Monday, April 11, 2011

The road to new life

Last night at The Well, we discussed the Gospel of John's telling of the raising of Lazarus. Unlike the other Gospels, for John, this is the climactic story that signals the end of Jesus' public ministry. His claim to be the resurrection and the life is more than some can handle, even as they watch with their own eyes the evidence of God's power at work through this miracle. As readers, we are left with the sense that instead of loosening the wrappings and allowing Lazarus to fully live again, some in the crowd would rather have kept him bound. It seems that the blindness to the light of Christ was an avoidance of the scandalous reality of God's power at work through flesh and bone in ways that no one would have imagined.

The feeling of being bound happens to us in a variety of ways. Last week, I was faced with an awkward reminder of the limitations that some still place on female ministers (some reading will be amazed that this is the first time I have felt overtly limited because of my gender). I was scheduled to officiate a funeral for a local funeral home. I did not know the family and they did not know me - they were in need of a minister to perform their dad's funeral, and I agreed. I had a lovely conversation with a female family member and I heard the stories of a man who had lived a long and full life, and who had been active in a local southern baptist congregation. The next day, I received an email from her regretfully informing me that some of the "old southern baptists" in the family could not handle having me lead the funeral.

I have to admit that I knew I was due for one of these awkward and unfortunate experiences. Having been called and affirmed into ministry through faith communities that affirmed the calls of women, I knew that one day I would be faced with a different response. I could go on about how it felt, but I think you could read Kathy Escobar's blog this week and understand my feelings pretty well. I'm not one to dwell on rejection or to let it become my platform for advocating for women in ministry (it really is the incredible stories of giftedness and calling of women in ministry that call for our advocacy!); however, I have really let this get to me.

The road to life modeled by Jesus is one full of mountains, wilderness, rejection, belief, ambiguity, and celebration. If John's climactic placement of this resurrection story is appropriate, then what finally put Jesus' life at stake was the decision to offer life to one who had been bound by death. Perhaps the most beautiful image in this passage is the role that the community plays in unbinding Lazarus. The community around Lazarus are the ones called to unloosen the wrappings so that he can live fully once again. Life is given by Christ, but the freedom to walk in that life is the gift given by the community that dares to affirm the grace of God at work in each of us. Too often we allow fear to keep people in places that are comfortable for us instead of affirming and equipping the work of new life that is leading them to new places.

Last night, we prayed that The Well would be a group of people that loosens the wrappings that keep people unable to respond to the new life they have received through Christ. Instead of trying to control. manipulate and make palpable the ways God is at work, my prayer is that we will celebrate signs of new life and that we will tear apart the wrappings that limit the amazing love, grace and power of the risen Christ.

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