(You can connect to the readings for the Sundays of the year by typing RCL and the date or go to textweek.com)
I inherited my mother’s lateness. She, projecting her own propensity for tardiness, frequently told me, “You’ll be late for your own funeral.” “I hope so.” I joked.
I got better over the years, realizing that it is manipulative, passive- aggressive and just bad form and I didn’t have any of the excuses or hat-tricks that Jesus could conjure up. I can see how the sisters of Lazarus were truly angry that he had not come sooner. John does not seek to show the pastoral side of Jesus. His focus is His power over death, to show how He was the Son of God.
Whether or not Jesus could raise a man from the grave after four days may or may not be possible. We know that sometimes people have stopped breathing and the heartbeat is too faint to register and they have been thought dead, but the point for John is that Jesus could do it. He had that kind of power. We may argue about the physical possibilities, and yet for those of us who have lived the life have seen evidence of the truth of His power many times. We have witnessed much of it through the hands and hearts of skilled healers of all kinds. I’d be interested in hearing your stories. Here’s one of mine.
It was early, six or seven in the morning, when I received a call from a parishioner that their five-year old daughter was having a severe asthma attack and had been rushed to the Emergency room. They were afraid they were going to lose her. It was my birthday.
“Not on my birthday,” I thought, “Lord, you’re not going to let her die on my birthday!!” I was adamant.
I arrived to the distressed parents in the waiting room of the Emergency Department.
“They can’t get her to breathe on her own,” the mother said.
“I’ll see if they’ll let me in to be with her.” I said.
The child lay on the litter. Her skin had turned ashen. She was hooked up to a respirator and I V’s dripped saline and other solutions. As I remember her heart still pumped. The Doctors and nurses looked worried and weary. I went to her body and blessed her, anointed her for healing or for burial, which one I didn’t know, and whispered in her ear, “Mom and Dad and I love you,” and I left the room shaken.
The parents and I found a room, lit by a wining florescent purple light. All three of us knelt and we prayed as hard and fervently as we had ever probably prayed. And as usual, but this time with a feeling of re-assurance the same conclusion came. First were the words of Jesus in the garden, you know, the night before he was crucified, because we were with him in that moment,
“Not my will, but your will be done.” It’s remarkable how often those words come in these times of crisis.
And the second understanding we all had almost simultaneously was that she was breathing again.
“She’s going to be okay,” I said.
Jane and Chris, the parents, both nodded and said, “I know.”
“Thanks,” I said to myself, “for not letting her die on my birthday.” Of course it had nothing to do with me. I was just available when they called me in. But I swear on a “stack of Bibles” in various languages and translations, that the Holy Spirit visited us in that hospital waiting room as we prayed. It was one of those moments that they call faith as the “assurance of things not seen.”
Within a half-hour the doctor came in and told us we could visit her.
“She’s not out of the woods” he said, “but she’s doing well enough to transfer her to the Hospital at Yale.”
We went into the room and the child was sitting up, her color had returned. She was moved to Yale-New Haven Hospital and I had asked her what she would like to have as a treat when she was allowed to eat?
“A burger and fries and a chocolate shake,” she told me with a big smile.
That night on the way to celebrate my birthday, I walked into the room with the requested feast. She fully recovered and is now twenty two, and healthy and still a child of the light. And she hasn’t had an asthma attack since that day.