This Sunday we come to the end of the three Gospels used in Lent when there are candidates for baptism. These stories—the woman at the well, the man born blind, and the raising of Lazarus—are unique to John’s Gospel and all point to Jesus as Messiah. But there is more to them than just naming Jesus’ identity. They are meaty and involve real conversation and questioning: both Jesus and those he talks with are real and vulnerable.
During our Lenten Bible study we’ve read the stories aloud, pausing after each reading to move deeper and deeper into the text. It’s amazing what you hear when you dwell in the word that way.
I thought I knew the story of the raising of Lazarus, but this past Wednesday I heard some astonishing things—Jesus’ sorrow, as deep as his own Passion, at facing the death of his friend and his unique intimacy with Lazarus. Others shared how this story spoke into their own experience, including one person hearing this story as hope after the death of a friend.
The next day a group of clergy gathered to hear from Pastor Julian DeShazier of University Church in Hyde Park, a faith community that engages deeply with their surrounding community, including being part of a coalition that held the University of Chicago accountable for bringing a Level One Trauma Center to the South Side where too many die from gun violence and car crashes because they are far from trauma care.
Julian emphasized the importance of starting with learning deeply about an issue, but not only the facts; rather, he focuses on what the Gospel has to say about it. Only once the church has a sense of what the Gospel has to say, do they begin to talk about action—whether to take any and what to do. Deciding what to do might be scary because it means confronting the powers that be, but Julian reminded us of the raising of Lazarus. Jesus walks right into the midst of death and faces it down at the tomb of his friend and again later as he enters Jerusalem, knowing that now it is his own death he must face. When we remember that truth—the Good News that God in Christ has faced Sin and Death squarely and defeated them—well, then, we know what we people of the Gospel can, and must, do, even when we are afraid.
Come hear that Good News this Sunday.