The entire season of Lent points to one central theme: Resurrection. The Easter story is not only an account of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The story of Easter is also a living, continuing account of humanity striving to rise and live life to the full. The Easter message is not only about the Risen Lord but also about humanity, whom God has saved all throughout salvation history.
This is evident in all three of our Scripture readings today.
Ezekiel is speaking to the Jews in Babylonian exile and isn’t just addressing the misery of individuals. He is speaking about the nation’s desolation as well. Not only are they enslaved but they interpret their condition as a punishment from God for their past infidelities. They can make no argument for their defense, no excuse to God to warrant God’s coming to their rescue.
But God will save them not because of their merit or eloquently-voiced defense, but because God is merciful. Ezekiel describes this in terms of a new creation. God will first give them physical life and then, “I will put my spirit in you that you may live.”
The letter to the Romans goes a step further. The Spirit of God dwells in us and will give life to our mortal bodies simply because it is the spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead.
These two readings set the tone for us as we turn to the Lazarus story. Lazarus may be one individual but he is also a symbol of the brokenness of the world - with dead bones scattered all around, almost everywhere we look.
As we try to make sense of this world, we trust and hope that what Jesus tells his disciples about Lazarus will also be true for us: “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” That’s what we desperately need and wait for this Easter - that through Christ and the power of his resurrection we too will rise from death and despair to a new life of service and the proclamation of the gospel.
Resurrection is a core element of our Christian faith and it is one defined by some very definite commitments. A continuous, daily shift of mind and heart is required, and it is this which makes the Easter story a daily story.
Like Lazarus, the Resurrection Experience is for us an earth-shattering one in which we are all called to resurrection. Our “burial bands” have been untied, and we have been set free. Lent allows us to proclaim that we will never go back to the darkness from which He has rescued us. We will never go back to the sins and selfishness which lead only to death. We will never go back to cowardice and weakness in the face of evil. We will never bury ourselves in hopelessness and despair.
Resurrection takes place in real life situations... with real people... not only our family, friends, neighbors, co-workers or employers - but also with all of our sisters and brothers who inhabit this fragile planet of ours. It is impossible to ignore our need for one another - our common need for resurrection.
And so, we need to:
- leave our self-imposed exile of comfortable religion and see to the needs of those outside our circle
- be healed of past hurts that set us apart and keep us fearful of new relationships
- give up sinful patterns that only drive us further into exile
- stop being apart, suspicious, or fearful of others who are different from us
- simplify our lives and stop using resources as though we were the only inhabitants on the earth
- put aside our fears and respond to God’s invitation to come away to a place of intimacy and dependence on God
Resurrection changed Jesus. Resurrection changed Lazarus. So, for us, too, resurrection must mean change. The Resurrection experience is not just something we look forward to. It is here and now. If we truly believe that Jesus has been raised from the dead, that he is alive, that he continues to live and work in and through those who believe in him, we cannot look back.