Lazarus is dead. He’s so dead that he’s wrapped up and in the tomb. Death is so real you can smell it.
And Jesus has the guts to say: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Well, do you?
Do you believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life? People of God, in the face of death, do you believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life?
Because right now, as I stand here today, I’m having trouble with it.
Have you seen the “Dare To Be Different” cards we put out each month? They are little challenges to take on intentional disciplines that help us live faith in a meaningful way. This month, one of the challenges is to do what Jesus tells you. Today, Jesus tells us to believe him, to fully trust that he is the resurrection and the life.
Today, it feels a lot harder to do that than I could have imagined.
It feels like we are still in the tomb. I see death all around me, and it keeps winning, and I believe the lie that there’s nothing I can do about it. I am locked in anger and despair because death is powerful, and death is real, and I can’t see past it.
This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, a day to remind us of our own mortality with ashes on our foreheads: remember you are dust, and to dust you will return. We say words like that when we bury you. It was also Valentine’s Day, a chance to show your love to others in big and small ways. It was also the day that a student opened fire on his classmates at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen students and teachers are dead. In one of the photos taken that day, a woman stands weeping outside the school, a heart necklace hanging around her neck, a cross of ashes on her forehead. Remember that you are dust. Remember that death is real.
So I’m having trouble hanging onto Jesus’ words. He asks me if I believe him and I’m not so sure.
Because we are seven weeks into 2018, and already there have been eight shootings in schools that have resulted in injury and death. There have already been 30 mass shooting incidents in 2018 alone. Since the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where we said never again, there have been at least 1,607 mass shootings, with at least 1,846 people killed and 6,459 wounded. One in five deaths of young people between the ages of 5 and 24 is due to guns. That’s more than cancer, pneumonia, influenza, and diabetes. Combined.
Jesus says: “I am the resurrection and the life… Do you believe this?”
Well, do you?
Because maybe you’ve already tuned me out. Maybe you think I’m being too political. Maybe you’re already rolling your eyes, because “Megan’s got another dig in on the Republicans,” even though we’re all complicit in the death of children sitting in their classrooms when we do nothing, no matter what party we claim or condemn. I don’t particularly care which party you’re from or not from. I mostly care that you’re serious about love for God and love for neighbor. So maybe you’d like me to also point out to you that in the last year for which I could find data, at least twenty of our military veterans commit suicide every single day. Military veterans account for one out of every five adult suicides in this country. They’re twice as likely to overdose on prescription pain medication. Military suicides surpassed military combat deaths five years ago.
Are the deaths of our children a partisan issue? Are the deaths of those who have served our country a partisan issue? Or is this an issue of life and death? Is this a matter of faith? Do we who claim Jesus as our savior have something to say about the health and welfare of the most vulnerable among us? When Jesus says that the greatest commandment is to love God, and the second, which is just like it, is to love your neighbor, might it mean fighting death whenever and however it comes, no matter what party you endorse? Will you do what Jesus tells you to do?
Jesus says: “I am the resurrection and the life… Do you believe this?”
Help me out. People of God, do you believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life?
Jesus called to Lazarus while he was still dead in the tomb: “Lazarus, come out!” Lazarus comes staggering out, still wrapped in bandages that stink like rotting flesh, eyes blinded by the light of day, face covered with graveclothes, but he comes out. He comes out of the tomb and he lives. And in the very next chapter of John’s gospel, he serves Jesus. He and his sisters host him and his sister Mary anoints him and all this even though people want to kill Lazarus just like they want to kill Jesus because Lazarus proves that Jesus has power over death. He still gets up and serves Jesus.
Death is going to keep trying to win. Even in the face of the truth of the promise, death is going to keep trying to win.
What are we going to do about it? Pretend it doesn’t matter? Send thoughts and prayers? Say it’s someone else’s problem? It’s too expensive? It’s too political?
Jesus says: “I am the resurrection and the life… Do you believe this?” Yes? Then come out of the tomb. Stop living like death wins. Jesus calls you to come out of the tomb, right now. Jesus calls you to fight for life, whether it’s the life of those who senselessly die by gun violence or mercilessly die when their country forgets their service or whatever place you see that death keeps tricking us into believing it wins.
Death will not win. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Do you believe this?
Then come out of the tomb. Step away from whatever it is that keeps you wrapped up in death. Give others hope by showing the way. Listen for Jesus. Do what he tells you to do. Obey him. Believe him. Dare to be different from the falsehoods of partisanship and politics and fear and despair and listen to Jesus. Fight for life and truth even when it’s unpopular or difficult. In Christ, we can do hard things. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Please note: all links, as referenced in the footnotes, were active as of the preaching of this sermon. All statistics were likewise accurate at that time.
 See, for instance, the photo featured approximately ¼ of the way down in this article: “At Least 17 Dead After Troubled Former Student Allegedly Opens Fire On Florida High School”. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/parkland-florida-school-shooting_us_5a849439e4b0774f31d19627. Written 14 February 2018. Accessed 15 February 2018.
 “How many US school shootings have there been in 2018 so far?” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/14/school-shootings-in-america-2018-how-many-so-far. 15 February 2018 (written and accessed).
 http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/reports/mass-shooting. Accessed 15 February 2018.
 “Guns Kill More Children Than Cancer: Is There A Cure In Sight?” http://fortune.com/2018/02/15/guns-kill-more-kids-than-cancer-drugs/ Accessed 15 February 2018.
 All three previous statistics from: “What’s Killing America’s Veterans? Here’s What the Data Says”. http://fortune.com/2017/11/10/veterans-day-whats-killing-americas-veterans/. Written 10 November 2017. Accessed 15 February 2018.
 “U.S. Military’s Suicide Rate Surpassed Combat Deaths In 2012”. https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2013/01/14/169364733/u-s-militarys-suicide-rate-surpassed-combat-deaths-in-2012. Written 14 January 2013. Accessed 15 February 2018.