Image: Resurrection of Lazarus Icon, Orthodox.

‘Fully alive’

Andrew Collis
Lent 5, Year A
Psalm 130; John 11:1-45

One point from which to begin reading/thinking today is verse 25. The Greek word, zoe, connotes quality of life – abundant – more than mere bios or physical life, zoe connotes confidence, moral strength, freedom. St Irenaeus wrote that the glory of God is the human person fully alive (see also verses 4 and 40). Zoe means “fully alive”.

This is a story about the power of life over death, zoe over all that demeans and destroys life. “I am the Resurrection,” says Jesus. “I am the Christ of God who will stand you up on your feet (anastasis), lift you up – I will give you moral strength, a way to live – a way to live again.”

Can we be present to one another in a way that fosters confidence and freedom? In the Spirit of Jesus, yes we can.

On Thursday, in the Spirit of Jesus, we remembered Ashley Montabello – in the Liverpool Cemetery Chapel, at the graveside, at the Collingwood Hotel. We remembered Ashley as a good neighbour, good friend, truly kind and brave person. We recommitted ourselves to compassionate advocacy …

We shared food and drink, stories … time … affection and concern for Ashley’s partner Tommy, her sisters, friends …

Can we be present to one another in a way that fosters confidence and freedom? In the Spirit of Jesus, yes we can.

In the Spirit of Jesus, we have discerned gifts for ministries of leadership – in music, art, pastoral care, administration, theological reflection, listening, gardening and conservation, social action … and much more.

We are making paper posies, “heavy metal” poems … garden gates, a new hen house … open to new conversations/possibilities on Gadigal land … new expressions of community, communitarianism … parish mission, parish life.

Yes, we can.

We should note, however, references in verses 33 and 38 – references to Jesus “deeply moved” and “troubled in spirit” … and weeping in the face of death and in the company of mourners. The Greek words can be translated as “Jesus snorted with anger” or “Jesus snorted like a horse” or “Jesus snorted in the Spirit”.

Resurrection – anastasis, zoe – is promised in and through engagement with forces of death. Believing in Jesus, believing like Jesus, means more weeping, more angry indignation, more responsibility … ever higher-wider-deeper meanings.

Liturgical theologian Alexander Schmemann puts it simply: “It is Love that weeps at the grave and it is Love that restores life.”

Verse 44 is also evocative.

“Untie him and let him go free.” The icon shows it clearly. Lazarus cannot free himself. The vocation belongs to all of us.

“We cannot really live without each other, without finding ourselves inside another’s pores, or without letting another in. For that is where we live, outside of the bounded self and its conceits, as an opening toward the world. We live, that is, in relation to a world that sustains us …

“We live … in relation to a world that sustains us, an earth and its habitats, including human ones, that depend on a politics that is committed to a world in which we can all breathe without fear of contagion, fear of pollution, or fear of the police chokehold, where our breath is intermingled with the world’s breath, where that exchange of breath, syncopated and free, becomes what is shared – our commons, as it were” (Judith Butler).

Our gospel calls to mind a poem by Cesar Vallejo. The poet remembers the Spanish Civil War, laments the violence and waste, fascist forces over workers’ rights … The poem is entitled “Mass”.

“At the end of the battle the fighter lay dead./ Someone came to him and said:/ ‘Don’t die! I love you too much!’/ But the corpse, alas, went on dying.// Two came to him and again said:/ ‘Don’t leave us! Take heart!/ Come back to life!’/ But the corpse, alas, went on dying.// Then twenty, a hundred, a thousand,/ Five hundred thousand, came, crying:/ So much love and yet so powerless against death!’/ But the corpse, alas, went on dying.// Millions surrounded him,/ pleading together:/ ‘Brother, don’t leave us!’/ But the corpse, alas, went on dying.// Then, all the inhabitants of the earth surrounded him./ The corpse eyed them sadly, overwhelmed./ He got up slowly,/ embraced the first person, started to walk …”

If the fighter is Lazarus (dear friend of Jesus), then Christ is “all the inhabitants of the earth” …  “I am the Resurrection” means “I am the revolution, the transformation, the new humanity, cosmic consciousness, love – abundant life, zoe …” Amen.