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Lent 5A; John 11:1-45

For to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended.

These words come from the Proper Preface of a Communion service within a funeral. Proper Prefaces are the variable words of a Eucharistic Prayer that get inserted to help give meaning or shape to the service of Holy Communion. These variable sentences or words are Proper to the occasion and serve as a preliminary statement – a Preface – of what is to come. You can see where they get inserted when we begin the Communion service on page 367.

All that to say that these words from Communion of a burial service are, in my opinion, some of the most beautiful and hopeful words in the Prayer Book.

Life is changed, not ended.

Even though today's gospel is a familiar story, Lazarus is not really a major character in Scripture. He is best known as the brother of Mary and Martha of Bethany and the man whom Jesus raised. And that is really all we know about him.

Overall, we know he died from some unknown illness.

We know Jesus didn't rush to be by his side but waited another two days before visiting the family.

We know he had been dead for four days by the time Jesus finally arrived.

We know Jesus called him out of the tomb and back to life here on earth.

And we know that the Jewish leaders wanted to kill both him and Jesus.

For to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended.

We have circumstantial evidence that Lazarus was, in some form, a disciple of Jesus. Certainly he was not one of the twelve, but he was probably one of the many unnamed disciples who made up the crowds that followed him. Mary and Martha, his sisters, also had a relationship of some kind with Jesus. This relationship was what drew Jesus back to Bethany when Lazarus died and what led Jesus to weep at the tomb. Friendship can be powerful things, and this friendship between Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and Jesus was a deep, abiding friendship.

But no matter how deeply loving that friendship was, it still was bound by certain rules. One of those rules is that the friendship was limited to this life. Then Lazarus died, Jesus recalled him to this life, and the whole things changed.

Life is changed, not ended.

Lazarus had a life that was changed twice. It was changed after he died into life eternal, then it was changed again to life once more mortal. I would love to know what Lazarus experienced over those four days. We obviously don't know, but I like to think it was something similar to what we read about in Revelation: that he was present in God's throne room with angels, archangels, cherubim, and seraphim in an endless song of, “Holy, holy, holy Lord,” and participating in that heavenly banquet of which we receive a foretaste.

It was changed again when he was called back to this life. Not only changed from life immortal to life mortal, but changed from how it used to be to something new. What was new about this second life was that he became an evangelist.

Previously Lazarus was a disciple, but a disciple of personal faith. He followed Jesus because he found something compelling in him. Whether it was teachings about loving neighbors and enemies, whether it was how Jesus dealt compassionately with women and foreigners, whether it was because Jesus got him to more deeply explore his faith, he followed Jesus because Jesus affected him personally.

What changed is he moved from a personal faith faith, a personal discipleship, to a public faith and public discipleship. He became an evangelist. We can conclude this because over in the next chapter we are told that the religious leaders want to kill Lazarus as well as Jesus because “it was on his account that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.”

Lazarus was changed by Jesus in significant ways. As followers of Christ, we also have the chance to be changed by Jesus.

We are at the end of our Lenten journey. How has your Lenten discipline held up? Have you been able to maintain it? More importantly, have you been changed by those practices over the past forty days?

Holy Week begins next Sunday with Palm/Passion Sunday followed by the events of the Triduum. This is our first full participatory Holy Week in three years. We are, in a sense, returning to normal, somewhat like Lazarus was returned to normal. But the events of Holy Week and the events of Lazarus in the tomb are not normal.

I encourage you to participate in all of the upcoming liturgies as fully as possible, in body, mind, and spirit, and see how you might be changed.

Things here at Saint John's are changing before our very eyes – the way we gather, the new people in our pews, our new Minister of Music – we are changing. This is what happened to Lazarus, he was changed. And the resurrection of Christ not only changed him, but it changes us as well.

For to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended.

This Easter, may you be changed from glory to glory. This Easter may you be changed from living a personal faith to a public discipleship. This Easter, may our life together in this place be changed to more strongly reflect the image of the resurrected Christ to those around us as we present a beautiful and hopeful gospel message.


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