Back in the day, I remember Elvis singing the song “Only Fools Rush In”. The opening line is this “wise men say; only fools rush in…” Then the song continues about the singer’s inability to resist falling in love. I would like to use those lyrics in this “Corona Virus” season and to suggest it would be foolish to “rush in” in an attempt to get “back to normal”. What is prompting this thinking was reading part of a sermon entitled “Orientation, Disorientation, Reorientation”. The pastor based his message on the well-known Gospel account of Jesus raising Lazarus. “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11: 25-26) We read that passage and we shout a hearty Amen. However, do you realize that when Jesus raises Lazarus, he did not restore things to normal? He disrupted and changed everything. No more could you look at a body and believe that dead is the end. The resurrection of Lazarus, and later Jesus own resurrection, changes everything. I have to ask you do you think God would allow a virus and the crisis we have been living through to go to waste. Don’t you believe the God who created the heavens and the earth, who brought order out of chaos in the beginning of time can do something incredible now?
Let’s back up a little in this account, for Jesus is told that Lazarus is sick. What does he do, rush off to the house on a “rescue mission”? No he waits two days, there is no panic, no anxiety, no “I wonder what I will do next”. Jesus has a plan and he sticks to it. Look back to the account of Jesus and the disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee in a storm (Luke 8). The disciples are panicked, where is Jesus? Asleep. Then he wakes and with a word changes the environment. The first guideline in dealing with this crisis is to remember the sky is not falling. Jesus himself has not forgotten us, and the same calmness that stilled the storm many years ago is still waiting for us to see him at work.
Back to the Lazarus account. Notice that when Jesus arrives, he does not announce that everything is going to be fine, he is here, so stop you worrying and crying. No the first thing he does is enter into the situation. The shortest verse in the Bible is found here, “Jesus wept.” Why did he weep, because of the hopelessness of the situation? Of course, not, he was going to raise this man. He enters the situation with empathy and compassion for the people there and feels the pain and so he weeps.
Now we see the divinity of Jesus, for after weeping, he asks where Lazarus is and then speaks the word of resurrection, “Lazarus, come forth.” Did you ever stop and wonder why he called Lazarus by name? I think because if he had not, the entire cemetery would have emptied. When Lazarus comes out, this changes everything!
I like the pastor’s words at this point: “This is what Jesus does in our day. When our otherwise up-to-this-point-oriented lives give way to disorientation, when we’re not sure which way is up, or when the ground shakes underfoot, Jesus enters the chaos and He speaks words of life. They don’t return us to our previous state of being, but they reorient us to a new way, a deeper and more profound way of being in this world.” (Eric E. Peterson) Read that again. When Jesus steps into this life-altering situation, he is not looking to return us to “normal”, he did not come to make “normal” men and women, he came to change the world! He came to reorient us to his way of life and being.
I agree completely with Eric that there is a pile of evidence to suggest that as the body of Christ we have gotten off track. We have focused too much on ourselves and our own comfort. We argue over who has the best pastor or Bible Teacher. We have engaged in the intramural warfare of which doctrine is most true to the Bible. All the while people around us wonder where is the love that Jesus said would characterize his disciples, after all didn’t Jesus say, “By this, all men will know you are my disciples if you love one another.” (John 13:35) Might it be that this virus season is God asking us to reorient our lives around his agenda rather than ours? Now if you are waiting for me to spell that out, remember that Jesus has already done that in Matthew 28 when he told his disciples and by extension us today to go and make disciples of all nations! Frankly, I don’t think we need anything else said or done. I am also convinced that prior to this crisis a lot of time and effort was spent on distractions from accomplishing that task.
Also keep in mind that reorientation takes time! I am reminded of a lesson I learned a few years ago that about every 500 years God has a rummage sale. The last one involved things like the telescope, the printing press and the mechanical clock. You might also find that time to be about the era of Martin Luther and what we Protestants call the Reformation. Now we are in the era of television, the internet and smartphones. What will shake out, I am not certain, but I am certain of this, God is shaking up his church and the reorientation will be as radical today as it was the last time this happened.
Once again let me borrow Pastor Eric’s own words: “God does some of His very best work in the midst of chaos. From the beginning until now, God is the author of life, speaking with renewed, re-creative energies. Jesus is God’s Word in the flesh, and He is still speaking words that rattle the powers of darkness and that startle the world with resurrection. When the valley is full of dry bones, when the stinking body has been in the tomb four days—in other words, when it looks altogether bleak and dire to our eyes—Jesus can’t even muster a modicum of panic.” IF Jesus is not panicked, if God is not worried, why are we?
But here is the end of Pastor Eric’s message that catches me even in the 4th or 5th reading, Jesus words to Mary and Martha: “Do you believe this?” Do you believe it when we hear Jesus say he is the resurrection and the life? Do we believe that with God all things are possible? Do we believe that God works all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose? If you believe that, then it is time to start living it!