God of Transformation: A New Creation

Sunday, June 20, 2021
Pastor Mark Aune

John 11:17-27

Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen

This is week three of my four-week sermon series about the God I know.

The God I know is a God of transformation, always taking us from death to life.

The story of raising Lazarus from the dead is a resurrection story. But it is also a story about transformation because resurrection is transformation and transformation is resurrection.

This is one of the most powerful stories in scripture because it speaks of our deepest fears as human beings. It clearly names the feelings we have when someone we love and care about dies. Mary and Martha are devastated by the death of their brother Lazarus. They are hurt that Jesus their friend did not show up in time to heal him and prevent his death.

Yes, Jesus is their friend. He eats in their home; he hangs out with them and his absence in their time of need is noticed. He does not show up according to their timeline. But he does show up according to His timeline.

That is one of the mysteries of transformation, it always happens in God’s time, not when we want it or when we think we need it.

The other mystery about transformation is that it only happens when a death occurs. Much like the story of Lazarus. And much like the story I am about to tell you. A true story and I have permission to share it.

He showed up in my office on Dec. 5th, 2019, and while he would call it a turning point in his life, I would say that when he arrived in my office, he was dead. He would say he was lost but, he was dead.

There was addiction. There was brokenness. There was despair. When he walked into my office his life was so out of control that he was about to lose his business, his house, and his life.

This is when transformation begins, and the power of the resurrection does its work.

For Lazarus, he was literally dead, and he had been in the tomb for four days when Jesus finally showed up.

For Tom, not his real name, he had been in the tomb for many years. He just did not know it. We put a plan together that day in my office.

  • It was a transformation plan.
  • Begin attending meetings for his addiction.
  • Attend church each week.
  • Keep in contact with Mark.

It was hard for Tom to get started and the meetings did not help at first and by the end of that first week, while at work, he realized how serious his situation was. He sent me this email in relation to a sermon I had preached.

  • You said alone we can only despair.
  • That Jesus would lead me home.
  • Now would be a good time.
  • Please Jesus, save me.

It was a plea for help. A lament over his spiritual condition.

His addiction was manifesting itself all day, everyday and Tom thought, “my only chance out was if Jesus was kind and merciful to me and would help me, I prayed, please Jesus, save me.”

Tom’s prayer was like Martha’s, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

He prayed over and over again until on a Monday night, December 30th, he got up to take the garbage out.

He was hearing the song, Jesus loves me in his head and was going to empty the garbage in the kitchen when Jesus spoke to him and said, “I never stopped loving you.”

He crumpled over the sink as his heart burned. It must have been 10 seconds or so that he felt intensely His love.

Transformation. The power of the resurrection.at work. Jesus is alive.

That whole night, he quietly sobbed and slept very little. In the morning, manifestations of Tom’s addiction appeared to him and every time one appeared, a steel prison door would slam shut and a window slid shut and the addiction was blocked out, completely.

Gone. Silenced.

This went on for a while and Tom had the strangest feeling, that it was not him operating the steel doors and windows, it was Jesus.

Tom realized Jesus was with him, saving him, doing for him what he could not do on his own.

When Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus, Mary and Martha, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[f] Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

If resurrection is transformation, then why do we think it only happens on the last day of our earthly life?

Why do we think of resurrection as a onetime event?

The Apostle Paul says it this way; I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death.

Knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection is transformation in our daily lives.

It does not matter how dead we are or to what degree we have died, the power of the resurrection is at work bringing us from death to life. This is transformation and this is what Jesus does.

I must be honest with you and tell you that when I was having these initial conversations with Tom, I was in a spiritual valley.

We were still deep in the Covid darkness and some of the feelings I have had from time to time in my life about whether Jesus was real and present in our lives and community were beginning to bubble up for me.

I hope that does not shock you.

  • But have you not wondered the same thing?
  • Is He really alive?
  • Is He here?
  • Is it true?

Martha’s response to Jesus is an acknowledgement on her part that Jesus will be there on the last day.

  • But what about today?
  • What about the death I’m experiencing in my life today?
  • What about the death that needs transformation in my life today?

Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life.

He does not say, I will be the resurrection and the life, He says I am the resurrection and the life. A perfect present tense.

“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?”

Tom does. Everyday. His witness to me was powerful and a reminder to me that transformation happens all the time. It is a reminder to me that the power of the resurrection is connected to knowing Jesus, trusting Jesus, and allowing him to fully love us, each day. Fully. Completely. Unconditionally.

Yes Lord, I believe you are the Christ. The one in our world, transforming our lives and raising us from the dead.

For that hope and the power in that promise we say thanks be to God. Amen

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