Summary: Part 12 in series Love Never Dies, this message examines a couple of key verses in John 11 where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.
Life, stinky clothes, and freedom
Love Never Dies, prt. 12
Wildwind Community Church
Good morning everybody. I want to start this morning by thanking Jason for filling in for me the last couple of weeks. Thanks Jason! Two weeks ago I thought I was flying to Alabama and had Jason preach for me, then ended up leaving later. Last week I actually was in Alabama helping my dad with some stuff for my grandparents and didn’t get home until around 2 last Saturday. Of course with this building transition we’re in right now I will freely admit I didn’t start this sermon you’re about to hear until 5 pm yesterday. There’s just too much going on for the next couple of weeks, so this morning our greeters will be randomly drawing two names from a hat and those are the people who will handle preaching responsibilities next Sunday and the week after. So good luck with that.
Okay, seriously – I’m really glad to be back at it. I have realized lately that my greatest contribution to this church is the time I spend preparing and preaching sermons, and the time I spend sitting in my office, or in restaurants, with you dear people, lending you whatever perspective I might have that could maybe help you bear more easily the burdens you have to bear in this life.
Of course today is our last day here at River of Life (applause?) River of Life has been good to us. I want to thank Pastor Steve Hammon, and my friend Pastor Steve Turner for hosting us for the past two years and being part of our journey. I want to thank Steve Turner in particular for his gracious kindness to us, for the unwavering support and friendship he has shown to me, for always being happy with us and for us, and for being firmly in our corner, even when the changes happening with us have presented challenges for him and his congregation. Lastly, I want to thank the people of River of Life who have shown great kindness to us and patience with us. I can say that in two years I have never once had a single negative interaction with any of them. They have been gracious hosts, and we wish them nothing but the best as they continue to build their congregation and reach this community. I also want to thank you, the people of Wildwind, who allowed your leadership team and I to lead and make decisions, who didn’t complain when moving day had to change due to problems beyond our control, and many of whom have already put in a lot of hours working at the new site. Thank you for loving Wildwind Church and not simply for advancing my vision, but for making it your own.
I changed the focus of the verses I want to look at today, from what I sent to you on the e-list this weekend. I want to look simply at verses 43 and 44. This is where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.
John 11:43-44 (NLT)
43 Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”
44 And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”
Usually when you hear lessons about this text, the focus is on Jesus bringing life to Lazarus. That’s all well and good since it is the primary thing going on here. God’s role in our lives is to bring life. But what I want to focus on is not God’s role but our role. We play a part in this too.
“Unwrap him and let him go!” That’s our role. Our role in people’s lives often ends up that of unwrapping the stinky grave clothes of those Christ has brought to life so that they can experience the life God has already given them. So many people come to me and say, “I just want to run. I just want to get involved in this terrible relationship because it will make me feel good for a while. I just want to give up on prayer because it doesn’t always make me feel good. I just want to leave my family. I just want to spend money in some stupid way.” But the thing is, they already know what’s right. God has already shown himself to them, revealed truth to them, and oftentimes brought them so far on their journey – but they get tired and discouraged and want to give up. And so, hour by hour, and day by day, I find myself in the position of once again having to touch the stinky grave clothes, once again remind people that life is in them, remind them of what God has done, and call them to live in the life God has already given. There are people in your life at this moment who need you to get close enough to them to unwrap their stinky grave clothes. It’s not a glamorous job. We always must remember that we do not bring life to people – God brings life. Christ calls people out of the tombs where they are laying dead and breathes into them the breath of life. But unwrapping stinky grave clothes? That’s up to us. There are people in your life right now who are still wearing their stinky grave clothes – people who do not know Christ has come, who do not know that they are free men and women, who do not know that, like Lazarus, they too have been given another shot at life.