Summary: Funeral sermon for Richard Dean Lewis, a young man who had a great deal of potential, and whose death caused his family to rethink their relationships.
There is no binding so tight as the one we wind for ourselves. Others may strap you into a seat or use restraints on your hospital bed, but those are never so confining as the bindings with which we confine ourselves. For the bindings we use on ourselves are generally so snug that we cannot breathe, they are invisible to us, and they are not easily released. Bindings; there is no binding so tight as the one we wind for ourselves.
I hate air travel. I like traveling, I like seeing other places, I like even the thrill of flying, but I hate air travel because it is so confining. You have to stand in line for the security check, you have to stand in line while you board, you have to wait in the aisle of the plane while someone ahead of you is attempting to stuff a huge case into the overhead luggage rack, and then, when you find your seat, it is the middle one of a row of three, so that you have to tuck your elbows in and then wear a seat belt that will be too tight. I hate air travel because it is confining. It involves bindings, and they are uncomfortable. But there is no binding so tight as the one we wind for ourselves.
My granddaughters, Olivia and Jackie, are both Tae Kwon Do students, and have won lots of trophies and belts. They can break a board with their bare hands and can put heavier, stronger boys on the floor with their skills. Lord help the guy that puts the moves on them when they are older! What grandpa has learned is that Olivia will permit him to give her a hug; it’s just what grandpas do, after all. But Jackie resists; Jackie will deflect every effort at affection with a kick, a chop, or a wriggle. Jackie does not want to be confined, even if it is love that is binding her. But there is no binding so tight as the one we wind for ourselves.
Lazarus, the friend of Jesus and the brother of Mary and Martha, had died. Word had gone to Jesus that His friend was sick and that He should come immediately. But Jesus was in no rush. He stayed two days longer in the place where He was before He set out for Bethany. And so when He arrived, He found that Lazarus was already dead, in fact had been dead for at least four days. Bound in his shroud, hands and feet and face covered with strips of cloth. A binding that everyone presumed would never come loose. Who could do anything for Lazarus now? He was bound with bindings of cloth and worse; he was bound in death’s dark prison. No way out. Or so they thought.
But remember: there is no binding so tight as the one we wind for ourselves. And so listen to the others who were there, and see how they have bound themselves.
Listen to Lazarus’ sister Martha, for example. Martha came out to meet Jesus; I suspect there was fire in her eye, as she confronted Him out on the street: “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Martha is bound up by some anger, isn’t she? She is angry with Jesus because, in her mind, He is late. And who knows but what she is also angry with herself; maybe if she had gone to get Jesus … maybe if she had sent a more urgent message … maybe this, maybe that. Martha is feeling anxiety. We all wish in hindsight that we had done more. We feel guilty. We are binding ourselves with anger and anxiety.
And not only Martha, but also her sister Mary, who had stayed behind. Mary is described as having stayed home to weep. Her friends had come out to visit her, and surrounded her in her house. When Mary heard that Jesus had come, she got up quickly to go talk with Him, and everyone saw that as she went she continued to weep. And when Mary got to Jesus, she echoed what her sister had already said, “If you had been her, my brother would not have died.” So powerful was her emotion, so profound her grief, that it even moved Jesus to tears. (Thus providing every Sunday School child who has to memorize Bible verses with the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept”!) But Mary, you see, is bound up. Mary is bound up in grief. She has friends around her, consoling her, but it has done no good. Mary is bound up in grief. She is consumed with grief. All she does is to weep. Her sister Martha argues a bit, makes observations, even speaks a little about her faith. But Mary has nothing, nothing but her binding grief. Surrounded by friends, but still alone. Many of us have been in that condition. We just seem to be wrapped up in our grief and cannot get out.