Text: John 11:32-44.
I started preaching at the age of 14 years old. That’s so much preaching that many of the sermons I don’t remember. In all these sermons there are sermons that I have done and I was Yes, thanks to God and some I was like oops! That is not what I meant; I will never forget this sermon that I did back in Frankfurt, Germany. I was persuaded to do a sermon in my basic German language so I thought it would be easy to translate my English-written sermon to German. It sounded like a good idea but not for a German Language beginner. I guess you can tell what happened….the sermon lost its meaning in the process of interpretation. It was a hard way of learning. Anyway, even today I am still learning and relearning to be a good preacher. English happens to be my third language. I grew up speaking Swahili in Kenya.
I have come to enjoy preaching using storytelling in light of my culture and context.
I have learned anew through my sermon formation or writing to boldly face the messy part of the community that I might want to ignore or just avoid mentioning.
A preaching experience that Martin Luther would define as “preaching the word of God is nothing less than to bring upon oneself all the furies of hell and of Satan.”
My biggest takeaway from the general preaching process is the acknowledgment of my task as a preacher, whether in the homes, on the streets, at bus stops, pulpit, or in society, is to fully comprehend and always bear in mind that people as seekers of hope, comfort, peace, joy, love, acceptance, and for me is to accompany them in their search.
It will be unjust for me as a preacher to use my talents and skills to maneuver my congregation to seek me. As their preacher, I am not the one they are seeking. I do not have the answers to their life’s problems. True faith is what lives within them as they encounter good news from God.
Thereafter, I will be in a position to say that it is not me at work but all I did was adhere to the call.
Then, I will humbly echo Paul’s words in 1 Cor 3:6-8. – I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his labor.
As a preacher, I don’t always know what lies ahead and I don’t always know which is the right direction to turn, but I join my beloved congregation prayerfully in their search.
As a preacher I also have my journey and I too need to think, reason, research, wrestle with the hard questions I would prefer to avoid, be honest about my doubts to find the true joy of salvation in Jesus, to be excited about challenges rather than evade them.
In today’s reading, we see John’s account. A tale that speaks not just of Jesus’ power over death, but also of the intricate dance between divine intervention and human action.
Indeed, it was Jesus, standing before the tomb, who uttered the life-giving words, “Lazarus, come forth!” And forth he came, pulled from the clutches of death’s embrace. But there, at the mouth of the tomb, Jesus did not reach out and tear away the shrouds. Instead, he instructed, “Unbind him and let him go.”
This instruction, which might sound subtle yet profound, invites us to delve deeper. It reminds us that while the spark of life may come from the divine, the act of stepping fully back into life, of embracing its possibilities, is a communal endeavor.
It was Lazarus’ friends, and his community, who responded to Jesus’ call. They, with trembling hands and overflowing hearts, unwrapped the bindings of death, symbolizing the burdens of fear, doubt, and grief that often linger even after the darkness lifts. They helped him navigate the liminal space between death and life, offering support and guidance as he took his first tentative steps back into the world.
This act of community holds a powerful message for us all. It reminds us that:
Faith is not a solitary journey. We are called to walk alongside each other, offering support and encouragement in times of darkness. Just as Lazarus’ friends helped him emerge from the tomb, we are called to be vessels of light, guiding others towards hope and healing.
Transformation is a collaborative process. The divine spark within us may ignite change, but it is often through the love and support of our community that this change takes root and flourishes. Just as Lazarus needed his friends to unbind him, we too need the love and support of others to fully embrace our potential.
Hope is contagious. When we witness acts of compassion and community, it rekindles our faith in the power of good. Just as Jesus’ act inspired Lazarus’ friends, we too are called to be beacons of hope, inspiring others to believe in the possibility of new beginnings.
Therefore, let us not simply marvel at the miracle of Lazarus’ resurrection, but let us also be inspired by the act of his community. Let us go forth, empowered by our faith and driven by love, to unbind those who are struggling, to offer hope to the lost, and to create communities where everyone can experience the transformative power of new beginnings.
May we be reminded, that it is through our acts of love and compassion that life truly flourishes.