"No Expiration Date"
Scriptures: John 11: 17-25; Gal 5:13
Pastor Tom Millner
May 30, 2010
Cyrus and Melvin were celebrating the anniversary of the move to their new home with a gathering of close friends in their local community. They had saved diligently for several years to secure a sizable down payment on the property. Their move in the year before had been marked by a similar celebration with their friends. Just the month before the anniversary an envelope from their insurance company had been inadvertently delivered to the vacant house next door. As Cy and Melvin were getting to sleep after their friends had departed, they were awakened by the fire alarm just off the living room. A candle they thought was extinguished had reignited and had burned its way into the wooden table on which it stood, igniting then the drapes and ultimately the entire living room. Cy and Melvin were able to grab their respective robes and dash to the living room only to be deterred by the heat and flames. They exited through the patio doors as they heard the siren from the fire truck round the corner. The firemen broke through the front door and were able to extinguish the fire before it engulfed the entire house but not before it had done extensive damage to the roof and deposited soot and smoke throughout the house. "Thank God we have insurance," shouted Melvin. Cy recounted the absence of a premium notice. As you've already surmised, the premium notice was delivered next door. The expiration date for the insurance was 12:01 AM, the day before the fire. Their investment was lost! They had missed the expiration date!
It seems everything these days has an expiration date. Sell before; use before; must reach us by; discard after! Many times these assertions keep us safe; but also cover the other from litigation should the product not be usable. Not all expiration dates are useful. Some products are quite useful after the date that has arbitrarily been set as a standard date for all substances possessing that particular compound. We are so use to expiration dates that we often assume the lie that God's action in our lives has an expiration date also! We want His action on our timeframe; as we see it being important.
It was the same for the sisters of Lazarus. Jesus got the notice in ample time that His friend was ill, yet He stayed where He was, ministering to those at hand. Martha and Mary needed Jesus to arrive in time to save their brother…He arrived four days after Lazarus had expired! Martha was the first to get to Jesus to tell him that He wasn't on time for Lazarus. Jesus assures her that Lazarus will rise again. She didn't quite get it. Then Martha goes home to tell Mary that Jesus is on the way there. Mary ran to meet Jesus when she heard that He had arrived in town and fell at His feet crying that He had not been there in time to prevent her brother's death. Jesus was moved by Mary's tears. Scholars generally agree that the verse "Jesus wept," (verse 35) refers to His sorrow not for Lazarus, but for Mary's belief that things had to happen on her time schedule, which translates to her poverty of faith. There was even gossip among the folks about Jesus' untimely arrival with underlying implications of His poor judgment. How often we do that; "If only you had intervened before I bought that house; moved in with so and so; invested in that stock; did those drugs; contracted that disease; lived so long this or that way!" I often think God is less interested in what happens to us than He is HOW we respond to consequences of even our own decisions. I love John 11:39 in the King James Version: "39Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days." Jesus was not bound by Lazarus's expiration date! He was right on time to demonstrate God's love and compassion, even in the face of death. Often our mess that stinketh is just ripe for God's intervention! God's timing in our lives is perfect, whether we acknowledge it or not. It may not be convenient in our eyes, but in the divine light it is perfect! Jesus appeared to be four days late for Lazarus who was bound in the grave, but for the soul of Lazarus and all the witnesses, He was right on time!
Lazarus was not the only person in Biblical accounts that was raised from the dead. Jesus Himself was raised from the dead after three days. The big difference between the resurrection of Jesus and those other accounts is that the others died again…Jesus Lives! The reason we are here today is because Jesus lives. The reason this church exists is because Jesus lives. Religion has attempted to uncover the historical Jesus, turn Him into some hysterical Jesus that is created in our own image. "Love the sinner – hate the sin," is one of the mantras. The message attributed to Jesus then is "change who you are and then you're acceptable in my sight." There's not a phrase in scripture that even approximates that – yet we buy it! In this community, often the name JESUS carries a weight of condemnation. Why is that, we wonder -because so many have not seen the evidence of the living, loving presence of the man Jesus. When was the last time you heard a conversation at Georgie's or The Manor about what Jesus is doing in individual lives? It's as though we come here to worship in the presence of and because of the man JESUS, then we leave these doors to enter the witness protection program so as not to be detected. "Oh, I don't talk about Jesus – they may think I'm some kind of freak!" How many closets are we going to have to exit? Some have found it so difficult to come out of that first closet – and acknowledge who God has made us. It seems that bigger still is the closet of faith from which we must emerge proclaiming the wholeness we find in the presence of our Lord, Jesus Christ! Jesus came that we might have life and have it to the full.
Jesus said to Martha "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." Jesus asked Mary to take him to the place where Lazarus was buried. "…Jesus called in a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out.'" Lo and behold, the dead man came out. But, there was still more to accomplish – "his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face." Lazarus was still bound by his grave clothes. Though alive and out, Lazarus was still bound by the cloth that was his death. I ask YOU today; what are the grave clothes that keep you bound? Are they the rags of acceptance; the cloth of not being counted among "those folk;" the fear of rejection; the loss of assumed status; your place among the "in" crowd? What is it for you that keeps you in the closet with your faith? God's love has no limits; it has no expiration date; there are no exclusion clauses – why would we exclude Him from our daily interactions or our daily conversations?
We get so tied up in our worldly identity. Male, female, black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Gay, straight, transgender, or any other criteria we can imagine identifying and differentiating ourselves. We hold on to these labels or try desperately to get rid of them with a passion that would make the lovesick mourn. Paul reminded the members of the church in Galatia that: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." This means folks that none of the labels we or any others would give ourselves, none of the grave clothes with which we would wrap ourselves, none of the witness protection programs under which we would operate, none of the "pious religiosity" we can muster, has any value whatsoever! The only that counts (has value) is FAITH EXPRESSING ITSELF THROUGH LOVE. The first step in expressing that faith through the love of Jesus Christ is to walk in the knowledge of His grace and mercy – that means accepting that He made you, He gave you the gifts you have (your uniqueness) and He will see you through all of life's adventures. Because His timing is perfect and His love has no expiration date!
Satan's greatest lie: "It's over for you." Don't buy it…there's no expiration date!