The readings on
which this sermon is
be found at: http://web.me.com/frsparky/iWeb/r016.htm
s016g11 Lent 5 10/4/2011
Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. John
In the name of God, Life-giver, Pain-bearer and Love-maker.
(Fr Jim Cotter http://www.cottercairns.co.uk/)
Twice in our gospel Jesus is accused of not being where he ought to be
and that Lazarus had died as a result. First Martha, then
Mary accuse Jesus of neglecting his duty towards his friend in his hour
of need. And it is quite true, Jesus stayed two days longer where
he was rather than immediately going to the aid of Lazarus.
So the first salutary lesson for us as ‘christians’ is that our
friendship with Jesus does not guarantee Jesus’ undivided attention -
even when our needs are indeed pressing. The fact that Mary
had anointed the Lord with perfume, and that Martha had provided a
scrumptious meal for the disciples and the Lord made not a bit of
difference. (We are not told that Lazarus was present when these
Secondly I note that both Martha and Mary ask for their brother, not
for themselves. And ‘christians’ have made a virtue of
praying for others and not for themselves. I have sometimes
thought when I’ve been asked to visit someone else - well I’ve got to
do it because it is for someone other than the person
asking. Somehow this makes our petitions OK.
But of course, the person asking has a relationship with the other one,
as Mary and Martha ask for their brother Lazarus. And I
wonder if by asking Jesus, they think that they have fulfilled their
duty towards their brother. One wonders if they had
consulted Lazarus about his desire to be raised to life prior to his
death, and to have to experience death twice rather than
once! More than once I have been asked to visit someone who
I’m sure wasn’t aware that I was being asked. Some
‘christians’ exercise their ministry to others by telling the vicar to
visit those others! Is this actually treating others with
respect? Are other people children, that they can’t contact
the vicar themselves? Is the kingdom of God going to come
by being secretive, surreptitious, and manipulative?
I must admit I find it incongruous that some traditional Catholics and
Anglicans believe that a person must make a confession, be anointed and
receive holy communion just prior to their death, in the light of
Jesus’ unwillingness to be there when Lazarus died. It
seems as if some clergy have to be a part of everyone’s
lives. People can’t even die without their priest’s
presence and permission! This seems to me to be the height
And I have to ask that if this really is the case, what happens to the
souls of all those who are not traditional Catholics or Anglicans when
they die? If the percentage of people who are churchgoers
is say 10%, then perhaps 1% actually receive extreme unction before
they die. If there are 6000 million people alive today,
that means 6 million get extreme unction and 5994 million people
don’t. Do they go to hell?!!
Jesus says that: ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for
God's glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it’ and we
blithely assume that this is referring to Jesus’ raising of Lazarus
from death. This only indicates how ego-centric
‘christianity’ has become. God’s glory is that God is
concerned about others, not just those who have a special personal
relationship with Jesus or who worship God. The glory of the Son
of God is that Jesus shows God’s concern for all in his day to day life.
If we don’t get this message that God is concerned for others, then we
are dead to the gospel, we are dead to the world, and it is we that
have to be raised to life. And some ‘christians’ deny God’s
concern to confer dignity to people other than themselves, and are
equally dead even as they praise Jesus.
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