What is your life’s purpose?

Ezekiel 37:1-14                 Psalm 130               Romans 8:6-11                 John 11

Many years ago, I was sat eating Sunday dinner with my priest friend and she was musing over the roast potatoes; ‘Every person must have one thing they are prepared to stand up in court for, go to prison for, even die for’, she said. ‘And if we all knew what that one thing was, and did it, the world would be a different place’. She was wondering in the abstract, because she didn’t know what her life’s purpose was, but those words have stuck with me and I often go back to them.

There must be one thing you are prepared to stand up in court for, go to prison for, even to die for.

I was reminded of that, again, on Friday, on the feast day of St Oscar Romero.

Oscar Romero was the archbishop of San Salvador – a quiet, contemplative man who stood up for the rights of the poor and marginalised during the civil war. Romero spoke out against the kidnapping, torture and murder of his people. His commitment to stand up for others ultimately led to his own assassination, while he was saying mass.

For Romero, it was not possible for love to be theoretical. It was not possible for it to be silent or weak. For Romero, love involved resistance and sacrifice, speaking out. His love of the poor, his active care for the oppressed was wahat he was prepared to stand up in court for, go to prison for, even die for. For Romero, loving the poor was his life’s purpose and it cost him his whole life.

And in this morning’s gospel, we see Jesus and his love for his friend Lazarus.

Lazarus was ill so his sisters sent a message to Jesus asking him to come. Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, but he didn’t rush to them. He stayed two days longer in the place where he was. After this he said to the disciples ‘let us go to Judea again’. The disciples know that they have recently fled from there because the Jews were about to stone Jesus. Clearly, they aren’t keen on returning any time soon, but Jesus loves his friend, and he loves his sisters and he is prepared to risk death to go and see them.

As is often the case, there is some confusion and a good deal of misunderstanding but, this time, it is Thomas who gets it. And Thomas says to his fellow disciples, ‘let us also go, that we may die with him’. Thomas understands. He knows his Lord. He knows that Jesus’ love triumphs over all things – even over the fear of death.

So, they go and they find Lazarus is dead, and has been in the tomb for 4 days already. Jewish tradition believed the soul stayed around the body for three days after death, but Lazarus is past that – he is dead in body and in soul. And that is when Jesus shows up. Only once his friend is well and truly dead.

And he stands at the place of death, right at the mouth of that tomb, and he commands Lazarus to come out. He speaks directly to death, stares it right in the eye and says ‘I am the resurrection and the Life and you are done here’ and he tells death to be gone…and Lazarus comes out. He comes out, shrouded in the trappings of death and Jesus sets him free from that too; ‘unbind him and let him go’ he says, and many of the Jews who were there believed in him.

That is an awesome story. Lazarus was dead and now he is alive. He was bound but now he is free. The crowd were mourning but now they are celebrating. Jesus has done it all – he has brought life where there was death, and light where there was darkness. Everything is changed, reversed, resurrected.

But remember Thomas’ words in verse 16; ‘let us also go, that we may die with him’.

Everything is changed. The scene at the cave tomb is incredible – the professional mourners are beginning to leave, the funeral food is now catering for a party, the sisters are embracing their brother and pulling the cloth wrappings from him and death has been sent away empty-handed. All aspects of life are there. But in this action, Jesus has just signed his own death warrant. He has literally just put the final nail into his own hands. The next verse says, ‘some went to the pharisees and told them what Jesus had done…and from that day on they plotted to kill Jesus’.

Jesus knew, that by going to Judea to raise Lazarus from the death, his own death was being hastened. But he also knew his life’s purpose. He knew what he was prepared to stand up in court for, go to prison for, even die for.  He knew his purpose was – his purpose is – love.

Love that tells death it doesn’t get the final word.

Love that brings life where there was once only death.

Love that unbinds others and sets them free.

Love that brings light to the darkness of the tomb.

And when we – when humanity is faced with that kind of love we are so exposed, so unravelled, so uncertain, we try to kill it.

Prior to love and life like that, the only certainty was that we are born and we die. But this love, the love of Christ, challenges even that certainty. Death is no longer certain. Love and life now wins.

Thomas had a glimpse of that, and was prepared to go with his Lord, even if it cost him his life. Jesus knew his life’s purpose and was prepared to go to the tomb of his friend to reverse death and fulfil it, even though he knew it would ultimately cost him his life.

Oscar Romero knew his purpose too and held true to it, even to the point of death.

How about us? What about you? What are we prepared to stand up in court for, go to prison for, even die for? Amen.  

1 Comment

  1. As always. WONDERFUL


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