The Messy, Beautiful Miracle of Resurrection

Jesus raises Lazarus to life - John 11:1-44
Jesus raises Lazarus to life – John 11:1-44

I have a friend
who reminds me of a butterfly…..
Like a butterfly that struggles
and thrusts its way out of its cocoon,
my friend is fluttering and fighting
to escape the trappings of the temporary tomb
where she was trapped for too long.

In that tomb
she was held captive by fear
and by others who saw her fear
and sought to spin it
for their own selfish gain.
In that tomb
she suffered grave injuries.

And yet by some amazing miracle
my seemingly fragile friend
found the inner strength to beat back
against those who strove
to beat her down.
Her story was and is a messy miracle
of resurrection love.

By the power of love
my friend has been raised from her tomb,
yet like the risen Lazarus she’s still surrounded by the stink of hurtful words,
and like the risen Jesus she still bears the scars of painful actions….
She needs the ongoing support
of her community
to unbind her and set her free….

Dear friends in Christ, as I share this story, I wonder:
Where do you see yourselves
in the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead?
I pose this question to you both as individuals
and as the community of people
God has gathered together to be Creator Lutheran Church,
the Body of Christ in this time and place.

So, I wonder: Are you in a place of grief,
having lost someone or something dear?…
Like Lazarus’s family and friends,
has your heartache been deepened
by a feeling of distance from God—
by a cry from the depths of your soul,
“Lord, if you’d been here, this wouldn’t have happened!?…”

Or, are you perhaps perched
on the threshold of a miracle,
trembling with joy and fear,
because you’ve glimpsed a vision
that holds the potential
to change your life
and the lives of everyone around you?…

Or, are you standing
in stunned and silent awe
on the other side of that miracle,
basking in the glow of resurrection possibility?
Are you ready to receive
Christ’s invitation to play your part
in unbinding others and setting them free?…

I’ll leave it to you
to ponder these questions
in relation to your own personal life.
But as your pastor in this time of transition,
I’d like to share some thoughts
on where I see you as a congregation
with regard to the context of today’s gospel story.

It seems to me that in one sense
you, the people of Creator Lutheran Church,
are standing on the threshold of a miracle:
You’re getting ready to call a new pastor,
and the prospect is both exciting and scary—
in much the same way that the resurrection of Lazarus
must’ve been both exciting and scary for those who witnessed it!

Like the people who watched Lazarus or like Lazarus himself,
stumbling out of the cave,
you may be thinking,
“Whoa! What on earth is happening?!
And where is this going?…
How will life be different for us, as we unbind the trappings of our past
and find ourselves set free for an exciting, yet unsettling future?…”

In another sense it seems to me that
you, the people of Creator Lutheran Church,
are already standing on the other side
of God’s miracle of resurrection life,
ready to accept Christ’s invitation
to play your part
in unbinding others and setting them free.

As I look back over the past few months, I can see how the Spirit of God has been at work
stirring you up to new life and a renewed sense of vision and identity.
For example, signs of new life have been springing up
in your creative ministry with youth and young adults….
Creator members are also working with the local Sanctuary Cohort
cultivating caring relationships and gathering resources
to help us unbind and set free neighbors who fear for their lives and their children’s lives….

And yet for me the real epiphany moment
came during the recent town hall meeting,
where we were discussing the relatively simple question of whether to list Creator
as part the Convergence network of progressive congregations.
Someone said, “Why don’t we just go all in and join the network? Isn’t that who we are?!”
Everyone sat up a little straighter and said, “Yeah! Let’s do this!”
And I shook my head, grinned, and said to myself, “Wow! What just happened here?!…”

Then, last Wednesday evening the Spirit said to me, “Wait. There’s more!…”
I confess my heart was filled to overflowing as I listened to Samuel’s story
of escaping Communist China by swimming five hours at night across the South China Sea
and being baptized five years later in that very same body of water….
After worship, the tears flowed freely when I saw Annie’s cooler filled with the food
many of you had so lovingly prepared for Luka following his surgery….
By your words and actions you are unbinding and setting others free for abundant life!…

You know, these past few days, as I’ve reflected still more
on the way you as a congregation embrace each other as sisters and brothers
of different skin colors, abilities, sexual orientations, and gender identities,
as well as the way you embrace your identity as the welcoming Body of Christ,
it occurs to me once again
that Resurrection life with all its wounds is never pretty per se,
but it’s always beautiful, because it comes from God!

Dear friends in Christ, our gospel lesson for today reflects the reality of life in this world:
There will be occasions that plunge us into unbearable heartache;
there will be miraculous moments that fill us with both hope and fear;
and there will be times that call us as people of faith to use our gifts in service to others.
But the Good News is:
No matter where you and I find ourselves within this story of death and resurrection,
we can trust that God will be there, working with us and for us to raise us up to new life. Thanks be to God! Amen!


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