V - 2008
Raising of Lazarus: Millennium Goal 8
writers often make skillful use of foreshadowing. Through the use of
foreshadowing an event or development becomes an indicator or portent of
something to come. Foreshadowing is a way to enhance meaning and broaden
perspective with an economy of words.
to John, The raising of Lazarus from the dead is the seventh and final
miracle that Jesus performs. The story of Lazarus comes at a critical
turning point in the Gospel. It comes at the conclusion of the account of
the signs or miracles of Jesus. The account of Jesus' impending departure,
passion, death and resurrection are about to be told. The account of the
raising of Lazarus foreshadows both the resurrection of Christ, and the
resurrection which faithful Christians anticipate when history ends and
scholars make a clear and radical distinction of status between those whom
Jesus raises from the dead during his earthly ministry, and Christ's own
resurrection. All those whom Jesus raised from the dead will die again.
The risen Christ is, of course, as St. Paul tells us the first fruits of
those raised to new life. However, it is important not to put too fine a
point on this major insight. The amount of time that Lazarus has been
dead, his tomb, the stone at the tomb, and the grave clothes are details
shared with the account of the resurrection of Christ. We hear in the
story that there was a delay in Jesus arriving to save Lazarus from death.
The bystanders note that Jesus loved Lazarus. The context of the early
church is anticipated here. A community grounded in the Love of Jesus,
longs for his return while wrestling with the death of beloved members.
They await the fulfillment of Christ's promise (recorded earlier in John)
that the dead will be called forth from their tombs. This sign that Jesus
works foreshadows the hope and faith that is central to the Christian
tradition. The raising of Lazarus is not the same as Christ's glorious
resurrection, but it anticipates both his resurrection and ours.
C. H. Dodd notes that the theme of this entire episode is resurrection.
This theme is highlighted in the conversation between Jesus and the
sisters of Lazarus. (1)
with previous encounters from John's Gospel the conversation around this
miracle is highly charged and pregnant with meaning. I want to focus in on
just one part of the conversation here. Martha comes out to meet Jesus.
She tells him
"Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died, but
even now I know God will give you whatever you ask."
There is a compact tension in her words. Jesus was not present. Jesus'
presence could have prevented the death of her brother. Lazarus is dead.
There is a lingering note of hopefulness. Jesus' reply is sparse. In the
light of what is to happen next, it is open to interpretation.
"Your brother will rise again".
Martha voices the hope of resurrection that she and many other faithful
Jews of her time nurtured.
"I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last
Jesus responds with a challenging assertion joined to a very pointed
"I am the resurrection and the life ... do you believe this?"
There is a sense in which Martha's reply to Jesus makes the raising of
Lazarus itself almost anti-climatic. Before the miracle even occurs, she
is the voice of faith and belief. As Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza points
out Martha's confession of faith is not in response to the miracle, but it
is a response to the person of Jesus. (2) Martha replies,
"I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming
into the world."
Martha is a prototype for every person of Christian faith-a faith in which
the place and role of Christ is crucial and central.
question and Martha's salient reply, gives rise to a further question for
us. It too is a pointed question. Do the central beliefs of our faith
open us up to the world around us?
confesses faith in the same Christ that was sent, as John tells us
earlier, because God so loved the world. Jesus comes into the world from
the very heart of the Father. The bond of love unites Jesus and the Father
and The Advocate or Holy Spirit. Love joins believers to Christ. Love
bonds the community, as St. John understands it. God sends the Christ and
pours out love to the World. It is the application of this same love that
animates the conversation between Jesus and the woman of Samaria and draws
in the people of her community. As we heard in the last piece of the
conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus
"God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that
everyone who believes in him may have life."
Ted Scott was a Primate of the Canadian Church and an internationally
recognized figure on the world stage. Scott believed the authority of
Jesus was grounded in the authority of love. "This tough, hard
accepting, challenging love, expressed by Jesus Christ ... leads to
change, to transformation, to renewal. It is, surely, the energy of the
loving God expressed in action." (3)
this Lenten series I've attempted to make connections between the Gospel
readings, the Millennium Goals, and the life of discipleship. The
connection I want to make this morning is more indirect than that
attempted in previous weeks. Millennium Goal Eight is develop a Global
Partnership for Development. Here I want to be clear about two things.
