Isaiah 43: 16 – 21
Philippians 3: 4b – 14
John 12: 1 – 8
Some of you will remember that in the old days this Sunday in Lent went by the title of Passion Sunday. It was on this day that the liturgical colour changed from purple, or Lenten array, to red, but not the fiery red of Pentecost, rather the deep, dark, blood red of Passiontide. At the same time, the focus in the readings changed and they began to point, not to what Jesus was doing, and the miracles he was performing, but what would happen during that last week of his life.
In many ways, while the liturgical colour has not yet changed, and today is no longer called Passion Sunday, the same shift has happened, and the readings invite us to ponder the way of his suffering. They do that by pointing us to the day of [his] burial.
The gospel for today is for me, one of the most tender of passages. It puts us back in the home of Mary, and Martha, and Lazarus. It is this family, you will remember, whom John tells us that Jesus loved.It’s important to remember when thinking about this family in Bethany, that it is about this family that we hear for the first time, in John’s gospel, that Jesus loved someone. Yes, we hear in other places in the gospel of the love of the Father for the Son, and the Son for the Father. And we will hear about the disciple whom Jesus loved. But it is only when we arrive in this home at Bethany, on the occasion of the raising of Lazarus in the previous chapter, do we first hear that Jesus loved another person.
The Fifth Sunday in Lent: Year C
John 12: 1-8
I don’t know if you have noticed, but something has happened. In fact it happened last week. And it has nothing to do with Donald Trump, or even the State Dinner hosted by President and Mrs. Obama for Prime Minister and Mrs. Trudeau. It has nothing to do with our recent election for Superior or even the unseasonably warm weather we have been having. It has something to do with the lectionary, the liturgical cycle, and the Gospel texts we have been reading at the Eucharist.
Last Monday in fact, we switched from reading our way through Luke and the other synoptic gospels of Matthew and Mark and moved into the Gospel according to John. We’ll dip back into Luke on a couple of occasions, but until Easter Day we’ll be reading our way through portions of John.
Many of you, I suspect, will be familiar with that wonderful story of extravagant love by O. Henry, called The Gift of the Magi. The story centers on a young American couple, Della and Jim, who are very poor but very much in love. Each of them has one precious possession. Della has exceptionally beautiful long hair, which is her glory. Jim has a gold watch, given to him by his father, which he cherishes above all things. It is the day before Christmas and Della has exactly one dollar and eighty-seven cents with which to buy Jim a present. She so badly wants to express her love for him that she goes out and sells her beautiful hair for twenty dollars. With the proceeds she buys a platinum fob for Jim’s precious watch. When Jim comes home that night and sees Della’s shorn head, he is speechless. Slowly he hands her his gift, a set of expensive tortoise-shell combs with jeweled edges for her lovely hair. He sold his gold watch to buy them for her. Each had given the other the most precious gift he or she had to give. The story is a lesson of love, love so deep and so extravagant that it does not hold back or count the cost, but rather gives all that it has.
Philippians 3: 4b-14
Several weeks ago I had an opportunity to sit in on a monthly meeting of my sister’s book group. They were reading one of those novels spawned by the success of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. Discussion of the book led to a conversation about the present day deficiencies of the Church.