Fifth Sunday of Lent, 2017

Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice; *
let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.
If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss, *
O Lord, who could stand?
For there is forgiveness with you; *
therefore you shall be feared.
I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; *
in his word is my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord,
more than watchmen for the morning, *
more than watchmen for the morning.

Amen.

+++

“Come and see.”

These words are familiar in this community of Jesus. They are the words that called Jesus’ band of followers into being in the first chapter of John’s Gospel story. It was Jesus’ own first invitation to those who were curious about him, the disciples of John the Baptizer who wondered where it was that Jesus was staying. “Come and see.” With these words, the One who is Resurrection and Life invited the first followers into Resurrection Life.

Then the words came out of the mouths of the first evangelist, the first to bring another to the Son of God. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to Nathaniel, “Come and see.” It was an invitation to Life and Life Abundant.

Come and see.

But in our story today, the meaning of this invitation takes on a great reversal. Martha has just made her confession that she believes Jesus to be the Messiah. She does not know why Jesus waited so long to come, but she knows who Jesus is, and she holds that belief in one hand and her grief and loss in the other.

She goes to get Mary, and Mary says the same thing Martha says: “Lord, if you had been here…” Jesus looks around and sees all of the mourners who have followed Mary out of the house. Disturbed, angry, and grieved all at once at the sight of the kind of chaos and grief death riles up, “He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep.” 

Come and see. This is the same invitation as before, yet it is entirely different. Jesus feels the weight of this reversal, the weight of death, the prospect of his own death, and the fact that these people he loves are burdened by the rituals and spectacle of death and death’s hold. Come and seesee what we have to deal with, see what plagues us, see what you did not fix. How could anyone but look at Jesus and say, “Son of Man, can these bones yet live?” 

Come and see. This invitation has taken a different meaning for me as I look out on this neighborhood, this valley of dry bones, where there is so much to grieve and so much lost. I look around, and this neighborhood is totally different. It is barer; there are fewer people. There are fewer trees. The land itself has changed. I can only imagine what it is like for those of you who have lived here for so long. I’ve only been here for a couple of years, and the sight is really disorienting. And as I look outside, and as I read these stories, I hear God’s voice in my ear, “Human, can these bones yet live?”

And anyone who comes from out of town, anyone who knew this place before the storm, they come and see what has happened to this neighborhood. Those who see are shocked, and many avoid seeing when they come by travelling another route. And so I imagine we are like Mary and those with her in this story, witnesses to this thing that has shaken us, taken from us, and continues to affect us.

So, five weeks into the depth of the Lenten wilderness, with all that has happened and continues to happen in the aftermath, I am about ready to march up to Jesus and say the same thing: If you had been here, this would not have happened. I want to take Jesus by the arm and show him all the things around us, show him what we’re dealing with. Come and see.

But it’s also because, at this point in this season and in our life together as a congregation, I need to know and feel that life can be restored, that the dry bones can have flesh and muscle and sinews re-grown. I need to know that life will be brought back, that this will be made new, that God will blow the Spirit through these broken pines and make us live. I need Jesus to stand at the corner of Holly and Liberty and shout into this place the words of New Creation and Resurrection.

Certainly there are things we can do and things we are called to do in this neighborhood, but I want to hold off on that for a little while so we can stand back and let God do what God has always done: bring life out of death and nothingness. I know it’s only week five in Lent, but I need Resurrection. I need it and I can feel it in my dry bones and in the soil and in the tired faces I see. This is where Lent has brought me – looking Jesus in the face and saying, “Son of Man, can these bones yet live?!”

“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.’”

The witness of this story in our fifth week in Lent is that the answer to this question is an unrestrained, “YES.” These bones can live, new life can be restored to these mortal bodies, and the Spirit will blow through this place the Resurrection and Life of Jesus Christ.

Because, in our gathering here, we stand before the presence of God and beg the Lord to come and see. We ask the Holy Spirit to come among us, and we ask for nothing less than Jesus Christ to be with us in Flesh and Blood. This is why I cannot understate the importance of our gathering in worship to be filled with the Spirit in the presence of Jesus Christ. There is nothing we can do to bring new life to this place if the one who is Resurrection and Life does not go before us and call new life into being. So, we meet here, and we ask the Lord to come and see.

O Lord, Can these bones live? Come so that we can see.

Amen.

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