John 11:1-45, Lent 5A, Prayer

A prayer for Lent 5A

Jesus Raises Lazarus to Life — Jesus Mafa

(We’ll be experiencing the word through drama, so I have no sermon, but here is a prayer for this morning, inspired by John 11:1-45 and by Wil Gafney’s brilliant sermon on zombies and mummies.)

O Lord, we hear you calling, but we are bound in the grave-cloths of earthly expectations.

We believe in you, but we listen to the world’s call and think we cannot follow.

We must study for the right degree, apply for the right job, buy the right house and furnish it just so; we must, we must, we must.

All that seems true until the day something terrible happens.

All that seems true until we lose someone we love.

All that seems true until we love someone we can’t be with.

All that seems true until the body we relied on to carry us from one place to another, fulfilling the expectations, falls ill or stops working the way we think it always will.

Hear our prayers, O Lord, for we are in pain. We are ill. We are dying.

Unbind us from expectations. Give us strength to live through disappointments. Grant us courage to overcome obstacles. Fill us with your presence and make us living carriers of your love to others who need it.

Hear our prayers, O Lord, for those we have named.

(We speak those names.)

Hear our prayers, O Lord, for those we have not named, the stories we cannot tell and the woes we do not even know.

(We pray in silence.)

Hear our prayers, O Lord, for the wider world, for the people of Japan and the people of Ivory Coast, for the people who have lived with war and violence on a daily basis, in ways unthinkable to us in this quiet town.

Hear our prayers, O Lord, for ourselves.

(We pray again in silence.)

Unbind us.

Call us out of the caves in which we dwell.

Help us to roll away the stones for each other.

Bring us to new life, we pray in the name of Jesus, the Ever Living. Amen.

Grief, John 11:1-45, Lent 5A, Preaching

Jesus Wept

I talked with a friend today about this week’s gospel lesson, the story of the death and raising of Lazarus. At my church we’ll see it presented as a drama. My friend mentioned that the story is about grief, which it is, but then we began to think of other things it’s about, which is funny work to be doing when I’m not preaching at all.

  • It’s about a family’s terrible loss. 
  • It’s about the fears of the disciples. 
  • It’s about the future “Doubting” Thomas offering to go anywhere with Jesus. 
  • It’s about Martha, and more to the point, someone other than Peter saying who Jesus is: the Messiah, the Son of God. 
  • It’s about friendship. 
  • It’s about politics, in the sense that there will be repercussions with the authorities, for Jesus *and* Lazarus. 
  • It’s about a miracle, a thing that cannot possibly true, but is.
  • And, yes, it’s about grief, God’s human grief, but it never lets us forget he’s not just human, does it? Most of us can’t change things just because we’re sad.

So, why is Jesus crying? He knows he’s going to bring Lazarus back, right? Is it because he had to put his friend through death to prove his power? Are they tears of regret? Or is it  a sadness that he can’t bring things to a head without a move so drastic and dramatic?

I love this story, for Martha’s bluntness and Mary’s emotion, and the turmoil of the disciples. I also love it for the astonishment of a dead person rising to answer the call of Jesus. I’m not a literalist about anything in the Bible, but usually by the time the Fifth Sunday of Lent rolls around in Year A, I’m willing to believe Lazarus died and Jesus called him out of the tomb to live again. Maybe it calls to things that have been entombed in me, waiting to come out like Lazarus. I can’t explain it rationally. I simply feel it, perhaps because the family feels so real to me that I could weep with them, too. Like Jesus.

Jesus Wept, by James Tissot