Here are we are, together in our aloneness, hoping for a miracle, and our gospel this morning gifts us with one.
The healing of Lazarus is one of the most powerful miracle stories in the gospel. Lazarus is with his sisters Mary and Martha; all friends of Jesus and Lazarus had fallen ill. At his sister’s behest, Jesus returns to help him, at great risk to himself since the mob has begun to turn against him. Jesus finds Lazarus in the tomb, already four days past. And yet, in an echo of the resurrection story, Jesus orders the stone blocking the entrance rolled away. “Lazarus, come out!” Jesus calls. And the gospel tells us that Lazarus does indeed emerge, his hands bound by strips of cloth and his face covered.
Jesus orders: “Unbind him and let him go.”
As miracles go, it’s a pretty extraordinary resurrection.
As people of science, we struggle with stories like this: they make no sense in the modern world – in our current world. This is true even as so many grieving families around the world are wishing for just this kind of miracle.
But as people of faith, we learn to accept that not all answers are known, not all actions are logical, not all events make sense.
And certainly, this is a time, when we are surrounded by miracles. We have men and women around the world – doctors and nurses – who at great risk to themselves continue to work to keep strangers alive. It is not logical. It doesn’t make sense. We know seniors – who are most at risk – still volunteering to keep food banks going so that families in need don’t go without. It is not logical. It doesn’t make sense. We see neighbors sharing with neighbors, and people sacrificing their freedom for a common good, and people donating money when their own finances are at risk. It is not logical. It doesn’t make sense.
And so, in the darkest time of grief, we are surrounded by miracles. At a time when danger stalks us, we are witnesses to resurrection.
If we choose to see them, that is. It is easy to get mired in the darkness of the times, and yet, in every conversation I have been having with people, I see the struggle to find that light, to witness the miracle. I could see it in our youth discussion online this past weekend, and in the energy of the children of our church when we participated in a children’s sermon on Saturday morning. There is life to be lived, and savoured, right in front of us.
I counsel all of us to hear the words of Jesus to Lazarus “Unbind him and let him go.” So says Jesus to us all: by grace, through faith, we are all unbound. But not to be sent away on our own: we are unbound from our troubles to stand and serve with Jesus, who will keep us from stumbling.
There is something else we may miss from the story of Lazarus. We tend to focus on the singular miracle performed by Jesus. But there is a community represented in our gospel this morning – Martha and Mary’s, whose generosity and welcome to Jesus were returned in kind when their brother was in need. The voices of the disciples debating the logistics – could they go back? Was it worth it? And Jesus deciding that yes, even one life was worthy of the risk of saving.
How much that compares to our current time, and how many lessons lie in this story for us. As with Martha and Mary, the kindness we show others now may be what we need someday, not far in the distance. There will also be voices among us – those disciples who question the risks we take and the choices we make. Those are valuable opinions, and we should listen to them as well; they help us weigh our options, clarify our values, and choose safer paths to our goal. And then there is Jesus, who reminds us that every life – old and young, poor and rich – has value.
I want to remind all of you to call the office if you need anything or would just like to talk. We will be having regular Zoom meetings with our youth, young adults, confirmands, and an emerging small study group. We will continue to deliver resources for worship at home, electronically and on paper through loving volunteers who will drop them off. Please check up on our rising donations in Saint John’s GoFundMe campaign for Partage Vanier.
Be witness to the miracles around us. Be lifted by the charity of others. And be unbound by the gift of grace through faith that teaches us to live in a mysterious world through these uncertain times and know that our lives are valued by God. Amen
(for the 5thSunday in Lent—March 29, 2020—John 11:1-45)