Saturday, March 8, 2008

Coming Home to God

March 9/Lent 5A – John 11: 1-45

The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Peter’s at Ellicott Mills, MD

Roll Back the Stone

“Unbind him and let him go home…”

This is how some have translated our Lord’s final command in this pivotal story of our faith.

The Raising of Lazarus is about who Jesus is, about God’s glory, and about what we need to do to enter into God’s glory – come home to God. Such would be the essence of repentance. As such it is about us and our need to be healed and set free so we can live into the reality of our being God’s Beloved.

Martin Smith, in his book Reconciliation (Cowley, Cambridge, MA:1985), offers one definition of repentance: “Repentance is the response we are called to make as we meet Christ in the place where we have been brought to a halt, and sense his insistence that we reorient ourselves toward God, receiving from him the impulse and energy to embark freely on the next stage. This reorientation is not merely setting our sights on God as our eventual goal; rather, repentance means facing God here and now at the turning point and recognizing God as our companion on the way.” (p. 33-34)

Jesus goes to Bethany to his friend Lazarus for several reasons: to reveal God’s glory; so that the Son of Man might be glorified; and“…so that you may believe.”

The call for us “to believe” is a call to repentance – a call to roll back the stone behind which lie hidden habits grown horrible in their rigidity. Habits that separated us from the love of God and each other. This stone shuts the soul into its tomb of anxiety, or worry, or resentment.

And we might notice that when Lazarus responds to our Lord’s call to come out and to come home, the grave clothes still hold him fast.

Old habits that are the symptom of sin may cling about us when the sin itself is eradicated. If we are truly to be alive we must be freed from these also. Once freed we can be released to return home.

The overall idea here is that home is with God, our companion on the way. Yet, all our petrified and rigid habits keep us bound up, unable to move forward with God.

As our collect says, God alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners – sinners simply being those of us who find ourselves separated from the love of God. That is, we begin to doubt or lose all sense of the fact of our identity: those creatures made in the image of God – those who by baptism by water and the Holy Spirit are made God’s own beloved, the Body of Christ, his Church.

So that although repentance means to turn back to God, often we need assistance in rolling back the stone and getting ourselves untangled from the grave clothes that continue to cling about us, even though the gift of forgiveness has already been granted through the cross and resurrection.

When we allow God to roll back the stone, unbind us and set us free, we find ourselves at home again – able to recognize that God has been with us, beside us, all along just waiting for us to step out into the open air of God’s love.

We are called by God to be here, a community of God’s people who help one another roll back the stones, untangle ourselves and step forward with God. Note that in this story, the whole community comes to be a part of the raising of Lazarus: Mary, Martha and all the people visiting from Bethany and Jerusalem. We all have a part to play in rolling back our stones and unbinding ourselves from the rigid and petrified habits that hold us back from being God’s Beloved people.

Jesus is resurrection and He is life.

Like Martha, once we know this, we too can say, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one coming into the world!”

Roll Back the Stone

Come back to your home

You are Free

You are whole

You are loved

You are home once again

You are home

You are the Christ

Coming into our world

We are Free

We are whole

We are loved

We are home once again

We are home


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