by Deacon Gerri Endicott
The Traditional Collect for this, the Fifth Sunday in Lent:
Almighty God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and
affections of sinful men: Grant unto thy people that they may
love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that
which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and
manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there
be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus
Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the
Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
As I sit here on my back patio this beautiful Sunday afternoon, after a morning worshipping via live feed, I can almost imagine that all is right with the world. The sun’s warmth is kissing my back, a light breeze blowing. Flowers are blooming. Birds are chirping. My grandson is busily blowing bubbles. These moments of bliss will soon be encroached upon by news of the world. I’m allowed a few minutes of pretending, though – aren’t I?
Mere hours ago, straight line winds tore through my town, knocking down power lines, felling trees, and purportedly pulling stop signs out of the ground. A brief, but powerful, example of what nature can do. And, of course, all of our minds are burdened with the virus that currently holds our world hostage – an ever-present threat that we cannot see coming. Are the tightness in my chest, and the ache in my back, symptoms that the dreaded illness has come to call, or are they today’s manifestation of my old friend, anxiety?
So, we come to today’s readings for solace – and what do we find? A barren valley of dry, dead bones, and Jesus’s friend, Lazarus, taken ill and buried. As if the news of our day isn’t bad enough. But, if we look beyond the grim reality of today’s readings, we see something amazing – Resurrection!
In this, the last Sunday of Lent before Jesus’ triumphant ride into Jerusalem, we are given a glimpse of what is to come. During Holy Week, perhaps this year more than ever before in our lifetimes, we too will enter that barren wasteland of death, as we may indeed be forced to endure the unfair and unjust deaths of those dear to us, or of mere acquaintances. Doesn’t it seem at this point that we, the entire human race, are indeed acquainted with one another? At the very least, our lives have been irrevocably changed.
Today’s readings do remind me of our troubles - but mostly, they give me hope.
Out of the valley of bones rose new life, and out of the dark tomb walked Lazarus. Easter is not the only resurrection story in scripture. Over and over, when all seems lost, life and love and light emerge. Israel is redeemed, Lazarus lives, and Christ is risen. Life for we humans is full of toil and tragedy, but it is also full of victory and happiness. Just look around – people smile at each other in the stores, strangers ask “How are you doing?”. Nature is making a comeback. Families are drawing closer, and realizing what is truly important. The dog-eat-dog world of industry is grinding to a painful halt. Could it be that, even in the midst of this tragedy, the world is somehow righting itself?
On Good Friday all was lost – but on that first Easter morning all was won.
I sit and wonder what we will have learned when all is said and done. For, the one certainty is that “this too shall pass”. When it is over, will we have learned the important lessons – and more importantly, will we remember them? Will we recognize where God was and is working in and through us, and keep that with us when this particular danger is over? Will we have the courage to venture into a new, better world – where asking strangers “How are you doing?” will come naturally? A world in which we acknowledge that every life is precious?
Easter will come and go this year, likely without all the pomp and pageantry with which we have become accustomed. What a wonderful “Easter” it will be though, some Sunday in the future, when we are able to look at this time through our rearview mirrors, together again, and marvel through the tears and loss at what a magnificent God we serve!
Peace and Light be with us all, in this time and always.
Deacon Gerri Endicott