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Unwrap: Waking Up, April 30, 2023

John 11: 38-44. In the opening of the tomb of Lazarus, in the unwrapping of his funeral cloths, the community had to face their unknowing — and perhaps disbelief — and trust that the resurrection Jesus had facilitated was real. The range of emotions was vast.

As the butterfly’s cozy environment cracks further open still, it is the effort of the process of emerging that makes change possible — waking up,rolling away the stone, unwrapping what will be.

We continue our message series, “Emerge: A Metamorphosis Moment,” with this message, “Unwrap: Waking Up.”

There are so many delicious details in this story that are sermons unto themselves. That Lazarus was in the tomb for so long and yet still came out alive. That Jesus wept with full human emotion. The words "come out” could be a sermon unto itself. The agony of Martha and Mary who cried out the same words to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."

Jesus' command, “Lazarus, Come out!” must have turned heads. In today’s scripture, we hear Martha remark about the stench of the tomb, so what on earth could Jesus have possibly done when rot had already set in?

And yet here comes Lazarus, emerging from the tomb, bound up in funeral cloths; needing Jesus to wake him up and getting help to take off the wrapping of his death.

As the chrysalis, in our weeks-long metaphor, opens further, the butterfly must respond to the urgent call to emerge and take flight. The life span of a butterfly after emerging is 2-3 weeks to a few months depending on the species and the time of year the caterpillar becomes a chrysalis. But after emerging, the butterfly has some urgent work to do. They must procreate or their species will not continue existing. These creatures, like all of GOD’S creatures, are genetically driven to do what GOD designed them to do.

I don't think Lazarus was the only character "emerging" in this story, however. The story of Jesus' ministry itself experiences an emergence with this part of the gospel of John, for Lazarus' death and resurrection foreshadows Jesus' own. Perhaps even Jesus, in this highly emotional situation, awakens to a new awareness of the finality of what awaits him as he continues to challenge the religious and government authorities. He is reminded of how people are grieving Lazarus’ death; and he knows people will grieve his death.

Lazarus’ illness in not ultimately about death, because Jesus will give life to Lazarus and this gift of life will reveal the glory of GOD.

This gift of life reveals Jesus’ relationship with GOD; and the “glorification” of Jesus in John’s Gospel refers to Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension.

While Lazarus' resurrection led many to come into new belief in the person and power of Jesus, the response to Lazarus' resurrection also results in the beginning of the plots among the chief priests to have Jesus killed. And these same priests even plot to have Lazarus killed for his role in facilitating Jesus' most powerful signs…so far.

While we most often focus on Lazarus, you could also consider the other characters such as Lazarus’ community, Lazarus' sisters, the disciples, even the chief priests all can shed a unique light on our metaphor of emergence. How were they called to emerge because of this miracle?

How is GOD calling you to emerge because of your witness to the power of Jesus Christ in your life?

The emergence of Lazarus and the removal of his bindings is such a powerful image. However, Lazarus did not come out of the tomb by himself. First of all, Lazarus heard only the voice of Jesus. Are YOU listening to the voice of Jesus calling you to come out of your tomb?

Then it was the folks in Lazarus' community who moved the stone of the tomb. And when Lazarus emerged, it was his community that unbound the funeral cloths wrapping his body at Jesus' command.

What if our own emergence isn't something we do on our own but is something that happens in a community? I deeply believe that the only way we can grow to be all that GOD wants us to be is by being part of a Christian small group. Our Biblical understanding is improved when we can hear others response to GOD’S Word. We receive nurturing and support in a small group. We are held to a higher level of accountability by our close friends. We can praise God, pray together and praise for each other that become almost like family. And we can invite others to join us in our small group they can walk with us, unwrapping ourselves to GOD and waking up to GOD.

Verse 35 reads, “Jesus wept.” Jesus’ weeping reveals to us the depth of his love for Lazarus and reminds us that Jesus was, indeed, fully human; and at the same time, fully GOD. One wonders how his grief for his friend might have connected with his gut feeling that death was not far off for himself either.

Jesus’ identity as something more than just a rabbi or teacher is emerging here in this part of the Gospel of John.

Lazarus’ sisters proclaim an assurance that Jesus had the power to stop him from dying in the first place.

I want to remind you of the scripture that Linde read starting in verse 38, “Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

On pew Bible p. 897, just before today’s Scripture, I’m going to read a few verses from John chapter 11, to help us really understand what Jesus was saying about the glory of GOD.

First verse 3 & 4, “So the sisters sent to [Jesus], saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Verse14 & 15, “Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Verse 25 -27, “Jesus said to [Martha], ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.

Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.’”

These verses pull together everything that Jesus has said in the story about the revelatory significance of the miracle he was about to perform.

Martha says that she believes, but remember her words after Jesus told the community to remove the stone, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”

Martha didn’t really understand…Until… her brother came out of the tomb.

The chief priests’ fear of Jesus to the point of plotting to kill him demonstrates that Jesus is something more than just someone teaching polarizing things about the Torah, the first 5 Books of our Bible.

What God wills and hopes for the life of the world is now available in Jesus—that is, the defeat of death’s power to remove people from life with GOD. Who Jesus is, not only what Jesus does, all of his miracles, marks this decisive shift in GOD’S relationship with the world. As the resurrection and the life, Jesus defeats death in the future, and in the present.

The power of death to separate people from GOD is reduced to nothing by the presence of the power of GOD in Jesus.

Jesus defeats the power of death because in him the world meets the power of the love of GOD incarnate. Many people get wrapped up in worrying about their death that they forget to live NOW. GOD wants us in small groups to help unwrap us from our own concerns to we can care for each other; and REALLY LIVE!!

Jesus is the resurrection and the LIFE!! He wants us to live with each other; loving others as he has loved us.

So many times, the church preaches about death and resurrection at Easter and funerals; but shies away from such topics in the midst of life. Yet, it is in the everyday rhythms of life that the church most needs to talk about Jesus’ power of resurrection and the life, so that death can indeed lose its sting.

To proclaim the power of resurrection only at the time of death weakens the message of Resurrection.

This 11th chapter of John’s Gospel asks us and all of the church to reflect that Jesus is the resurrection and the life is the decisive announcement, because he announces that the world is now definitively under GOD’S care and power. Jesus’ words in John 11:25-26, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Jesus asks us directly, “Do you believe this?”

THEN LIVE LIKE YOU BELIEVE IT!! Jesus calls us to UNWRAP AND WAKE UP!!

Jesus invites the church to claim that death is indeed an inescapable part of the believer’s life, but that it also belongs to the ongoing, life-giving power of GOD, in the power in Jesus, is the power that determines the believer’s existence,

NOT the power of death.

John 11 offers a promise about how those who believe in Jesus will live their lives, not just about how they will end them.

We must unwrap ourselves to GOD to really hear GOD.

I was working on how to say this to you all today, then on Friday morning it came to me. I opened an email from the Henri Nouwen Society.

Please hear this devotion about prayer by Henri Nouwen, “Open Yourself to God.” Or the second title could be.

“Unwrap yourself to GOD and Wake UP!!”

Henri Nouwen wrote, “To pray means to open your hands before God. It means slowly relaxing the tension that squeezes your hands together and accepting your existence with an increasing readiness, not as a possession to defend, but as a gift to receive.

Above all, prayer is a way of life that allows you to find stillness in the midst of the world where you open your hands to God’s promises and find hope for yourself, your neighbor, and your world. In prayer, you encounter God not only in the small voice and the soft breeze, but also in the midst of the turmoil of the world, in the distress and joy of your neighbor, and in the loneliness of your own heart.

Prayer leads you to see new paths and to hear new melodies in the air. Prayer is the breath of your life that gives you freedom to go and to stay where you wish, to find the many signs that point out the way to a new land. Praying is not simply some necessary compartment in the daily schedule of a Christian or a source of support in a time of need, nor is it restricted to Sunday mornings or mealtimes. Praying is living. It is eating and drinking, acting and resting, teaching and learning, playing and working. Praying pervades every aspect of our lives. It is the unceasing recognition that God is wherever we are, always inviting us to come closer and to celebrate the divine gift of being alive.

In the end, a life of prayer is a life with open hands—a life where we need not be ashamed of our weaknesses but realize that it is more perfect for us to be led by the Other than to try to hold everything in our own hands.” End quote

Henri J. M. Nouwen

Luke wrote in Acts 9:17, “Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord -- Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here -- has sent me so you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’"

Saul spent time, blind for 3 days, with scales on his eyes; kind of like cocoon-time in limbo. He emerged and became the Apostle Paul, the great Christian writer

My friends, GOD wants us in small groups to help us UNWRAP OURSELVES AND WAKE UP TO GOD.

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life.

Please rise as you are able and let us together sing,

“GOD Be With You” #840, printed in your bulletins.

Benediction: Go with the knowledge that you are the beloved child of GOD. Unwrap your tightly clenched fists. Offer to your neighbors what you can and ask for what you need, unwrapping to GOD and waking up with GOD.

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