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.
Habakkuk 2:1-4; Psalm 126; Hebrews 10:35—11:1; John 20:24-29
The days are getting longer. At 11:47 AM yesterday the earth’s axial tilt reached its furthest extremity from the sun: the annual winter solstice. In this brief moment something big happens. The days stop getting shorter and start getting longer—light begins to return to the northern hemisphere after months of increasing darkness.
Christmas is placed just a few days after the astronomical event—long enough that we can say for sure that light has returned! We can see with our own eyes that the days are beginning to get longer; there is light in the world. The day of the solstice, the moment of doubt we give to St. Thomas. Light should be returning now, but we’re not absolutely sure. Calculations show that the solstice should have happened yesterday (Thomas’s actual feast day), but we need concrete evidence. By Christmas Day keen observation will confirm that, yes, beyond a doubt, light has returned. There is light in the world, darkness has not overwhelmed it.
The genius of the Scriptures is how completely they mirror human nature. From the heights of love, to the depths of hate. From confident trust to the most lurid cynicism and cruelty. From the darkness of deep despair to the brilliant light of unmitigated joy. The human condition is all there.
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.