“If you had only been here,” Mary said. “If you had only been here, Lord, my brother Lazarus, would not have died.”
If only, if only. . . how we look back on our personal loss and wish we could get our loved one back, longing for that face, that voice, that indispensable support that we have to do without now, and maybe wishing we had done more, done something differently, that would have prevented this loss.
But can the doctors stop us from aging? Can fate intervene and prevent that fall or that accident?
We flinch when we hear the Psalmist say, “Turn back, you mortals, turn back to dust.” We don’t need any such realism, who needs scripture to remind us we are dust? For the families we memorialize today, for those in the Eliot community, for those who lost someone to Covid, and for those indigenous nations that mourn their long ago losses right in this land where we worship and pray—that kind of reminder is painfully superfluous.
Except, scripture rests on a deeper foundation, the assurance that we are God’s and God is ours. God is where we dwell, and have dwelled in all generations, whether we are living, living well or not, all that we are dwells in God, the sensations we celebrate, the brilliance of the conscious mind, the delight we feel to run, to dance, to leap for joy—all this is not our own, it is God’s, it is God. When we die, we don’t cease to be—we cease to be visible to each other. When we die, the material part of us crumbles, and the spirit continues, however unencumbered, with God. We were never our own, but always the Lord’s.
“If you had only been here, Lord, my brother Lazarus, would not have died,” Mary said. But Jesus actually was there, and Lazarus didn’t die, except in the way we all dread—only Mary didn’t see it that way, not just yet. Jesus proved it to her satisfaction by “bringing him back to life,” although that was unnecessary. That’s what Jesus meant when he said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life, whosoever believeth in me, shall have everlasting life, and whosoever believeth in me shall never die.” Amen.