“Mortal, can these bones live?”   I answered, “Oh LORD, God, you Know.”  I imagine the prophet is just about ready to give it all up.  He stands in a valley of dry, brittle bones; the bones of his people living in exile and now appearing hopelessly dead… how can he even begin to be hopeful in such a desolate place?  Oh, LORD, you know.”  “ Out of the depths have I called to you O LORD, O LORD hear my voice.” The psalmist cries out from his desperation, calling out to God, seeking, hoping, praying that the LORD God, will hear and will answer…  Mary and Martha, weeping at the death of their brother… Jesus does not come to them right away, and in his absence, Lazarus dies.  The sisters are desperate with grief, and when Jesus does come they both say to him that if only he had come, their brother would have lived…

Our lessons today are overflowing with the grief of human life.  Desperate people calling out in their grief hoping beyond hope that God will answer them, that somehow even in death God is present.

One of the most touching and in its own way, shocking pieces of today’s gospel, is that Jesus also weeps.  The death of his friend, and the grief of the sister whom he also loves, touches him.  It’s a tender moment and unexpected and intimate look at Jesus and his response to those around him.  It is a  moment when we truly see Jesus at his most human, affected by human emotions and grieved by the death of one whom he loved.

Something that I saw more clearly this time in these readings, is that while death is spoken of, certainly in the passages from Ezekiel and John, it is not simply physical death that these lessons point to; they also point to the death that is experienced in our lives when sin is allowed to take hold.  It is a kind of death that becomes quite literally “a living hell”, a separation from God of our own making that makes our souls dry and brittle and bound up in our sin.  Like the dead bones, we can look alive on the outside as if everything is fine, while we suffer in a place of addiction, dishonesty, or a whole host of other sins that are quite literally killing us from the inside.  They are the kinds of sins that continue to cause us to hide from God and cause our other relationships to wither away until we are left alone, and despairing, our souls practically dead, wondering how we go there.  It is no way to live.

“Thus says the LORD God to these bones, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.”  With the life-giving breath and Spirit of God, the dry and brittle bones are no longer a sign of deep despair and destruction, but now they live in the presence of God… “I will wait for the LORD, my soul waits for him, in his word is my hope.”  The psalmist knows that even in the darkest of times, the LORD will come, and the LORD will bring hope and promise by his holy Word.  “ Lazarus, come out.”  Jesus calls his beloved by name and even from the depths of his death, Lazarus hears and responds.  He is made new, being brought back from the darkest of places.  He is no longer dead to all that know him; now he lives.

This beloved is our hope and our joy, even as we continue our journey toward Jerusalem and the certain death that awaits Jesus there.  Even in the darkest hours, Easter joy reaches back toward us to give us hope in our despair, and life in our death.  I know that just as Jesus wept at the grave of his beloved Lazarus, that he also weeps at our physical and spiritual deaths.  Each of us matters to God; each of us is beloved in God’s sight.  And while there are things in this life that I do not know, I am certain that in our darkest moments we will hear Jesus call each of us by name, even at our death, and like Lazarus we will come out of the darkness, even if our bones are dry and brittle.   We are Jesus’ beloved, and he knows each of us by name. In Him, God will act, and in Him we will live, and we will no longer be bound by the things that are literally killing us.  Jesus tells Martha that if she believes, she will see the Glory of God.  Her belief isn’t necessarily strong, but she does believe and her brother is given back to her, alive and whole.  For me this part of the story speaks of the power of community especially when we cannot pray or believe for ourselves.  We must have the faith of the community around us that can carry us in those times of darkness so we can still experience the life-giving love of God.  I pray that all those whose souls are decaying in death, might be brought to life once again by the faith of their community and by the sound of Jesus calling their name.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”