“Why not? I paid good money for it.” (Sorry, I’m yakking with myself). Would you like to hear the rest? What I paid good money for was a seminary degree. In order to graduate with a Master’s in Divinity, one must take classes that deal with preaching. Preaching involves the study of homiletics and hermeneutics. Although a particular style of preaching had already reached the end of its shelf-life by the time I arrived, the ghost of it was still kicking and haunts about yet today. We called it the three points and a poem delivery. It involved telling an audience what you were going to say, saying it, and then telling them what you said. If you could use alliteration for your three points – all the better. A poem at the end was the bomb! I didn’t much care for it back then and I’ve rarely used that method. It felt contrived. But I suppose any sermon is, in a sense, contrived. Moreover, the next bit fit nicely, if accidently, with a bit of that old saw. So, let’s have a go at it! (I will use exclamation points to remind you to be excited)!
The first group that we see are those who happened to be within the line of sight to witness Lazarus’ resurrection. They were the convinced! How could they not be? They had shown up for a funeral and a pot-luck and had gotten dinner and a show! Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. ~John 12:17
The next group were not witnesses to the resurrection. However, they knew someone, who knew someone, who knew someone that was said to be trustworthy. These were the curious! How could they not be? They had it on good authority: Many people, because they had heard that he had performed this sign, went out to meet him. ~John 12:18 Who wouldn’t want to do a meet and greet with a former corpse? I’d sure have a few questions. I would also ask the healer if he might have a go with a little back problem I’d been suffering. And, would he have a moment to check into my neighbor’s gout?
The final group was cross (angry). How could they not be? And with the choice of this word, I plan a double entendre. They began to devise a cross (a method of capital punishment) for this Galilean lad who was the cause of a recession to the religion industry – an enterprise for which they claimed a monopoly. The tariffs they imposed were high. They had to be paid in blood: So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” ~John 12:19
There’s the three points and all nicely alliterated! And now for the poem. I admit it is a bit long, but it is brilliant! Put on a pot of tea and have a read. It will be good for your soul…
The Raising of Lazarus
By Franz Wright
Evidently, this was needed. Because people need to be screamed at with proof.
But he knew his friends.
Before they were he knew them.
And they knew that he would never leave them there, desolate.
So he let his exhausted eyes close at first glimpse of the village fringed with tall fig trees – immediately he found himself in their midst: here was Martha, sister of the dead boy.
He knew she would not stray, as he knew which would; he knew that he would always find her at his right hand, and beside her, her sister Mary, the one a whole world of whores still stood in a vast circle pointing at.
Yes, all were gathered around him. And once again he began to explain
to bewildered upturned faces where it was he had to go, and why.
He called them “my friends.” The Logos, God’s creating word, — the same voice that said, “Let there be light.”
Yet when he opened his eyes, he found himself standing apart.
Even the two slowly backing away, as though from concern for their good name.
Then he began to hear voices; whispering quite distinctly, or thinking:
Lord, if you had been here our friend might not have died.
(At that, he slowly reached out as though to touch a face, and soundlessly started to cry.)
He asked them the way to the grave.
And he followed behind them, preparing to do what is not done to that green silent place where life and death are one.
By then other Brueghelian grotesques had gathered, toothlessly sneering across at each other and stalled at some porpoise or pig stage of ontogenetical horrorshow, keeping their own furtive shadowy distances and struggling to keep up like packs of limping dogs; merely to walk down this road in broad daylight had begun to feel illegal, unreal, rehearsal, test - but for what!
And the filth of desecration sifting down over him, as a feverish outrage rose up, contempt at the glib ease with which words like “living” and “being dead” rolled off their tongues; and loathing flooded his body when he hoarsely cried, “Move the stone!”
“By now the body must stink,” some helpfully suggested.
But it was true that the body had lain in its grave four days.
He heard the voice as if from far away, beginning to fill with that gesture which rose through him: no hand that heavy had ever reached this height, shining an instant in air.
Then all at once clenching and cramped – the fingers shrunk crookedly into themselves, and irreparably fixed there, like a hand with scars of ghastly slashing lacerations and the usual deep sawing across the wrist’s fret, through all major nerves, the frail hair-like nerves - so his hand at the thought all the dead might return from that tomb where the enormous cocoon of the corpse was beginning to stir.
Yet nobody stood there - only the one young man, pale as though bled, stooping at the entrance and squinting at the light, picking at his face, loose strips of rotting shroud.
All that he could think of was a dark place to lie down, and hide that wasted body.
And tears rolled up his cheek and back into his eyes, and then his eyes began rolling back into his head …
Peter looked across at Jesus with an expression that seemed to say:
You did it, or What have you done?
And everyone saw how their vague and inaccurate life made room for his once more.