Today’s Message, 3/29/2020

Old Testament Reading: Ezekiel 37:12-14; Epistle Reading: Romans 8:8-11; Gospel Reading: John 11:1-45 

Is there an area of your life where Hope is gone? Why should you not invite Jesus today to visit this area? We have to believe and trust our in God.

I believe many of us have met people who find it hard and uncomfortable to talk about death because of the fear of the unknown.  Especially during this CORONAVIRUS pandemic where some of our family members have died alone and not being able to have human connection to be beside them to hold their hands and witness to their funeral can be very painful and hard. We have to know that life can change in an instant. We are not willing to talk about death thus live in denial.

The Scriptures this morning encourage and bring us hope that death is inevitable that we need to be ready to welcome it because Jesus said “Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live”.  The gospel reminds us to invite Jesus to be part of our life. Jesus can handle our fears. So let us hand over our fears to him. When everything seems to be failing and falling apart we need Jesus and each other for strength, support and meaning in life.

In the story of Lazarus, Martha and Mary who are beloved friends of Jesus remind us that divine power always needs to be activated by our human cooperation, obedience, trust and faith that God will always help us when we help ourselves as individuals, families, communities and most especially in the dark areas of our private lives.

We are reminded today that if we are to receive good news and joy in our life, we need to have practical obedience and follow God’s will in the three commands. First, “ Roll away the stone.’….So they rolled away the stone” (John 11:39-41).  The second command Jesus gives is directed to the dead man: “‘Lazarus, come out “and the dead man came out” (John 11: 43-44). The third command is again addressed to the people, “Unbind him, and let him go” (John 11:44).

Many of us this day have fallen victim to the death of sin.  Many of us these days are already dead to sins, fears  and are in the tomb of hopelessness and decay in the bondage of sinful habits and attitudes. We are constantly burying ourselves in the tomb of despair. Sometimes we are in the tombs of selfishness filled with negative feelings of much worry, fear, resentment, hatred, shame and guilt. Jesus is telling us Roll away the stone, and unbind yourself.

Did people understand why they should do this heavy work of rolling away the tombstone to expose a stinking corpse? Most probably they didn’t. But it was their faith in Jesus expressing itself not through intellectual agreement with Jesus but through practical agreement and obedience with Jesus. Why didn’t Jesus command the stone to roll away all by itself when Jesus himself could do that? This tells us that divine power seems always to be activated by human cooperation and can become challenging if it is met with non-cooperation.

There are so many dark areas in our private lives. We often bind ourselves with chains of addiction to alcohol, drugs, sexual deviations, slander, gossip, envy, prejudices, hatred or uncontrollable anger and bury ourselves in the tombs of despair. Sometimes we are in the tomb of selfishness, filled with negative feelings such as worry, fear, resentment, hatred, and guilt. You are asked today to handover your fears and worst case scenario of our living to Jesus. We are all vulnerable to death.

Jesus asks us to seek His help and that of the community around us. To loosen those chains and come out of tombs that we have created by our own human circumstances.  If we want Jesus to visit our dark areas of , despair and unhappiness, let us ask Jesus during this Lenten season to bring the light and the power of His Holy Spirit into our private lives and liberate us from our tombs.  Are there times when we refuse to let God enter into our private areas of life for fear of the unknown?   Jesus command is roll away the stone, unbind yourself and be free.

I invite you today just to remember that Jesus is calling you by name to come out of your own tomb of fears and despair. Hear Jesus telling you to be free. This is good news for all of us and the beginning of a new life.  It is indicative that Jesus’ word of command “ Lazarus, come out!” is followed by immediate obedience.  Lazarus found his way out of the dark tomb even with his hands and feet tied up in burial garments, bandages, and his face all wrapped up.  One of the lessons we can learn is that even if a human being is rotting away in the tomb s/he can still do something to help themselves.

Even though Lazarus could try to walk himself out of the tomb, there was no way he could unbind himself. He needed the community to do that for him. By unbinding Lazarus and setting him free from the death bands or burial garments the community is accepting Lazarus back as one of them. Can we as community support and give helping hands to people who are constantly afraid of life challenges? Can we hear Jesus telling us “Unbind him, and let him go” (John 11:44).

We need to be ready to welcome death any time.  We live in a world that is filled with death.   We kill ourselves through suicide, drugs, alcohol abuse, smoking, overwork, stress, bad eating habits, and physical neglect.  We watch calmly others die from poverty, hunger and malnutrition, homelessness, unemployment, poor education, disease, child abuse, discrimination, pollution, and destruction of the environment.  Can we invite Jesus and handover all our worries about life to Jesus to handle those life challenges.

Are we ready to cooperate with Jesus for the miracle? Are we ready to roll away the stone that stands between us and the light of Christ’s face? Are we ready to take the first step to come out of the places of our own death? Are we ready to unbind (forgive) one another and let them go free? These are the most important questions that we can ask ourselves also during this current Covid-19 pandemic which is hard, dark, scary, and painful. Jesus asks us today to seek His help and that of communities around us to loosen those chains and come out of our dark areas. He calls us by name to come out of our tomb. Handover your fears to Jesus and share your fears with other people who care about you. Together we shall make it through in the Name of Jesus!

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