Sermon for April 2, 2017 Lent 5 “If you had been There”
The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord GOD, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. …
So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’ I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, .
I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act, says the LORD.’
The Gospel story of the raising of Lazarus is a long one and most of the story is setting the stage. In essence John, instead of saying ‘you had to be there’ offers the background so that we can in fact almost be there. We have a glimpse into the special relationship between Mary, Martha, Lazarus and Jesus. We have a sense that apart from the family this time was shared by the community. We hear the anguish of Martha who met Jesus on the road and said ‘if only you had been here’ and the silence of the disciples who knew that Jesus lingered for two days before deciding to come to Bethany.
In the commentary on this text, Veronice Miles states: “the fifth Sunday of lent invites us to consider the possibility of resurrection in the lives of the many persons and communities who deeply need God’s presence in the newness of our existence. One of the greatest hindrance to imagining possibilities is perceptual distortion. Obstacles appear larger and more ominous than they are, keeping us preoccupied with trying to avoid danger rather than discerning alternatives.”
As we journey in Lent and on to Holy Week we do so our minds is at least two streams of thought. Unlike the disciples, we know what happens. And even still we try to experience the events as if for the first time. And we cannot help but know the resurrection happens. It is an interesting mind twist for the journey and is critical to the destination.
Jesus knew the plan of God for Lazarus and all those gathered there that day. In real time everyone in the story was living it for the first time and when Lazarus stepped out of the tomb it had to have sent shock waves to the hearts and minds of Mary, Martha and those gathered.
In our day we get fixated on the dry bones and the death of Lazarus. We cannot see into the possibility and wonder of God and Jesus. We cannot see past our fear and we are challenged to hear the word of God. The word that is life giving: Prophesy to these bones and say to them hear the word of the Lord, and Jesus says: Lazarus come out.
And I prophesied as God commanded me, and the breath came into them and they lived. And Lazarus came out and Jesus said: take off his bindings.
The word of God comes to us this day from the four winds, there is no escaping the breath of God, it will enter us and we will see possibility where before there was only barrenness. We will be a people of Spirit where before we could only imagine bygone days. The bindings will be removed and we will live like never before, see like never before. And all of this happens so that we will know in the deepest place of our knowing, know the Glory of God.