5th Sunday in Lent
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you from the Word of God,
the Resurrection and the life. Amen
The movie The Princess Bride is a tale of action, adventure and yes even true love. It tells the tale of Buttercup and Wesley in their quest to be reunited after pirates, a scheming prince and other nefarious characters interfere with their ability to be together in their true love. Toward the end of the movie the prince kills Wesley who is found by his friends Inigo and Fezzik.
They who take Wesley to a local apothecary Miracle Max -played by Billy Crystal- in search of a miracle. Miracle Max is reluctant at first having lost confidence in himself but when he finds out that Wesley is already dead he agrees to take a look, after poking the body he tells Inigo and Fezzik “I’ve seen worse” after they haggle over the price of the miracle
when Inigo questions what Max can do with Wesley being dead Miracle Max says “Ooh looks who knows so much, well it just so happens that your friend here is only mostly dead, there’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead...now, mostly dead is slightly alive, all dead, well with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.” “What is that?” Inigo asks “Go through his clothes and look for loose change” Miracle Max quips.
Dead is an absolute,
it seems funny that there could be degrees of dead
and yet when miracles are concerned
skeptical humans invent degrees of dead,
is there possibility of resuscitation or is there no hope?
a miracle isn’t as miraculous
if it deals with someone who is only mostly dead.
Our readings for today
make sure to emphasize the dead in them is all dead.
The bones in Ezekiel are dry,
there’ve been there a long time,
Lazarus has been in the tomb four days,
already there is a stench, he is all dead.
These are small details
but the emphasis is important,
when dealing with all dead
there can be no question about the power of the Word of God
to bring life out of death.
We are at the last Sunday in Lent,
the readings are preparing us,
getting us ready for Holy Week
and what God is about to do in Jesus the Word of God,
the Word who became flesh and lived among us,
who crucified on a cross was all dead
who God raised on the third day.
And how is God going to do the miraculous?
Words are the way God works,
we see that in our lessons for today.
Ezekiel is told to prophesy to the dry bones,
“O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.”
Jesus prays out loud then commands “Lazarus, come out!”
Words are powerful.
Words are powerful because they build relationships,
relationships that stretch beyond logic
to an unspoken truth that is felt, lived with.
Words are how God works in the world,
In the beginning God spoke the world into being
saying let there be light and there was light.
through the prophets God built a relationship with the people
even when they’d cut themselves off,
God sent the living Word, Jesus,
to take on flesh and live and walk among us
creating a bond that is possible
only when words are lived with, held, savored.
ultimately God used the Word in a way that defied logic
but led to a powerful truth
that in this Word death is no longer absolute.
And through our baptisms
we have been joined to the Word
and the rhythm that repeats again and again throughout the song of God,
the pattern where words are spoken,
action follows words,
witnesses are called to speak,
God tells the prophet what to say,
the bones come back to life,
go tell the people of Israel.
Jesus prays to God
cries “Lazarus come out” and Lazarus comes out
Jesus commands the bystanders “unbind him and let him go”
This rhythm is repeated in the events of Holy Week.
Maundy Thursday- Jesus tells his disciples what is going to happen,
Good Friday he is crucified,
Easter Sunday the tomb is found empty
and the women are commanded to go tell the others what they have witnessed.
The rhythm is repeated each Sunday when we gather,
the word of God is proclaimed,
grace is received at the table
and we the witnesses are commanded to go tell others what we have seen.
This rhythm is how we are to pray,
We speak to God,
then put into action what we have spoken
and share with others the results,
we pray for the hungry to be filled,
then we go feed those who are hungry,
then we share our experience with others
as we practice the rhythm
it becomes familiar, second nature even
and if we ever fall out of time for a bit
all we have to do to find ourselves is pause,
feel the beat stir in us again, bringing us back to life.
This is how we live when faced with all dead.
new life comes in unexpected ways,
and we share our life with others. Amen
Pastor Emily Johnson preaches weekly at Christ Lutheran. These are manuscripts of her sermons given at Christ Lutheran. Feel free to engage with them in the comments section of the blog.