John 11:32-44When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"
Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days." Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, "Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me." When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."
All Saints Day
This is All Saints Day. It is a special day in the church calendar where we honor the saints of the church. There are many who are saints and not just those who get so much recognition. We have a book of some of those women and men in the Episcopal Church. It is titled Holy Women Holy Men, Celebrating the Saints. Ever since I was a child I have enjoyed hearing and reading about saints. One of my favorite childhood books was one that gave short biographies of the Saints. I kept the book next to my bed and I would read and re-read their stories. I was especially drawn to the miracles they were said to have performed during their lifetimes. They were like modern day super heroes to me. There were those who had curative powers, some who could levitate and some who were given the stigmata, the wounds of the crucified Christ. I wanted to be like them. I figured that if I could just somehow stop sinning it might actually happen. I am still waiting for the quitting sinning part to kick in.
There are saints among us today too. I remember often mentioning that Marion Miller was a saint and I have no doubt that she is now with God. I am sure many of you can think of some saintly person in your life. Maybe you could share with us who that person is and tell us a little bit about her or him.
Let me talk about our gospel reading. The story of Lazarus is probably one of the better known stories in the New Testament. Jesus was a little late in getting to Bethany to visit his sick friend Lazarus, four days too late according to John's Gospel. Jesus can feel the agony of Lazarus's family and friends as he approaches the tomb. And he weeps. This moment, to me, is one of the most poignant scenes in the bible. Jesus wept. He showed his human nature. We are left to wonder why tears came to Jesus. Was it a sense of loss of a good friend. Were his tears the result of his empathy for those in mourning. Was it his reflection of his own impending death? We do not know. All we know is he wept.
And, then after a prayer to his heavenly Father, Jesus commands that the tomb be opened and Lazarus be released.
In our bible study last Tuesday we were given this question, “As Lazarus emerged from the tomb, Jesus told the others to unbind him and let him go. On a metaphorical level, what are the things that bind you in your own life? How does your faith set you free.” We are not very good at answering these kinds of very personal questions. Let me try to respond now. What binds me are my attachments to things like my material possessions, my pride and my health. These things are not eternal. They will all pass, some quicker than others. What frees me is the sense of God's presence and knowing that I have been given a gift, a chance to dance in that divine dance we call life.