Summary: What must it have felt like to be revived, only to know that you will die again? It is true of a church that has undergone revival. Some will even try to kill the revival. Embrace it, unbind it.
We always welcome visitors in our church from wherever they may come. But I do wonder today if we have any visitors from the other side. The other side, you know.
No, I don’t mean the Catholics. I mean the other other side. Do we have any visitors from beyond the grave?
Thus begins the sermon for the Sunday after Halloween!
What must it feel like to come back from death?
Can you even imagine it? What must it feel like to have died, moved on to whatever it is that lies beyond, and then suddenly, one bright morning, you wake up and find yourself revived? It’s unthinkable, isn’t it?
Who has even dared to dream about dying and then coming back to life? Who of us has any experience with being revived?
If there’s anybody here who can tell us, first-hand, what Lazarus felt: you were in the grave four days, already decomposing, come tell us about it. Come report on the first Tuesday night practice of the Angelic Choir! Did you measure your mansion for planet-to-planet carpeting? Did you put on a robe and walk all over twenty-four-karat streets? If there’s anybody who’s had that experience, you just come take this pulpit! Because you know something the preacher doesn’t know.
Any takers? I thought not! There is no experience parallel to Lazarus.’
What must it have been like to come back from the dead? Lazarus, tell us.
Was it sort of like going to the mailbox and finding that the bank has sent you your mortgage, marked paid in full?
Was it a bit like getting your test paper back from the teacher, and she has crossed out the F you so richly deserve and written in an A?
What is it like to come back from the dead? Lazarus, is it like being laid off from the job, only to be called a week later. "We can’t get along without you. Come back and we’ll double your salary."
Is it like discovering a brother from whom you were separated as a child? Is it like losing your keys, so that you can’t drive, you can’t get in your house, you can’t do anything …only you stumble on them in your own driveway?
What is it really like to be revived?
But guess what? Hard on the heels of that question is another one. There is another nagging issue that has to be met all too soon.
What is it like to be revived, only to realize that you will have to die again? What is it like to be called back from the dead, only to discover that your revival isn’t permanent? And that someday, some way, you’ll have to go through this thing all over again?
Put your imagination to work. Imagine Lazarus enjoying his new life. He tests everything to make sure it works. Stretching and jumping and running. Just to make sure this thing is real.
He turns to Jesus, "By the way, Jesus, what’s the warranty on my new body? Thirty days, thirty years, thirty thousand years? Am I fixed forever?" And then what do you think Jesus would have answered? You know; I’ve heard you say it. "We are not guaranteed tomorrow. We have only today. Revived or not, we are not guaranteed tomorrow."
Sort of puts a pall on being revived, doesn’t it? Hey, Martha, don’t put anybody else in this tomb, I’ll be needing it again. You out there ... really enjoyed your singing at my funeral; use that same song the next time. Fold up this shroud, Mary; it looks good, and I’ll need it again.
If we can only barely imagine what Lazarus felt about being revived, can we even come close to imagining what he felt when it dawned on him, that he would have to die all over again?
Downs and ups and down again. To have to go through that pain once more. To have to suffer that agony still another time. To have to be sick and to face anxieties and to know that your family will feel loss, all of that again. What about that? Is it worth it?
Here’s my real question: is it worth it to be revived, when you realize you are revived only to die again?
We as a church, and some of us as individuals, have been through a revival. For several days we basked in vigorous singing, we delighted in clear, concise preaching, we listened to one another’s testimonies. We were revived.
We gathered to get a new sense of belonging to Christ and belonging to each other. And it happened. It really did happen. There is among us new energy, new commitment, new clarity, and, thank God, some new faces. We were and are a revived church.