Blue spring flowers on the Cathedral grounds

John 11:1-45

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’* The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born* will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.

“Unbind him and let him go”. We see in John’s account of the raising of Lazarus the power of Christ to bring life out of death. It was Jesus who gave Lazarus his life back, who created for his friend the possibility of a new beginning. But it was not Jesus who unwrapped the shrouds of death from Lazarus, it was instead Lazarus’ friends, the members of his community, who unbound him and let him go. Let me share with you a story.

One day, a woman wanders into a small Church located in her town. It is the middle of the morning during the week, but the weekly celebration of the Eucharist is taking place inside. Not quite knowing why, she sits down and begins to listen to the liturgy unfolding around her. Her life is in shambles. Her husband left her after ten long years of marriage with three children and no real job skills. Since that time, each day has been a struggle. She stays through the entire service, not because she is religious, but because this seems like a safe quiet place. After the service, as she is leaving, a woman of the parish approaches her and invites her to the weekly Bible study that follows the service. Having a few free minutes, and glad to be able to spend some time with people older than her children, she agrees. During the Bible study she meets other members of the parish who show an interest in her and who seem pleased that she has joined them.

This celebration of the Eucharist was for this woman a kind of new beginning. She returned to the little church and after some time, she learned to like and eventually love this small parish and the people in it. They helped her to cope, they gave her their love, they shared with her their lives. Just as Jesus saved Lazarus and gave him new life, I believe Jesus saved this woman and gave her new life. It was Christ’s redeeming grace that directed her to the church that morning. Grace brought her to the church, but it was up to the members of the church, to unwrap the shroud and the bandages from her so that she could live. It was the woman of the parish who first approached her, and the members of the Bible study, who first began to unbind her. Christ made her new life possible, but it was the people in the church who had to reach out to lead her away from the tomb.

The good news is that through Christ there is indeed always the reality of new beginnings, of new life. Christ’s own journey to the cross has made that possible. But as members of Christ’s body, we must take that new gift, given to each of us, and unwrap its glory. Ask yourself this morning, how do I need to be unwrapped? Moreover, what can I do to help another to realize their new beginning, their new life. In Christ, everything is possible, in Him life abounds. But it is only through our love for each other that this gift of new life can be fully unwrapped and fully realized. Amen.


Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith