Thursday, February 28, 2008

Come out!

Sunday 9th March (formerly known as Passion Sunday) you could read from the selection of readings which includes Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:6-11; John 11:1-45 - The Fifth Sunday of Lent
Perhaps one of the hardest stories for modern Christians to come to grips with
because this story of the resurrection of Lazarus confronts us with a dead person
who is brought back to life
But when I think about it
I have had a number of resurrection experiences where a dead person has been revived.
We live, for example,  in an era where the miracle of modern medicine 
means life for any number of people
who a generation ago would have died prematurely.
I don't want to belittle what Jesus did for Lazarus;
that we don't fully understand it 
is obvious.
Most of us would find that as our lives go on 
our encounter with 
the 'death event'
is a curious and mixed-bag
and is not easily described
either physically, spiritually or emotionally.
If we try to get straight just what happened
and to focus solely on the mechanics of the event
This is, I suspect, rather to miss the point of this narrative
that we read  today.
Change of focus
The commentators on John's Gospel
often make the point
that this chapter 11 marks a point of transition
in the Gospel
it moves away from the miraculous signs 
to the engagement with the resurrection
...what one writer says is 'the end of the Book of Signs
and the beginning of the Book of Glory'...
the two are connected of course
But we are reminded that the greatest sign of Christ's glory
is his death and resurrection.
Death is  at least one of, and probably,  the most important things
that happen to us
This almost seems trite to say.
Yet we can be in danger of not getting it right
and missing what is important.
We do this because we are fearful, sad, angry, guilty....and any other range of things
The Christian mystery  is that
Death is the gate to eternal life.

This doesn't just happen
even for Martha and Mary
it has to be carefully teased out.
And the key insight that this passage reveals 
is that death is transformed
when Jesus is brought to bear.
If we do nothing else 
when confronted 
with death
we need to be with Jesus.

I do not pretend this is easy.
It does not make the pain go away.
This is not what is on offer.

What is on offer is the transfromation of death
into resurrection and life.
We all have sneaking glimmers of what this might be like.
Not always someone standing outside a tomb
and shouting "Come Out!"
but the transformation is as profound.
We are to come to faith in Jesus
and hear Jesus says what he says to Martha
11:25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. 
Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live"
This is not, I suggest, a formula
but rather an experience
How does Jesus speak LIFE
into your experience of DEATH?
If we do not listen
if we do not ask 
if we do not allow Jesus to breathe life into the dry bones
then we are missing out 
on the key transformation.

Death is, I suggest, 
the most wonderful experience of life.
In it we encounter the fulness of Jesus.
It is, as we enter into it,
not without pain.
But also with the possibility of great hope.
Jesus stands at the door of our life
and shouts "Come Out"
We do not, and will not
fully understand what is going on.
There is not the promise of no pain
or no sadness
rather that the gate of death will become 
the way to a new way of living.
This only happens 
when we allow Jesus to transform it.
 in the related story in Ezekiel 37 that we read today
the prophet speaks God's word
over a valley of dead bones
(It is almost a bizarre experience...but we are dealing in highly imaginal language here)
The idea is the same 
God transforms what is dead
to a new way of living.
This week
Where am I beseiged by death? My own, someone else's or...?
Can I give a little time to allow Jesus to speak to this...what does he say?
Can I believe this.....pray for belief (Lord I believe...but help my unbelief?)
Can we prophesy over the death that surrounds us on every side..."I am the Resurrection and the Life says the Lord"
In the valley of darkness
surrounded by bones
speak the words I need to hear
I am the resurrection and the life.
Lord I want to believe
let my unbelief crumble in the face of your Word

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