In the sermon this past Sunday, we reflected on the story of Lazarus’ resurrection in John 11 and we heard the good news proclaimed that:
“Christ, the beginning and the end… the God who weeps and also wipes away every tear… the God who dies also swallows up death forever… is rehumanizing us. Instead of just coping with death, he empowers us to be present to it without being overcome by it!”
The shape of the sermon was guided in large part by one of the readings included in Morning Prayer on All Saints Day (Monday, November 1). Lesson one came from the Apocrypha — 2 Esdras 2:42-47.
In the passage, the prophet Ezra sees a vision of a crowd too large to number praising God. In the center, there was a young man, taller than anyone in the crowd, placing a crown on the head of each person. Ezra goes on to ask an angel who the people making up this scene are and he’s told that the crowd is made up of all the saints that have gone before us in this life and that the young man crowning them is Jesus.
This vision of Christ crowning all the saints, unknown and known, that have gone before us moved me to tears. It stuck with me all week in my preparation for Sunday and when paired with the picture of Jesus we receive in the story of Lazarus it crystallizes two fundamental aspects of the Christian faith.
The first is that Christ, in his resurrection and here in the story of Lazarus, defeated death. Even as we move through life surrounded by death we can walk in confidence that death doesn’t have the last word!
The second is that walking in the knowledge of the coming resurrection, renewal, and reconciliation of all things does not act as a numbing agent. Resurrection is not just a platitude or a fanciful story we tell ourselves, but instead it is a coming, concrete reckoning with death and loss. We see Jesus, on his way to Lazarus’ tomb, on his way to certain resurrection, disturbed and weeping.
This is a beautiful picture of what it means to be the people of God — people that are present to pain and death, but who are not overcome by it.
Friends, as you continue navigating a season of life that at times seems to be defined by a disease and the death that comes with it, may you walk in the knowledge that you are not alone, that resurrection is coming, and that you can be present to reality without being overcome by it.
May the peace of Christ be with you,