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February 18, 2018 – The First Sunday in Lent – A Little Easter

John 11:1-44 Raising Lazarus, Jesus as resurrection and life
Psalm 104:27-30

          As I prepare in the relative quiet of the church office on a Sunday morning, I know that I’m tired of rewriting sermons because of the events of the week regarding a gun and a school. We’re just a small handful of days into Lent, and it feels like we’ve been in this 40 day wilderness for years. And yet, liturgically, theologically, today is supposed to be a little Easter. A little celebration, in the midst of Lent. Today, Sunday, doesn’t count as one of the 40 days of Lent, because Lent, the journey to Jerusalem, can’t really contain or hold Easter back, or down, or steal center stage.

          Which brings us to Lazarus. He’s dead. He’s not sleeping, he’s dead. He’s in the tomb for 4 days. And in the KJV, he stinketh. He has a bereaved family, and a bereaved community. He has sisters, Mary and Martha, who are both actually a little ticked at Jesus. “If you had been here, he wouldn’t have died!” Jesus goes back to Judea, over the protests of the disciples, who know that the authorities are hunting for Jesus. Jesus himself weeps outside the tomb. This is a quintessential Lenten story – loss, grief, a dash of anger, some slow disciples. It’s a slow story, 44 verses – and it takes its time.

          Martha’s faith is on display. If you had been here he wouldn’t have died. AND even now, I know that whatever you ask, God will give you. And then, “Yes, Lord, I believe you are the Christ, the Son of God,” in response to Jesus saying that he is the resurrection and the life. Then Mary comes, and she, too, on the same page with Martha, says that if Jesus had been there, her brother would not have died.

          And so they go to the tomb. There’s a stone in the way. Jesus asks for it to be rolled away. Jesus prays (speaks to God), and then commands Lazarus to come out. And Lazarus does. He comes out, wearing the burial cloths. The people gathered, the crowd, the community, the family, unbind Lazarus and take him away. And that’s a little bit of Easter in the middle of this Lenten story.

          So what about us this week? In this first week of Lent with another school shooting. In the first week of Lent with the heaviness of the prayer concerns of the last month, the last week, the last 4 days, what about us? When the families in Marshall county, or outside of Boca Raton say that these deaths would not have happened if you were here, Jesus? Where is our little Easter? When the word comes back from the doctor, and it’s not what we’d like, where is our little Easter?

          We can, and do, hear this story as a prelude to Easter, a foreshadowing of what is to come. But that is too simplistic. This isn’t just the sneak preview of coming attractions, or a commercial for a later event. This is life and faith. This is the messy of faith.

          So pay attention to how the Easter shows up. It shows up in Mary and Martha. It shows up in a weeping Jesus. It shows up in a stone rolled away. It shows up in a man unwrapped from his burial bindings and led off home by his community and his family. Easter shows up in a community divided.

          The question that is ringing in my mind and heart is this, “How are we, as followers of Christ, showing Easter to a world in Lent?” How are we standing outside the tomb and weeping, calling for resurrection, demanding that the stone be rolled away, and going into places where we are threatened? Are we willing to follow the model of Immanuel, and to be the body of Christ present in the midst of the pain, so that God may be glorified and that we may be faithful? Or are we the people who live in darkness who pretend that upon us light had not shined?

          Into every Lent, Easter falls. And Lent does not contain Easter. Easter breaks in, and through and around Lent. Amen, and Amen.

Worship at First Presbyterian Church of Marion, Illinois
Worship at First Presbyterian Church of Marion, Illinois
February 18, 2018 - The First Sunday in Lent - A Little Easter