Have you ever heard of Christians being called ‘people of the resurrection’? Or ‘the resurrection people’? I have. And I believe it to be true. Most, if not all of our theology hinges on the resurrection of Jesus. We celebrate his birth and his triumph over death, and though it looks like Christmas is the bigger holiday, we all know that Easter is the more meaningful celebration for those who follow Jesus.
Death and Resurrection. A theme that is infused in our faith lives, in our personal lives, in our congregational lives. We all live, and we all die. This is something we are constantly struggling to accept about our existence here on earth.
In a literal sense, we are born, we live, and we die. In a symbolic or metaphorical way, things are born, they live, and they die. And sometimes, in very special circumstances, things can be resurrected: brought back to life after death.
Medical science has progressed so that people who have stopped breathing, whose hearts have stopped beating, can be brought back from clinical death.
Relationships can be resurrected, ideas that we thought were long dead can have new life. The universe shows us that from dead and collapsing stars come black holes, that consume everything around them, and then produce new stars, with renewed energy and vigor.
God has created a universe that provides for the possibility of resurrection. We even conceive of the after-life, the eternal life, as a form of resurrection.
If you’ve heard me speak at a funeral, you’ll know that I usually mention that the unique energy of a particular person is not really gone. Their spirit, their energy cannot be destroyed, but is in a different form. We think of that different form as a soul or spirit being in heaven. We hope for this, but we do not know for sure.
Our Hebrew scripture this morning tells of a time when God commanded the prophet Ezekiel to prophecy to the dry bones in the valley. To preach to them until they rose up. To encourage them until sinews and flesh and breath came upon them again. A resurrection of sorts.
And our Gospel lesson recounts the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.
These two stories give us some important clues about how we might proceed as a congregation facing resurrection: we too are facing an ending, at some point in the future, and hope for a new beginning to arise.
While the actual gift of resurrection may come from God, or Jesus, did you notice in both of these stories who does all the work? The lay people. People like you and me.
God may have been the power behind the dry bones rising, but God had Ezekiel do the work of prophesying to them. Jesus may have been the power behind Lazarus being raised from the dead, but the people gathered were the ones who had to unbind him from his shroud.
Whatever form of death may come over our One Worshiping Community, whenever that time comes, we will be the ones who have to preach to the dry bones, and we will be the ones who have to unbind the shroud so that the church can live again.
The energy, the spirit that is unique to our congregations will not be gone, it will be in a different form, ready to become whatever God calls us to be. But we will have to do the work!
The is a big difference between resurrection and living: God is in charge of the resurrecting, but we are, in fact, in charge of the living part. That’s on us. God provides the spark of life, but we provide the resolve to go on living. God can jumpstart our body, but we have to be the ones that get the food and water, that determine our purpose in our new life.
For many, the cycle of death and resurrection seems unnatural, artificial, strange and something to fear. But in the universe, in the world that God has made, it is just another moment in time following the rules God has set upon us. Not unusual at all.
As a worshiping community, in covenant with each other, we will be yet another story in a long line of stories about death and resurrection. We have found a unique opportunity to be present and available to God for a new life. Because we’re together, we live. And we will be the ones who will have to unbind the body, who will have to preach to the dry bones of death, so that they may rise again to live a new life in Christ, a new life in God.
Thanks be to God, who gives us new life in Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Amen.
Click here to watch our scripture and sermons playlist on YouTube. (link opens in a new window)