Thursday, 30 March 2017

Do you believe this?

The Fifth Sunday in Lent
Year A

Ezekiel 37:1-14
John 11:1-45

There’s no record of Jesus healing everybody in Galilee and in Judea.  He reached out his hands here and there, to this or that person.  He was known more as a teacher than a wonder worker and the healings which he performed were all wrapped up with his proclamation of the Kingdom of God.   Those of you who are connected to God through Jesus, by the faith in which you’ve grown up or the faith you put on at a memorable moment in your life, might well ask yourself why he has not unleashed his healing power in your direction or in the direction of somebody you love. 

Nobody underscores this problem better than the Apostle John when he writes

1.      though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,
2.     after having heard that Lazarus was ill,
3.     he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”

The numberings are mine:  I wanted to lay these words out in the form of a “charge sheet” – which is what John seems to be doing in this single sentence.  Lazarus’ sister Martha puts it in different and even more poignant terms:

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died”

I won’t try to answer the question of suffering in the world or of mal-occurrence in the lives of the saints in 500 words.  I will, though, point you to the words of the spirit of God and those of Jesus in our readings this Sunday from Ezekiel and from John’s Gospel.  We can find therein, I believe, an arrow which points us in the right direction to begin the longer discussion.

The spirit of the Lord in Ezekiel and Jesus himself in John’s Gospel each pose a question to the human interlocutor which provides an opportunity for faithful response. 

“Son of Man, can these bones live?”  (Ezekiel 37:3)
“… everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you
believe this? (John 11:26)

In the middle of these things which land on us, on those we love, on our nations and our little gatherings, will we in the long run come to faith?  Will what faith we have, remain?  At the funeral services honouring and celebrating the lives of those we love, will the readings we choose to hear be the Easter readings?  Will we commit ourselves to him amid both gain and loss?  

As hard as it may be to endure the fruits of our own littleness, the abrogation of our three-score-years-and-ten, the weakness of our bodies, the ravages of violence or illness the question still remains posed to us and not to God. 

Do you believe this?