A sunrise or a sunset, who can tell?
It has been a month of endings; of acknowledging the severing of relationships, with no particular expectations of what might happen next. Last Sunday I preached in my local parish church. The people of St. Michaels were kind and generous in what they said over morning tea as they farewelled me as bishop and welcomed me into their congregation.
Right in the middle of the Fourth Gospel, chapter 11 of 21, the author has placed the story of Lazarus. Right in the middle of the story of Lazarus the author has placed the story of Jesus' conversation with Lazarus' sister Martha, as she tearfully upbraids him for not doing more to save her brother. Martha speaks of Jesus as her hope, but she locates that hope in some other place, far removed from the monumental rock right beside her and the putresescence of her brother's decaying body sealed behind it. Jesus is a little more material. He asks for the stone to be moved. Hope is here and now.
The other three gospels record that on the cross Jesus cries with a loud voice. They all use the same, rare verb to describe that moment when Jesus surrenders himself to death. They all say"εκραυγασεν", "he cried out". John doesn't record this. Instead, using the same rare verb, he speaks of Jesus crying out at the tomb of Lazarus. This seemingly insignificant detail is crucially important, for here, John's Gospel tells us, is the moment when Jesus gives up his life that Lazarus might live. Jesus is well aware that to perform such a dramatic miracle within ready hearing of the gates of Jerusalem is to guarantee his own death. It is at this point that the exchange is made. As Jesus told Martha, Death and Resurrection is not about what happened to some bloke millennia ago, and its not about us sprouting wings and taking up harps at the end of time, it is about our real lives and our own present daily surrenderings.
Standing far back from myself I am interested in my own lack of emotion, one way or another as the end of my lifetime's work looms near. I find myself neither apprehensive nor excited, although a couple of nights back I had a large and numinous dream. I dreamed of death and, like Martha, of concealing a body. One secondary detail in the complex plot was walking into my garage and seeing in the corner, behind all manner of dispensible clutter, an old but perfectly useable, battleship grey Ducati ST. I realised that it had come to me years before in another dream, that it had a long history, but that even though it was completely mine, I had never ridden it
In my last session as bishop with my spiritual director, we talked of the dream and of that particular detail. We talked of Lazarus and of the resurrection which lies ahead, serenely, in my very real life.