Ezekiel 37, 12-14 + Psalm 130 + Romans 8, 8-11 + John 11, 1-45
Prepared during a time of self-isolation during the pandemic.
The last of the seven signs that make up John’s Gospel is proclaimed today. Looking up and looking at the other six would be a good assignment as we all stay home this weekend hoping to remain healthy. For now, as often for me, it’s the verbs in this text that can lead us deeper in this mystery. “Take” “Come” and “Untie.” With those three words, the mission of Jesus, the will of his Father, and hope within us all is laid out for our contemplation. Perhaps, in these three commands there is for us mission given and the order is given for what we must do in the name of Jesus.
He tells us, in a sense, to “Take Away” a stone, a stone that is a barrier or for some, perhaps a burden. We are a people commanded to lift or remove the stones that keep others from living, that keep others away from their loved ones, that keep others away from Jesus himself. If this Gospel is real, and if God is speaking to us right now, as we believe happens when the assembly is together, then God commands again that we Take away something, anything, that keeps someone away from love, life, or perhaps lonely, in the darkness of a tomb of resentment or shame. Take Away God says to us.
Then again, God speaks to us and says: “Come out.” Perhaps at no better time does this command prepare us to “Come out” of this time of isolation or quarantine. Come out he says to us to give glory to God and give thanks. “Come out” is the command to people hiding in fear. More broadly he says, “Come out” to anyone who, like Lazarus, has been given up for dead. “Come out” he says to those have lost the Spirit of life, of joy, and peace.
Finally, there is one more command, “Untie”, which echoes in the last instruction Jesus gives to us, his disciples. We will hear it again after Easter as he departs and commissions us to forgive. “Untie” is what we are told to do. Set people free. Cut away whatever keeps our brothers and sisters from really living in the joy of our faith. The baggage of our past so often keeps us from the fullness of life and destroys relationships that could wrap us love. Resentments, grudges, and shame wrap and tangle too many of us, and keep us from living the life we have been promised and hope for.