St. Mark's Episcopal Church

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Lent 5 Sermon 2011
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Rev. Lorraine Dierick

Jesus has been away for far too long and we miss him so.  He knows he is always welcome in my home which I share with my sister Mary and my brother Lazarus here in Bethany.  Ours is not the usual family; it's just the three of us, Mary, Lazarus and I.  No husband for Mary or I, no wife for Lazarus.  No little children running and playing.  We know Jesus has a special place in his heart for us and we're anxious for him to be with us again.

We always try to make him feel at home and comfortable when he is here.  The crowds of people that gather around him are becoming larger and larger, he often needs a quiet place to rest.  The stories of his healing and teaching are spreading like wild fire around the area.

It is only a short distance from here to Jerusalem and we have heard that anger and hostility is increasing whenever he confronts the Pharisees in the temple. Jesus means no harm, but he has a passion for trying to change the systems of injustice which create such hardships for the ordinary folks who are only trying to feed and care for their families.  Widows especially have a desperate time, for having no man in the household they are completely without any means to put bread on the table.  

So many people still do not fully understand our dear friend's message of peace and healing.  It is not his intent to take away the law and traditions but only to put the needs of people before the demands of the law.  

The story is being told of Jesus healing a man blind from birth.  The religious authorities were more concerned about the sin they believed caused the man's blindness and the fact that Jesus dared to break the Sabbath in order to heal his affliction.  They can not see the joy that filled this man at being made whole and able to fully enter into the life of his community.  Jesus really sent them over the edge when he tried to tell them his power came from God.  They picked up stones ready to hurl them at him.  The authorities continued to pressure him, "Who are you? Are you the Christ?"  They accused him of blasphemy and were outraged to hear him say, "I am God's Son."  Can you understand now the fears we have, for Jesus is indeed treading on dangerous territory.

On top of all that, Mary and I have been watching Lazarus closely as he hasn't been himself the last few days.  We finally decided to send a message to Jesus to tell him the one he loves is ill.  But he didn't get here in time.  With great sorrow we tended the body and placed our brother in a tomb.  Thankfully we were not alone, as many friends came from Jerusalem to console us in our grief.

At last we've been told Jesus is coming so I ran out to meet him.  "Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died," I said to Jesus.  Then Jesus told me my brother would rise again.  I answered, "Yes Jesus, I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the end of time."  I was astonished at what he said next, "You don't have to wait for the End.  I am, right now, Resurrection and Life.”

It was at that moment I believed with all my heart.  I understood and truly believed that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God who comes to us and the entire world.  

Then I went to my sister and told her the Teacher was calling for her.  She greeted him with the same words as I had, "Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping surrounded by many also weeping he was deeply moved. Then Jesus wept, he grieved with all of us standing at the burial place.  As he approached the tomb he said, "Take away the stone."  I protested, "But Jesus, he has been dead for four days, there will be a terrible stench."  Jesus raised his eyes heavenward and prayed, "Father, I thank you for always hearing me.  Now may all those standing here believe that it is you who sent me."

Then Jesus shouted, "Lazarus, come out!"  And he did, Lazarus came out of the tomb still wrapped in the grave cloths.  And Jesus commanded, "Unbind him and let him go."

We could hardly believe our eyes, our brother was dead and we saw Jesus bring him back to life.  Seeing this, many more believed in him also.  I will never forget that day, suddenly everything I had heard Jesus say and everything I had seen him do made sense to me. Jesus and God are one and the power of death has been broken forever.  I know physical death is a reality for all people but it does not end our life with God.  We don't have to wait until the end of time to be reunited with our Lord; he is always with us.  Jesus lives in us throughout our time on earth, remains with us through death and into life eternal.  Yes Lord, I believe.  AMEN 


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