Pastor’s Corner Rev. Robert P. Doner, pastor, Peace United Church of Christ Gladbrook, Iowa-The Lazarus Syndrome
April 4, 2014
Easter is now around the corner—something that you already know without my telling you! I hope that whatever Easter preparations you are making are falling into place and that you are eager to enjoy the holiday. As I write, for this first week of April, I noticed that among the readings of scripture is the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. A miracle story, Lazarus’ raising sets the stage for the greater miracle of Jesus’ resurrection. Taken together the stories appear to reinforce early Christian belief that God can and will impact human life at personal levels as well at the level of all humanity for all time. If we want to state this in church jargon we need only to listen to the words of the late theologian Karl Barth: “The Holy Spirit establishes the righteousness of heaven in the midst of the unrighteousness of the earth and will not stop or stay until all that is dead has been brought to life and a new world has come into being.” I personally like what Barth said; of course, I take it slow, savoring the phraseology, and giving his thought due consideration in light of my own beliefs and experiences. I imagine, however, that we would prefer the simpler, more direct approach. The death of Lazarus affected his sisters Mary and Martha deeply. They believed that had Jesus arrived sooner in response to their call for help that Lazarus would not have died at all. They wanted a miracle immediately and they believed it possible. And, certainly, as Jesus himself states it, “For mortal it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” In Jesus it certainly was possible that the saving of Lazarus from dying would have been possible. But could Jesus give life to the dead? Yes! After Martha finally affirms that Jesus can, her faith is rewarded—Jesus calls forth Lazarus from his tomb and he once more has life among the living. In the brief time that separates this event to Jesus’ arrest, trial, death and resurrection, a greater vision is at work. God has prepared the way for an act that will reshape the whole of humanity. Now all the people of faith , past, present, and future—will share in a rebirth of life that will carry them from their human experience into an experience of life as eternal as God is eternal. The resurrected Jesus will appear in fleshly form before the eyes of Mary Magdalene and the disciples; and yet this resurrected Jesus is not human life reborn like Lazarus but born of the Spirit. God has indeed overcome death—and united human life with spiritual life in a way that still baffles scholars and theologians. But know simply this: it is God’s miracle and for God all things are possible. God does not believe in death, save that death serves to bring new life. We who believe and celebrate Easter’s message know that now we live not to die but to embrace life that leads to life. The hard, long winter that Iowans suffered through this past winter’s season is past; as I write the farming community is busily about the business of preparing the earth for a rebirth. For God, Easter is the time of putting behind the harshness of life’s issues and setting forth on a new journey and a new life. For Jesus, let us keep in mind of the Clement of Alexandria: “King of the saints, invincible Word and Father most High, wisdom’s Prince; Ground of exertion, eternal Joy; Jesus, Savior of this mortal race, you the Shepherd, Cultivator, you the Helmsman and the Rider, you the Wing that lifts us to heaven all the company of saints; Fisher of me; Them you came to deliver from the waters of sin; to fish untainted by the envious sea, you cast the bait of sweet fresh life.” Have a blessed Easter; and may the gift and miracle of life that is God’s through Jesus be yours today and forever.
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