Fifth Sunday of Lent

Today as we are still worshiping in our homes, practicing healthy social distancing (I hope) and still acutely aware that our brave doctors, nurses and first responders, as well as those who are stocking shelves, delivering food and keeping us supplied with necessities are all heroes who we truly appreciate and continue in our prayers. We will update everyone as to plans about resuming public worship.

Once again, I am amazed that the Lectionary is relevant even though it was designed by worship planners years ago. The readings today focus on hope being not only a life and death matter; hope is a life in death matter. Hope finds its greatest challenge, and shines its greatest light, when life stands in the face of death and affirms that God remains trustworthy.

Ezekiel (37:1-14) is called to prophesy such hope in a valley of dried bones and lost dreams. In the reading God spoke, asking “Can these bones live?” Ezekiel responded, “O Lord GOD, you know.” The old prophet knew that anything is possible with God. Israel’s bones had dried up. That had happened during the Babylonian exile. Like God’s people of old we (the church) can die or just dry up (with the same old same old) and be like lifeless dried bones but with Gods help (via the Holy Spirit) we can have new life breathed into us and we can come alive to worship and serve the one who has called us.

The psalmist (Ps 130) proclaims hope from the depths, as one who waits for the gift of a morning yet to dawn.

In the letter to the Romans (8:1-11) we are invited to grasp a life sustaining hope in the midst of death itself knowing that being in Christ (filled with His spirit) we enjoy peace for today and hope for eternity,

The gospel lesson from John (11:1-45) recounts the raising of Lazarus. Mary and Martha had found hope in their friend Jesus but had lost all hope when he didn’t come heal their brother as soon as they had sent for him. There are confusion and anguish and even anger toward Jesus on the part of Mary and Martha. When Martha first goes to meet Jesus on his return, Mary stays at home to be with the friends. When Mary quietly leaves to see Jesus, the friends follow her, thinking she has gone to the cemetery to weep there. When Jesus stands crying at the tomb, (vv11:35 “Jesus wept,” the shortest verse in the Bible) the bystanders murmur softly, “See how he loved him.” The lesson of the story for Mary and Martha (as us as well) is when Jesus comes hope is restored as He calls Lazarus back to life.

When we look carefully at this miracle, we see that it is meant to convince people not that Lazarus came back from the grave—although he did—but that Jesus had come from God. Look at the prayer of Jesus just before he called Lazarus out (vv.41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”). The raising of Lazarus is a sign pointing to the resurrection of Jesus and our hope today and for eternity.

Lection for Palm/ Passion Sunday, April 5, 2020
Matt 21:1-11; Ps 118:1-2,19-22; Phil 2:5-11; Matt 27:11-54