This is an adapted version of the sermon I preached this morning, the Fifth Sunday in Lent. You can view this sermon, along with the whole service, if you like, at Prince of Peace Ev. Lutheran Church’s website. The gospel reading was John 11:1-45.
“Lazarus, come out!”
Don’t you wish that someone would call your name and say that right now? “Come out! Come out of your house, and go to your job!” Or, “Come out of your house, and go visit your friends and relatives!” Or, “Come out of your house, and take that vacation you were planning!” Or just, “Come out of your house, and give a stranger a hug.”
Lazarus was dead. In fact, he had been dead for so long, four days, that things had changed. It was believed in first-century Jewish culture that the spirit hovered around the body for three days after death, but after four days it was over. Any chance of returning was gone. Four days dead was dead.
And yet, when Jesus said, “Come out,” he came out.
Won’t that be wonderful? Won’t that be amazing when we hear that call? When we can stop watching the news about COVID-19 and return to unending election campaigns. When we can go wherever we want, whenever we want, and buy toilet paper again. When things get back to normal? Won’t that be wonderful?
It will. And whenever that is, we will celebrate. I’ll tell you, whatever Sunday we can gather here again, we will pull out the stops. Maybe we’ll even have Easter that day, whatever day it is. Because it will feel like Easter on that day. It will feel like we have come out of our tomb. It will feel like resurrection! It will feel like new life!
But we’re not there yet, we’re not at the resurrection yet, and we don’t even know when that will be. It could two weeks, it could be two months, it could be more. We have been told that it is crucial that we “stay at home.” And while some of us do leave the house to go to work, or to go to the grocery store or the pharmacy, for the most part, we stay at home.
We stay at home like Lazarus in his cave. Like Lazarus in his tomb. And just as four days was enough time for things to be different for Lazarus, the amount of time we’ve been quarantined has been enough to change us.
In our tomb, we may be getting frustrated.
And we may be getting scared.
And we may be getting angry.
We’re all dealing with this differently, but most of us are grieving. We are grieving right now for a life we don’t have anymore. A life that we expect to get back, but we don’t know when. A life that may never be the same. We are grieving because a part of us, at least for the time being, has died.
What we are going through right now, as individuals, as a congregation, as a state, as a country, and as a world, is trauma. This is trauma. And so it is no surprise that some of us are getting depressed, or anxious, or irritable, or panicky. It’s no surprise that some of are just plain freaking out. It is no surprise that those of us who already had mental health problems are getting worse. I know I’m struggling. I’m sure some of you are too.
None of us have experienced anything like this in our lifetimes. This is new. And it’s terrible.
But it’s where we are now. And all we can do is go through it. And we will. And we go through it, we’re going to make some bad decisions, because in the middle of a trauma we don’t always think straight. And we’re going to be cranky sometimes and irritable sometimes because in the middle of a trauma we don’t always act our best. Sometimes we’ll question what we’re doing, and why this is happening, what it all means. And we won’t get any answers to these questions, at least not right away. Because in the middle of a trauma, it doesn’t make sense. It never makes sense, at least not until we’re through it.
And we are going to get through it. And along the way, sometimes we’re going to make some really good decisions. Sometimes we’re going to find greater joy than we ever expected. Sometimes we’ll cry. And sometimes we’ll laugh. And sometimes we will just be.
And one day, and one day, and one glorious day, we will wake up, and this virus scare will be over, and we will be told, “Come out!” Come out, and play. Come out, and work. Come out, and rejoice.
And when that happens, we will be like Lazarus. We will come out, our feet bound, our hands tied, and our face covered with a cloth. Because trauma doesn’t just end. When this is over, things won’t go immediately back to normal. When this is over, it will still cling to us, like the bandages clung to Lazarus. We will still have healing to do. We will still carry scars, but we will be alive.
And we will heal. We will heal, because Jesus will say to those around us, “Untie him, and let him go. Untie her, and let her go. Untie them, and let them go.” And we will, together, untie one another’s feet. And we will, together, untie one another’s hands. And we will, together, remove the cloth from one another’s faces. We will mourn the dead. We will help the suffering. We will walk together, hand in hand.
And we will get through this. We will heal. We will rise up. We will be raised up.
And all because: Christ has died. Because Christ is risen. Because Christ will come again. Because Christ holds us, and will always hold us. Because Christ is the Resurrection and the Life.
This will not always be easy. And this will not be quick. But we will get through this together. We will be raised up from this together. We will stand up together and live. Because Christ is here. And he is our Resurrection and our Life.