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How is this for a reason to party! In the Saturday, September....whoops I cut the date off, edition of the Victoria Times Colonist, I came across this story:
The Headline on the story reads "Dead Man Walks into His Own Funeral"

After miraculously surviving his own funeral, Dan Squire did what was, in his mind, the most sensible thing: he cracked open the first bottle at his wake.
"He seen (sic) all the liquor and he said, is this for me? I think I should be the one to crack it." His sister Diana Branton recalled.
Mr. Squires, age 49 had shocked his sister out of her skin Thursday morning when he came shuffling up her street in east end Toronto, while the rest of the family were paying their respects to the man they thought was Mr. Squires laid out in a nearby funeral home. His sister had been too upset to attend.
"I sat there on the steps screaming," Mrs. Branton said. " He said, ?Why are you so upset?? I said, 'dane, everyone's at your funeral? "

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ?Lazarus, come out!? The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, 'take off the grave clothes and let him go John 11:43-44


How is this for a reason to party! In the Saturday, September....whoops I cut the date off, edition of the Victoria Times Colonist, I came across this story:
The Headline on the story reads "Dead Man Walks into His Own Funeral"
After miraculously surviving his own funeral, Dan Squire did what was, in his mind, the most sensible thing: he cracked open the first bottle at his wake.
"He seen (sic) all the liquor and he said, is this for me? I think I should be the one to crack it." His sister Diana Branton recalled.quires
Mr. Squires, age 49  had shocked his sister out of her skin Thursday morning when he came shuffling up her street in east end Toronto, while the rest of the family were paying their respects to the man they thought was Mr. Squires laid out in a nearby funeral home. His sister had been too upset to attend.
"I sat there on the steps screaming," Mrs. Branton said. " He said, 'Why are you so upset?' I said, 'Dane, everyone's at your funeral' "
"Buddy at the funeral home said, 'Who are you' ?" Mr. Squires recalled last night. "I said, 'I'm the guy you got laid out there.' I said, 'Put the wife on, [referring to ex-wife Barb Warner.] She said, 'Dane, you're dead. I said, 'No, I'm not.' "
"My heart was pounding. I could hear my daughter. What they must have went (sic) through, with a closed casket. There was a guy in there, but it sure wasn't me. Who was it?"

Mr. Squires had been mistaken for another man who had been hit by a Toronto 'go-train'. Mrs. Branton had identified the badly mangled corpse as her brother's, who had taken to wandering off without notifying anyone since he had to quit his job as a welder due to a bad back.

The cards that Giffen-Mack Funeral Home had made up featured a picture of Mr. Squires and the words, "In memory of John Dane Squires, November 25, 1955-- September 10, 2004. And so today my world it smiles, your hand in mine we'll walk the miles."
Mr. Squires said that he now faces the task of re-applying for a disability pension that had been cut off after he was pronounced dead. He said, "I want to save my money and go back home to Newfoundland. I want to see my brother and kiss him."

So how's this for a brand new old Irish blessing: "May you survive to crack open the first Guiness at your own wake."

It may not have been exactly like that, but I bet they partied that night at Lazarus, Mary and Martha's house. The main difference is that Lazarus was really dead, but Dane Squires was not.
We read in John's gospel people came from far and wide to catch a glimpse of Lazarus.

Jesus and his disciples were on the other side of the Jordan when word first comes about Lazarus.
His disciples say to him, "We should go back to Judea again." After all Lazarus is ill.
Jesus waits two more days and when word comes of Lazarus' death, Jesus says, "It is good I was not there so that you might believe."
Then they head back to Judea. Thomas says, "let's go and die with him."

It was commonly believed that the spirit might linger around the body for up to three days, but beyond that there was no hope of resuscitation. Lazarus was dead four days when they arrived at Bethany just outside Jerusalem.
There is a crowd of mourners wailing in the middle eastern custom when they arrive.

Word comes to the sisters that Jesus is there and they respond differently, but in their own characteristic fashion.
I think Martha was the take charge one in the family. She comes first to Jesus and asks. "Where were you? If you had been here my brother would still be alive!"
Martha was apparently used to setting the agenda and she says, "But I know that even now God will give what you ask."
There is a combination of assertiveness, faith and straight forwardness with Martha.
Jesus says to her, "Your brother will rise again."
She says, "Yes, I know, in the resurrection." What she does not say is, "But I want him back, now." But her intent is clear enough.

