April 6, 2014: A virtual second chance at Life

Posted on : Apr 3rd, 2014 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

A couple years ago, a friend told me about a new website called “Second Life. Com.” It’s a virtual reality game site that lets you live “the life you’ve always dreamed about” (your second life).  Some of it is pretty neat and some of it is scary.  Your identity is hidden on this site.  You create an avatar, choose a “user name,” and as long as you stay within the rules of the game, almost anything goes.

So, if you could live “a second life” or create your own “second life” what would it be?  What would your game plan be?

In your “second life” would you be pretty much the same, or very different?  Would you chose to be someone you’ve always wanted to be, chose something you’ve always wanted to do, or would you pretty much choose your current personhood and life path?  Would you make the same relationship choices or a different one?  Would you want to be richer, poorer or have about the same amount of money?  Would you want to be younger, older, or the same age you are now?   Would you choose to remain the same gender or would you choose to be the opposite gender?  Would you choose your same sexual orientation or a different sexual orientation? The choices are limitless.  Of course what separates virtual reality from reality is, well, reality.

Actually, we all have far more ability to change our lives than we ever give ourselves credit for.  There are some things that we just can’t change – and probably shouldn’t change.  But, the concept of living a second life (or a life different from what we have now) is not as impossible as we may at first think.  Oftentimes in the Bible, this “new reality” is referred to as “resurrection.”

Most of us think of resurrection as something that is going to happen after we die.  That’s true.  We’ll experience that new reality one of these days.  But resurrection is also the “second life experience” that faith in Christ offers us.

This Sunday we’re going to focus on a story in which Jesus raises Lazarus “from the dead.”  Whether Lazarus is dead or not has been a hotly debated question.  Was Lazarus really dead or in a comatose-like state?  Spoiler alert: That’s not what the story is about!  The story is about the role of the community of faith in empowering one another to experience new life.

A lot of times people focus on Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead; in fact, that is the name that is given to this story.  But if you read the story carefully, Jesus doesn’t raise Lazarus to new life.  He simply calls out Lazarus into life, “Lazarus, Come Out!” Jesus shouts.  And then Jesus says to the community of believers, “[You,] Unbind him and set him free.”

How do we, the community of Christ’s followers, help unbind one another from the stuff that kills us, and set one another free?  That is quite a cross to carry!  But that is what we do every time we challenge systems of injustice or prejudice, every time we seek Justice, every time we create safe space, every time we call out kids who bully one another, every time we speak up for humane immigration reform that respects and keeps families and loved ones together, every time we confront homophobia, every time we journey with someone through addiction into sobriety, every time we offer one another new insight or truth about ourselves and our self-worth.  It is a heavy cross, but that was the cross that Christ carried and that Christ calls us to carry.

This Sunday we will focus on this cross that we carry as we approach our commemoration of Holy Week, the last week of Jesus’s earthly life.

Lenten Blessings,



~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

John 11: 17-45

Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.

Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.  Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha with whom Jesus stayed when in the town of Bethany.  Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the town’s women had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother (as was their religious custom).

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary sat in the house.  Martha said to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”  Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”  Martha replied, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; those who believe in me, though they die, they shall live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.  Do you believe this?”  Martha said to Jesus, “Yes, I believe that you are the Christ, the Child of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

When Martha had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying quietly, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”  And when Mary heard it, she rose quickly and went to Jesus.  Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him.  When the women who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.  Then Mary, when she came and saw Jesus, fell at his feet, and said, “If you had been here, my bother would not have died.”  When Jesus saw her weeping, and those who came with her also weeping, he was indignant in spirit and troubled, and said, “Where have you laid Lazarus?” They answered, “Come and see.”  Jesus wept.  Those who were with them said, “See how Jesus loved Lazarus!”

Then Jesus came to the tomb; it was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.  Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”  Martha, the sister of the one who had died, said to Jesus, “By this time there will be an odor, for Lazarus has been dead four days.”  Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”  So they took away the stone.  And Jesus looked up and said, “God, I thank you that you have heard me.”  Having said this, Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”  The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth.  Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

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