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4/10/11 Sermon: 'Behind the Store' by Cheryl Pyrch 4/10/11 Sermon: 'Behind the Store' by Cheryl Pyrch

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   Discussion: 4/10/11 Sermon: 'Behind the Store' by Cheryl Pyrch
Chelsea Badeau · 9 years, 3 months ago

Cheryl Pyrch

Summit Presbyterian Church

April 10, 2011

John 11: 1-45

Behind the Stone

"Unbind him, and let him go."  After these words the story of the raising of Lazarus, the story of snatching him back from death, could have taken a number of different turns.  Many people saw Lazarus come from the tomb, they all could have been convinced that Jesus was Lord, the giver of life, the granter of immortality.  They all might have gone out telling others, bringing yet more people to see him.  Jesus could have opened more tombs, quelling doubts and convincing the multitude that "everyone who lived and believed in him would never die."    Lazarus could have gone on a speaking tour, as Jesus continued to heal every sickness and give life to all the dead bones, until no one - or almost no one - doubted his power, his mandate from God, his divinity.   He could have created a kingdom with all peoples living forever under his beneficent reign -- except, perhaps, those few too stubborn or independent to believe in him, even if it meant they would go to the grave.   The one who raised Lazarus could have saved himself from the cross, established his undisputed authority on heaven and earth, conferred immortality on all who believed, and put hewers of tombs and makers of burial cloths out of business.  Such a  kingdom on earth would have created logistical difficulties  -- but with God nothing is impossible.  



         But that's not the turn the story took.   According to John, when Lazarus was raised, many believed, but others weren't so sure:  they told the Pharisees back in Jerusalem what he had done.  The Pharisees called a council for they were worried -- not only that people would follow Jesus, but that the movement would provoke the Romans to come in and destroy the temple and the nation.   So some began plotting against him and gave orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him.   A few days after Lazarus was raised, Martha and Mary held a dinner for Jesus, with Lazarus at table with them.  At this dinner Mary anointed Jesus with costly perfume - for his burial, he said - and later that week Jesus was crucified by the Roman government.  Like thousands of others who died on the cross before and after, he was laid in a tomb.   The story might have ended there - with no one believing in Jesus as the giver of life -  but Mary Magdalene and Peter and the Beloved Disciple found the tomb empty on the first day of the week.  Jesus showed himself to Mary, and then to the twelve; and John wrote his gospel, he said, so we may believe.





And so we do, we who have accepted the raising of Lazarus as a sign. But what do we  believe about the life that Jesus promises when he says I am the resurrection and the life?  It's clearly not a life without death - that comes to all, including Jesus and including Lazarus, who at some point died again.  God chose not to confer a simple immortality through Jesus, a life on earth that would never end.    It's also not a life that confers earthly power.  Jesus himself rejected such power:   when he was tempted in the desert by Satan and again at the end of his life, when he refused to take up the sword.  It's a life to which all are invited, but it's not forced upon us.  Faith is a gift but no one is compelled to believe in Jesus; and we can't say that God may not offer other ways to choose life.  But we can say this:  the life offered through Jesus is life offered in love.  Jesus loved Lazarus, and Mary and Martha.  Jesus wept when he saw Mary and was deeply disturbed in spirit, even though he knew Lazarus would be back with them soon.  It was dangerous for Jesus to stay in Bethany, but Jesus stayed anyway, to eat at table with Mary and Martha and Lazarus, in the dinner they held for him.   The life Jesus offered them began with their relationship; it didn't wait for their deaths.  It was a life and a love strong enough that Martha and Mary came out to meet Jesus after Lazarus died, even though he had delayed his coming.




         And although it's not a life without death, it's a life and a love powerful enough to overcome death.  It was powerful enough to overcome death's four-day grip on Lazarus in the darkness behind the stone; we can be confident  it's powerful enough to overcome the death of anyone we love, and our own, even if we can only imagine what that eternal life is like.  As a life that begins now, it's also powerful enough to overcome the death and darkness in our lives.  Powerful enough to overcome the death and darkness of our spirit that comes from grief, or depression, anxiety and loneliness.  It's powerful enough to overcome  the large scale death that we inflict on each other, through war and violence, greed and neglect.    It's powerful enough to overcome the death and destruction from disasters of all kinds.  It's power is not fully apparent to us now.  Death and darkness may seem to be gaining ground and claiming victories.   But the raising of Lazarus was a sign --- a sign of a love stronger than the grave, a sign for those who were there and for us.  We're invited to trust in that love, whether or not we believe in the miracle of this particular sign - and not all Christians do believe - butu we are invited to trust in that love, and in the one who is the resurrection and the life. 



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