Resurrection is a Team Sport

This is the Lent 5 A sermon Hugh gave at our Wednesday Prayers service on April 5, 2017.

Text: John 11:1- 45

Sometimes, we reach a point where things have to change.

Sometimes, the path we are on is one that is guaranteed to destroy us, and we have to change course. We have to change direction, we have to stop – to really stop. And when that happens, the person that we were, the person who was doing those things, their ego – it has to die. And then you have to start again.

For the last few weeks, we have seen various examples of this.

When the rich man Nicodemus came to Jesus in the middle of the night so no one would see him and asked Jesus how to change, Jesus told him he must do nothing less than be born again.

When the woman at the well wanted to know how to end her perpetual thirst, Jesus told her she needed living water.

Last week we learned about a man born blind who then met Jesus and began to see for the first time, giving us hope that one day we too can learn to truly see.

With this week’s story, it’s as if the writers were tired of playing with metaphor and decided to get very literal: We are going to talk not just about new life, or going from blind to seeing or perpetual thirst – we are going to talk about what it means to come back from the dead!

Lazarus and his family were friends of Jesus, and Jesus wept when he learned of Lazarus’ death. Lazarus’ sisters believe Jesus can bring him back to life, even though he has been in the grave for four days.

So Jesus stands at the door of the tomb and shouts, with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” And he does! Lazarus, still bound up in the shroud that bound him in the grave, comes to the door of the tomb, alive!

And that is where we often stop the story. Lazarus was dead, and now he isn’t. Jesus has healed Lazarus, brought him back from the grave, so let’s talk about something else.

Often we do that in our own lives, too. I quit drinking, so let’s move on. I stopped living with the man who hurt me, so let’s move on. I got a place to live now, so let’s act like nothing happened.

But the dirty secret is that it isn’t just about being born again, or getting spiritual water, or learning to see again or even about coming back from the grave. It’s about what happens next.

Because there is Lazarus, who is now alive, but still bound up. And Jesus tells his friends, his community, those who love him to unbind him, and let him go.

Jesus tells us that resurrection is a team sport. That while Jesus breathed new life into Lazarus, it lies with his community to free him, to unbind him from the things that hold him back, to pull him from the tomb and give him a second chance.

Because when we are in the midst of things going to hell in a handcart, the question that lies in front of us isn’t can we come back from this – because almost always, we can. We can have a fresh start, we can be born again, we can learn to see anew, we can have our thirst quenched. We can even come back from the dead.

No, the question isn’t can we do it – the question is, who is going to help us do it?

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Hugh Hollowell

Author: Hugh Hollowell

Hugh is a Mennonite minister and the founding director of Love Wins. He likes peanut M&Ms.