32When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus began to weep. 36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
38Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Death is not a subject that any of us really like to talk about. So, I’m not going to talk about it – In fact, today, I want to talk to you about Life –
In an article from a magazine called, “Healthline,” They list 13 habits to living a longer life that is backed by Science.
No 1. Avoid overeating. (Yikes) – A 10-50% decrease in calorie intake may increase maximum lifespan.
No 2. Eat more nuts. Several studies have indicated that eating nuts have beneficial effects on heart disease, high blood pressure, inflammation, diabetes, and even some forms of cancer.
No. 3. Turmeric. Turmeric is a spice that has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to help maintain brain, heart and lung function, as well as protect against cancers, and age-related diseases.
No. 4. Eat healthy plant foods. A plant-rich diet links to a lower risk of premature death, as well as, a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, depression, and brain deterioration.
No. 5. Stay physically active. As few as 15 minutes of exercise per day could help you achieve an additional 3 years of life.
No. 6. Don’t smoke.
No. 7. Moderate alcohol intake.
No. 8. Prioritize your happiness. Happy people may live up to 18% longer than those who are unhappy.
No. 9. Avoid chronic stress and anxiety.
No. 10. Nurture your social circle. Having just 3 social ties may increase your risk of early death by more than 200%.
No. 11. Be more consciences. In other words, be more self-disciplined, organized, efficient, and goal oriented.
No. 12. Drink coffee and tea. Did you know that coffee is linked to a lower risk of Type-2 Diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers?
No 13. Develop a good sleeping pattern.
And then finally, in a Time Magazine article takes a spiritual stance. It states that a number of studies have shown associations between attending religious services and living a long time. They found that regular service attendance was linked to reductions in stress – like having a network of social support, an optimistic attitude, better self-control, and a sense of purpose in life…
It is also the values drawn from religious tradition – such as respect, compassion, gratitude, charity, humility, harmony, and meditation.
Prayer also has shown to be powerful. It triggers the relaxation response…a state-of mind rest that has been shown to decrease stress, heart rate, and blood pressure; alleviate chronic disease symptoms, and even change gene expressions.
Time magazine ends the article by saying, “Maybe it would be worthwhile to consider communal participation.”
No one really likes to talk about death. So I want to talk to you about Life! And, by just being here together today invites us into a prolonged life.
I love this story in John’s gospel about Jesus, the disciples, his dear friends, Martha and Mary, and their brother Lazarus.
Jesus and his disciples are traveling when Jesus gets the news about Lazarus’ illness. But even after he gets the news, he stays another 2 days longer instead of running to Lazarus’ bedside.
Jesus eventually tells the disciples that he knows that Lazarus is dead, but tells them, “For your sake I am glad I was not there so that you may believe.”
When Jesus and the disciples finally arrive to where Martha and Mary lived, Lazarus had been dead now for four days. In fact, he is good and dead. He has a stench.
Martha hears that Jesus is coming and runs out to greet him, while Mary is mourning from her brother’s death and stays at home. In Martha’s conversation with Jesus, she confesses that Jesus is the Messiah – The Resurrection and the Life.”
Martha goes to get her sister, Mary – she runs out to knell at Jesus’ feet – she’s crying – she tells Jesus that if he had just been there, her brother would not be dead. In Jesus’ love for this family, he begins to cry also.
Jesus has Mary take him to wear they placed him in a tomb – as that was the custom and the culture in that day –
He reminds Martha after she tells him that Lazarus has a stench: “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
Jesus looks up to the Father in heaven, and tells God, “For the sake of crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me…Jesus cried out, “Lazarus, come out!”
Can you imagine what it must have been like to see a dead man – a dead man that has been dead for four days – hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth – rise up – and walk out of that tomb?
Can you fathom such a miracle?
About 10 years or so ago, I did my first unit of Clinical Pastoral Education at St. Joseph’s hospital in Atlanta. It was a weekend, so I was the only chaplain on duty. I got a call that a patient requested to see the chaplain.
I went into the room where a very sick man was lying in the bed. His wife and son were there with him.
I went to go and talk to him, and he asked me to pray for him to die. His wife begged me not to do that. As my knees began to shake and asking God for the right thing to do, I watched this man in this place – suffering – so sick on his stomach, as he is getting another blood infusion.
I prayed for the Lord to take him home.
I stayed in the room with the family and this very sick man. It’s always hard to know when you have worn out your welcome – when to stay or when to leave, – but something kept me there with them.
About an hour or so later after I had prayed for this child of God to be taken home, he looks at his wife and son and he wants them to help him sit up.
As he begins to sit up in the bed, he stretches his arms out as if someone is there to lift him out of the bed.
He took his last breath as it appeared that there was someone in front of him who lifted him up into his heavenly home.
I witnessed the ‘raising up’ of this man!
I’ll never forget it.
No one really likes to talk about death, so I am going to talk to you about Life…
Isn’t it true that we soldier on…doing our part to hold back the inevitable decay of our bodies and the demise of the earth as our home…
Jesus says, “Whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
In this story of the raising of Lazarus – is not a story about death – but a story about LIFE! An everlasting Life! That for us Christians for those of us who believe in Jesus Christ as the Resurrection and Life…we will always live! We will always have Life – no matter what happens to us here on earth.
Through this story, we have seen the glory of God! And then we live each day as though the Eternal was right now! Because God is right now!
This story frees us to live our days as though death has no power over our days.
We live as though we belong – in life and death to God!
And in the sorrow and grief, those who lived in the face of death before God – the God that raised Jesus from the dead – are now simply called SAINTS.
They are those who realize before they die on earth, that neither death, nor life, things present, nor things to come, can separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
They are those who may dare everything for the sake of this one true thing.
They are called Saints – Just as you are sitting here today.
No one really likes to talk about death, so I want to talk about Life –
I want to talk to you about an eternal life – A life in which, you will never die or ever experience any separation from our God.
We cannot learn about this life in some Healthline magazine article. We cannot learn about this life in a Time Magazine article.
We learn about this life in the gospels where the Word becomes Flesh.
We learn about this life through stories where Jesus turns the water into wine, heals the blind, deaf, and lame, walks on water, and feeds thousands of people with a few fish and couple loafs of bread.
We learn about this life by coming here to this place and experiencing the grace of God.
We come to this place to witness the glory of God in profound and transforming ways that changes who we are because we believe –
We believe like Martha and Mary – that Jesus Christ is the Messiah – the Resurrection and Life.
As we come to the table…Take, Eat, and Drink. The miracle is just this:
That united in Jesus’ death – not our death – and by his grace, we may wake free from our sin – and live a life that is truly life…
And we live – unbound…now and eternally, and witness God’s glory.