5th Sunday in Lent, Year C

Isaiah 43:16-21 • Psalm 126 • Philippians 3:4b-14 • John 12:1-8

(Laura writes)
It was almost three years ago. I sat across from Pastor Heather
beneath a vast expanse of glass looking out over early summer trees in
Northwest DC. My mouth could barely shape the words of my confession
- a nasty divorce, guilt for my children and for my life image
abandoned, guilt about those I had disappointed, guilt about the new
life I was seeking, fear for my future - and a clear sense that God
was present in it all.

Her response changed my confession of faith in an instant. "Gives
resurrection a whole new meaning, doesn't it?"

Yup. Ummm...yes. It sure does. New life from certain death. Breath
regained after sure asphyxiation. Ashes, dust, sprouts.

During Lent, we are brought face-to-face with death - the absence of
life. And we are challenged to consider resurrection - life rising up
from death. Intellectually, these are incompatible notions. But in
in God's covenant delivery from death to life again and again, in the
life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, in Paul's conversion,
we see the pattern and possibility. And surely...surely we see the
pattern in our own life experience.

The prophet Isaiah shares God's promise to "do a new thing."
Certainly the exiled community to which Isaiah spoke had seen a great
deal of destruction. They knew the hopes and and miracles experienced
by their ancestors. And perhaps they are sensing a new opportunity.
God is afoot, preparing to do a new thing.

The psalmist is recalling God's work in the restoration of Zion and
placing hope in a God who will continue to raise up new life from
desperate situations.

And in Paul's letter to the church at Phillipi, he describes his own
unlikely rebirth - from persecutor of the church to devout church
planter. He recognizes a life transformed for a new thing, and knows
that he is not done "dying" by any means. He is willing to press on
with faith that his life is transformed in his belief in Jesus Christ.
He says some pretty important things here. He confesses that no work
- no specific acts of righteousness - will help him to gain life.
Instead it is faith. Phew. That's a tough one. Faith can be more
difficult than works and far less certain at times.

And in the familiar and poignant story of Martha, sister of Lazarus
whom Jesus has recently raised from the dead, anointing Jesus' feet
with valuable oil. When Judas questions the act, recognizing the cash
value of the oil that has been used, Jesus rebukes him. In a symbolic
way, Martha has anointed Jesus' body for burial, and he alludes to
his own death in his response to Judas - "you will not always have
me..." Martha is rejoicing in the Lord who has shown her the
possibility of new life and perhaps sensing Jesus' own uncertain
future. And it's not hard to imagine our own Judas response.
Sometimes it is very difficult to know that someone else has found joy
in "good news" that we can hardly bring ourselves to believe and

None of this Lenten journey is intended to be easy or quick. And for
some of us, our embrace of resurrection can only come in the midst of
personal pain. And for those who have felt that miracle, the value of
that vessel of oil is surely tied up in the new life promise, not in
street value.

God, sometimes it is so hard to see anything but dirt.
Unfertile, rejected, salted, scorched dirt.
There are days when everything has gone so wrong
and we have strayed so far
and we feel so little value that
we look at our life and cannot even
conjure up a memory of a yellow blossom or a green leaf.
And You remind us again and again,
through words and people and actions
that dirt is not impotent.
Sometimes it has to be coaxed a bit,
but it is never worthless.
Thank you for reminding us that storm clouds
and showers of manure

create conditions for new growth.

© matt & laura norvell 2010 www.settingourstones.org
we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world;
we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words.
May Grace & Peace be with you.

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