Today’s Reading: John 11:32-44
When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Last year, while Jim and were serving in Corvallis, Jim decided to preach from this text on Easter. I am not really sure of all the reasons why but I think perhaps he had decided and had been called to preach this sermon because it fit his ministry at the time. Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a super powerful passage…full of suspense, drama and its becomes a precursor to Jesus’ own death and resurrection. But I almost fell off of my chair laughing…
I, first of all, had no idea what Jim would do with this passage. The sermon premise was good. We all need to step up and take up life again. We need to respond to Christ’s call boldly. I loved it. And then to further his point Jim started calling people out. He said that Jesus would look around the room and say, “Sara COME OUT!” “Jim COME OUT!” etc. etc. And then he yelled loudly “COURTNEY COME OUT! COURTNEY COME OUT!” And THAT is when I lost it. It started with a look over surprise and then trying not to make eye contact. But then after each point Jim would yell, “It’s like he’s saying…COURTNEY…COME…OUT!” Over and over again. So my polite smile turned into a chuckle and I saw others do the same. Our heads went down trying to stifle the laughter. But then the next, “COME OUT!” would elicit another “ha! I mean…” or a “hehe”
Jim: “so and so COME OUT”
Jim (really getting into it now and preachin): So and so COME ON OUT!
Me: (Shoulders shaking uncontrollably)
Jim: COURTNEY COME OUT! (just to drive the point home after another paragraph of preaching)
Me: Snort! (tears streaming down my face).
It…was…fantastic! People were paying attention. We were all right there with him and I think later he realized that people were chuckling. You see, in this day and age and especially in that congregation, coming out means something totally different! This is the congregation that hosted the Transgender conference within the first 4 months that we were there! So as well as being bold and responding it meant different things. And we thought it was hysterical! I maybe thought it was more hysterical because I was up front and trying desperately to not laugh while all robed and trying to be Easterly.
But here’s the reality..death is so somber and so emotionally draining and sucky that resurrection is hilarious! It surprises us so deeply. That is NOT what is supposed to happen and yet here is Jesus bring Lazarus back to life and he will soon follow. That’s joyful and HILARIOUS.
Today my family is celebrating the life of my cousin, Gary Hindman. The thing is that he would not have wanted us to be somber and sour. Gary was jolly and always had a smile on his face. He would want us to laugh and find humor in the situation no matter what. So today we will celebrate with stories and his favorite cake. We will pray and we will cry and we will laugh. Thanks be to God.
Death will not overcome…find a way to laugh today.