With Ezekiel, Paul’s Romans, and Mary and Martha, the disciples, and the crowd, we wait for God’s promised life to come, and see God’s face saying, “Do you trust me to watch for this and give you life?”
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
The Fifth Sunday in Lent, year A – recorded for preaching online during COVID-19 restrictions
Texts: John 11:1-45; Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:6-11
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
My soul waits for God more than those who keep watch for the morning. More than those who keep watch for the morning.
Today the psalmist has such longing within, such waiting for God, that it needs to be sung twice or it’s not enough: My waiting is like sentinels who sit for hours in darkness watching for the sun to come up. Like sentinels who sit for hours in darkness watching for the sun to come up.
And so is our waiting. We wait for when this “stay at home” order will be lifted. We wait for when we might be able to gather together again for worship, even gather with our families and friends. We wait for these things more than those who watch for the morning. More than those who watch for the morning.
But we wait for so much more. We wait for the relief from other pain and suffering we or those we love endure, beyond this virus. We wait for when our society will be just and whole for all. We wait for when our national government will serve all people and honor the rule of law. We wait for these things more than those who watch for the morning. More than those who watch for the morning.
And everyone we meet in God’s Word today shares our painful longing.
Ezekiel and the other Jewish exiles long for God to bring them home. Paul longs for his Roman churches to experience the truth of being Christ together and so heal their divisions, set aside their self-righteousness. Mary and Martha wait for Jesus with pain that we can still feel 2,000 years later.
When will morning come? Can you see it?
Well, there is a glimmer of the dawn in today’s Word.
The psalmist assures Israel that with the God who is named I AM WHO I AM there is steadfast love and redemption.
Ezekiel sees a vision of a field full of dry bones. No hope, no possibility of life, and he’s asked: “can these bones live?” And he sees a possible new life for God’s people, a making of living, breathing, bodies from the bones of their exile.
Paul sees what being the body of Christ could be for his Roman friends, bringing different cultures together not by diluting into sameness, but by honoring and loving their differences in the deeper truth of their being one in Christ.
Jesus does show up for the Bethany sisters. He asks, “Do you trust me? I am Resurrection and Life, right now, for you.” He asks what God asks Ezekiel: do you think the dead can live?
My soul waits for God more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
Today there is a promise of something worth watching for.
Today God’s word asks you: can you trust the GOD WHO IS to give you life?
Three times Ezekiel is told that by God’s restoration “you shall know that I am the ONE WHO IS, who has spoken and who will act.” If they will trust God, Ezekiel and his people will know God’s life.
Paul is convinced the Spirit who raised Jesus from death lives in his people, has made them the body of Christ. Even in their mortal bodies, in this life. Right now. If they will trust the Spirit in them, they will know God’s life.
Jesus invites the disciples, Mary and Martha, and the crowd today, to see in him the life the Triune God is pouring into the world. Martha already trusts what you and I trust, that her brother will live again on the last day. But Jesus says, “right now, I can be abundant life for you.” If they all can trust Jesus to be that, they will know God’s life.
My soul waits for God more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. God’s Word tells you today if you watch for what God is doing, right now, you could trust not only that morning is coming, but that even in the darkness you can have God’s life in you. A life that restores dry bones, knits a community together, even raises the dead.
What will it take for you to trust that God is worthy to watch for, that morning is coming, that even in the night you are not alone?
Before you answer, notice that in today’s Word, knowing and trusting are invited before any healing happens. Ezekiel’s people are still in exile, and all Ezekiel has is a vision. The Roman churches are still divided, and all Paul has is a vision. Martha and Mary are still in mourning, the disciples and crowd are still confused, and Jesus stands before them as a vision of God’s life.
If you are waiting for God more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning, know this: you’re like all people of faith everywhere. You’re asked to trust that your life, the world’s life, is in the Triune God’s loving hands, even if there’s little evidence yet.
That’s where you are, where we all are, on this day.
So hear this: The Triune God is the GOD WHO IS. Who has spoken love and acted love for you and the creation. Christ is alive, death has no power and God’s Spirit lives in you. You are loved forever by God.
So keep watch. This health crisis will abate, and we’ll be back together. Your other pains and sufferings may last the rest of your life, but they are held in God’s compassion and grace. Our society and world are being healed and brought together through God’s people of many faiths, through you acting as Christ. You may not see the full morning of any of this now. But if you look, there’s a glimmer on the horizon.
And yes, that glimmer can be as hard to see some days as a path out of exile. As hard to hope for as the healing of a community in division. As hard to trust as life when a loved one dies.
But the Triune God’s face looks at you through the eyes of Jesus, and says, “I can be life for you now, even in this world filled with death. I can fill you with morning light even in the darkness of your reality. Do you trust me, dear one?”
In the name of Jesus. Amen