Psalm 130:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
John 11:1-45 or 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33-45
In this part of the world, Lent and spring assist each other. The warming of the sun is bringing early flowers out of their silence and is melting the snow back into its watery noise. For us in the northern part of the world, we are coming out of our winterish moods and we are not walking as quickly. We want to say to the world and each other, “Nice to see you again.” That which was dead is coming to life.
Lenten liturgies speak to us of such liveliness. The past two weeks we have heard of “Living Water” and blindness being reversed. Jesus is the water and the light; baptismal symbols which will accompany our Easter celebration. Today’s liturgy has much to speak to us of Spring and Lent.
Ezekiel comforts the people of Israel as they lie in disgrace, discouragement in their exile. The prophet tells them of a Spring which the Lord promises will happen. They will be brought out of their graves of death and shame. They will be resurrected as God’s people on their own lands. It is a promise from the Lord to reestablish the people as God’s own people. As it was with the Exodus, God is saving them from something and for something. The something is their worship and service of the creating and saving God.
The Gospel is the third long story of John which we have heard these past weeks. Two weeks ago, I asked the congregation, “at what point of this Gospel did you stop listening?” There is so much double meaning, symbolism, and deeper senses with which to deal and profit. This Gospel should be proclaimed inch-ishly, one short line at a time. John is moving us towards Palm Sunday and Easter, equally inch-ishly. In fact, Jesus moves slowly at the opening of today’s reading. Lazarus is ill, He is told. He stays away for two days, apparently to highlight that Jesus does not cure His friend, but raises him from the dead and calls him out into the warmth of life.
The Man Born Blind was so, not because of sin, but as with Lazarus, their conditions are presented so that the glorification of God might be seen. Today we have another statement of John’s theme about light. “If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” Good things happen during the daylight in John’s theology, and bad things at night. It is dark in the tomb where Lazarus lies. Growing things come out into and because of, the light.
As with the Woman at the Well and the Man Born Blind, Martha and Mary turn to Jesus with acts of faith, but the story is not about them, nor actually about Lazarus. Jesus’ working signs of life for those who believe, will lead us through Palm Sunday to Easter. Again, the story ends with many peoples’ coming to comfort Mary and Martha, but more significantly, come to believe in Him, because of what they had seen Him do.
Jesus saved Lazarus from the tomb and unbound him from the burial cloths, but did so to return him to his human and relational condition. As with the two characters of the past weeks, the woman and the man were given a sight, a view of whom God says they are and desires them to be. They, with Martha and Mary, and we who have stood watching and listening, are asked to believe in God’s care and call. Jesus has met three humans in typically human settings. The Woman does not know how good she really is and so has kept thirstily grabbing at life. The Man could not see who he was nor could he move about in the daylight of confidence. Lazarus consummated humanity’s destiny by his death and so could do no more works of light.
Jesus has come to us to do the same work of identifying, enlightening and has given us time to do the works of faith and light; His works.
I would like to believe that Lazarus crept inch-ishly out of the
cave as the stone was removed. When the bandages were taken off he
would have had to get accustomed to the light. His steps would be
a bit unsteady. Spring’s warmth and light bring out the growing things,
slowly. Lent is slow and so are we as we creep out of winter’s bandages
and out of our blindness. It takes time and grace and many more Lents
for us to walk in and through our blest humanity so as to do the works
of The Light in the daytime of our lives.
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