Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Some thoughts on Lazarus’ rising from the dead and awkwardness in the sacred

43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. (John 11:43-44)

We often envision this scene with Lazarus walking out of the grave doorway, but the reality was probably a lot weirder.

The text says Lazarus was bound hand and foot, which probably means his feet were wrapped tight together and his hands were wrapped tight to his body. Also his face was covered up. It’s really hard to move under those conditions. (How would you have done it if you were wrapped up tight like a mummy?)

How did he get out? Lazarus probably had to roll and inch around to exit the cave where he’d been put. It probably looked really strange, like an enormous cloth-covered inch worm thrashing around. (It may have even looked a little frightening too.) Jesus had to tell people to loose Lazarus so he could move better.

When we read this story, it reads like a dramatic and spiritual event, but it may have looked strange or silly, or weird, or scary for a small period to those who saw it.

I think this is probably true more often than we realize. We may experience miracles that seem strange, silly, weird, or even scary when we’re going through them, but which sound a lot better in the telling. 

We’re used to slick, carefully-edited media, with nothing incongruous or out of place. We’re used to church videos that deliberately infuse the sacred into the smallest gestures to achieve a polished, shiny view of holiness. And yet, we love amateur videos that show the touch of “awkward” because they are so human and genuine. There’s love and truth there.

Maybe we need to remember that in real life, there is awkward in the sacred, and the sacred in the awkward.  Let’s learn to find gratitude for that in our lives. It can heal tendencies toward perfectionism.