Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” John 11:38-44
This is the story of the raising of Lazarus. By the time Jesus arrived at the tomb of his friend, Lazarus had been in the tomb four days. I think I must have heard this story as a little girl. My Aunt Gloria died of breast cancer when she was only thirty-six. I think I was six. I can remember peering into her casket at the funeral home and then at the grieving faces of my family. I can also remember saying to my parents, “Why don’t we just pray that she would come back to life?”
I don’t remember attending her funeral.
When my father was dying of cancer, we continued to have many long conversations together into the wee hours of the night. We had always been very close and it was easy to talk in depth about a host of things. I was a nurse, so I was also privileged to be able to care for him in my parents’ home so he could stay there for his remaining months.
I prayed and prayed that he might be healed of the cancer. Finally when I was spent in every way, I called several of my girlfriends and said, “I have no words left to pray. Will you pray on my behalf?”
My dad died of that cancer, but he taught me a lot about faith and dying well. What holy ground it is to be with a loved one during that time!
Shortly before he died, my dad said with wonder and a questioning voice, “Gloria?”
Since I’d been told I looked a great deal like my aunt, I squeezed my dad’s hand and said softly, “Dad, it’s me. Anne.”
Dad had not been hallucinating and I wondered at this change. But he smiled at me as he always did and said patiently albeit weakly, “I know it’s you, honey. But Gloria is here, too. And my mom and dad.” He waved toward the foot of his bed where only his eyes could see his beloved family who waited for him. All people of faith.
How I wished my dad could stay with us! He was barely sixty-five. But I also knew, without a doubt, that he would not only be face-to-face with God soon, but in the presence of his family for all eternity. I knew we would be together again one day.
* Questions to Ponder
* When have you waited for God to answer a prayer, or had God answer a prayer in an unexpected way? What was the outcome?
* Remember a time when you received a glimpse of God’s glory. (Maybe this happened as you and another person forgave one another and were reconciled, as you sang or head the soaring lyrics and music of a song, or as you received the bread and wine of Holy Communion.) How would you describe this experience? Now imagine the glory of God that still awaits you. (1)
Prayer for today
God of resurrection and life, open our eyes and hearts to the possibilities of new life and new beginnings that are all around us. Teach us to recognize you in the thin places where you break through the veil that separates heaven and earth. Be our light in the darkness, and our hope in despair. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
(1) * Material from Book of Faith Lenten Journey: Beyond Question by Erick Burtness copyright © Augsburg Fortress. Posted by permission. All rights reserved.