5 Lent – Year A

Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:6-11; John 11:1-45

“Death knocks once, dying countless times.” – Martin Dansky

                Martin Dansky is right that there are countless examples of dying.  In our first reading from Ezekiel about the dry bones we have an instance of the whole Jewish nation dying, metaphorically, in Babylonian exile.  It was as if they were dead.  Then they were freed of their bondage, allowed to go home, and their bones came together to live again as a people.  The Jews have since over the centuries gone through more than one pogrom and holocaust, dying countless times.  The State of Israel today is determined never again to be enslaved, no matter who else has to suffer, or who has to be disenfranchised in that effort.  Anyone else, but not them again.  Revenge?  However, the dying and rising story in Ezekiel is not a revenge tactic but an act of God.  On the other hand Martin Dansky is wrong when it comes to Lazarus in today’s Gospel story.  The raising of Lazarus was neither like the resurrection of Jesus, nor like new life after the metaphoric dying that we all go through.  Jesus was transformed to eternal life never to die again.  Death knocked only once for Jesus.  We will save that discussion for Easter.  Lazarus, resuscitated, would die another day.  For him eventually death knocked twice.  When Lazarus came out of the tomb he was bound in burial clothes until untied.  It seems that in both the dry bones story and the Lazarus story the focus of energy is on the unbinding, releasing from shackles, a movement from death to life of one sort or another.  From what shackles do we in our lives need to be freed?  Are we tied down by loss, grief, unemployment, hatred or deep sorrow?  These things may not be our fault.  The death of Lazarus was not his fault.  The answer to death is not revenge.  Revenge would stifle new life and bring more death.  The good news here is that in the midst of our fetters we can hear God say: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”  (Ezekiel 37:9)  Or we can in the midst of being locked up in debilitating sorrow hear Jesus say: “Come out!” (John 11:43)


                John in his Gospel likes to use words that have double meaning causing confusion to his characters.  Jesus tells his disciples that Lazarus sleeps.  They thought he was saying Lazarus was slumbering, taking a nap.  But he meant Lazarus was dead. (John 11:11-13)  In Greek, although there are other words, often the same word is used for slumbering and for death.


Fettered in sorrow

we hear God breathing saying

come out, live again