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Lent 5 A ~ Two Homilies: Susan McGurgan & Rev. Benjamin Roberts


"I Am..." ~ Susan McGurgan


I am Lazarus.

Neighbor.

Brother.

Beloved friend.


I am Lazarus.

The man who died too young.


I am Lazarus.

Jesus left the safety of Judea for me,

and this act of compassion

paves the way for his own arrest and crucifixion.


I am Lazarus,

and Jesus weeps for me.


I am Lazarus.

Jesus stands at the entrance of my tomb,

and becomes the destroyer of decay and death.


I am Lazarus.

The one called forth.


I am Lazarus.

Jesus unbinds me and sets me free,

and I walk beside him into the light.


I am Lazarus.

Neighbor.

Brother.

Beloved friend.


Because of Jesus,

I have learned a little something about

tombs

along the way.

I have learned that grief hollows us out.

It leaves us vulnerable,

Fearful,

Raw.


Lord, if you had been here,

my brother would not have died!


Anger

is often the travelling companion of grief,

along with

Ambiguity.

Guilt.

Blame.

Confusion.

A sense of abandonment—

the feeling that God is delayed or absent--

These emotions can overwhelm us,

even as we lean into the promise of new life.


Miracles of faith and medicine

may postpone death for a time,

but for me,

for all of us—

death comes in the end.


I am Lazarus,

and I will die again someday.

And no pius words,

no magic formula,

no prayers,

no anger,

no tears or vows or sacrifice,

no previous miracle,

no track record of good luck,

no powerful friend

will change that fact.


But this, too,

is fact.

Grief hollows us out,

and in that emptiness

God can create

space

for something new.


This too,

is fact.

Jesus will always,

always,

leave the “safe country”

to bring us a chance at new life.

Jesus will always stand beside us

and weep.

He will share our pain

and lift our burdens.

Jesus will take away the stone,

no matter how heavy

or how deeply

it seems to be wedged into place.


Jesus,

destroyer of decay and death

will call us by name,

unbind us,

and set us free

to walk beside him in the light.


I am Lazarus,

and my story is our story,

yours

and mine.

It is the Gospel story—

the Story of Exiting Tombs.


Susan McGurgan



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"Power" ~ Rev. Benjamin Roberts, DMin.


One of my favorite cartoons, when I was a child, was called He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Its main character was a prince named Adam. Now, when Adam held his sword and spoke a particular phrase, he was transformed into He-Man, the most powerful man in the universe. He held his sword and announced in a voice that echoed throughout the universe, “I have the power.” It was a clear declaration. There was no confusion. He had the power.


Who has the power in Bethany? Who has the power in the city where Martha and Mary and Lazarus live? There is a lot of competition for power in Bethany. It looks like sickness has the power. Lazarus was ill. He was very ill. He was so sick that his sisters sent a message to Jesus. They sent a simple and urgent message, “The one you love is sick.” Sickness might have the power in Bethany.


Maybe death has the power in Bethany. Death took the power from sickness. Lazarus died. Death claimed power over Lazarus. Death claimed power in Bethany. No one in Bethany could fight death. Death might have the power in Bethany.


But they buried Lazarus. It was probably a big funeral. Martha, Mary, and Lazarus had lots of friends in Bethany. It looks like they had their own section in the graveyard. Maybe the grave has the power in Bethany. The grave received what death took from sickness. The grave claimed power.


Lazarus was wrapped in cloths to be buried. There were probably two cloths. One was for his body and the other for his head. The burial cloths claimed power in Bethany. They were wrapped around the body of Lazarus. Maybe the burial cloths have the power in Bethany.


They put a stone in front of the tomb. The stone claimed power in Bethany. It sealed the tomb. The stone was more binding than the burial cloths. The stone blocked the view of the power that death had taken from sickness. Maybe the stone has power in Bethany.


Martha and Mary certainly do not have the power in Bethany. Grief had the power over them. They felt powerless when their brother Lazarus was sick. They probably called a doctor. They probably got advice from all kinds of specialists. They sent a message to Jesus. They did what family members do when one of them is sick. But they did not have the power in Bethany. Sickness had the power. Death had the power. The grave had the power. The burial cloths had the power. The stone had the power. Grief had the power in Bethany. . . but only for a little while.

Then Jesus came to Bethany.

Your brother will rise. Jesus claimed the power.

Roll back the stone. Jesus claimed the power.

Lazarus come out. Jesus claimed the power.

Unbind that man. Jesus claimed the power.

Jesus has the power in Bethany. Jesus takes power from grief, from the burial cloths, from the stone, from the grave, and from death. Jesus has the power in Bethany.


And Jesus has the power here. Grief and the grave, the burial cloths and the stone marker, sickness and death will not have the final word. They will speak for a time. They may look to us like they have the power. But it will only be for a moment. By the power of his word, the power of his cross, and the power of his glorious resurrection which we will celebrate in two weeks, Jesus Christ claims the power, and to him be glory forever and ever. Amen.


Rev. Benjamin Roberts

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