Devotional for March 9, 2014 (First week of Lent): Raising Lazarus

 

Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor

Bible Background                                                                                                                                                                 We have ventured into the season of Lent. In the Christian calendar, Lent is a period of forty days in which we repent, reflect, and prepare for new life in Easter.  It is a time of pruning, a time of grieving for what was and looking forward to what will be. It is a time to look towards new life.  At the CoOp we will be using this season to delve into what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Narrative Lectionary brings us into Lent with a story of renewal and grief all wrapped up into one. This story offers us so much in our journey of faith.  First of all, we are offered promises of what is to come.  When Jesus first hears about Lazarus, Jesus takes his time to get to the scene. Jesus doesn’t rush off to meet the family or to save Lazarus from death. Jesus knows that there will be new life and there must be a process to this scenario.  God will work in God’s time and all shall be well.  We are promised this kind of new life.  We are promised renewal and restoration.

When Jesus arrives on the scene, he weeps.  Martha and Mary are grieving. Jesus weeps.  The representation of God in human form breaks down and grieves with Mary and Martha.  God grieves with us.  When things are dying around us.  When life is not what it seems it should be.  When we face our darkness head on.  God grieves deeply with us.  Jesus doesn’t offer answers to why or where he has been. He just grieves with the family. He grieves with us.  We can count on that throughout our Lenten journey.

Jesus then commands Lazarus to come out! In the midst of our death, we are called forth into new life.  When we have reached the edge, we are called to activity.  As if that is not enough, Jesus yells to unbind the one who has been restored.  Those around the new life are called to participate in restoring.  If we are not the one with new life, we still have a job to do.  New life is God’s business but not God’s business alone.  To be active disciples, we must participate in the new life.  We are co-creators and co-restorers in this journey.  God’s work is ongoing. Inasmuch as our journey starts in admitting our own deaths it also begins in restoration and renewal.  We are given new lives of active participatory faith.  How we will we live this call out during the season?  When we answer the call to where God draws us in, we are also saying yes to this journey towards another death and resurrection.                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

Quotes of the Week                                                                                                                                                         “It is always quietly thrilling to find yourself looking at a world you know well but have never seen from such an angle before.” ― Bill Bryson  

Genius is the ability to renew one’s emotions in daily experience.” – Paul Cezanne

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.  Delicious Ambiguity.” ― Gilda Radner

“Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being.” ― Albert Schweitzer

John 11:1-44 (NRSV)Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill.  So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”  But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”  Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazaruswas ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”  The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?”  Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.”  The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Thomas, who was called the Twin,said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.  Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home.  Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”  Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[f]Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live,  and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him.Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there.

 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.  He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”  Jesus began to weep.  So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”  But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.  Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Questions for the Week

Where do you need renewal?

What does it mean to co-create with God?

How does affect you to know that God weeps with us?

 

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About pastorcourt

Courtney McHill is the pastor at Rose City Park United Methodist Church in Northeast Portland where they love compassionately and inclusively!
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