United Presbyterian Church of West Orange

“Lazarus and Me”
Meditation on John 11:1-45

by Rev. Rebecca Migliore
March 29, 2020


Yesterday I prompted people to think about three questions. 1) what did Lazarus feel?  2) have you had an experience of resurrection?  3) what might the story of Lazarus have to say to us today?


This time of isolation (and our reading for the 5th Sunday of Lent) has brought back memories of my time right after my bone marrow transplant. You see I felt like Lazarus as I exited Hackensack Hospital three weeks after my father’s bone marrow had dripped into me in a last ditch effort to save my life. Sure I had been able to have a few people visit me during my quarantine. Sure I could look out the windows of the 8th floor of the hospital.


But I remember that drive down the Garden State Parkway as I got to go home—it was like landing on an alien planet. Somehow everything had changed. There was a stark beauty to the lush green leaves on the trees that I could see up close now. I didn’t remember how many smells there were in the air. Maybe it was the meds I was taking to keep my fledgling immune system from attaching something it shouldn’t (ie, me), but it all felt so new. I felt so new.


The body that I had lived in for 48 years didn’t work the same. I’d lost my hair (for a second time), yes.  But my gait was stilted and I needed to move slowly to keep my balance. My mind—which had been annoyingly inquisitive and constantly connecting the dots and facile with words and patterns and puzzles—felt like thick oil had been poured over its miles of matter making the whole thing gunk up. I couldn’t find the words I wanted to use. I couldn’t remember names of people I had known for 20 years.


We don’t hear much about Lazarus after his resurrection.  Maybe that’s because he needed time to heal and come to terms with the new world he was living in, the new body he was living in, the new life he was given.  Maybe he was just a pale reflection of who he had been.  Maybe John was too focused on other things, like what Lazarus’ resurrection meant about Jesus (as well as the rush into Holy Week that occurs following Lazarus’ story).


But I’ve been mulling over what Lazarus and my own Lazarus experience might have to say about where we find ourselves today. I think, for some of us, we will “wake up” on the other side of this bad dream of a pandemic into a world that will forever be changed—a world that will be a little less containable, a little less safe, maybe a little more disturbingly beautiful as well. And I wonder if we will go back to being the people we were before we ever heard of Covid-19.  How could we?  How could we pretend that we had not been through the valley of the shadows?  How could we forget those who were lost along the way?  What do we do with our anger?  Our grief?  Our feeling of helplessness?  Our loss of trust?


I don’t know the answers to any of these questions.  But I am glad that I walk alongside One who has been there. I am comforted to know that there is One who “is the Resurrection and the Life.”  I am willing to put aside my fear and my exhaustion and my anxiety in this time of entombment, to listen for the loving voice who unmistakably calls us out of the familiar into each new world, who constantly beacons us to let go of the wrappings of death, who graciously offers us more time in this world to be of service to the most high God. 


May we be willing and ready to respond. May Lazarus be an example to us all.


Blessings to you and yours,

Rev. Becca