A few years ago, my daughter Amy served a church in California, as a lay youth minister. On Lazarus’ Sunday, (Lent V) the interim pastor appeared for the children’s sermon wrapped in bands of cloth. She looked like a mummy, and came out to stand in front of the altar. The congregation, as one, gasped. After the initial surprise (shock, even?), she invited the children to come up and unbind her, which they did with glee. As they unwound each long strip of cloth, she talked about being unbound, and the beautiful freedom of coming alive again in Christ. After freeing her, the children were delighted to see her walk around, demonstrating the freedom of movement. Amy says she’ll never forget it, and I’m betting the children won’t either.
Ever since hearing that story, I’ve wanted to do something like that on Lazarus’ Sunday. I don’t think it would fly here in New England, but perhaps my hesitation is a symptom of my own boundedness.
Lazarus’ story is the fourth in a series of freeing stories, from the Gospel according to John, we hear during Lent: Nicodemus and Jesus; the Woman at the Well; the Man Blind from Birth; and the Raising of Lazarus. We could spend months on just one of those, but taken together they have the cumulative effect of a spiritual landslide. Each one foreshadows the resurrection; each one rolls the stone away from the grave. Each one takes its meaning from the perspective of the resurrection; each one testifies to the power of Jesus to break our lives open.
Maybe we don’t have to literally wrap ourselves in strips of cloth to know the parts of our lives that are bound. I know mine, for sure. We probably all know, with a little self-reflection, the areas of our lives that are not free, places where forgiveness needs to happen, places that could use a breath of the spirit, a taste of the truth, a drink of living water, the light that faith brings.
Imagine Jesus, coming like that group of small children,
to gently take all the wrappings off, and unbind us,
with the glee of children,
whose delight in freeing us perhaps mirrors,
if only in part, the joy of God in freeing us.
“Unbind him, and let him go,”
Jesus tells the friends of Lazarus.
May it be so, for you.