Thursday, April 03, 2014

John 11:1-45      

There is a pious legend that Lazarus, after Jesus raised him from the tomb where he'd lain for four days, never smiled again during the thirty years he remained alive on the earth.  It had something to do, apparently, with the imprisoned souls he'd seen in Hades while he was there.

The story of Lazarus' rescue from the grave is the final of a list of seven "Signs" which Jesus accomplished in the course of his earthly ministry as John relates it in his Gospel.  From the changing of water into wine in the second chapter to the raising of Lazarus in the eleventh, the Gospel is doing the opposite of what we used to do in Primary School when we were small.  Our activity was called Show and Tell.  We would bring some physical object into the class and then tax our vocabulary and narrative skills by telling the other boys and girls what the thing was.  John, in the Prologue, which we are possibly most familiar with from services of Midnight Mass or the end of Nine Lessons and Carols, tells us, right at the beginning, that Jesus is Word, light, power and love.  

We have the telling first.  

What follows in the Gospel are the signs - the showing that this is indeed so.

We carry the narrative of salvation with us.  These are words and stories which we know, if not by heart, then in the back of our minds.  Occasionally when reading or referring to a particularly well known Scripture in church on Sunday I see your lips move.  I know you know them.   In these seven signs, but even more so in the evidence of the testimonies of men and women across the ages, God takes these words and makes them flesh.  Water becomes wine, the sick are made whole, the outcast is welcomed in and the impossible task is accomplished.  

Sunday, March 30, 2014

1st Samuel 16:1-13     

Seven sons of Jesse the Bethlehemite are each paraded before the prophet Samuel and no, it appears that none of them is quite right.  God himself had told the prophet to anoint, as King, the one that he would point out from among Jesse's sons.  The passage from 1st Samuel relates an ongoing interior conversation between God and Samuel as the boys each walk by:  

"No, not that one - and not that one.  Still no joy - this isn't him either."  

Jesse is unaware of Samuel's deeper purpose.  He simply presents seven of his eight sons to a visiting prophet - a great man - who has paid them the honor of a visit.    Jesse brings out the cream of his crop: strong boys - articulate and presentable.  David, the eighth son, could reasonably be kept out of sight in a supporting role.  After all, somebody needs to cover the chores and duties of his older brothers. It is this forgotten eighth son who Samuel eventually calls for.

As a group, all three readings for this Sunday take discernment as their theme - either the choice in discerning a forward path or the wisdom in discerning why things work out the way they do.  It's Lent: We'd do well to ask ourselves why we make the decisions we do and set the priorities we live by.  How do we make decisions for ourselves and for others?  How do we listen to God?  Do we, in fact, have that many options about how to conduct our lives?  

We would be challenged, by this first reading from the Old Testament, to ask ourselves what we do not put on the table when we chart a forward path.  What do we discount because of prejudice?  What do we forget or neglect to mention because of shame?  Our friends and our enemies are both curious about the things we avoid in conversations.  Employers will always ask specifically about items we gloss over on our CV.  Try as we might to avoid the subject, our parents will always identify the one bit of homework which hasn't been done.  That's what's important.  That's what piques their interest.
The Old and New Testament are shot through with stories of God doing great things by using, as his starting point, what has been forgotten, neglected, overlooked, avoided, scorned or fibbed about.  The raw material for your next step may already be on your person.  You shouldn't be surprised to find it in your back pocket..