20. August 2017

Jesus calls out to Lazarus

Service Type:

Minister: Revd Dr. Ian Tutton

‘…Lazarus, Come Out…’ (John 11, 44a)
When Lazarus walked out of the tomb, Jesus’ instruction to those watching was ‘to take off the grave clothes and let him go’…Those who entered Jesus’ tomb on resurrection morning found that ‘angels in bright raiment…kept the folded grave clothes where His body lay.’ Lazarus, though raised from the dead was shrouded by his past and as such not fully able to embrace the new life that Jesus had given Him. Jesus, on the other hand was not so encumbered; for Him resurrection life would be just that. As Christians, what is holding us back? What is preventing us living life to the full? The past haunts us, if we are honest, to such an extent that we find it well-nigh to break free of the stranglehold it appears to have over us…
Yet one of the most profound promises that we find in Scripture is God’s commitment to those who believe in Him, the promise that He will ‘never call to mind’ our sin. If we say yes to God in this present moment, if we are prepared to live the life that God would have us live from this moment on, then as far as God is concerned, our past is written off – the trouble is, this is so counter intuitive, we cannot resist bringing up the past to ourselves or to others – we are held back by our own past misdemeanours to such an extent that any hope we might have of going on with God is severely compromised even before we begin…The injunction, ’Get behind me, Satan’, suddenly has a powerful ring to it…We have to take responsibility for the past, and so often, humanly speaking we are desperate to find ways to atone for it. But the Gospel dares us to believe that the only way properly to take responsibility for it is to redeem it from its consequences by asking forgiveness for it from God, the God who in Jesus has already made atonement for all our sins – ‘We love Him who first loved us and gave His life as an atoning sacrifice for all our sins.’
The Christian faith offers to each and all of us a new way of life; how we think about it, how we feel about it, how we go about living it and for many, the thought of newness is so radical it makes us fearful…But that is the challenge that confronts us and it is a cross shaped challenge – to live for God is to be prepared to be crucified with Christ – for only those who are dead can be made alive – new life in Christ is only possible if we have surrendered ourselves to the death of that which we once were. Faith in Christ and commitment to His cause can never just be an add-on to how we already live; ‘life plus’ as it were – it is a wholly different way of living – it really is, ‘new life in Christ’…
…In short, all of us needs a ‘Lazarus’ moment – when we need to hear God calling…’Come out’…We need to hear God say to us, ‘Take off the grave clothes and be let go,…Its what the world might refer to as ‘a wake up’ call but that is exactly what it isn’t; it is altogether more profound than that. Lazarus was not sleeping, he had been dead for three days – and sometimes we need that jolt, that jolt that reminds us that unless we respond as we ought we will be effectively dead to God, dead to ourselves and dead to the world around us.; some kind of zombie like existence, hell bent on destroying whatever else might be alive…
…And its not just us as individuals, generally, who need to hear God summoning up the dead. As a minister I am acutely conscious of how easy it is to lose the liveliness that so characterised the enthusiasm of the new; to have complacency blunt the cutting edge that was once so sharp; to let the worries of this world so overwhelm one that one becomes immune to the suffering that is going on round about us, and most especially amongst those for whom one has immediate pastoral charge; to allow that which worked in the past to become a comfort blanket to throw over the present and the future thus denying the possibility of anything new being introduced: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, well yes, but perhaps it ought to be changed once in a while…
…And all of this can and should apply to our churches, to our congregations – there are times in our history when together we need to have that Lazarus moment; to wakened from the death we have inflicted upon ourselves even without realising it – thereby becoming irrelevant, insignificant, inconsequential – There are times when we have to ask ourselves searching questions concerning the ‘grave clothes’ we might be wearing – from time to time the challenge: ‘out with the old, in with the new’ is just what we need to hear…

New ways of thinking…
New ways of being…
New ways of doing…

Towards the end of this year the Protestant denominations will remind themselves of Martin Luther’s bold step in posting his 95 theses to the door in Wittenburg. Luther had had his Lazarus moment…He had found the courage to tear away the grave clothes but he as careful to remind those who gathered around him that this was merely a beginning…Semper Reformanda…’Always Reforming’ became his clarion call…one that we do well to be reminded of, for if we are not always reforming ourselves, we will be as if we always were, but are no longer, for what we were is yesterday’s news, when if we are serious concerning our calling under God to be followers of Jesus we should be writing today’s headlines.

