Sermon

Sermon for Lent 5 (March 29, 2020) — The Rev. David Rider

By April 2, 2020April 29th, 2020No Comments

Way back in the day, in a very different era—Ash Wednesday, to be precise—we had no idea that this Lenten journey would be so different from all the rest

We imposed ashes as a reminder of our common mortality, and any deeper reflection would have reminded us of Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness and Jesus’ 40 days of desert

Way back on Ash Wednesday, we might have anticipated a slowing down of life, extra time to reflect on God’s goodness, and perhaps giving up some wild-living practice for a time

But holy moly!

Our Lenten journey quickly veered down the Corona road, stripping us more radically from life’s luxuries and forcing us to name what is most important while shedding that which is not

No one wants a pandemic, yet it’s arriving in Lent give us additional food for thought and prayer

Like the Israelites in diaspora centuries ago, we now live amid social distance, scattered away from our daily routines and in-person friendships

Though we zoom through the day, we now know we can get by without Starbucks

We now know that we depend on the kindness of family, loved ones and strangers regardless of our Coronavirus status

More than ever, we give thanks for the quiet heroism of nurses and doctors who put their own safety materially at risk to serve others

We live into an unknown future a bit more anxiously—‘taking our temperature’ no longer serves as metaphor—even as we celebrate human resilience, even as we pray with more focus, even as we trust more fully in God’s abiding presence in our lives

In Lent, we walk and watch with Jesus—especially this year, we thank God that Jesus is walking and watching with us, too

Our daily rhythms have been stripped down more than we anticipated on Ash Wednesday, yet we embrace a faith that has been nurtured by centuries of living in a strange new land

On this Fifth Sunday of Lent, we encounter what I believe to be the most powerful Gospel story this side of Holy Week

Four actors—Martha, Mary, Jesus and Lazarus—live out a powerfully intimate story filled with foreboding, anxiety, death, passion, prayer and transformation like none other—think what our St Michael’s theater troupe could do with it when we get back together

The Lazarus encounter comes only in John’s Gospel, we know little of their backstory beyond mutual friendship, and we encounter a quirky sense of timing as Jesus waits two days before responding to a pastoral emergency

Jesus returns to Bethany—a place where he nearly was stoned to death at the outset of his ministry—to seek out and heal his mortally ill friend, Lazarus

Upon his arrival, Jesus encounters Martha first, then Mary, each sister chastising Jesus gently in her grief while putting her trust in his presence

Lest we miss the gritty nuance, Martha tells Jesus that Lazarus has been buried for four days

Although Jesus had a plan before encountering the sisters, their stressed-out humanity mixes with his own deep humanity as they experience the full depth of human sorrow

For the first time in Scripture, Jesus cries aloud with full human anguish

Then we witness the amazing encounter in which Jesus engages Lazarus with his unique blend of humanity and divinity

Not a time for nuance or subtlety, Jesus shouts with full human pathos—the veins in his throat no doubt throbbing and his eyes bulging from their sockets—Jesus shouts Lazarus from death to new life and human transformation

Unbind Lazarus—and, by extension, unbind you and me—from the shroud of fear and death so that we might experience vibrant life in the presence of God once again

In Jesus, fear and trembling yield to trust and joy even amid the most challenging circumstances of our life

Even more than last Sunday’s decidedly pre-COVID-19 story of Jesus’ spitting in the mud and rubbing it in the blind man’s eyes, the raising of Lazarus serves as Jesus’ most powerful healing story in Scripture

With palpable irony, it also serves as the segue to Holy Week, the final straw by which the religious authorities lost patience with Jesus.

Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead facilitates his own arrest and eventual crucifixion

Of course, it also serves as premonition for the joy of Easter, now just beyond the horizon

At the outset, I called the Lazarus encounter the most powerful story this side of Holy Week, yet as a 21st century pilgrim, I confess a small waft of frustration

I yearn for a trailer interview or a TED Talk with Lazarus to know how he lived his life once unbound

Did he change his work/life balance?

Did he spend more time with Martha and Mary?

Did he give back to Bethany in a new and generous way?

Could Lazarus’ unbound story serve as inspiration for you and me?

How did he manage his unique burden of preparing for death not once but twice?

As you and I continue to self-isolate and walk with Jesus down the Corona road, I pray that we, too, can be unbound from shroud of anxiety and fear

Even as our Lent has become a bit more austere than most, I invite you to see God’s hand at work in your stressed or perhaps too-quiet apartment

If you are home-schooling children and living in too-close quarters, I invite you to light a candle late at night, take a few deep breaths, and pray to our God who has known our highest joy and deepest despair in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ

Trust that the God who brought life out of death in Lazarus can bring the peace that passes all understanding into your life and mine, even in the midst of our self-quarantine

As we begin to turn the corner from Lent into Holy Week, I invite you to pray or read Scripture as we prepare to walk and watch with Jesus, in full confidence that Christ now walks and watches with us

May God continue to bless us and unbind us from disease, anxiety and fear that we may continue to serve as agile beacons of light, hope and service in this beautiful, challenging, wonderful world

Amen.

