Our texts this week deals with death and life. Our Ezekiel 37 text is Ezekiel prophesying to dry bones in a vision, which becomes flesh and bone and breathing mortal beings. In John 11, Jesus tells the disciples that Lazarus is asleep meaning Lazarus has died; they travel to Bethany, where Jesus raises Lazarus from the grave.
We, as society, a humanity, struggle with death to the point that we don’t plainly call death, death. We say loved ones have “passed on”, “crossed over”, “are in a better place”, or with inanimate objects my grandmother would say “has gone the way of the ghost”. Jesus has to tell the disciples that Lazarus has died.
This notion of death and life, or death and resurrection, are not new to Christianity. It is the foundation of our faith, our teaching, [and] our preaching. We are called to die each and everyday to our sinfulness, our selfishness, [and] our self-centeredness in order to be resurrected in new life that is marked by relationship with God and neighbor, one that brings true joy to ourselves.
But, there is another type of death and resurrection, or death and new life that I want to speak to today. Most known that I have struggled with depression. This last week, I encountered a woman who is deeply, deeply depressed. Her life consists of essentially two activities: (1) smoking cigarettes to “numb the pain” and (2) crying herself to sleep. These are ways in which she is existing, concerned about her emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical wellbeing, I suggested she seek counseling; a suggestion she rejected. To me, her life is one where she is continuing to exist in flesh and bone, but yet she is not fully embracing life.
There is a song that speaks to this very notion, a song that (for once) is not a Garth Brooks song. Its Brad Paisley’s “Officially Alive”, and he sings:
Its not the double kick of an ultrasound
Or a piece of paper on file downtown
It takes more than a beat and a breath and a name
Its when you are so in love and so in pain
Congratulations, you are officially alive
Here’s affirmation, you are officially alive
Yeah, its a tragedy to go though history and simply just exist
You’re gonna realize just how quick it flies by
and everything you’ve missed
When we are young, we tend to be more carefree embracing opportunities and chances to be in relationship with one another [and] to experience new things. In retirement, I’ve been told, there is a sense of freedom to truly live the life you want. But, those in-between years we struggle to grab ahold of opportunities and chances to be in relationship with God and neighbor.
I encourage us this week, this month, [and] these years ahead to grab ahold of life that is truly life, not in a careless and reckless “you only live once” sort of way, but in a way that more deeply connects us to God and neighbor.
Our Lenten journey is one to the cross, to the death of our sinfulness/our self-centeredness meant to reconnect us with God and neighbor in love and in service which brings forth the true life, true joy.
My question is: are we “officially alive”? Amen.
Scriptures were Ezekiel 37: 1-14 and John 11: 1-45.
Originally Preached on April 2, 2017.