Phil’s Points to Ponder for April 2, 2017

 There is a powerful story in John 11 that I want us to revisit this Sunday, the Fifth Sunday in Lent.

     Remember it with me.  Mary and Martha who live in Bethany are some of Jesus’ closest friends… They send word to him that their brother, whose name is Lazarus, is desperately ill.  “Please come.  We need your help.  Hurry.  He is sinking fast.”  But by the time Jesus gets there, Lazarus has died… and has been in his grave for four days.  Mary and Martha come out to meet Jesus and they express their grief:  “He’s gone.  We’ve lost him.  O Lord, if only you have been here, our brother would not have died.” 

     The family and friends have gathered and in their deep sorrow, they begin to weep over the loss of their loved one, Lazarus.  The heart of Jesus goes out to them… and Jesus weeps with them.  He loved Lazarus, too… and he loves them… and he shares their pain.  Jesus goes out to the cave-like tomb and he says to them: “Roll back the stone!”  Martha, always the realist and ever ready to speak out, protests: “But Lord, we can’t do that.  He has been in the grave for 4 days.  By now there will be a terrible odor.”  Jesus says to her: “Martha, only believe and you will see the power of God.” 

     So they roll the stone away… and Jesus cries out in a loud voice: “Lazarus, come out!”  And incredibly, miraculously, amazingly, before their very eyes… Lazarus is resurrected!  He comes out of the tomb.  He still has on his grave clothes.  His head and feet are still wrapped with mummy-like bandages.  Jesus then turns to the friends and family and says to them, “Unbind him and let him go.  Unwrap him and set him free.”

     God has laid it on my heart that this is not just of story of God’s power over death; it is not just a story intended to prepare us for Jesus’ resurrection on Easter; it is a dramatic call to the Church. It is time for us to take off the grave clothes of religious correctness and institutional survival and wake up to the cries of those outside our walls who desperately need what God has empowered us to give. It is time for us to quit playing church, and instead, Be the Church!

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