Miracles: The Lazarus Key

“The Lazarus Key”
August Ministry Theme: Miracles
by Marlene J. Geary
Chair, Sunday Services Committee
Unitarian Universalist Society: East, Manchester, CT

Years ago I was talking to my friend Mary from Louisville. She happened to slip the phrase “Lazarus key” into a sentence and I stopped her with “wait, what?” I knew she wasn’t talking about islands off the coast of Florida.

“Lazarus,” she said. She was referring to the Christian story where Jesus called forth Lazarus from the cave where his (presumably) dead body had been prepared for eternal rest. Lazarus heard Jesus and came out of the cave looking none the worse for wear but probably quite hungry. Christians have longed called this raising of Lazarus from death one of the miracles of Jesus.

Mary explained that a Lazarus key in your life was something that brought you back, got you unstuck, made you alive again. A Lazarus key was a catalyst miracle – small or otherwise – that moved you along, usually in some kind of personal quantum leap.

Have you ever experienced that moment in time when you felt your world pivot and transform itself? That’s a Lazarus key. Some piece of information, some action, some connection that triggered a movement within akin to transformation.

Or maybe you reached finally reached the top of a mountain you’d been climbing or the road you’d been running and felt the physical realization that you were changed forever. You found a Lazarus key: you could see with new eyes; your body felt new; you felt wholly and completely alive.

Perhaps it was simple: the touch of a kitten’s paw, the gurgle of a baby’s laugh. Maybe it was the first time you read Thoreau or the experienced the wonder of your favorite music. It could have been the moment you realized you didn’t have to ever go back from where you came. Possibly it was the moment when you awoke from a coma or you crossed that marathon finish line.

Some call these moments of catalytic life-change, these Lazarus keys, miracles.

How would you define a miracle? Is it possible for a Unitarian Universalist to celebrate miracles? Can something be a miracle if it is not related to religion? Have you ever experienced something that you would call a miracle?


by Marlene J. Geary
Chair, Sunday Services Committee
Unitarian Universalist Society: East
Manchester, CT, USA

How do Unitarian Universalists pray? How do Unitarian Universalists engage in spiritual prac­tice? Some questions to consider for this month:

As a person of a liberal religious faith, how do you practice your faith in private? Do you have any personal religious rituals?

In the book Simply Pray, Erik Walker Wikstrom describes four elements of prayer: nam­ing, knowing, listening and loving. Does this reso­nate with your own conceptions about prayer? Prayer is deeply rooted in our personal beliefs. It’s often so personal that we have no idea what our closest friends and family believe about prayer or how they engage in prayer. Prayer can be both individual and communal.

Let’s open up that discussion. What does prayer mean to us as Unitarian Universalists? As a part of a liberal religious community? What does prayer mean during a service? Does prayer re­quire a deity to be involved? What are humanist forms of prayer? Where is  the balance between the two? How shall we pray? from Judith Quarles (reprinted with permission)

First, let us be open to the silence. Let us hear the sounds in this room, the noises outside. Let us be­gin to hear the soft beating of our hearts. And let us listen intently for messages from within.

Next, let us feel gratitude for our lives and for our beautiful earth. As hard as life gets, as sad or lonely as we sometimes feel, let us always be warmed by the gifts of this life.

Next, let us hold in our hearts all those, known or unknown who are in need. May we find in our­selves the energy and knowledge to bring care to the world.

Finally, let us be aware of the blessing that it is not ours alone to do the work of the world. Love and community work wonders that we by our­selves could never manage. In this time of silence let us form our own prayers out of the concerns of our hearts.

—Amen, Hallelujah and Blessed Be