Dear people of Bethlehem,
Blessed Holy Week and Easter to you all. I find myself reflecting on the raising of Lazarus, which comes so close to the Easter story, both in time and distance. Bethany is just a few miles from Jerusalem, and a few weeks from the cross. In that moment, Jesus stood before the tomb and called Lazarus to life. “Unbind him and set him free!” said Jesus. What a powerful hope. What a word of grace, that we might not only be raised to stand, but be set free to journey. That the character of the risen life, for you and for me, might be to release the bonds that hold us, for the freedom that claims us.
In a few days, at a tomb not far from Bethany, Jesus himself will rise from the dead and be called from the tomb, by the very power of God’s love. I connect the two stories, I think, because I need the immediacy of it — the personal of it. Jesus resurrection is such a huge event, a salvation history event, a changing the course of universe moment. But Lazarus’ raising could be my own. Martha’s steps on the road could be my own. “Lord, my mother has died, but even now I believe in your grace for her, and for me.” I believe in your life in her and in me.
In the story of Lazarus, the rising becomes personal. Is it time now for our rising? Is that always a part of the Easter story — that Jesus would take Lazarus by the hand, take you by the hand, take me by the hand and lift us into a new life, a new story, and a new grace. I think it is so, for why else would the sound of the trumpets and the cries of “Alleluia” lift us. Easter is the celebration of the risen Lord, but it is also the celebration of our risen life. Dear people of God, this Easter, may you find new life, new hope and new grace in your journey. May that which has bound you, fall away in the bright dawning of an Easter morning and may you walk in grace. May we together as a congregation, make ready for all that God would plan and purpose in us. The future is bright because it is always held in the love of God.