“Lazarus, come forth!”
“If you’re not busy being born, you’re busy dying.” (Bob Dylan)
By Pam Bro (PamBro.com) May 7, 2013
You may remember the story in the Gospels. Lazarus, one of Jesus’ best buddies and brother to Mary and Martha, has died. The sisters are devastated that Jesus was not there to save him. When Jesus arrives days later, Lazarus is wrapped, dead and locked in the tomb. His response: “Jesus wept.”–the shortest and most poignant line in the whole Bible. Then Jesus cries out, “Lazarus, come forth!” And lo and behold, Lazarus stumbles out into the daylight, drawing an agonizing breath. But the eager embrace of his sisters and Jesus steady and warm him—and he’s on his way to a new life.
I’ve been Lazarus lately. The dead one. Oh yes, I thought I was alive; other people did too. But I was dead. How?
Well, I’ve been the founder and pastor of a little church for 7 years, and through those amazing, challenging and heart-warming years of community worship and service, I had continually asked the people for very little commitment and support. Though I cherished being their pastor/friend, lately the struggle to earn a living was becoming untenable. What should I do?
Then last week I had an epiphany. The Spirit showed me that I had a fear of rejection, and most of my flock had a fear of commitment.
Now their fear is understandable. Our culture scoffs at commitment, inundating us by every means available with choice upon choice—of partners, consumer goods, worship communities. Why commit to one when you can have it all? Why risk being a part of a group where you’ll be asked to give, to grow, and to be more fully engaged with your soul and the world?
And what about me? I didn’t fear commitment—I had shown up 50 weeks a year for the last seven years to preach, even when I was bald and near death because of chemo. But the Spirit did show me that:
- I was mistaken to feel that people could reject me. Living Waters Sanctuary was never about me. It was about what God wants us to do together to help bring healing, understanding and love to our community and beyond. Yes, I was a necessary catalyst for our spiritual community but never the wellspring.
- God could always use me somewhere else–this crazy, caring, striving, irreverent Pamela Bro– God had few enough servant leaders as it was.
- Did I want to die before I realized, “Oh my God, you mean we at Living Waters could have done that and that and that together to help our poor world, and we never even tried!” Did we want to be the living dead?
Suddenly Jesus stood before me, weeping over my premature demise in my self-made tomb, and then belting out,
“Pamela, come forth!”
I woke up! I stepped out—dancing, with my grave cloths flapping wildly around me. I wanted to kiss everyone I met. I still do.
So last Sunday, I shared my revelation with my people, urging them not to fear making a stronger commitment to each other and to God’s work, or it was time for me to step down. But if they stepped up, a new kind of life would await them.
And they rose up, too! They committed!
It is ironic but true that it is only by committing ourselves to a few specific and imperfect people that we can actually regenerate the larger world.
Listen, my friend. Do you hear someone calling your name? Commanding, “Come forth!”