Sunday, March 29, 2020
Fifth Sunday in Lent
In today’s gospel Jesus reveals his power over death by raising Lazarus from the dead. The prophet Ezekiel prophesies God breathing new life into dry bones. To those in exile or living in the shadows of death, these stories proclaim God’s promise of resurrection. In baptism we die with Christ that we might also be raised with him to new life. At the Easter Vigil we will welcome the newly baptized as we remember God’s unfailing promise in our baptism.
Readings and Psalm
Ezekiel 37:1-14 The dry bones of Israel brought to life
Psalm 130 I wait for you, O Lord; in your word is my hope. (Ps. 130:5)
Romans 8:6-11 Life in the Spirit
John 11:1-45 Baptismal image: the raising of Lazarus
This Sunday’s gospel from John relates the story of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead. The story is a prolog of what is to come in Jesus own resurrection with this one caveat: Lazarus will still undergo a final death whereas Jesus triumph over death is permanent. However we would do well to look deep into the Old Testament reading from the prophet Ezekiel.
Ezekiel writes in the midst of the Babylonian captivity that devastates the city of Jerusalem and sends the majority of people into slavery. It is in Babylon that Ezekiel writes his reflections and prophesies and where we find the familiar story of the valley of dead bones. He sees this vision as the reality of what has happened to the people of Judah In this vision Ezekiel he encounters God who asks him; ‘Shall these bones live?’ This question contradicts the current belief that dry bones indicate the final triumph of death: life is no longer possible. And then the drama begins.
There now starts the rebuilding of life from lifeless bones.(Does anyone remember the song from the past – Dry Bones?) Slowly, sinews and flesh encompass the bones until a full body appears and yet there is no life. It is here that God calls to the four winds to breathe (ruah, the spirit in Hebrew) and life is restored. Life is not only restored but multiplies into a new generation that will ultimately return to Jerusalem.
As we turn to the gospel and Jesus goes to the tomb of Lazarus we read that Jesus’ spirit is greatly disturbed and he weeps openly. Does death ultimately lead Lazarus and all humanity into the valley of dry bones? His loud shout of Lazarus come forth is a command that contradicts the triumph of death and prefigures his ultimate resurrection and calls to mind his previous words; “I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly”.
We are currently living in what may seem like a valley of dry bones, like the disciples living in fear behind locked doors. In our hearts we ask like the those held captive in Babylon – how long Lord, how long? The number of those infected rise every day and the death toll mounts.
Yet the voice of God through this Sunday’s readings refuses to be silent. It invites us to look even deeper of what exists deep in life’s embrace. Perhaps one might google the English poet John Donne and read his work -Death be not proud. I remember reading it in high school. In this brief sonnet Donne condenses Christian theology and presents to the reader a way to ponder the great mystery of life itself.
It may seem at the moment that we are living through countless Good Fridays. Like the disciples at the arrest of Jesus we are scattered. Nevertheless, we already know what happened on that third day and we hold fast to it. It becomes our life boat on a current turbulent sea. It gives us the courage to pray as such: come Holy Spirit and enlighten your faithful people. Enkindle in us the fire of your love and we shall be RE-CREATED and you will renew the face of the earth.
Sending to you the peace of Christ.
Sunday, March 22, 2020; Fourth Sunday in Lent
Readings and Psalm
1 Samuel 16:1-13 David is chosen and anointed
Psalm 23 You anoint my head with oil. (Ps. 23:5)
Ephesians 5:8-14 Awake from sleep, live as children of light
John 9:1-41 Baptismal image: the man born blind
Pastor Fred Marcoux on Sunday:
It is 5:30am. Out to the kitchen and start the coffee, sun is up, feed the cat. Turn on TV at 6:00 for the news – almost 800 died in Italy just yesterday. Listen to the pros and cons of congress debating financial relief. I used to be a small business owner and I am wondering how long any small business can survive for long and remembering that the employees can file for unemployment benefits but the owners cannot. Now it’s 8:30am, time to bring coffee to Lesley, remove nighttime compression stockings and get breakfast for both of us.
The clock says 9:00am. By now I am usually getting ready to head for church but today I have nowhere to go. Get second mug of coffee and watch more news. Congress is proposing a two, yes two, billion dollar bailout for those in need and at the same time I hear that the entire state of Connecticut is in lock down.
After thirty-five years in ministry, never would I have thought that I would spent a Sunday morning like this. It is now 10:00am. I should be welcoming everyone to worship and leading in confession and forgiveness, hearing Rich start the opening hymn, seeing the assisting minister process with the cross in hand.
How true it is that we never fully realize those things we love in life until they are taken away: a psalm sung responsively, unison voices reciting the Lord’s Prayer, hands open to receive the bread of life, offering each other the sign of peace without fear.
Sooner or later, we will gather again. But in the meantime, the one good thing that I can see and understand out of this fear and chaos is the deeper realization of how all of these ‘ordinary’ events of Sunday morning are so incredibly beautiful, and how much I miss sharing it.
The peace of Christ be with you.
Sunday, March 15, 2020; Third Sunday in Lent
Readings and Psalm
Exodus 17:1-7 Water from the rock in the wilderness
Psalm 95 Let us shout for joy to the rock of our salvation. (Ps. 95:1)
Romans 5:1-11 Reconciled to God by Christ’s death
John 4:5-42 Baptismal image: the woman at the well
Pastor Fred Marcoux:
This past Sunday’s Gospel from John recounts Jesus traveling through Samaria on his way to Galilee. In thirst, he stops at a well to drink and encounters a Samaritan woman and asks her for a drink. We who live in this century can easily overlook the drama of this encounter.
It is well know at that time that Jews and Samaritans saw each other as enemies even though they shared the lineage of those who escaped slavery in Egypt. But why was this so?
By the time of 1000BC, there was a division between the north and south kingdoms. The southern kingdom held only two original tribes whereas the northern kingdom had the balance of the ten original tribes. By this time, the northern kingdom had started intermarriage with gentile inhabitants and were seen by those of the southern kingdom as having violated the command of God, even to the point of calling them half-breeds.
As time went on, enmity continued to grow to the point that even sharing a cup between the two was seen as an unclean act. In 700BC, the Assyrians swept down and all but destroyed the northern kingdom. From that point on, the people of the northern kingdom would no longer be called Israelites but Samaritans.
Thus Jesus’ encounter was seen as a violation of all the people of the southern kingdom (now known as Judea). Not just because he encountered a Samaritan, but that she was a woman alone – another violation of protocol.
In this Gospel text, John – who places great emphasis on the power of the Spirit – appeals to the reader through the words of Jesus, that the Holy Spirit has the power to supersede man-made divisions. Later in John’s Gospel, we hear Jesus’ great prayer to the Father in these words: “that they all may be one”.
History records the destructive power of division throughout the ages: the schism between eastern and western Christianity, the Reformation, the Islam division between Sunnis and Shiites and even in our own time between northern and southern Ireland. Nevertheless, the desire of the Holy Spirit will never change. It behooves us all to deep introspection of what divides us from each other, either world-wide or even within our families and invites to pray in this way:
Come Holy spirit and enlighten the minds of your faithful people
En-kindle in us the fire of your love
and we shall be recreated and you will renew the face of the earth.
Oh God, you have always taught your faithful people
through the light of the holy Spirit.
Grant that we may be truly wise and ever rejoice
in the conciliation which we have received
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Pastor Fred Marcoux
St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church