Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Raising of Lazarus, Lazarus Saturday

Sermon / Homily on John 11:1-46

The Time to Uncover and Unbind!

by Sarah Dylan Breuer

Ezekiel 37:1-3(4-10)11-14
Psalm 130
John 11:(1-17)18-44

Out of the depths have I called to you, O LORD;
LORD, hear my voice; *
let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.
My soul waits for the LORD,
more than watchmen for the morning, *
more than watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, wait for the LORD, *
for with the LORD there is mercy;
With him there is plenteous redemption, *
and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.
--Psalm 130:1,5-7

Out of the depths they called to Jesus. Mary and Martha were in dire straits. The way they'd been living was in many ways exactly in tune with Jesus' radical call; they lived with their brother Lazarus and remained remained "unattached," a path that gave them a great deal of freedom, including the freedom to be extravagantly generous, as Mary was when she poured out ointment worth a year's wages for many onto Jesus' feet. Everybody hearing this story knows about that gesture and what it meant, as you can tell from how the gospel identifies Mary as "the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair" in verse 2, even though that event doesn't happen in John's gospel until the next chapter (props to the Social-Science Commentary on John for that point). Everybody knows that these people, this family of brother and sisters who lived with God as their father, are being faithful on the path Jesus showed them.

And now the risk involved in that path is frighteningly clear to Mary and Martha, as their brother Lazarus is dying. Lazarus is the only male in the household in a culture in which a woman without a man was profoundly vulnerable to poverty and exploitation. Lazarus was not only a beloved brother, but was also the closest thing to Social Security that Mary and Martha had, and he was slipping away.

So they called to Jesus, calling on him (in verse 2) as one who loves Lazarus, and challenging Jesus to behave in a manner in keeping with that love. Jesus doesn't come. He doesn't come to be with his beloved friend as he lies dying, and he doesn't come to honor his friend by being present at his funeral.

When the sisters get word that Jesus is finally on his way, Martha impetuously and angrily runs out to meet him -- conduct that would have been seen as scandalous, or even dangerous for a woman alone. She runs at Jesus with the depths of her grief and anger.

If nothing else, her situation proves that being faithful to Jesus is in no way a guarantee against pain and tragedy. There is no one on earth whose righteousness, wisdom, hard work, or good planning will preserve her from seeing the depths that Martha sees. Good people become widows and orphans. It's a fact, and no less of a fact for Jesus' coming.

But there is something else. We can cry to God from the depths.

There is no depth, no loss, no tragedy, no disease or death, nothing on heaven or on earth or under the earth that can place the world or anyone in it beyond God's redemption. Good people become widows and orphans, but God defends the widow and the orphan, and will not leave those God loves bereft. What Sara Maitland writes in the voice of a grieving mother in her short story "Dragon Dreams" (from Angel Maker) strikes me as a psalm, a cry from the depths, that resonates with the longings of all of us who have seen grief:

So that is why I am writing to you. When my child died I knew that there was no safety, anywhere, and I will not sacrifice to false gods. There is no safety, but there is wildness and joy, there is love and life within the danger. I love you. I want to be with you. ... I refuse to believe that we only get one chance. This letter is just a start. I am going to hunt you down now in all the lovely desolate places of the world. ... Wherever there is a perfect sunrise, a dark cliff, a small pool of water, a distant city wreathed in morning mist, there I will be waiting for you. Please come. Please come soon.

And there is something more than that, even, something more fundamental to the order of the universe: that God is redeeming the universe God made and loves. When we cry out from the depths, God hears. When Jesus seems slow in coming, he is coming nonetheless. And if we worry that it is too late, Jesus shows that it is never too late. After we have become convinced that all is lost, when we are ready to concede to death and are seeking only to contain the damage or bury it, Jesus demonstrates that there is no loss, no death, no tragedy, no depth, no power in heaven or on earth on under the earth that can place a person, a situation, or a world beyond God's redemption, beyond the reach of infinite love and abundant life.

Open every dark place to light and air; this is the time to uncover and unbind!

the green of jesus
is breaking the ground
and the sweet
smell of delicious jesus
is opening the house and
the dance of jesus music
has hold of the air and
the world is turning
in the body of jesus and
the future is possible

-- lucille clifton, "spring song," good woman:
poems and a memoir 1969 - 1980

Thanks be to God!

See Also:

What is Missing?
by Fr. Andrew

I Am the Resurrection and the Life
by Rev. Bryan Findlayson

The Resurrection of Lazarus
by George Whitefield

His sheep hear his voice!
by John Petty

Sermons and Commentaries for Lazarus Saturday

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