Sermons

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A

    Mar 29, 2020

    Passage:Ezekiel 37:1-14

    Preacher: The Rev. Jo Roberts Craig

    Series: Lent

    Detail:

     

    The Collect for the Fifth Sunday in Lent prepares us for the lessons that we have heard and for our current situation of disease and confinement

     

    The collect says: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise ….that our hearts may surely be fixed where true joys are found…

     

    Give us the grace which is God’s unmerited , free, spontaneous love revealed and made effective in Jesus Christ…the grace to love and desire what you, God, command

     

    We see that first in the Old Testament lesson …Ezekiel who was a member of the Jewish population  carried captive in 598 BCE by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon

     

    In all probability Ezekiel was either being trained for the priesthood or had already taken the robes of his office

     

    It was a torturous trek to Mesopotamia where the people were settled and where they tried to eke out a way of life

     

    Certain that the God of Israel was territorial and that once they left the boundaries of Israel, they were totally alone…without God

     

    They truly were desolate…separated from the land, the people, the God that they loved…

     

    The people were certain that life was without grace or mercy or hope

     

    Then Ezekiel standing by the River Chebar with the other exiles, watches as the heavens opened, as the wind swirls around them, and the rain pours down

     

    And in the midst of the storm, God revealed God self to Ezekiel

     

    Wheel upon wheel…in all directions…splendor and majesty and beauty beyond description…

     

    The Divine Presence of God recognized no terrestrial boundaries; no barriers; GOD WAS ON THE MOVE

     

    God was with them…

     

    And as Ezekiel and God walked together in this exile, Ezekiel is promised by God that the people will indeed return from exile…

     

    Israel will again be filled with Jewish people as during the times of High Holy Days…but how?

     

    On a deserted plain filled with dried bones from a defeated army…an army that could not bury its dead

     

    God’s infinite grace is revealed

     

    Ezekiel who could not imagine a population of Jews rising up and returning home…Ezekiel who was certain that his Jewish brothers and sisters were lost forever was asked this question:

     

    “Mortal, can these bones live?” And I can imagine Ezekiel saying to himself, if not to God,

     

    “ Really no!” Of course not! They are long dead and have been scattered by scavengers and the earthly elements!

     

    And there was a great rattling…sinew, flesh, skin, breath…life

     

    In the most gracious of ways, God gives Ezekiel a vision of grace…God gives Ezekiel hope…God shows Ezekiel life…

     

    That free spontaneous love of God…God knows no boundaries; God brings life where humans see death; God is indeed in the business of life giving gifts

     

    And as if we didn’t get it the first time, the lectionary folks bring us to the story out of the Gospel of John of resurrection and life where no one expects it

     

    John tells us from the very beginning of the Gospel that what has come into being in Jesus was life and the light was the light of all people

     

    Full Full Full of grace and truth …

     

    From His fullness we have all received grace upon grace…

     

    Yes, Yes, we know that but we are talking about a dead man…Lazarus has been sick; Jesus was summoned; Jesus waited two days; and Lazarus died

     

    Now Lazarus has been dead for four days; Mary and Martha and Lazarus’ home is in Bethany only a few miles from Jerusalem and Jerusalem is the place where the temple authorities live…the very ones who are looking to destroy Jesus…

     

    What a hot mess…

     

    Jesus, however, appears to have the clear intention of going to Bethany and raising Lazarus from the dead…

     

    His response to the sisters, the onlookers, the disciples:

    “ Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the Glory of God?’

     

    How is it that we can read of Ezekiel and read of the glory of God in John and forget?

     

    Forget that Grace upon Grace is promised to each of us…

     

    It is as though we are Martha and telling the Christ that we believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God…but I have real trouble; real problems

     

    Problems that may be outside God’s Grace and Mercy…

     

    How arrogant we can be …When the world folds in on us…we struggle to believe in the vision of Ezekiel; we strain to believe that Lazarus rose from the dead…

     

    We forget that Grace, mercy, and life are given to us by the very source of life

     

    Our current situation with Covid19 brings isolation and in isolation, we suffer from all sorts of maladies

     

    We are afraid, lonely, stretched beyond our capacities…

     

    Our children are living different lives; our medical staffs are exhausted; our income in so many cases has ceased; and on and on

     

    Each of us has our own losses…

     

    Yet, God is in middle of us…Grace abounds

     

    Grace abounds…people are reaching out in ways that we could not imagine a month ago

     

    We are praying and celebrating together in new ways that feed and delight us

     

    We are staying in touch with one another through prayer, phone calls, the internet…

     

    Our imaginations are running at top speed and folks are inventing; repurposing; learning; delighting in their imaginative results

     

    We are here…NOW

     

    Ezekiel was living in a foreign land: Lazarus was dead and his sisters heartbroken; the disciples had traveled to Bethany expecting to die

     

    And the rain began and the Lord God revealed God’s self to Ezekiel and Jesus told them to roll away the stone and Lazarus came forth…

     

    God’s grace and mercy cannot be beaten by geographical boundaries; God’s Grace and Mercy cannot be beaten by death; and God grace and mercy cannot be beaten by the Covid19 virus or anything in heaven and on earth

     

    We are God’s people…

     

    Amen

     

    References:

    The New Oxford Annotated Bible ; New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha

    Michael D. Coogan, Editor

    Oxford University Press

     

     

    The Old Testament Story

    By: Don C. Benjamin

    Augsburg Press, 2004

     

     

    The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Volume K-Q

    Abingdon Press, 1962