It’s a beautiful day up here at the Old Place. Of course every day is a beautiful day. People ask me all the time, “Col. Jim what is it about the Old Place anyway? It’s a long drive up there, there isn’t a movie theater and the phone reception is terrible.” I tell them, I just feel closer to my Lord up here. When the Our Lord raised his good friend Lazarus, the Gospels tell us that Jesus "groaned in spirit." Jesus' pain comes from his identification with his flawed, sinful, human brothers and sisters, us. He goes all the way to the bottom of it, letting this truth deeply affect him. Jesus does not just love us abstractly or from a distance. He comes close to us. So what’s it got to do with safety?
This groaning of Jesus is the pain of our own imprisonment, not within the tomb but within ourselves. When we risk injury or death by working in an unsafe manner or using unsafe tools, does Jesus groan any less for us? It is the same groan made by our loved ones when we are injured or killed because we committed an unsafe act. "Why did he do that? He knew better!" Bringing this closer, Jesus wept for Lazarus. It is heartbreaking for it is the only time in the Scripture that Jesus is described as weeping. Whatever the result of the unsafe act: be it physical injury, death, psychological trauma or spiritual loss, it is something deeply troubling to our friends, families and to God Himself.
There is another telling moment in the story, when Jesus asks Lazarus’ sister, "Where have you laid him?" Just as Adam and Eve hid from God, so Lazarus is hidden from Jesus, by the depth of his own grief. While sin alienates us from Our Father, making us strangers to Him, the unsafe act alienates us from ourselves and others. We effectively move further away when we create the danger ourselves and in effect, hide it. Closeness comes when refuse to commit the unsafe act. The danger is removed by never having been created.
Finally, Our Lord walks up to the tomb. The stone is rolled aside and he shouts, "Lazarus, come out!" Are there any more stirring words in the whole New Testament? When injury or death occurs due to an unsafe act we committed or failed to stop, we can become locked in the tomb of our own guilt, anxiety, sadness or fear. God, however, gives us a power, a divine power, sent into this world. A power whose very purpose is to break the stones, deny the tomb. . . to save a life. We can say, “Lazarus, STOP, let me hold that ladder for you buddy; hey turn off that weedeater and lets get you some safety glasses; turn that pot handle in so it doesn't get knocked off the stove and burn someone.
"And the dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth." So Jesus said, "Untie him and let him go." Unsafe acts bind us and blind us. When we choose to work safe, our work brings us closer to God.
Sitting in a rocker at the Old Place, I am Col. Jim.