Scripture: John 11:1-44
Today is the fifth Sunday in Lent. For the last month we’ve been praying and singing and pondering together around the theme of Practicing Interbeing. We’ve been accompanying Jesus on his journey to the passion and exploring how his practicing of interbeing might give us clues about our own journeys. How did he live in deepest interdependence and shared power and reciprocity? How did he call us into deeper and deeper connection with each other and all of creation?
Joann suggested that the hanbleceya or “crying for a vision” might tells us a bit about Jesus experience in the wilderness. Maybe he experienced healing in that place of being away from humans but deeply connected to the ancestors and other relatives in creation. Sam suggested that interbeing might be what the Psalmist is getting at when they have God tell us, Be Still and Know that I am God; that stillness and deep listening to the plants brought forth fecundity in northern Scotland, a place not known for its gardens. I suggested that the Transfiguration offered us a vision of Third Space, a place where instead of pain and oppression, instead of resistance and struggle against pain and oppression, we get to taste Interbeing in its fullness, if only for a moment. And that, having experienced the fullness of love and justice and liberation, we are emboldened and energized to return to the world that is often marked by pain, oppression, struggle and resistance. Joann suggested that the story of Jesus and the man born without sight might have been more about what kinds of healing the disciples and we need so that we can have our hearts opened to the needs of the world.
Practicing Interbeing… as we journey with Jesus toward the passion, we are invited into deep connection with the ancestors, with our relatives in all of creation. We are invited into deep listening for the voice of the Sacred- in our plant kindred, in each other. We are invited to experience, if only for a moment or a few hours, what it’s like to be truly connected, truly bound together and truly liberated, to interbe. And in those moments, to have our hearts healed so we can understand that the needs of our siblings and kindred in creation, are, indeed, our needs.
This has been our Lenten journey thus far.
It is out of this place that we come to this story of Jesus and Mary and Martha and Lazarus.
This morning we’re going to take some time in small groups to talk about our text and our Lenten journeys of Practicing Interbeing. But before we go into those small groups, I want to say just a few things about our text and ask a couple of guiding questions for your discussion.
The first thing I want to lift up is about John’s gospel itself. I have a love-hate relationship with this gospel. As you know, there are four gospels which tell the story of Jesus’ life. All of them are written decades after Jesus lived. And they all tell us about who Jesus is, but through the lives and experiences of the communities out of which they were written. The first three gospels, Mark, Matthew and Luke, have a lot of similar stories and they generally have Jesus pointing to God and calling the disciples, and us, into living and acting like Jesus: that is, loving God wholeheartedly and loving our neighbors with abundant justice.
But John’s gospel, which is written last, probably between 90 and 110 CE, doesn’t share a lot of the same stories that the other three do and it shows Jesus, rather than pointing to God, pointing to himself as God. Scholars call this a “high Christology” and much of John’s gospel makes it into orthodox Christian theology going forward. As Rom was teaching us in the scary Christian words class about salvation, John’s gospel points to an understanding of a belief in Jesus-as-God as central.
I have what is known as a “low Christology” and I am much more drawn to the Jesus that Mark, Matthew and Luke portray. So, when John’s Jesus proclaims in our text, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die,” I struggle with this. This is not my Christology. I am more of a Matthew 25 Christian: “Come, you that are blessed by the Creator, inherit the kin-dom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
But just because I’m not a lover of John’s Christology, I still love many things about the gospel. And this story of Lazarus is deeply moving to me.
The second piece I want to lift up has to do with the space between verses six and seven: after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
I’ve read a number of scholars and they all suggest that this waiting, this not jumping into action, this pause, gives us a huge clue about who and how Jesus is. I hear echoes of Sam’s sermon here. Jesus mostly likely went out and prayed and waited. He probably knew that leaping up and seeking to take action amidst something that was out of his control was not what he was called to do. Instead, he paused and listened, like the founders of Findhorn that Sam told us about, listened. Pausing, stillness, listening for God’s time and not urgent action. I love this, especially in the midst of a world where capitalism has warped us into believing that time is money and that action and productivity are king. No and no, John’s Jesus says. That’s the second piece about this text I want to lift up.
And, finally, as we consider this text, I want to lift up that Mary, her Jewish kindred and Jesus are all weeping as they look at the stone covering Lazarus’ tomb. Their hearts are all open and they are grieving the death of their beloved. There is vulnerability, deep compassion and shared mourning. And it is out of this vulnerability and connection that Jesus resurrects Lazarus.
Out of a place of vulnerability and connection, Jesus calls in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” and then the text says, “The dead man cam 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.”
This is a text that has special resonance with queer and trans folx. (In fact, our final hymn was written by a gay man for whom the story of Lazarus was salvivic.) Since we learned earlier from Martha, that the stench of death was already on him, Jesus and Lazarus’ community weren’t afraid of his woundedness. They called him out of death, touched and unbound him with their love and compassion.
This is practicing interbeing to me.
How about you?
What parts of this story give you guidance around practicing interbeing?
How do you relate to John’s Jesus saying “I am the resurrection and the life?” What is your Christology?
In what ways have you experienced Jesus and your community unbinding you?