One of the joys of being an Episcopalian is the centrality of the Holy Bible to our faith. Through the lectionary we are able to read almost all of scripture in a three-year cycle. Thus, when we encounter the readings for today, which seem so poignant for these present moments, it leaves one only relishing in the scripture’s normality. Who would ever believe we would, at any time, yearn for the things we have often overlooked or condemned as boring?
With the increasing restrictions aimed at reducing the spread of the Covid-19 virus, we yearn for the mundane activities of working, walking, going to church and even buying toilet paper. The lectionary in its normality reminds us time, as all other things do, lies in the Hands of God. The readings are filled with the theme of life after death and dried bones being reconstituted into living bodies. St. Paul challenges the Church in Rome to look beyond any prevailing scenario of death to envision new life, “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:6
Faith is knowing that Jesus has the power to reach beyond the limits of human limitations and our deepest fears to proclaim the presence and power of God. “Lazarus come forth!” is not a request or a magical potion, but a bold proclamation of the ultimate power of God, which Christian faith declares Jesus was its very embodiment.
At the death of Lazarus, the lives of Martha and Mary and many of his friends were changed forever. They could not envisage life beyond their prevailing grief. Many of us are presently wrapped in a similar pall as we face the wrath of an illness that fails to respect our artificial barriers of race, color, creed, wealth or power. For many, the world has stopped and for us in the Church, we are in deep spiritual crisis.
In the Lazarus story, Jesus, in many ways, is declaring many things are now dead; a culture, which sidelined faith, family and friends for temporal material gain, is dead! A church, which was more fascinated by its power, buildings and schisms than its service to God and humanity, is now dead! Family structures built on past loves and broken dreams while immunizing itself with alcohol, drugs, and indifference is now dead!
This is now our moment in which we can stands still and hear the words of Jesus’ clarion call, “Lazarus come forth!” These are echoes of God’s act of creation when He declared, “Let there be light!”, or the same power which moved over the Red Sea and made a gateway from slavery to freedom; from death to life.
The question before us today, as Jesus invites us to approach what was declared dead. Are, we going to stand still and weep over the past or run away in fear? Or, are we bold enough to encounter, to reach out, to grasp the new life being offered and unwrap it? To be continued….