Graves by Annette Joseph
“It is not Easter yet, but it won’t be long now. The only problem is that we have to walk through a graveyard to get there.” says Barbara Brown Taylor. I think it comes from our problem with death. We don’t like to walk so close to deaths door and neither do the key players in today’s text like it. Martha and Mary both voice their belief that Jesus could have raised Lazarus, but now they are lead to the door of grief and loss (John 11:1-45). If they knew Jesus delayed in coming to them there may be just a trace of bitterness in their question, because Jesus could have saved them from all this grief, this desolation.
We walk through a lot of valleys when we encounter death and loss. There are some who avoid the person who is dying, there are some who openly weep and grieve draining all else, there are some who pray for a miracle, and there are some who face it head on and turn it all over to God. Death comes into our lives whether we’re ready or prepared or not. We walk through this valley individually and yet together. In each loss we pull in all our other losses trying to know inside if this is different, the same to help cope with and get through the valley. We can’t imagine the other side when we are in the midst of it, we can only go through as best we can.
Sometimes we can become bound to it, just as the spectators of Lazarus rising, forgetting to unbind him setting him freed from death, even plotting to kill him to keep him in death. We somehow seem to forget that with every death is new life. When we loose a spouse or partner we live into a new and different life without that person as a companion. When we loose a friend we go on to other and different friendships and relationships. What we had before does not exist it only lives in our memories. In our deep yearning for reconnection and times past.
I don’t think the bones which were knit together by God for Ezekiel were the people they had once been. This is the question we have too about Lazarus, was he happy to be resurrected, what kind of life must it have been like after? See new life comes with the cost of tears, grief, and loss. Only until we have walked through that graveyard, noting all the stones and names do we make it to the other side of life.
Here is the thing, in order to gain new life we must live through the grief and loss of change. Lazarus, Martha, and Mary did not live through this experience without forever being changed. Ezekiel did not witness this graveyard for nothing, it was a sign of change that was coming to Israel, so be ready. It meant for them to prepare to live in freedom and not in slavery. Unbound from everything they believed that was holding them back in their relationship with God. We all stand at this door at some point standing in the valley of dry bones. Looking out at loss and desolation and seeking the signs of new life. The real question is how will we face this change?