came out of the tomb bound and wrapped, unable to discern his surroundings. But Jesus gave freedom to Lazarus’ bondage.
Jesus gives each of us freedom from our bondage. We will continue to transform lives – both our own and those outside of our walls. But we need to realize and acknowledge that everything that each of us has, has been given to us by God. And we need to give back to God part of what he has given to us.
The story of Lazarus continues in the next chapter of John with Jesus going to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, where Martha threw a dinner for him. Mary anointed his feet with oil which cost about as much as a laborer would make in a year. Those affected by the raising of Lazarus from the dead gave back to God part of what had been given to them, for they were gracious for God’s blessing.
Some days, I stinketh more than others. Some days, I find myself bound up and wound up – by the expectations that others have of me, by my own insecurities, by my sins.
But the promise of the story of Lazarus is that, like Lazarus, Jesus loves us. Every one of us. He weeps for us. He is deeply moved by us. And he brings life to our death. He brings freedom to our bondage. He brings a shining light every single time we are in darkness.
Believe in Jesus’ love and let it flow out on others. Acknowledge – like Martha and Lazarus – that everything you have has been given to you by God and give back to God part of what he has given to you. Help those in need and pray for them. This is our charge every day of our lives.