The Book of John tells the story of the person, teaching and life-changing life of Jesus of Nazareth. This gospel is probably the latest written, and thus involves a greater amount of theological reflection upon the story and history intended to help the emerging Church wrestle with what it meant to follow Jesus in their culture and context.
The story of Lazarus is unique to John. It’s a story of resurrection which challenges our own convictions about life and death, and our often limited notions of life-after death (resurrection), or even life as we die. Today’s we’re structuring our worship and sermon time around the goals of the Conversation Project: a national association working to empower discussions around end-of-life discussions. This this national week in which folks and communities of faith around our country are invited to lift up this crucial, and way too often unspoken about issues, curating conversations and the skills required to have the conversation with others.
Talking about dying isn’t easy, but it’s vitally important. 90% of people say that talking with their loved ones about end of life care is important. Yet only 27% have actually done so. You can learn more about the conversation and find concrete tools on our website at www.capcoakland.org/the-conversation-project as well as at the official Conversation Project website : www.theconversationproject.org
In hearing the story of Lazarus we focus on him rising from the dead. Yet when you look closer there is are multiple conversations in the text: regret that Lazarus, the pain of being with the dying, the uncertainty of life, what it means to be a person of faith and live in, through and even after death. In this famous representation of the story done by the Italian artist Giotto di Bondone you can glimpse the multiple conversations, concerns and convictions unfolding. The story ends with Jesus telling those present to unbind Lazarus, to free him to truly live. What does it mean for us to be fully alive, knowing that we all must die, believing in the resurrection and yet invited to be fully present while we live.
Questions for the Practice of Examen & Contemplation
- As you think of the story of Lazarus, what do you think happened next for him? How do you live as someone who has died and come back to life? How would you live if it was you? How is that different than how you’re already living?
- The Doctrine of Sin tells us that we are bound. We are bound by our own stuff, our desire to be like God, to be in God’s place. How are you bound to the ways in which you live life in fear of death? How does the fear of death, or maybe the hope of resurrection inform your daily life?…does it free you to be fully alive?; does it serve as an excuse for not fully living?