Grace and Peace through Jesus Christ,
In just 12 days we will celebrate Palm Sunday and begin observance of Jesus’ week leading up to his betrayal, arrest, trial, conviction, and crucifixion. Lent has been and is a time of reflecting on our own lives and how we can understand God’s call to us and maybe just what Jesus means to each of us. During our Wednesday Night Lenten Worship we have been focusing on some of the “I AM” statements of Jesus. We have heard the story of Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well (John 3 – water of life), with the crowds and Pharisees about bread (John 6 – the Bread of Life), and with the scribes and Pharisees in Jerusalem about seeing (John 8 – the Light of the World). Tomorrow we will hear another of Jesus’ interaction with the Pharisees as he declares himself to be the Good Shepherd (which also includes his declaration to be the Gatekeeper and the Gate for the sheep) when we read John 10:1-21.
Our readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, the week before Palm Sunday, are:
Isaiah 43:16-21 – In my Bible Chapter 43 of Isaiah is titled “Restoration and Protection Promised” which is a good summary. In our six verses plucked from the middle of the chapter, God declares that the people will perceive a new “thing” from God. Much as God brought the people of Israel out of Egypt (16 & 17) God will now provide the people with at way home through the desert that will now have plenty of water. Does God still do “new things” for God’s people? Does God do something new for you?
Psalm 126 – The last line of this Psalm may be the foundation for the Gospel Hymn “Bringing in the Sheaves”. The first half recalls God’s work of restoration for the people of Israel, perhaps after their exile in Babylon. The second half calls on God for a harvest of joy following the sowing of tears. Have your tears of sorrow turned to shouts of joy?
Philippians 3:4b-14 – How much do we prize our possessions and accomplishments? For Paul, who had great accomplishments as a Jewish Pharisee and was making a name for himself as a prosecutor of Christ followers, all those accomplishment were nothing more than a pile of manure (supply whatever vulgar word you want). Knowing Christ and Christ’s faith is all he wants now. Paul knows what it means to be truly alive because Christ has made him his own and knows him. As a result, Paul continues to strive for the goal (to be made perfect). Is God’s Spirit still working in you to help you grow in Christ’s love and faithfulness?
John 12:1-8 – This story is also told in Mark 14:3-9 (and Matthew 26:6-13 parallel) but John might have known a different version from Mark. The town is the same, Bethany. It was six days before Passover in John’s version but only two days in Marks. John has the dinner at Lazarus’ house with his sisters Martha and Mary while Mark has Jesus eating with Simon the Leper. The woman who uses the nard is unnamed in Mark but it is Mary in John’s version. She pours the nard on Jesus’ head in Mark but on his feet in John. In Mark the person who complains about the cost of the nard is unnamed but John says it was Judas Iscariot. The most famous line from Jesus, “You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me” is consistent in all three (Mark does add another phrase in the middle, “and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish” that Matthew takes out.) This is a great little story about the anointing of Jesus as both King and dead man. Did Mary (or the unnamed woman) know of his impending death? Was Jesus a “Dead Man Walking” (to mention a great movie by director Tim Robbins and starring Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon)? Why do you think the same basic story diverges in the two accounts? Does it make a difference?
May God bless you this week in all that you do.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor