Wednesday, April 6, 2011

In Lazarus Moments

One day, as the church parking lot filled up, people were surprised to find the doors to the church tightly locked. And there was a sign on the door. It read: “I’ve been preaching here for three years about how we should live out the gospel in our daily lives. You must have heard the message. Now go out and do something about it!”

I have often wondered about our North American culture and our fixation on the end of things and on death. Consider what the most popular shows on television these days are about: death! “NCIS”, “CSI”, the various incarnations of “Law and Order” not to mention the aptly named shows “Bones” and Body of Evidence but to name a few. When I was studying for ordination, it was a big deal to come home on Tuesday nights after class (with Tim Horton's Tea of course!) to watch “House”. I used to like how Dr. House had all the answers, even when he didn't. I used like how he could somehow, some way because of how brilliant he was, cheat death and get his patient to live. But as it kept happening over and over again, I began to realize that he could not stop the inevitable – he could indeed “cheat” for the moment but the moment would not last. He could stave off death but he did not have the power to stop it much less prevent it.

I think that is what we look for God to do to: to prevent death. We as a culture want God to stop death right in its own tracks and cause death itself to cease to exist so that we don’t have to endure it anymore. We can sense the separation and we know the heartache that being separated from God causes. And I think that is why both Martha and Mary say to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” We seem to want to live this life forever instead of looking to what God is preparing for us in the future and moving towards it. We fail to lift our eyes up to the hills and to look for the presence of God in the midst of everything that is happening and think of God, his glory and desire his presence to make everything new again. Maybe we should take the time to consider that very thought – what do we lift up our eyes for? Where do we go for our strength when the storms and winds of life come?

Perhaps we need to consider that God desires to breathe new life into the dry bones of this exiled age. Maybe we need to boldly proclaim to our community, “Thus says the LORD, I will cause breathe to enter you and you will live! I will breathe life into you who have stopped dreaming and ceased hoping; you who have settled into your comfortable armchairs and couches with your comfortable lives. I will breathe rejuvenation into you who have work commitments, stacks of dirty dishes on the counter and piles of laundry laid out on the floor. I will bring to you who think that the best days of your life are behind you the wine of fresh vigour. The Lord says to you, “Rise up” from the little graves where you are content to sleep and wait for something better to come along. Arise, and discover that the Spirit is blowing on you, restoring and renewing your life and vitality. Arise and live with because the world needs you to rise up and live with hope so that they might see and know that God is not done with us just yet.

Seeing and experiencing “Lazarus moments” ought to stir us to action – to present to this hurt, fearful, sick and dying world, the Christ who would rather die than be in glorious eternity without them. We ought to be motivated to reach out to people not to just bring them in the doors of our buildings but to help them walk through the gate and into wider, bigger life with Christ. After all who would have thought that when Jesus faced towards the yawning darkness of the entrance to that tomb and boldly, purposefully called, “Come out!” that it would actually happen? Who would have believed that death itself could be undone so that we are raised to new life and let lose to really and truly live and serve the Master.

Thanks be to God that he can not only put the stopper back into the bottle of tears, praise God that there is always life where there is hope in him. Let us go and boldly proclaim that hope in Jesus’ name.

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