Transcript of the Post:
Welcome back to If Necessary Use Words! This is a place for praying with images. I’m Jon Shematek, a Deacon in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.
Every Monday, we’ll look at a portion of the Gospel assigned for the upcoming Sunday, and reflect together using a form of Visio Divina, in which we combine scriptural text, images and reflection. I hope this will engage you in thought, conversation or next Sunday’s sermon.
Today we explore the Gospel of John, Chapter 11, verses 38-44, assigned for All Saints’ Day, which this year can be transferred to Sunday, November 4th. This is the familiar story of the raising of Lazarus. We join the narrative at the point of Jesus’ arrival to the burial place.
First Listen or Read Carefully: “John 11:38-44
“Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus 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.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. I 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.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out! The 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.’” (NRSV)
Now Look at this image of a cave, seen from the interior and looking out. Take note of the shape of the opening and imagine its size. Pay attention to texture of the rocky floor with its irregular surface and what appear to be dried, leafless branches of trees…the sharp-edged sides of the cave as they almost seem to be reaching inward, the rays of light that are partially able to illuminate the interior scene. How comfortable are you with this space? Does it feel safe? What is your general sense? Now look beyond the opening. What might be the source of light? Are you drawn to it? Become aware of your heartbeat, and what it says to you.[Allow Time for Your Personal Reflection]
Now Reflect: This story of Lazarus is a familiar one. The story’s perspective, as told, is from the viewpoint of the mourners, the two sisters of Lazarus and his friends, set in a scene of grief, weeping, just four days after Lazarus’ death. All the emotions familiar as we confront death, fear, doubt, anger, sadness. Even Jesus wept at the graveside, we are told, out of his humanity and compassionate love for his dear friend. Consider this story from another viewpoint, the one in this image, from inside the cave where Lazarus was entombed. In darkness, in the state of death, insensate, unaware of the amazing drama unfolding just beyond the stone covering the tomb’s opening. And then, the stone is rolled away, and there is powerful intense light, even penetrating the burial bandages and shroud. Then the voice of his dear friend Jesus, calling to him, “Lazarus, come out!” And he did! Jesus’ last words in this story are engaging… “Unbind him! Let him go!” I wonder if you are able to hear the same voice, the same words, speaking to your own soul. Speaking to some part of you that is lost in a dark cave, with no apparent way out, exits blocked by some immense, immovable barrier. I wonder if you appreciate the power of Jesus, to remove this barrier, and fill that dark, dismal, depressing space with glorious light. Consider how you can allow yourself to loosen what binds you, to become unbound, and to let go of all that is not life-enhancing.[Allow Time for Your Personal Reflection]
Now Act: Identify one thing that has you in its hold, binding you are firmly as funeral shrouds. As you take some steps to free yourself from whatever this may be, allow yourself to look at someone else, as you are able. Become aware of someone who appears to be trapped, lost, entombed. This may be a family member, friend or stranger. Help that one person to find an exit, remove an obstacle, become free, and discover new life.[Allow Time for Your Personal Reflection]
This is Jon Shematek. Thanks so much for participating in If Necessary Use Words. A place for praying with images. Please leave a comment on this post with any personal insights, reflections, or concerns, so that others may benefit from your thoughts.[Song: “Ambient Sonata” / Album: Ambient Sonata / Artist: Dee Yan-Key]
[Image: “Cave Entrance” Curacao Photographer: Bruno van der Kraan, posted on Unsplash.com]