Lenten season

FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT / 03-29-2020

FIRST READING:  Ezekiel 37:1-14   [Dry bones revived – a matter of life and breath!]
The prophet Ezekiel has a vision – it is of a valley of dry bones – that represents the nation of Israel, defeated and in exile in Babylon, without much hope for the future. But the spirit or breath of God will bring restoration of new life to the people, a physical return to their homeland, and renewal of humble faith and trust in God. What does this lesson say about a God who seeks life for us, even when we may not seek it for ourselves? Might you call upon God to breathe upon you when you are feeling dry, defeated, disconnected, and in despair? And, in your more faithful moments, how might you show the courage of a prophet to speak God’s word of life to “dry bones” in the face of lies and discouragement and a world that has turned away from God?

PSALM:  Psalm 130   [“I wait for you, O Lord; in your word is my hope.”]
So many Psalms speak of being overwhelmed and of crying “out of the depths” as if one is desperately trying to escape being drowned. What kind of pain must you be experiencing before you cry out for help? Whether it’s a broken relationship, a health crisis, or an impossible financial situation, we all know what it is like to be overwhelmed. But the psalmist celebrates that, in the honest confession of one’s humanity and failure and sin along life’s journey… in the patient and prayerful humility before God… God’s tender and strong love will be revealed and received.

SECOND READING:  Romans 8:6-11   [Daily living that is alive – Spirit over flesh!]
Paul writes about two distinct mindsets in life: life in the Spirit and life in the flesh. In our own time, as well as his own, there is a strong temptation to do whatever feels naturally good to us. This is life in the flesh, and it always leads to sin and death, despair and destruction. It separates us from God. By contrast, living out of a mind-set gifted and guided by the Spirit brings real-life, peace, and hope. Which mindset guides your own steps in your life’s journey? What signs confirm that the Spirit of God dwells in you, that Christ is in you?

GOSPEL READING:   John 11:1-44 [Dead that doesn’t keep and grief that doesn’t stay-the power of Christ!]
Jesus is moved to sorrow when his friend Lazarus dies of an illness. Then, unexpectedly and miraculously, he calls his friend out of the tomb and restores him to life. If we read beyond today’s verses to the end of the chapter, we will note the irony that life for Lazarus seemed to mean death for Jesus.

A BRIEF MEDITATION
How foolish this must have looked. Ezekiel, the prophet of the Lord, standing in the middle of a pile of dead bones bleached by the sun and scraped by the vultures and scattered over the land, is telling them not to give up hope. Or Jesus, standing outside the tomb of a friend long dead for four days, is calling into the stinking rotting, wrapped-up corpse to hop on out of there. Can the dead live again? Can dead situations be redeemed and can hopelessly wasted lives be salvaged? Both Ezekiel and Lazarus would say that the answer is YES! What might your answer be? Why become comfortable and settle for death when you still have a breath? Why wait to die for resurrection and new life to be unbound? Especially in these coronavirus days that feel like death, when life is so full of turmoil by unforeseen events when faith can’t catch a breath in the midst all of the chaos, God in Christ Jesus can breathe life into dry bones and bring peace, power, and promise. May you believe and be surprised by life after death! May you believe and be surprised by healing and second chances! Even in the valley of COVID-19 and the tombs of social distancing and quarantine, may you believe and be surprised by God’s mercy, grace, and love! In truth, we die many ways before our final breath. And each time we feel dry and brittle in valleys of despair… or lifeless and decaying in shadowy tombs of death… the breath of God fills us, the word of God assures us, the Son of God offers us resurrection and life. This Lent may you be restored to the land of the living and find hope in the life to come.

 

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2024
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