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Lent 5 A Scrutiny "Exiting Tombs" ~ Susan McGurgan

There are seasons in my life --and maybe in yours--

when it seems like the Good News whispers

while the Bad News shouts.

A friend faces a devastating illness and we feel powerless to help.

An anniversary spent alone brings painful memories of love and loss.

Despite our care and support, a son struggles with addiction and despair.

The cold grey days of winter linger, and spring seems far away.

On these days,

I feel enclosed in the tomb.


There are times in my life--and maybe in yours—

when the work of the Gospel is easy to ignore.

Times when I’d rather mumble, “Sorry"

than begin the hard work of reconciliation.

Times when I’d rather close my eyes and turn away

than get involved.

There are times in my life—and maybe in yours--

when the passion for justice

that drove me to stand up to bullies--

to reach out to someone in pain--

to walk beside the lonely--

seems to have cooled into a quick, easy prayer

and a few vague promises for the future.

And before I know it,

I am shivering in the tomb.

I am bound.

Let’s face it.

There are times

when the tomb is downright comfortable—

Nobody bothers you there.

Nobody asks you questions or expects a bright answer.

Nobody hands you an agenda or schedules you into meetings.

No one makes dangerous demands

or disturbs your peace.

You never have to squint into the sun,

or see things you don’t want to see.

It is dark, and cool, and quiet in the tomb—

Oh, so quiet.

And if the funeral bindings restrict my freedom,


Those same bindings also keep me snug and secure,

like a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes.

And so…


it’s kind of nice to find yourself bound in the tomb.

Episcopal priest Robert Capon asked,

“What happened to radical Christianity,

the un-nice brand of Christianity that turned the world upside-down?

What happened to the category-smashing, life- threatening,

anti-institutional gospel

that spread through the first century like wildfire

and was considered (by those in power)


What happened to the kind of Christians

whose hearts were on fire,

who had no fear,

who spoke the truth no matter what the consequence,

who made the world uncomfortable,

who were willing to follow Jesus wherever he went?”

That uncomfortable Jesus spent his life

calling people out of the tomb—

That turn-the-world-upside-down-Jesus

invited Lazarus to tear away the restrictive cloths,

unbind his hands and feet,

leave the darkness of the tomb,

and step out into the light.

That Jesus said:

Do not be afraid.

Let your light shine.

Go, and sin no more.

Woman, you are set free from your ailment.

Come with me, and I will make you fishers of men and women.

Go and make disciples of all nations.

Take up your pallet and walk.

Lazarus, come out!

Exiting tombs.

This is the difficult, challenging, liberating,

often scary

journey of discipleship.

Day after day,

on easy days and hard days,

whether we feel brave or frightened or confused,

God invites us to unwind our burial cloths,

turn our feet towards the exit,

our hearts to the hope of new life,

our hands to His work.

Jesus commands us to exit tombs—

to rise to new life--

not only at the end of our lives

but daily…


Jesus calls us to “Come out” of our fears,

to exit the tomb of comfort and ease,

to leave behind the darkness of sin.

Jesus has rebuked the tomb for Lazarus,

for himself,

and for each and every one of us, calling,

“Come out!”

Exiting the tomb,

we will face difficult decisions.

We will be offered dangerous opportunities

to live out the Gospel message.

We will struggle to promote the value of life

in a world that executes children

and burns women over a dowry dispute.

We will question how to create solidarity

in a world where crumbling urban landscapes

and gated condominiums

share the same zip code.

We will look in the mirror,

and be horrified, humbled—even downright amused

to know that God relies on us

as partners

in this holy work.

Yes, exiting tombs is never easy.

True freedom is frightening

and change is risky.

Partnering with God

is sure to be hard and dangerous work.

It would be much simpler,

much safer,

and frankly,

much saner

to stay in the dark, cool, stillness of the tomb.

Making the world uncomfortable

is not very comfortable work.

But safety and security

and a life free from care have


been the birthright of those who follow Jesus out of the tomb.

It helps to know that we are never alone.

We join a procession of believers

“whose hearts are on fire,

who have no fear,

who speak the truth no matter what the consequence,

who make the world uncomfortable,

who are willing to follow Jesus wherever he goes.”

We join Martha and Mary and Lazarus and Peter and the Samaritan woman

and Edith Stein and Blessed Stanley Rother—

ordinary people just like us

who accomplished extraordinary things

because they dared to exit the tomb.

Like them, we will find,

we are no longer bound by death.

We are no longer tied to past mistakes.

We need no longer fear the darkness.

Tombs have never been places for the living.

When Mary Magdalene went to the Tomb on Easter morning,

the Angel said, “Do not be afraid,

for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.

He is not here.

He has risen, just as he said.

He is going ahead of you

into Galilee.”

Exiting tombs--

it is the only sure way to follow Him home.

© Dr. Susan McGurgan

Rev. Robert Capon as quoted in

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