Turning Over Stones

Here are some stones I have overturned to see what ideas are underneath. I hope you can grab hold of something, pull -- and discover that it has some homiletic roots for you.

Again this week we have one of the epic stories of from the Gospels that is rich in both theological and preaching themes. However, every good preacher must do triage and so I will offer one particular insight this week that may preach for you. I hope it is some help.

If you have ever smelled death then you know how utterly rancid an odor can be. Most people have at least come across the smell of death in a public park or in a hike in the woods one might happen to come across a decaying animal -- a squirrel, a fox, or even a dog or cat that had disappeared for a while and has been discovered.

The stench is overwhelming. It makes one want to vomit.

Fire chaplains or police chaplains have smelled death at accident sites and crime scenes. Respirator masks and Vics Vapor Rub are sometimes worn and applied to the nostrils by even the most seasoned professionals who must approach a body to pray over it.

Is it any wonder then why Jesus is warned about the stench that the body of Lazarus must be emitting after 4 days of death? They can not help but to warn him.

The drama is thick.

The moment is rich with anticipation regarding what the intention of Jesus is.

What were the reactions on the faces of those present when Jesus simply said -- Take away the stone.

Just moments ago they saw the emotion of sadness become deeply embraced by Jesus. Jesus loved Lazarus and he allowed himself to feel deeply the grief a friend feels for another friend who has died.

However, the emotion of fear will not be found in Jesus. Jesus is not afraid of the potentiality of stench. Jesus is not afraid of death. Jesus is not afraid of leading up to a moment that should show the glory of God only to have it backfire and end in failure.

Jesus is one with the Father and is confident that the Father always hears him.

We know how the story ends and we can only imagine the magnitude of the overwhelming shock of seeing a body resuscitated after four days of death.

How does this preach? I believe that there can be a close association made here between sin and death. That is, like a body being placed inside of a tomb for burial and for the protection of people from its stench, I also believe that our sins can sometimes be placed inside of dark, stone-lined, tombs where nobody will see them. Where they will be hidden. Where they will not be discovered. Where they will only cause us more and more decay and emit a stench of hopelessness and depression.

We may view our sins as even so dark and ugly that we think that even God the Father or God the Son would not even want to approach them -- or better yet, we may even think they are hidden from them.

This story of Lazarus reminds us that nothing can be hidden from God and that no matter the gravity of our sin that we have tucked away and hidden in our tombs, Jesus desires to approach our sin and to bring life where there is death. Jesus is not afraid of the stench of our sins. Jesus has faith that light always overcomes darkness. That resurrection always conquers death. That love and forgiveness always overshadows the power of sin.

If we have any sin entombed let us roll away the stone during this remaining week of Lent and ask Jesus to approach our sins -- no matter their stench -- and overwhelm them with the sweet fragrance of forgiveness.

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