Jesus moves the focus from her agenda to His all sufficiency.
"I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me shall never die." Then he makes a demand of her. "Do you believe this?"
"Yes", she replies, "You are the Christ, the Son of God."

It is easy to find an audience in Jesus when you know what you need and are prepared to be clear with Him in prayer. Jesus shows no offense whatever at Martha's insistence. She speaks in faith and that is enough.

Mary on the other hand won't even come out of the house to meet him.
Martha knows what she wants and goes after it.
Mary on the other hand apparently experiences Jesus' absence as abandonment and distances from him.
Martha goes to her and tells her that Jesus is asking for her, and only then will she come out and meet him.
When she arrives she falls on the ground weeping, and says as Martha did, "Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died!"

Martha engages Jesus at every chance she gets, but it is always with an agenda that he should do something. Even now she dares to ask that he act.
Mary experiences Jesus in another way. She experiences him as someone she can connect with. But when she feels as though he has pulled back from her and her brother Lazarus, she is unable to even go meet him. She experiences her pain as a rupture in the relationship itself.

Jesus understands them both as totally different as they are from one another.
I think Martha is the eldest.
I also think Mary is the youngest.
I am sure Lazarus is the middle child because we never hear him say anything.

And Jesus meets them each in the way they need.
Martha he meets with a concrete task. "Do you believe?"
Mary he meets with an invitation. "He is asking for you."
To those of us who are goal oriented God offers a challenge. Do we have faith to trust God with a concrete agenda? Faith is not  airy-fairie, it is about the real stuff of life. Engage God in your daily life and see what he can do.

To those of us who disengage from God when we experience pain, he offers us the outstretched hand.
But take note, it was Martha who went and told her Jesus was asking for her.
When you meet folks who pull back from God in disillusionment and withdrawal, go to them. Assure them that God has not forgotten them and that you are reaching out as a sign that God is reaching out.

They come to the tomb and Jesus tells them to roll away the stone.
Martha reminds him that it's been four days and well the corpse will smell.
She believes in him, but facts are facts and dead bodies smell.

When the stone is rolled away, Jesus prays and then calls out for Lazarus to come out.
He does.
Wrapped in his grave clothes.
Jesus tells the onlookers to unwrap him and set him free.
I love that passage.

Only God can call us back into life from death.
God is the life-giver and as Jesus says is, "the resurrection and the life."
Like the people assembled that day, we are able to witness how God gives life, first in our natural birth then as we are given life spiritually.

But as Lazarus came out of the grave bound in his grave clothes, so we often come to new life in Christ with the constrictions of habits, losses, and history of our past. This is true for not so new believers as well. We sometimes are unable to free ourselves from our past.

Jesus tells the assembled group to unbind him and set him free.
Our task together is to unbind one another from those things that weigh us down and constrict us and set one another free in the freedom of Christ.
Why are we not free immediately?
Some are and are able to say they are a new person in Christ.
Some are not able to find that freedom until they hear it from the lips or feel it in the hands of another person.

Do you struggle with the past? Does someone else who you know?
Jesus words are the same, "unbind him and set him free."
Maybe that freedom are the words, "I forgive you too."

And what a moment that was for them all.
Martha got what she wanted: Jesus acted and took charge over death itself.
Mary got what she wanted: Jesus reconnected with her and Lazarus. He was restored and so was the relationship.
Lazarus got what he wanted...a chance to drink the first drink at his own resurrection party.
Well that I am not sure of, but I do believe Martha cooked them a dinner to die for, no pun intended.
I don't know if Mary went in to help her in the kitchen or not, but I don't think it mattered.
The Pharisees plotted is death because of his fame.

That evening at dinner, I suspect that Jesus alone would have cast his mind ahead only a few days to another tomb that was still waiting for Him.

Preached  March 13, 2005
Dr. Harold McNabb
West Shore Presbyterian Church
Victoria, British Columbia