Rise Up

raisinglazarusI didn’t want to come back. My consciousness hovered somewhere above the body lying on the gurney. It was all over, I thought. The last sensation I remembered had been incomprehensible, then a tunnel, and a grinding noise as described in other “near death experiences.” But unlike other people who tell of “NDEs,” I saw no lights, no angels, no dead relatives, no friendly saints; rather, I found myself very much awake in a weightless, imageless, gray hyper reality. I experienced clarity, freedom and relief, and a stunning sense of the illusory nature of the life I’d left behind.
Then in the emergency room a nurse enforced an alternative plan for my life. Someone was shaking my body and calling me by name. No! NO! Unprepared and inept, I slipped, as if falling on ice, into that lesser “reality” in a helpless panic of anguish and anger. Suddenly I was back in the confines of that little life of mine. I came to consciousness disappointed, frustrated, unspeakably sad — and in pain.
Each year we celebrate a time to examine our own “near death experiences” in reflecting on our relationship with Christ. Each year in our Lenten Journey, three questions we face: For what do we thirst? What blinds us? What keeps us from being one with God? The Third Sunday of Lent, we met the Woman at the Well. This great story of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman takes us immediately from the Matthean world into the richly symbolic world of John.
Last week, the blind man sees. Why is the man born blind? All easy answers seem reasonable next to the strange and confounding answer of Jesus: that God’s work might be revealed in him.
This week, Lazarus lives. Life came to the tomb of Lazarus, as Jesus, “the resurrection and the life,” raised him from the dead. Lazarus became an unwitting part of the Jesus play. He never seemed to seek the attention. Yet, once brought to life, he became the Elvis of his time. People traveled great distances just to get a look at him. The Pharisees plotted to kill him because he was a living symbol of Christ’s power. He was living proof of Christ’s power—even over life and death. This act paved the way for his followers to understand that Christ CHOSE to die and that death could not hold him.
I wonder if Jesus did Lazarus a favor by calling him back from the dead? What I do know is that when Christ enters our lives we are no longer our own. We move from self-control and self-direction to His control and His direction. That transformation is nothing less than the power of the Spirit of God calling each and every one of us to health — to wholeness — to realizing our full potential as children of God and to the life abundant which is our inheritance. It is a change that isn’t about making us someone we’re not but making us more authentically who we are.