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Dear Gulf Coast Leaders,Mike Rinehart

Would you like to visit a friendly megachurch and hear what the pastor has to say?

This Thursday, April 7, 2011

10:00 a.m. at The Ark Church

450 Humble Tank Road

Conroe, TX 77304



Map and directions: http://www.thearkchurch.com/contact/map/

April 10 is Lent 5

Ezekiel 37:1-14 – The Valley of the Dry Bones. I am going to bring you up from your graves, my people.
Psalm 130 – Out of the depths I cry to you.
Romans 8:6-11 – If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
John 11:1-45 – The Raising of Lazarus


Another long gospel reading, with a million sermons that could be preached. This is where we’ve been this Lent:

1. The temptation of Christ

2. John 3 – Nicodemus

3. John 4 – The Woman at the Well

4. John 9 – The Man Born Blind

5. John 11 – The raising of Lazarus

Jesus loves Lazarus and his sister Mary (one of the seven Marys mentioned in the gospels) and sister Martha. They live in Bethany, a suburb of Jerusalem. Some have suggested that Lazarus (not John) was the disciple whom Jesus loved. The story of Mary (sitting the feet of Jesus) and Martha (working) is Luke, not John. But the personalities of the characters in the these stories seem consistent in both gospels: Martha, taking stage center, wracked with grief complains that if Jesus had been on time, none of this would have happened in the first place. The voice of grief.

This is the only place in which this story is recounted. Jesus pushes Martha. "I am the resurrection and the life." This passage is read at most funerals. "Do you believe this?" Martha’s confessional response should be right up there with Peter’s: "Yes Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world." Then something incredible happens.

For a little something different I think I’ll play a bit, telling the story with a little art. This first is from the year 1304, by Giotto di Botone (1267-1337). It’s at the Arena Chapel in Padua:

Raising of Lazarus Giotto
Giotto di Bodone

Nearly 160 years later, Nicolas Fromen (1425-1486) did this piece, below, on wood. It’s part of a triptych. Bodone painted this to keep his father (who had committed usury) out of purgatory.

raising of lazarus froment
Nicolas Froment

Note below, the artist painted himself in the picture. He’s in the upper left. Froment has painted himself into a corner. Notice he’s the only one looking at you.
froment laz closeup

Eerie, how the artist, stares out at us through the portals of time. Lazarus is up in this picture, but he’s not looking so good. Perhaps like the guy in The Mummy. He’s been dead several days. I don’t look so good after a night’s sleep.


Mary and Martha are in the lower left, weeping. People to the outside of the crowd are probably Froment’s contemporaries. One (upper right?) may be his patron.

Note the disciple to Jesus’ left is reading a book. This work is 1461. The printing press was invented in 1450. Interesting that Froment paints people in contemporary outfits, using the new technology of the day. It would be like painting a Raising of Lazarus today and having someone reading from an iPhone.

froment book

I love how the Renaissance artists painted the Bible stories into their day and age: scenery, architecture, clothing. I wish artists did more of this today. Our desire to portray things as closely as possible in their original context is good, but we’ve also lost something: imagining these things in our day and age.

Here’s one by Dutch artist Geertgen tot Sint Jans. It’s a Northern Renaissance classic. He painted this when he was 20 years old, around 1480. It’s been in the Louvre for over 100 years. Note Mary and Martha to the lower right, and the Pharisees at the upper left.

geerten lazarus
Geertgen tot Sint Jans

Looking at this close up reveals quite a few peculiarities. What’s that above Mary’s head? You won’t be able to make it out in this email. You can find and view as closely as you wish, all of these pieces of art simply by typing the artist’s last name and laraus into Google Images. It is fun to show them on a large screen in powerpoint at an adult ed forum. Here’s Geerten up close. It’s public domain: http://www.backtoclassics.com/gallery/geertgentotsintjans/theraisingoflazarus/

This next one is by Benozzo Gozzoli (ca. 1497). Luther was 14 when this was painted. Gozzoli died shortly after painting it. He also painted himself into one of of his works, but not this one (see Procession of the Magi). Besides having a totally cool name, Gozzoli painted a LOT of Bible passages. Looka t the little people in the lower left. This is a curiosity of Renaissance art I’ve never fully understood. Mary and Martha are on the lower left. The disciples have halos

gozzoli lazarus
Benozzo Gozzoli

I have to admit, one of the things that bothers me most is the fact that Jesus in these depictions seems so emotionless. It strikes me that one of the important parts of this passage is the fact that Jesus wept. A very divine Jesus in John’s high christology still weeps at the death of Lazarus. Our hope of the resurrection does not exepmt us from deep feelings of grief.

This next is a Caravaggio from 1609. His use of light is incredible. The light emerges from somewhere behind Jesus. The new Baroque (1600-1750) realism.

caravaggio lazaurs

Note that the light picks up the detail of Jesus’ hand, which looks conspicuously like Michelangelo’s hand of God, for obvious reasons.


Or is he trying to make it look Adam’s hand? Probably not. God’s right hand. Adam’s left. In either case, it appears Lazarus is not so sure about wanting to return to this earthly life, as his hand seems to be up in protest.

This Rembrandt is from 1630. Finally, a little emotion on Jesus’ face.


Jean-Baptiste Jouvenet’s Raising of Lazarus (1706) is rather busy. Everyone seems to be shocked, even Jesus.

jouvenet lazarus
Jean-Baptiste Jouvenet

The Lazarus Raising by Gustav Dore (1865) is part of a long series of Dore’s work on John’s gospel: http://catholic-resources.org/Art/Dore-John.htm. It’s black and white, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out where the light is coming from.

dore lazarus
Gustav Dore

Van Gogh (1890) starts getting a bit abstract:

van gogh Lazarus
Van Gogh

But nothing beats the 20th century for abstract. This piece by William Congdon was produced in 1961:

Congdon Lazarus
William Congdon

The punch line of this story has to be "I am the resurrection…" This is a great stopover for us too, on our way to Jerusalem. Jesus is "deeply moved in spirit and troubled" (verse 33). The grave from which Lazarus is raised is the grave which Jesus must face. It is the grave to which we too will one day go. This story witnesses to a mystery, a reality beyond what we know in this life. It is a gospel of hope.

Be at peace with God and with one another,

Michael Rinehart, Bishop




Ash Wednesday for all ages
Ash Wednesday for all ages. Photo at Tree of Life, Conroe

Congregational Reports due February 15

Rostered Leader Reports due February 15

Health Assessment due April 15

ISRAEL TRIP will be led by Pastor Steve Quill October 10-19, 2011. The trip will include Christmas Lutheran in Bethlehem and Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem. Brochure. Registration.

Prayer List

Lectionary Readings


April 14-30 – Synod delegation to the Evangelial Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic

Thursday, April 28 – Pete Steinke to speak at Metro Houston Ministerium (MHM). 11:45-1:15 at Christ the King, Houston. (MHM includes the four Houston ministriums: Central, North, West and Southeast).

May 20-22 – Synod Assembly

June 24-July 3 –– Peru Trip to congregation in Huacho, and Rainforest

June 26-30 – Disciple Project at Texas Lutheran University

July 21-30 – Intergenerational Peru Trip, including Machu Picchu

August 14-20 – Churchwide Assembly

Leadership Gatherings (Saturday only this year):
August 6 – Houston
August 13 – Brenham
August 27 – New Orleans

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