This Sermon was not preached on 29th March 2020 at St John the Evangelist, Bexley due to suspension of services throughout the Coronavirus Emergency.
The reading can be found here.
Lazarus lies bound and dead in the cold, empty tomb where nothing moves, nothing breathes. There is no life; no interaction; no community; no love…
How many people now, particularly those without family or anyone to share their homes, feel their homes becoming a sepulchre like the one in which Lazarus lay?
In isolation with no one to talk to and no one to see… And sooner or later the same old rubbish on television blurs into a white-noise drone that replaces the traffic that no longer passes by the window…
Is this how it feels? To be bound in the grave-shroud? To have the stone rolled over the doorway? To lie in the darkness and the silence? Unable to go out, unable to visit the places that give us life, unable to see the people that affirm us – Unable even to attend a place of worship (As a wise friend of mine described it: A spiritual amputation). Is this death? It certainly doesn’t feel like life!
Lazarus’ story doesn’t end in the tomb. At Jesus’ command the stone is taken away; At Jesus’ command Lazarus comes out of his isolation. At Jesus’ command Lazarus is unbound and allowed to go.
The light at the centre of our faith; The light of the world that shines in the darkness; The light that finds it’s source in the heart of God – That light has a talent when it comes to tomb doors: Pouring in through into the darkness of Lazarus’ interment – and again at Easter, breaking out from the tomb as Christ Himself is raised from the dead.
Today is Passion Sunday: When our Lenten discipline hits its steepest gradient and the gravity of the Cross really makes its traction felt. From here until Good Friday (the season we call ‘Passiontide’) we are called to join Our Lord on the Way of Sorrows -the painful journey to the Cross. This year, perhaps more than ever, we are called to go beyond that – to find our place in the tomb; the desolate emptiness where it may even feel that God is absent.
But God is not absent: Our Lord lies alongside us in the tomb, He weeps as we weep. Our faith, that Easter faith, in which the joy of the Resurrection glimmers even through the darkness of the most sorrowful of Calvaries, tells us that the time is right (not that any of us know when that will be) the stone will be rolled away and the light will shine once again.
So it was for Lazarus – and so it must be for us too.
For all the bleakness and the sorrow we may be feeling at this time – for the loneliness and the silence… When the time is right (not that any of us know when that will be) the light will break through the doorway of the tomb and we shall hear the words:
“LAZARUS, COME OUT!”
“The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, Unbind him, and let him go.”
When the time is right (not that any of us know when that will be), we too shall be unbound.
We shall have our Easter.