Sermon 2017 April 2nd

ST COLUMBA’S, PONT STREET

SUN 02 Apr 2017, LENT V

Listen Here: https://youtu.be/vuRXNT8Wkfk

 

Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” John 11:44
The BBC Sport website carried a short piece of video footage last week.

It came from a rugby league match.

A player makes a mazy run – almost scores a great individual effort try –

but close to the try line is finally collared,

disappearing under a mountain of defenders.

Yet, to the amazement of the crowd, somehow, he emerges once more,

brushing off further challenges, and scoring a wonder try.

Up in the commentary box, with a rising crescendo:

“Oh Lazarus – he was dead and buried – but he got up and scored. Incredible!

 

That you might say is the bit everyone thinks of when we hear the name Lazarus –

dead, buried, risen.

There is of course a whole lot more to the story, as just read.

But whenever we approach this drama there lurks the almost irresistible question:

Did it happen?

 

To which I would ask: If it did literally happen, would that help us?

Put another way:

Does a story – literal or literary – about a miraculous moment two thousand years ago

say anything of worth to a young baptismal family

trying its best to raise a new-born with love,

those facing death or grieving the loss of loved ones?

Or to us, would-be C21st disciples of Christ?

 

“Come out Lazarus – Unbind him and let him go.”

The Gospels are stitched together with extraordinary events,

associated with the ministry of Jesus.

These miracles are understood as indicative of the power of God.

That is what the early Christian community understood, wanted to pass on.

Miracles are about the power of God

and Jesus as agent of miracle, is carrier of the divine DNA.

 

John’s Gospel with its careful construction and own particular themes

brings us seven signs.

They escalate from water into wine,

to various healings, to feeding the five thousand,

walking on the sea, sight for the blind,

and today, the seventh sign – resurrection from the dead. Come out Lazarus.

The signs (semeia) point us toward Jesus’ identity.

They are not ends in themselves,

but “visible indications of something else” (Koester, 74),

the unique relationship of Jesus with God

and the possibility of sharing in that relationship

 

The Lazarus story, recorded only in John, forms a bridge

between the public ministry of Jesus with the events

related to the final Passover, death and resurrection.

It is a prefiguration of the resurrection.

 

For John it is another example of the importance of believing in the identity of Jesus –

and the Greek word is not so much about believing intellectually

but more about believing as –

Do you trust this? Do you rest your faith in this? Do you live toward this?

 

As John tells the story, the raising of Lazarus leads to two things:

For some, it leads to belief in Jesus;

for others, it accelerates their desire to destroy him –

Lazarus too (who is targeted by the religious authorities.)

 

“Come out Lazarus – Unbind him and let him go.”

 

A child this week, given the news that a cousin had died;

through hot and angry tears asked:

“Why couldn’t he (the cousin) come back: Jesus did!”

 

Some years ago, I shared with you the account by another minister

of a funeral, she had conducted.

In her words: the worst funeral she ever conducted.

 

It was for the infant of a young couple.

In her visits to the couple, the young father insisted the minister

say the baby was sleeping and that she refer to the coffin as a crib.

During the service he came in late, drunk and highly distraught

and attempted to lift the child from the coffin.

It was the worst display of raw grief she had ever witnessed.

 

Reflecting on these painful things another minister suggested:

The story of Lazarus doesn’t lead us to expect that

God will resurrect the baby on the spot.

Even Lazarus, once raised, is subject to physical death.

But the story might lead us to expect that, despite all appearances,

God could resurrect the faith of that father. Alyce McKenzie

 

Resurrection and life are central to the meaning of the Christian life;

resurrection and life, for individuals and communities.

As the Christian Aid poster declares: “We believe in life before death.”

 

Is it possible that we might hear,

“Come out Lazarus – Unbind him and let him go” as an urgent call,

beckoning us to consider the people, places and possibilities ripe for resurrection.

Those bound by the grave clothes of war, poverty,

disease, disability, abuse, addiction, aging,

loneliness or despair.

 

Releasing someone from the power of death requires something from us.

Resurrected men and women require caring communities

that are willing to nurture and strengthen them until they are able to walk alone.

 

Our Night Shelter, staffed by volunteers,

is almost a t the end of another season –

we give thanks for the work carried out in churches across South West London.

 

We continue to plan and prayer for the development of a pastoral care visitors.

We have the opportunity to give towards our Lent Appeal – the GKExperience,

which wonderfully opens up horizons and self-confidence,

for young people from some of Scotland’s most deprived areas.

We could polish a pew at next week’s church clean up

to prepare this place for the worship of Holy Week.

 

We could sign up to shake a can/be a collector on behalf of Christian Aid Week.

I dream that a month before the volunteer sign up deadline Lucy will inform me –

“Actually, we have the thirty-six names required already –

but we are opening a reserve list!”

There are ways and ways for us, to unbind and let people go.

 

“This resurrection is a process that begins every morning,
every night, every day.
We are called on a journey of resurrection
to do the work of God,
to bring love into our families, our communities and the world.”
Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John, J Vannier
 “Take away the stone: Jesus commands.

Come out now: I am not done with you or the world yet –

[I have more to say – you have more to hear, more to do.]

Unbind him and let my go.