Is today the day? – Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion (A)

Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion
Lectionary: 37 and 38

There is so much here, in this Passion narrative. More than I could ever hope to plumb the depths of, or even begin to explore. Today, however, there is one thing that struck me afresh.

Would the disciples have slept if they’d known that the time of Jesus’s death was not merely approaching, but had, in fact, arrived?

How would I behave differently if I were to know today is the day I meet him in death or upon his return?

Today was the day for them, and one “today” will be the day for me.

Am I prepared?

The Walking Dead – Fifth Sunday of Lent (A)

Lectionary: 34

  • Ezekiel 37: Lessons from the valley of dry bones
  • Psalm 130: Souls crying out from the depths
  • Romans 8: The body is dead because of sin
  • John 11: Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead

This week’s readings point out that

  1. God wants to give us life
    Paul, writing to the Romans, tells us that the body is dead because of sin, but the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to our mortal bodies also.
  2. He can
    The bones are dry and buried. The souls cry out from the underworld. Lazarus died, was buried, and rotting before Jesus arrives. Jewish tradition holds that on the fourth day, the body begins final decay as the soul finally departs. All hope is lost. And yet, Lazarus is raised to life.

The message for me, this Sunday, is:

There is no situation, or person, without hope.

This promise of life is not just for those entirely dead, but also for those of us who are “a little dead” due to the effects of sin. From God’s perspective, there is no difference, between sleeping Lazarus, rotting Lazarus, and a valley of dry bones.

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Following the Light – Fourth Sunday of Lent (A)

In this week’s readings for the fourth Sunday of Lent, we encounter Samuel, sent by God to the house of Jesse to anoint David king, the good shepherd leading his flock in Psalm 23, Paul telling the Ephesians to be light, and Jesus healing a blind man by putting mud on his eyes and sending him to wash in the pool of Siloam.

The Lord speaks to Samuel (just before today’s readings), and tells him not to grieve over Saul, but to go and anoint the one the Lord had already selected as king. Samuel arrives at the house of Jesse, and is ready to anoint the oldest son. “Surely, this is the one,” he thinks. Saul was notable for his tall stature, as is this young man, and Samuel reasonably assumes that the Lord is looking for a replacement just like Saul. It is interesting to me that Samuel has a clear message from the Lord to go to the house of Jesse and anoint the one already selected, but, when Samuel arrives, he seems to assume that it’s up to him to discern which to anoint. God has to point out that he shouldn’t judge as a man, but rather allow God, who sees the heart, to make the judgment. Samuel is obedient to his mission, but starts trying to figure out God’s plan, rather than simply waiting to hear what God has to say.

I see this same pattern in the Psalm. The shepherd doesn’t give his sheep directions, he walks before them to lead them to places of repose and refreshment, and walks beside them through dark and difficult times.

Paul’s message to the Ephesians? Again, “try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord” – not “Try to reason your way through this” or “Try to apply principles from scripture and teaching” – but “learn what is pleasing to the Lord.”

And then Jesus… He doesn’t give the man sight right away, or even tell him that’s what’s going on. Jesus shoves mud in his eyes, and tells him to go wash in the pool called Siloam (“Sent”). Obedience preceded any explanation, and the gift of sight.

Jesus announces himself to be the light of the world, but that light is not simply so that we can see to make our own way – it is a light that we can follow through the darkness.

Now, I’m not suggesting that discernment, reason, and initiative have no role in our Christian walk, but I do wonder if we have forgotten how to follow. There’s a balance here somewhere between the Lord desiring to make us more like him, so that we love and choose as he loves and chooses, and the reality that his thoughts really are different from our thoughts, and his ways, from our ways. There are certainly things that we can and must discern, but others he must reveal.

I am going to make a fresh effort to listen, and to make “listen and obey” my first and default response, rather than defaulting to reason and discernment, without ever giving the Lord a chance to reveal himself, and his will.

St Gregory the Great on Lent as a tithe of time

Greg., Hom. in Ev., 16, 5:

Or, as by the Law we offer the tenth of our goods, so we strive to offer the tenth of our time. And from the first Sunday of Lent to the rejoicing of the paschal festival is a space of six weeks, or forty-two days, subtracting from which the six Sundays which are not kept there remain thirty-six. Now as the year consists of three hundred and sixty-five, by the affliction of these thirty-six we give the tenth of our year to God.

His math is a little off for the current calendar, but let’s not quibble over feast dates.