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Let’s suppose I am Lazarus. My body is lying on a cold, stone shelf in a tomb.  There I will stay for about a year. Then someone will roll back the stone. Put my bones in a bone-box and put a new body on the shelf. Before all of this happens, the stone is moved away and Jesus calls for me, “Lazarus, come out.” I respond by saying. I can’t come to you. It is too hard. My hands and feet are bound. My face is covered and I cannot see. Send someone in here to take away the bindings and coverings. Make it easy for me. Take away the restrictions, all my limitations, the obstacles first, and I will gladly hop off this shelf and dance out of here.”              

Notice that Lazarus does not say this. He says: “I am not sure if I am one shelf or three shelves from the bottom. No matter how difficult it is, or how insurmountable the task, I am going to follow that voice. I may have to roll off this shelf and do the inchworm move to get out of here, But I will follow that voice.” Just before this scene, Jesus tells His disciples that “I am the good shepherd and my sheep hear my voice. I open the gate, I call each by name and they follow me.” In other words, death is not an end, it is an open gate. We just have to follow the voice. The only way out is to follow his voice.     

When I bought my first cell phone, I was pretty excited. The sales clerk asked if I wanted to buy a warranty. I asked him what is a warranty. He said if I break the phone, I could get a new one. I looked down at my fragile plastic phone with the tiny buttons and I said to him, “I’d better take it.”  One day it started to rain before I got back to the church. I took my phone out of my pocket and it did not work. No problem I thought. So I went back to the store, handed him my broken cell phone and a copy of the warranty.  He handed it back to me and said, “We do not cover water damage. It is a limited guarantee.”  Needless to say, I will never buy a limited warranty again.  Not long after that, I was fly fishing. I slipped on some rocks and broke my fly rod. I turned my two-piece rod into a three-piece. I called the company and a guy answered the phone: “Repairs.” I told him I broke my fly rod. He asked me for my name, then address. Then he said, “No problem, I will send you a new one.” I said, “Wait a minute. Don’t you want a receipt or the broken rod?  Don’t you want to know what happened?” He said, “No, you have an unlimited guarantee” I asked him, “You don’t happen to sell cars do you?” Everything in life has a limited guarantee. Your health has a limited guarantee, your bank account has a limited guarantee, your job has a limited guarantee. There is one unlimited guarantee in our lives and that is the word of God.

Have you ever stood on your own grave? Just after my mother died, Dad asked me if I would go with him to water flowers at the gravesite. He told me that they’d just installed the headstone. As we were going, my father explained to me that he bought two extra plots for me and my brother. When we arrived, I went to look at the headstone for the first time while dad when to get some water out of the spigot. While I was getting a look at the headstone, I realized for the first time that I was standing on my own grave. I can honestly say that when you stand on your own grave, you get thoughts; let me share these thoughts. I pictured the day they will lower me down in the grave. On that day, there will be some friends, parishioners, and my community. I noticed that everyone had nice things to say, well wishes, a kind prayer, and pleasant memories. I appreciated it all, but none of them gave me what I wanted: a rope, a lifeline, a way out. No one jumped into the grave with me and said, “I was here before, I know how to get out.” Except for one person. I know one person in my life who can say, “I am the resurrection and the life.” One person can say, “I will come back to you and take you to myself so that where I am you also may be.” One person can say, “I was here before, I know the way out.” Not one of them will be able to help me. No one in my life will be able to rescue me from the grave …except one. We can never forget that! It can get hard, and sometimes we get distracted in life, but we can never forget what Christ said in the Gospel this past weekend: whoever believes in me will have eternal life.  

This social distancing gives me pause. I look out at an empty church, I see my depleting bank account. I look at the microphone at the pulpit where I speak and wonder if there are invisible viruses and germs affixed there so close to my mouth. This all makes me think that life is short. Yet, there is one voice out there that says, “No, it’s not.” That is the voice we need to hear and follow, guaranteed. 

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