The folks I meet, through Street Hope, ask the most interesting questions. I was with a group a while ago and we were looking at the biblical account of the “raising of Lazarus”. One of my friends excitedly piped up “I would have loved to be in that crowd, man!” He thought that witnessing this giving of life would be just the coolest thing. This started us off thinking what would it have been like, and before we knew it we were practising an ancient method of Bible study. We reread the story imagining we were in the crowd. Why were we there? What were we experiencing each step of the way? What was our role? In doing this we realised that as part of the crowd we were there because we felt compassion for Mary and Martha or we too were grieving the loss of our friend. Maybe we had been there for the past four days caught up in this grief. We tapped our own experiences of loss and grief. “It sucks!” was the consensus. As Jesus comes there is a buzz. He arrives to a mixed welcome because many believe if he had only shown up on their timetable our buddy Lazarus would still be alive. We look on as Jesus meets the sisters. We see him visibly gripped by a depth of grief and compassion which tells us we are not the only ones who hurt. He speaks asking the stone to be rolled away. “Who rolled the stone away?” I asked. One of my friends said “People from the crowd!” another excitedly adds “We did!” We realized that the anonymous faceless crowd played a pivotal role. Jesus commands Lazarus out of the tomb and he comes! He is hopping out still wrapped in grave cloths. Jesus commands that the cloths be taken off him. “Who unwraps Lazarus? Who takes off the grave cloths?” The answer comes more quickly now, “We do!” Again we play a pivotal role in this unfolding drama. As I looked around the room you could see an excitement in peoples’ eyes. They were “really into” this. “What do we do now?” someone asks. “Good question” I reply (my standard answer) “What do we do?” “I would so freaking be telling everyone” chirped one of my friends.
In exploring this story we discovered our role. Jesus has the lead role and we are ‘the crowd’ but as the crowd we have an integral part to play. Our part is to live compassionately caring for our friends and enemies, to be obedient in the small things (like rolling away a stone) content to be unnamed, to know that though we have been “born again to a living hope” that grave cloths still cling to us and we need help to remove them and so do others. This last part is a process which never stops in this life time but we can be confident in this very thing that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it” The final lesson is that we should “So freaking be telling everyone!”
Last night I had a chance to share this as a message to a group at Atlantic Institution a maximum security prison. The guys were grateful for the message which came from the “crowd” at Street Hope Saint John. I remember when I had to write my own sermons. This is so much better! I too am one of the crowd. Would you like to join us?