A few months ago, my son and I went with Dad down to Pasadena to visit my Aunt. While we were down there, he drove us over to Houston to see the neighborhood where he grew up. The neighborhood is pretty well run down now, but the house where his parents lived when he was born was still there, as well as the house he lived in as a boy and the house his best friend Roy lived in. This was all way way back in time, the 40’s; perhaps a few of you can remember how life was back then. The houses were very small, and the streets of the neighborhood were barely more than a lane wide. Back then, if you were a little boy and you wanted to play with your buddy, you did not go and knock on the door and ask if he could come out. No, what you did was stand in the street somewhere near the house and yell out, “ Roy! Come out!” And if he was home and not otherwise occupied, your buddy came out to you.
Why do we answer when our friends call us? What makes us respond to their shout? Because we know who is calling, and we know that if we go we are in for a time of companionship, and fun, we are going to have a good time with our friend.
Jesus is your friend, and he is calling for you to come out.
Now we have several things going on in this story of Lazarus. We have someone who dies; we have a grieving family, sorrowful friends. We have a miracle worker who can bring the dead to life. But I think that the most important aspect of this story is that Jesus called, “Lazarus! Come out!” and Lazarus arose and responded to the call of his Lord, his FRIEND.
Jesus has been calling people out since the beginning. He called Abraham out of the land of his father, into an unknown land and a special covenant. He called Moses out of the wilderness to lead the Hebrews out of the grave of slavery and into a new way of living. He called Isaiah to speak the truth to His people. He called Lehi out of Jerusalem and sent him to the other side of the world.
He called Mary out of her routine traditional life to be the mother of the Messiah. Think of it.
He called 12 ordinary, stubborn, hardheaded imperfect men to leave their families and businesses to follow him and learn, and then he called them to keep up the work, to teach everyone they came into contact with about Him and the life that could be had in Him.
Later, He called Paul to come out of his blindness and see with new eyes, he called him to go and teach the gentiles how to it.
Later still, He called a young man to come out of his grave of confusion and do something radical…. start a new church and bring forth the fullness of the Gospel.
He called others, some people who had something in them that gave them the courage to join this new organization and attempt to live a different way of life, and pave the way for us to become who we are today, this Community of Christ.
And He hasn’t finished calling. He is calling each of us, right now, daily. We need to ask ourselves, am I hearing Him? Have I answered Him fully? Do I know what that means to answer fully? If not, what could be holding me back? Whatever it is that is holding you back, causing you to hesitate, it is a grave.
Jesus is calling.
If we are going to respond fully and come out of our graves, real or perceived, we’ll need to be willing to make changes within ourselves.
It is a scary thing to decide that one needs to change. It is hard to give up something, to walk away from what we have convinced ourselves is the truth. Its human nature to justify our ways, and we do it so well that we really believe what we tell ourselves. It’s hard to let go of that, to admit that in fact something else may be true, not what we thought. If you are like me, you’ll need help to do it.
I am not saying that we should not think for ourselves, our minds are a miracle and we are commanded to reason things out for ourselves. But when you become aware that something has to change, that awareness is Jesus calling you to come out and be alive! Come out and walk in the Light!
Often when faced with the prospect of change our response is resistance, perhaps because we fear change. I found out that when I confessed my fear to the Lord and placed it in his hands, willing to trust that He would not make changing something that I could not bear, what He did was reveal to me what I already knew subconsciously. There is no need to be afraid to ask Him to show us what to do and how to do it.
Some of you know that for many years I suffered from a form of depression called Bi-polar Disorder. Life for me was a constant struggle and I hung on day by day, with the assistance of medication and therapy. But after several years of this I was really tired of the situation. One day, I just said to God, in a tone of complete frustration…. Lord I am so sick and tired of being sick and tired, how long will this last and why don’t you just make it go away? Almost immediately, within seconds, a scripture from Proverbs came to mind, “ as a man thinketh, so he is”…and then in that still small voice I felt Him say to me, Susan if you want to be WELL, then ACT well. It was like a light went on in my mind, I knew I had been given the key to changing my life, and I knew that I was not alone, and more importantly, I knew that my well being mattered to God and that He wanted me to change as much as I wanted it, probably more. I knew He loved me! It took some time and some conscious effort, some struggle, but within 2 years I was told that I had no signs or symptoms of being Bi-polar.
So when I suggest that you ask the Lord to show you what to do and how to do it, in order to make a change, its because I KNOW that He is there for you and that He will answer you, because He loves you!
There is a promise in Isaiah, chapter 43 verse 2: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior”.
Even illness in the physical body can be made to serve us, one can let it bring one closer to God or one can let it be the source of victimization. Being angry and sad and full of self-pity never makes us whole again. Yet it is a natural inclination to wallow in these ideas when we are sick. But if one can do the opposite, praise God for presenting an opportunity to make your faith stronger, you can use praise to lift your spirit and in doing so reflect His Glory and Love. Hold tight to His Spirit when you find yourself in the Valley of the Shadow. You can be a witness of this to the people who are tending you, perhaps inspiring them to seek out a better relationship with God.
Do not be afraid of what you might have to face. The scripture in 1st John 4:18 reads “there is NO fear in Love”. The Holy Spirit is our comforter as well as our teacher. And the way He reveals things to us about ourselves is so very gentle. He will open your heart and mind in a way that is completely unique to you and your situation. He gives us only what we are ready to face, and he’ll always leave the choice to us. You’ll find yourself changing the way you think. That has been my experience.
When you hear Him calling, the only thing you need to say is here I am Lord. In all my pain, and messiness, and dirty bandages. Be willing. And He will help you remove those things that bind you down. Even the name Lazarus means “God helps”.
We have to do this, we have to hear him and answer, and experience his Love and healing in our lives, so that we can tell everyone our story. The story of Gods love and how it heals, and changes lives, that He is the resurrection and the life and that those who believe in him, though they die, shall live! The story of Lazarus is our story, it is your story. And yours, and yours.
Come out! Come out of the grave of fear, come out of the grave of depression, anxiety and worry and sorrow, come out of the grave of illness, come out of the grave of obsessions, and self-gratifications, come out of the grave of confusion, come out of the grave of arrogance and pride, come out of the grave of division and prejudice, come out of the grave of indifference and traditions, come out of the grave of complacency, come out of the grave of “what you think you know”. Come out of the darkness of the grave and into the light of love. LIVE THE RESURRECTION.
Martha told Mary, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you”. When she heard it she got up quickly and went to him.
Jesus is CALLING JESUS is calling!
How are you going to answer?