If you enter the chapel at New College at Oxford, England the first thing you will see in the narthex is this life-sized statue. The figure is bound from head to foot. Jacob Epstein, an American sculptor created this piece. It is called, "Lazarus." When I first saw this stone figure I was struck by its power. The head of the figure faces toward the high altar and the face is marked with fear and confusion and perhaps wonder. Jesus has called Lazarus forth. He lingers there uncertain.
I took photograph after photograph of the stone Lazarus standing there. I was so moved by the piece because I saw myself standing there bound up by many things. Since that time I have come to think Lazarus represents all of us.
I keep a picture of this Lazarus in the front of my Bible. As I stand on Sunday to preach some days the picture just slips out. Why do I keep it there? The photograph is a reminder that all of us are tied down by a multitude of things. And the Jesus of the gospels calls us to break free and find new life. I look out on Sundays on a multitude of bound-up folk. Some come angry, some afraid, some smiling, some bored or sleepy or just wishing they were somewhere else. And what I hope is that some good word will address them wherever they are.
Our sermons are filled with musts and oughts and shoulds. There are not many of those phrases, if any, used by the Lord Jesus. He did say: "Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy laden..." He came for all the Lazarus' out there.
Wouldn't it be something if we could hear the command of Jesus and let go of all those things that cripple and bind us down. I guess that's why I keep this photograph of Lazarus in my Bible.