Way back in the day, in a very different era—Ash Wednesday, to be precise—we had no idea that this Lenten journey would be so different from all the rest

We imposed ashes as a reminder of our common mortality, and any deeper reflection would have reminded us of Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness and Jesus’ 40 days of desert

Way back on Ash Wednesday, we might have anticipated a slowing down of life, extra time to reflect on God’s goodness, and perhaps giving up some wild-living practice for a time

But holy moly!

Our Lenten journey quickly veered down the Corona road, stripping us more radically from life’s luxuries and forcing us to name what is most important while shedding that which is not

No one wants a pandemic, yet it’s arriving in Lent give us additional food for thought and prayer

Like the Israelites in diaspora centuries ago, we now live amid social distance, scattered away from our daily routines and in-person friendships

Though we zoom through the day, we now know we can get by without Starbucks

We now know that we depend on the kindness of family, loved ones and strangers regardless of our Coronavirus status

More than ever, we give thanks for the quiet heroism of nurses and doctors who put their own safety materially at risk to serve others

We live into an unknown future a bit more anxiously—‘taking our temperature’ no longer serves as metaphor—even as we celebrate human resilience, even as we pray with more focus, even as we trust more fully in God’s abiding presence in our lives

In Lent, we walk and watch with Jesus—especially this year, we thank God that Jesus is walking and watching with us, too

Our daily rhythms have been stripped down more than we anticipated on Ash Wednesday, yet we embrace a faith that has been nurtured by centuries of living in a strange new land

On this Fifth Sunday of Lent, we encounter what I believe to be the most powerful Gospel story this side of Holy Week

Four actors—Martha, Mary, Jesus and Lazarus—live out a powerfully intimate story filled with foreboding, anxiety, death, passion, prayer and transformation like none other—think what our St Michael’s theater troupe could do with it when we get back together

The Lazarus encounter comes only in John’s Gospel, we know little of their backstory beyond mutual friendship, and we encounter a quirky sense of timing as Jesus waits two days before responding to a pastoral emergency

Jesus returns to Bethany—a place where he nearly was stoned to death at the outset of his ministry—to seek out and heal his mortally ill friend, Lazarus

Upon his arrival, Jesus encounters Martha first, then Mary, each sister chastising Jesus gently in her grief while putting her trust in his presence

Lest we miss the gritty nuance, Martha tells Jesus that Lazarus has been buried for four days

Although Jesus had a plan before encountering the sisters, their stressed-out humanity mixes with his own deep humanity as they experience the full depth of human sorrow

For the first time in Scripture, Jesus cries aloud with full human anguish

Then we witness the amazing encounter in which Jesus engages Lazarus with his unique blend of humanity and divinity

Not a time for nuance or subtlety, Jesus shouts with full human pathos—the veins in his throat no doubt throbbing and his eyes bulging from their sockets—Jesus shouts Lazarus from death to new life and human transformation

Unbind Lazarus—and, by extension, unbind you and me—from the shroud of fear and death so that we might experience vibrant life in the presence of God once again

In Jesus, fear and trembling yield to trust and joy even amid the most challenging circumstances of our life

Even more than last Sunday’s decidedly pre-COVID-19 story of Jesus’ spitting in the mud and rubbing it in the blind man’s eyes, the raising of Lazarus serves as Jesus’ most powerful healing story in Scripture

With palpable irony, it also serves as the segue to Holy Week, the final straw by which the religious authorities lost patience with Jesus.

Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead facilitates his own arrest and eventual crucifixion

Of course, it also serves as premonition for the joy of Easter, now just beyond the horizon

At the outset, I called the Lazarus encounter the most powerful story this side of Holy Week, yet as a 21st century pilgrim, I confess a small waft of frustration

I yearn for a trailer interview or a TED Talk with Lazarus to know how he lived his life once unbound

Did he change his work/life balance?

Did he spend more time with Martha and Mary?

Did he give back to Bethany in a new and generous way?

Could Lazarus’ unbound story serve as inspiration for you and me?

How did he manage his unique burden of preparing for death not once but twice?

As you and I continue to self-isolate and walk with Jesus down the Corona road, I pray that we, too, can be unbound from shroud of anxiety and fear

Even as our Lent has become a bit more austere than most, I invite you to see God’s hand at work in your stressed or perhaps too-quiet apartment

If you are home-schooling children and living in too-close quarters, I invite you to light a candle late at night, take a few deep breaths, and pray to our God who has known our highest joy and deepest despair in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ

Trust that the God who brought life out of death in Lazarus can bring the peace that passes all understanding into your life and mine, even in the midst of our self-quarantine

As we begin to turn the corner from Lent into Holy Week, I invite you to pray or read Scripture as we prepare to walk and watch with Jesus, in full confidence that Christ now walks and watches with us

May God continue to bless us and unbind us from disease, anxiety and fear that we may continue to serve as agile beacons of light, hope and service in this beautiful, challenging, wonderful world

Amen.

 

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