“Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy” (Ps 126:2).
“Joy.” The psalmist repeats this word three times in this great poem of restoration. God’s people shout for joy, sing songs of joy, return from the fields in joy. God restores the fortunes of Zion—and their sadness is transformed into joy. Joy is their response, their witness to God’s working in the world.
In the calendar of the Church we remember today the third-century martyr Laurence of Rome. As archdeacon, he was given care of the church’s treasury for distribution to the needy. The story goes that after he was arrested during a periodic persecution of Christians, Laurence negotiated for a few days’ respite to gather the church’s wealth. During that time, though, he instead rapidly distributed it to the poor. When asked to hand over the church’s treasure, Laurence pointed not to gold or gems but to the poor.
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.
1 Thessalonians 5:21b-24 | Psalm 126 | Luke 12:4-12
Many of you who have heard me preach over the years will know that I grew up in St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Regina. St. Mary’s had been founded about the time of the First War as an alternative to the Cathedral and at one time would have described itself as a cassock – surplice –and –stole, cross, but no candlesticks, Holy Communion second and fourth Sundays and Morning Prayer all the other Sundays sort of place. The Cathedral on the other hand had … wait for it … candles on the altar! My grandmother remembers the rector sometime in the 1940’s putting candles on the altar at St. Mary’s. When he asked her what she thought, her response was they looked pretty. Obviously others didn’t. The candles disappeared a week later.
St. Mary’s was a small town sort of Church. My grandparents attended the “early” service and we the later one. We went to public school with many of the kids who were in Sunday school with us and one year my Sunday school teacher was also my grade 1 teacher. My father served on the vestry and as a sidesman with men he had grown up and gone to school with and the children of people, who went to Sunday school with him, were now in Sunday school with my siblings and me.
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.