Worship Preview March 26th, 2023
This Weekend: Sunday at 10:30am “Weeping, well… water”
Scriptures:John 11:1-45; Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 130; and Romans 8:6-11– with Rev. Christopher Eshelman preaching.
“Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept him from dying?” It is a charged, emotional question. Why, God, do you not stop bad things from happening?
It is the same sort of question as the one the disciples asked last week: “Who sinned? This man or his parents?” We want to protect ourselves; we want to distance ourselves from pain and suffering. Jesus, on the other hand, becomes flesh. Humbling himself even to the point of death on a cross. Jesus enters fully into human life.
This week, our lectionary texts confront us with life and death, and our response. Some would argue that the goal of faith is to escape this life. They read Paul’s words to the Romans about flesh and spirit and see a simple dichotomy – flesh (this life) is bad, irredeemably so, and spirit – another world – is good. But Ezekiel’s vision and Jesus’ action in the Gospel of John’s story of Lazarus belay that simplistic, escapist approach. This life matters to God. Lazarus, Jesus’ friend, has died.Much like the man born blind, the reasons don’t matter – there is an opportunity to show God’s power and God’s presence.
Yet, Jesus still weeps. Jesus knows what is to come, for Lazarus and for himself. Jesus knows the tomb does not have the final word – and yet he weeps human tears. Tears of sorrow and tears of anger. Why? I want to suggest it is because even among his closest friends he has not seen the response of faith he did in the woman at the well. He sees belief but not yet understanding that God is with them, here and now.Lazarus' resurrection is not permanent, but it demonstrates that this life matters to God. It forshadows Easter.
The last couple of weeks we have focused on images of living water – the woman at the well encounters the living water and her life is transformed. Last week the man born blind trusts and obeys and goes where he is sent – washing at the pool of Siloam. Washing away the mud Jesus had made and applied – and his sight is restored!
This week the stakes are raised. It’s not insiders and outsiders or blindness and seeing. It’s life and death.And Jesus weeps! The living water sheds the salty water of human lament. “See how he loved him!”I think these waters connect these stories.
Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters, give voice to our faith and hope in a future resurrection, but still don’t quite see that eternal life with God has already begun. Jesus experiences frustration, anger, and sorrow at this. Jesus sees even the faithful don’t quite see. Demands hidden in questions like:Could not he who…” and “If you had been here…” We always seem to want the NEXT miracle… discounting all we’ve seen, heard, been given before… “We are bound up. Jesus cries out that Lazarus – and his sisters – and their community, be UNbound. That they truly open themselves to God’s presence and transformative life. Now – not just later.
Ezekiel, too, is confronted by a vision that he finds overwhelming – can these dry bones live. The vision says yes!But neither vision, nor Lazarus raising are just about this life vs. the next. Both are about eternal life that begins, in God’s presence, here and now.
We continue our Lenten series on “Leaning Towards the Light” and “Soaking in the Presence” with these challenging texts. We recognize ourselves and our own sorrows, doubts and hopes in the stories of Scripture.Will we allow ourselves to be seen? Will we allow the shepherd to lead us beside still waters, through the darkest valley, and to cups overflowing? Will we go where sent? Will we dare to see God giving us life already, not just later?Will we join with Jesus' own lament, and his anger. Will we be willing to see, and live, differently? That is what this Lenten journey is about.
Wednesday, March 29, 5:30pm Feeding Families in His Name– this weekly free meal is available to everyone without obligation. A “to-go” meal is distributed under the portico at 301 S. National. We are thankful for all the volunteers from other area churches and community groups that make this meal possible each week.
10:30am Sunday, April 2– Palm/Passion Sunday: Holy Week Begins.
7:00pm Thursday, April 6– Maundy Thursday –a special service of remembrance and Holy Communion
7:00pm Friday, April 7– Tenebrae/Good Friday – a service of darkness that prepares us to truly experience the empty tomb.
10:30am Sunday, April 9– EASTER! Christ is Risen, Indeed!
Image: Jésus pleura (Jesus Wept), 1886-1896
James Tissot (French, 1836-1902).