First our faith is grounded in the work and the person of Jesus the
Second the confession of our faith should encourage, not inhibit, our
partnership with others in working for a better world.
can work in partnership with others at a variety of levels (i) with
other Christians (ii) with people of other faiths (ii) with all people of
good will. Pursuing the values that serve the common good creates
opportunities to express our faith in practical ways while building
bridges with others. If the challenge of the United Nations Millennium
Goals is to be met, it will require a wide variety of effective
partnerships. Let me mention just a few that are applicable to us.
work of The Primate's World Relief and Development Fund is one very
effective way for Anglicans to partner with others. Our current Primate,
Archbishop Fred Hiltz stated this in his New Year's Day sermon. He noted
that The Anglican Church of Canada is committed to the Millennium Goals
through the Primate's Fund and its partnerships throughout the world.
Canadian Anglicans will be working with the Canadian Council of Churches
and the World Council of Churches to promote The Goals. He indicates that
the Millennium Goals will have an important profile throughout the entire
Anglican Communion into the future.
to the Report of PWRDF to our most recent General Synod, The Primate's
Fund connects us to a variety of effective partnerships that serve
advancement of the Millennium Goals. The Primate's Fund has partners in 75
countries, and 25 regional partners in four global regions. These
partnerships have focused on micro-credit, food security, and health and
Canadian Context also brings us into partnership with the Canadian
International Development Agency or CIDA. Canada, like the majority of
other nations in world, including the other G-8 nations, has committed
itself to the Millennium Goals. The website for this government agency
identifies a variety of ways in which Canada strives to participate in
partnerships in pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals. These include
increased aid, greater debt relief, access of affordable essential drugs,
market access to Canadian markets, improving availability of new
technologies. CIDA is an agency that historically matches funds from The
Priamte's Fund for development and relief work.
The Coady Institute at St. Francis Xavier University has incorporated the
Millennium Goals into its work as a participant in the international
community. The Coady Institute focuses on education and leadership
training as a key ingredient for international development. Leaders from
all over the world plug into The Coady Institute to receive education and
training. Many of The Coady students are people of faith living in very
Coady Institute follows in the tradition of The Rev. Dr. Moses Coady. Dr.
Coady, like many of his contemporaries during the great depression,
including members of the Anglican Fellowship for Social Action (AFSA)
understood the compatibility of faith with openness to the world.
is much to do. There is more to do on the part of our church. The
Canadian Church has endorsed the Millennium goals. PWRDF gives us a
vehicle for supporting the goals. However, in providing resources and
educational materials to our members in the service of the goals, we lag
far behind The Episcopal Church. Our American partners have joined support
of the Millennium goals through Episcopal Relief and Development with a
variety of educational resources. We can also learn more from our partners
elsewhere in the Anglican Communion. A visitor from Manicland, a partner
diocese, recently told some folks here " Don't just send money, come
and see us!"
Raising of Lazarus foreshadows the Resurrection of Christ and the
confession of what is central to a Christian faith. The proclamation of
this gospel, on the Sunday before Palm Sunday, foreshadows our journey
through Holy Week to Easter and life in the baptized community. The gospel
reading this morning gives us a clearer insight into the nature of our
faith, and the Divine love that is at its core. That same faith will form
and shape us for service to God's world in partnership with all that care
about the future of the Earth and her people.
C.H. Dodd The Interpretation of The Fourth Gospel. Cambridge University
Press, 1953. Pp. 363-368
Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza. In Memory of Her. Crossroad, New York, 1994.
Edward W. Scott. "The Authority of Love" in Authority in the
Anglican Communion. Stephen W. Sykes, ed. Anglican Book Centre, Toronto
1987. P. 67