It Takes a Village to Raise a Lazarus


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 99; 146, Jonah 2:2-9, Ephesians 6:10-20, John 11:17-27, 38-44
Eve of Epiphany Readings:
Isaiah 66:18-23, Romans 15:7-13 

Is  faith sufficient as an individual experience, or does it need to be shared among a community of believers? When Jesus returned to Bethany because his friend Lazarus had died, the grief of Mary and Martha, sisters of Lazarus, was certainly shared. Neither knew what to expect, but they shared faith in Jesus. They only knew that in their time of great grief, they needed to be with him. Even after he told them he was the resurrection and the life, the sisters didn’t imagine he would bring Lazarus back to them. When he asked the mourners to roll back the stone covering the tomb, Martha said four days had passed and there would be a stench. Yet moments later Jesus commanded Lazarus to walk out of the tomb, and he did.

Jesus was the source, but it was a community that made his final sign meaningful.
Mary and Martha, each with an imperfect but united faith, together believed that whatever Jesus thought fit to ask, God would deliver. At least a few mourners must have volunteered to move the stone, as it was large and heavy enough to cover the mouth of a cave. The gathered crowd  listened to Jesus loudly giving thanks to God for their benefit so they might believe. Finally, Lazarus arose and returned to his friends and family, restoring their community.

Experienced in isolation, faith may be a comfort to us but it’s of little use to the greater body of Christ. When a community shares its faith – when one person answers Christ’s call to dive into the stench and darkness of tombs like poverty and disease, and another person trusts God to provide even when a loved one is caught in the hopeless living death of addiction, and the rest of us are inspired by and act because of their belief, and therefore sisters and brothers we thought lost forever return to us – that community finds new life as no individual could.

Faith requires community to achieve its fullest expression. Our own imperfect faith is a gift because it reminds us to seek others.

Comfort: When you have faith you are never alone.

Challenge: Explore a faith community that is unfamiliar to you.  Perhaps a charity, or another congregation. If you can, spend some time helping them with their mission.

Prayer: Thank you God for easing my burden by making me only one member of a larger body in Christ. Amen.

Discussion: What do you find most rewarding about community? Most difficult?

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6 thoughts on “It Takes a Village to Raise a Lazarus

  1. Pingback: The Future is Now | Comfort & Challenge

  2. “Experienced in isolation, faith may be a comfort to us but it’s of little use to the greater body of Christ.”
    So true. I was just reading James this morning about faith in action. When we remove faith from community, it dies.
    My question, for myself & others, is would community action include connecting in such ways as blogs, like we are doing here. I hope so, and believe so, as long as it doesn’t take the place of face-to-face contact.
    What are your thoughts?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment!

      Regarding your question, I think our understanding and definition of community has expanded and evolved over the centuries, and online communities can be a very legitimate form of connection and expression. I like to think they are particularly valuable for people who, for various reasons, have traditionally had difficulty finding community otherwise.

      I agree that we still need to retain the element of serving on a personal, present basis. There are spiritual aspects of being present for one another that I don’t believe can be attained otherwise.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thought provoking for sure. I happen to believe that the local church remains the chosen method Jesus Himself instituted for Christians to serve and spread the Gospel. Having said that, the scope of community in general has certainly widened due to modern communication methods such as blogging. We are not called a flock for no reason. In a real flock, who gets picked off and eaten by the wolves? The outliers…those who for whatever reason have separated from the protection of the flock.

    Liked by 1 person

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