Jesus calls out to Lazarus

‘…Lazarus, Come Out…’ (John 11, 44a)

When Lazarus walked out of the tomb, Jesus’ instruction to those watching was ‘to take off the grave clothes and let him go’…Those who entered Jesus’ tomb on resurrection morning found that ‘angels in bright raiment…kept the folded grave clothes where His body lay.’ Lazarus, though raised from the dead was shrouded by his past and as such not fully able to embrace the new life that Jesus had given Him. Jesus, on the other hand was not so encumbered; for Him resurrection life would be just that. As Christians, what is holding us back? What is preventing us living life to the full? The past haunts us, if we are honest, to such an extent that we find it well-nigh to break free of the stranglehold it appears to have over us…

Yet one of the most profound promises that we find in Scripture is God’s commitment to those who believe in Him, the promise that He will ‘never call to mind’ our sin. If we say yes to God in this present moment, if we are prepared to live the life that God would have us live from this moment on, then as far as God is concerned, our past is written off – the trouble is, this is so counter intuitive, we cannot resist bringing up the past to ourselves or to others – we are held back by our own past misdemeanours to such an extent that any hope we might have of going on with God is severely compromised even before we begin…The injunction, ’Get behind me, Satan’, suddenly has a powerful ring to it…We have to take responsibility for the past, and so often, humanly speaking we are desperate to find ways to atone for it. But the Gospel dares us to believe that the only way properly to take responsibility for it is to redeem it from its consequences by asking forgiveness for it from God, the God who in Jesus has already made atonement for all our sins – ‘We love Him who first loved us and gave His life as an atoning sacrifice for all our sins.’

The Christian faith offers to each and all of us a new way of life; how we think about it, how we feel about it, how we go about living it and for many, the thought of newness is so radical it makes us fearful…But that is the challenge that confronts us and it is a cross shaped challenge – to live for God is to be prepared to be crucified with Christ – for only those who are dead can be made alive – new life in Christ is only possible if we have surrendered ourselves to the death of that which we once were. Faith in Christ and commitment to His cause can never just be an add-on to how we already live; ‘life plus’ as it were – it is a wholly different way of living – it really is, ‘new life in Christ’…

…In short, all of us needs a ‘Lazarus’ moment – when we need to hear God calling…’Come out’…We need to hear God say to us, ‘Take off the grave clothes and be let go,…Its what the world might refer to as ‘a wake up’ call but that is exactly what it isn’t; it is altogether more profound than that. Lazarus was not sleeping, he had been dead for three days – and sometimes we need that jolt, that jolt that reminds us that unless we respond as we ought we will be effectively dead to God, dead to ourselves and dead to the world around us.; some kind of zombie like existence, hell bent on destroying whatever else might be alive…

…And its not just us as individuals, generally, who need to hear God summoning up the dead. As a minister I am acutely conscious of how easy it is to lose the liveliness that so characterised the enthusiasm of the new; to have complacency blunt the cutting edge that was once so sharp; to let the worries of this world so overwhelm one that one becomes immune to the suffering that is going on round about us, and most especially amongst those for whom one has immediate pastoral charge; to allow that which worked in the past to become a comfort blanket to throw over the present and the future thus denying the possibility of anything new being introduced: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, well yes, but perhaps it ought to be changed once in a while…

…And all of this can and should apply to our churches, to our congregations – there are times in our history when together we need to have that Lazarus moment; to wakened from the death we have inflicted upon ourselves even without realising it – thereby becoming irrelevant, insignificant, inconsequential – There are times when we have to ask ourselves searching questions concerning the ‘grave clothes’ we might be wearing – from time to time the challenge: ‘out with the old, in with the new’ is just what we need to hear…

  • New ways of thinking…
  • New ways of being…
  • New ways of doing…

Towards the end of this year the Protestant denominations will remind themselves of Martin Luther’s bold step in posting his 95 theses to the door in Wittenburg. Luther had had his Lazarus moment…He had found the courage to tear away the grave clothes but he as careful to remind those who gathered around him that this was merely a beginning…Semper Reformanda…’Always Reforming’ became his clarion call…one that we do well to be reminded of, for if we are not always reforming ourselves, we will be as if we always were, but are no longer, for what we were is yesterday’s news, when if we are serious concerning our calling under God to be followers of Jesus we should be writing today’s headlines.