A meandering path of faith
Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ reproduces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for Saturday, March 20th: Psalm 51:1-12; Habakkuk 3:2-13; and John 12:1-11. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
Mention is made in today’s Gospel that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus resuscitated Lazarus who was able to resume his natural, physical life. Jesus’ resurrection is fundamentally different than a return to His prior life as Jesus of Nazareth, but that is for another time. Today we hear that Jesus sits at table with this same Lazarus.
The family of Mary, Martha and Lazarus appear to be quite close with Jesus. We hear uniquely in Luke’s Gospel (10:38-42) that Martha had grown impatient with her sister Mary because as she worked to prepare the meal, Mary sat as one of the disciples listening and learning at the feet of the teacher.
Uniquely in John’s Gospel, we hear the story of raising Lazarus from the dead (11:1-44). The Lucan and Johannine story may share some even older shared tradition. If they do, Mary (who is not Mary Magdalene by the way) has a deeply spiritual connection with Jesus as indicated by her gender-inappropriate place among the male disciples in Luke, a place that Jesus insists will not be taken away from her.
When her brother Lazarus dies, and Jesus had not rushed to his side (John 11:6), Mary seems offended and disabused. The sisters are told that Jesus has finally arrived. Martha rushes out to meet Him and gives testimony to one of the highest Christologies in the Gospels: “‘I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world,’” (John 11:27) but “Mary stayed at home.” (John 11:20)
When Mary meets Jesus, she falls to His feet and with words that could be accusatory, she charges, “‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’” (John 11:32) Jesus sees her weeping and in the Bible’s shortest verse it is said, “Jesus wept,” (John 11:35) and Lazarus is called forth from his tomb.
This is the same family we encounter in today’s Gospel. The same Mary who had grown skeptical of Jesus upon the death of Lazarus is now extravagant in her reception. The same Mary who doubted when her brother died is now acting to prepare Jesus for His coming death. Mary sees the sacredness of Jesus’ body while even among Jesus’ disciples there is blindness.
Faith can be a meandering journey. Insight may arise from unexpected sources, and so may confusion. There can be tragic lows and extravagant highs. But through it all there is Christ. Let the church be a community of our shared experiences. Let us help one another to find our way.
I invite you to worship with our community tomorrow. We will be joined by the Area Conference Minister, Rev. Terry Yasuko Ogawa, who will be preaching. Send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will get you the log-in.
If you’d like, here is the link to the Massachusetts Conference’s daily reading schedule: www.sneucc.org/lectionary .
Faith, love and chitchat.
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