Watching for the Morning of March 13, 2016
The Fifth Sunday in Lent
The passion draws near. Next Sunday is Palm/Passion Sunday and the following week are the three days of the Paschal Triduum: Maundy Thursday, the night of the Last Supper when Jesus washed feet and broke bread and, after, was grabbed by the mob in the night; Good Friday, the day of the crucifixion; and Saturday evening, the Great Vigil of Easter when by the celebration/renewal of baptism we journey with Christ from the realm of death into the realm of life.
This Sunday the Gospel reading anticipates all that is to come when Mary anoints Jesus with oil in a prophetic anticipation of his death. The others don’t see the death coming, so they complain about the “waste” of this expensive perfume. But Jesus sees.
They are in Bethany among the sick – near to the temple but out of sight by law. They are in Bethany where Lazarus was raised. They are at Bethany where Jesus ascends. They are in the place where our need for healing is manifest – and where Christ reigns.
So on this day we hear the prophet Isaiah declare that something greater than the exodus is coming. And the psalmist sings of the wheat sown into the soil with tears and rising into abundance with joy. And Paul writes of his Judean credentials, which he willingly casts aside for the sake of gaining Christ. Like an athlete training that he or she might ascend the dais for the laurel wreath, “I press on,” writes Paul, “toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”
This week we are conclude our congregation’s Lenten series rooted in the Apostles’ Creed. Last Sunday centered on a phrase in Luther’s Small Catechism “He gathers me into the Body of Christ” and that is the subject of our daily devotions. This Sunday we will continue in the third article of the creed with the theme: “He enlightens me by his word and Spirit.”
There are many elements of the creed – and especially of the third article of the creed – that could occupy our attention. The five we chose were: Created, Redeemed, Called, Gathered, Enlightened. And on this fifth Sunday in Lent our focus is on that word ‘Enlightened’. We see the world differently in the light of Christ. We see not only conflict but peace. We see not only revenge but forgiveness. We see not only greed but a shared table. We see not only death but life. The world isn’t changed, but we are changed. By the word and Holy Spirit eyes are opened to see. Light shines in the darkness. Light shines in our hearts.
The Prayer for March 13, 2016
In the mystery of your love, O God,
you breathe upon us your Spirit
and open our minds to understand your Word.
Grant us wisdom and understanding
that we may not walk in darkness but in the light of life;
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.
The Texts for March 13, 2016
First Reading: Isaiah 43:16-21
“Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” – Through the prophet God announces a new exodus: God will bring the people through the wilderness back from their exile in Babylon.
Psalmody: Psalm 126
“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy.” – Using images of death and resurrection, the poet sings of God’s wondrous deliverance and prays for God to again “restore our fortunes.”
Second Reading: Philippians 3:4b-14
“I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” – Paul warns the Philippians about those who would compel them to keep circumcision and the Judean traditions. Though his ‘credentials’ in that tradition are impeccable, he wants only “to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings.”
Gospel: John 12:1-8
“Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair.” – The Jerusalem council has determined to put Jesus to death. Now, as Passover approaches, Jesus has come out of hiding to the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus, where Mary anoints him for his burial.
Enlightened: Though Sunday takes us to the next section of the creed, our daily devotions during Lent are still reflecting on the theme for week 3 from the third article of the creed: “Week 4: Gathered.” We invite you to join us at the Lent website or through our congregation website.