Deep in my Facebook profile down toward the bottom of the “about me” section are these little tidbits:
it’ll all be ok in the end.
if it’s not ok, it’s not the end.
I tend to repeat stories, jokes and quips. Just a heads up.
The Giving Tree could be the fifth gospel.
I think they feast in heaven.
the story of Lazarus brings me to tears every time.
That last line, “the story of Lazarus brings me to tears every time” is still true, years after I typed it. It’s a long story, lasting over a chapter in John’s gospel. It’s a story that speaks to the reality of the human experience: that sometimes, life sucks. It’s also a simple story filled with simple truths and simple realities. Martha and Mary had sent word to Jesus that their brother, Lazarus was ill. Jesus lingers doing whatever he’s doing and arrives too late to do anything (at least it seems that way).
I often hear people admire Jesus’ response when he hears the news. Some translations put it this way: “Jesus weeped.” A simple line stating a complex emotion. But for me, the line I most identify with is not Jesus’ reaction to Lazarus’ death, but Martha’s reaction to his delayed arrival. “Lord, if only you’d had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” Another simple fact. One that I have certainly experienced (and my guess is many of you have to). Lots of us could replace “brother” in that line with all sorts of words: “mother,” “father,” “friend,” “partner.”
And then, almost as simply, Jesus’ brings Lazarus back to life. And even that is simple. He doesn’t say magic words. He prays, then simple commands, “Lazarus, come out!” And then Lazarus, who was dead, is then alive. Simple as that.
Of course, the implications of this story are a tad more complex. But I’ll let your pastor take those on.
For this week’s altarscape, simple is the name of the game. So simple, in fact, that I won’t insult you with written out instructions. However, I will offer three insights:
(1) After a season of vibrant altarscapes, the simplicity of this one is jarring in the best way.
(2) The white fabric draped across the table will drape our cross in a couple of weeks.
(3) This won’t be the last time we’ll see empty grave cloths.
Friends, keep the faith. Spring and Easter are coming!