An episode back on the podcast, Ges and I discussed miracles both Gospel and modern and whether we think they were “real” or REAL. And I think the “resurrection” miracles are kind of in between the general healing miracles (which totally happened, o ye of little faith) and the BIG ONE – Jesus’ resurrection. This Sunday’s Gospel is the raising of Lazarus. We mentioned how much we loved the imaginative take on this famous miracle in Christopher Moore’s Lamb. If you’re not reading along yet, this excerpt should motivate you to pick up a copy (or send you running back to the safety of the real deal Gospels…) Here it is, kills me every time:
“Come out, Simon Lazarus, come out into the light.” Nothing but stench came out of the tomb.
“Come forth, Simon. Come out of that tomb,” Joshua commanded.
And absolutely nothing happened.
“Simon, dammit, come out of there.”
And ever so weakly, there came a voice from inside the tomb. “No.”
“What do you mean, ‘no’? You have risen from the dead, now come forth. Show these unbelievers that you have risen.”
“I believe,” I said.
“Convinced me,” said Matthew.
“A no is as good as a personal appearance, as far as I’m concerned,” said Joseph of Arimathea.
I’m not sure any of us who had smelled the stench of rotting flesh really wanted to see the source. Even Maggie and Martha seemed a little dubious about their brother’s coming out.
Dizzy note here – Jesus is the Greek translation of the Aramaic name, Yeshua, which comes from the Hebrew name Yehoshua which in English we call “Joshua”. In Lamb, Jesus is “Josh/Joshua”. Also like Church Drunk, Joshua in Lamb sometimes cusses a little. Unlike us, he is neither Catholic nor heretical. The character of Biff may be a more accurate representation of our, ahem, “charism”.
“Simon, get your leprous ass out here,” Joshua commanded.
“But I’m…I’m all icky.”
“We’ve all seen icky before,” said Joshua. “Now come out into the light.”
“My skin is all green, like an unripe olive.”
“Olive green!” declared Crustus, who had followed us into Kidron. “I told you it wasn’t chartreuse.”
“What the hell does he know? He’s dead,” said Abel.
Finally Joshua lowered his arms and stormed into the tomb. “I can’t believe that you bring a guy back from the dead and he doesn’t even have the courtesy to come out – WHOA! HOLY MOLY!” Joshua came backing out of the tomb, stiff-legged. Very calmly and quietly, he said, “We need clean clothes, and some water to wash with, and bandages, lots of bandages. I can heal him, but we have to sort of get all of his parts stuck back together first.”
“Hold on, Simon,” Joshua shouted to the tomb, “we’re getting some supplies, then I’ll come in and heal your affliction.”
“What affliction?” asked Simon.
Lent is if nothing else, a season to reflect upon our own “ickiness” and this story though funny and silly reminds me of how often we refuse to come out and engage with those around us, with Jesus who is calling us, because we are icky and our problems consume us. If you too, can find the holy inspiration in such humor and imaginative storytelling, you should make haste to your own copy of Lamb and get reading. We’ll be following up on some of our favorite parts and hoping to hear some of yours too!