March 9, 2008
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Some of my fondest memories of my childhood are the times I spent with my cousin Brian. At least once a month we would have a sleep over. I always looked forward to these because it meant I got to stay up way too late, eat too much junk food, and best of all, watch TV as much as I wanted! Brilliant.
Every Friday and Saturday night, two TV stations always showed those great, cheesy horror movies from the 50's and early 60's. It was perfect! We would watch them and then the next night after we were home in our own beds, the nightmares hit much to my mom's displeasure. My favorite genre was the zombie movies and the cheesier the better. Although it wasn't a zombie, I was fascinated by Frankenstein. I remember pulling the covers over my head while watching that chilling version from the 1930's.
Here were movies where these "people" were completely devoid of everything that made them alive but they kept on going. They had no love, joy, or hope.
Today's readings brought those movies to mind. I found myself wondering how in many ways I am times a member of the "walking dead".
What I want us to look at is how do we as Christians live like Christians. To be a disciple of Jesus is to possess the joy of salvation. To be redeemed is to be one who lives a life of love, joy, hope and peace. To quote a famous comedian, "Only Christians with enough money to make Solomon blush can sing an Alleluia and make it sound like a funeral dirge"! Do we live lives that show the joy of being saved? Or do we walk around like one who is dead inside and cannot express the joy that comes from knowing the Lord? I find myself asking this question today of how do I express a life that is filled with the Lord's love and life?
The story of Lazarus always fascinated me as a kid. The idea of Jesus bringing him back to life was just the seed my fertile 10 year old imagination needed to spur a hundred questions for my Sunday School teachers. I am sure they were glad to see me eventually go to the junior high group. It has been in the past few years that I have begun to see that the miracle wasn't limited to Lazarus. The other side of this miracle is what Jesus does for the people who had come to grieve with Mary and Martha. John says that they came to believe in Jesus as Lord! I think I tend to get so caught up in the dead Lazarus being brought back physically to life that I miss the fact that Jesus brought to life the spirit of those who had gathered. Two very different resurrections in this Gospel text. One miracle brings both body and spirit to life.
The spiritual resurrection is where I want to focus today. Paul says in Romans;
But if Christ is in you,
although the body is dead because of sin,
the spirit is alive because of righteousness.
Our spirit is what Jesus reaches out to revive today. To know Jesus is to have life. To know Jesus is to have joy, hope and peace. To know Jesus is to not fear the death of the body because we know that Jesus will resurrect us and bring us to eternal life. To know Jesus is to be free of the bondage of self and live in a way that shows that we are truly alive because of Easter! Jesus' work on the cross is what truly gives us life! We do not have to be afraid in this world. We have the Lord who intervenes for us with the Father and sends the Spirit to console and give us courage and peace.
So why do so many of us walk around like we are dead inside? I believe that Paul is correct. We are susceptible to the burdens of the world and when we give into them, we lose the joy and life that God so desperately wants us to cherish.
Ezekiel addressed a people who had lost all hope and were desperate for life. I find his words to be powerful and life changing.
Then you shall know that I am the LORD,
when I open your graves and have you rise from them,
O my people!
I will put my spirit in you that you may live,
and I will settle you upon your land;
thus you shall know that I am the LORD.
I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.
Ezekiel isn't talking about the body but rather the spirit. I fear that so much of the time, many focus on life after death and miss the fact that God wants us to live now too! The Lord is opening the graves of our heart and spirit so that we can live and know joy, hope and peace NOW! The Lord wants us to be happy and alive today!
A dual resurrection of spirit and body is what Jesus offers to us today. We don't have to live a life of fear and sadness. We are the body of Christ and are one in spirit. Jesus gives us life and calls us to be his hands and feet and to be life to one another. God's goodness is so great that it can never be extinguished. God's love is never ending. There is so much to be happy about!
Life on earth is too short and precious to be lost to hopelessness or fear. Jesus gives us life and gives it abundantly. To walk around dead inside is a terrible thing when Jesus is calling to us to live. This Easter let us sing an Alleluia the way it was meant to be sung with life and joy!
My goal for today? To not be mistaken for a "spiritual zombie". I want to reflect the love of Jesus and help others to know the joy of life!