Sermon for Sunday, Lent 5A, 2020
The readings for this weekend speak to God’s power over for the forces of death and destruction. They testify to our collective memory of how Jesus entered human history and reshaped our story forever. Today, perhaps more than ever before in my life, I need to hear this teaching.
I’m struggling each day to not give up to despair. It feels like so much has been taken from us. For many of us our jobs are changed, and some of us have lost them. Careers that we have spent our lives creating are uncertain in a way we never anticipated. Personal finances and plans are suddenly having to be remade and remade again as we wait to learn what will happen to the economy.
And to add to all that, each cough or ache that we feel becomes, of itself, a cause for deep alarm. Worse, for me, are the coughs of the people I love. And maybe even worse for me are the times that one of us must leave the house for whatever reason. What will happen to them? Who will they encounter? Will they be sickened too? Some of us are hearing of friends who are very sick. Some of our friends have died.
This Lent has brought a season of desolation such as I have never experienced. But it’s not a moment that’s unique in human history. We as a people have been through seasons of plague and uncertainty before. We have known firsthand the precariousness of human life and health. Though it’s not been common for many of us in Rhode Island Episcopal churches, for a significant number of people of the world in warzones or in regions of famine, this lack of a sense of a same or better future, has been their daily experience. We are now unexpectedly joining them.
It’s against this background that we, as seekers after Jesus, as Christians, insist on grounding our lives in a hope that goes beyond all sensible hope. We believe that God has acted in moments like this before, and that God will act again. And we believe that even in death, we will not perish, but be transformed. We believe that Jesus shows us the reach and the power of God’s love. We believe that Jesus joins us in our fear and suffering, walking beside us, helping us to carry the crosses we bear. We believe that Jesus mourns with us all that has been lost.
And we believe that there will be a restoration. We believe that there will be life again, even in a valley full of dead, dry bones. We believe that Jesus summons us out of our tombs. We believe that Jesus is even now lovingly working to save us from all the powers of this world which would destroy us. And we believe it all; even though it is hard to see in the darkness and tempests of this hour. For “faith is the assurance that what we hope for will come about and the certainty that what we cannot see exists.” (Hebrews 11:1)
We were not created for such a moment as this. We were created to dwell with God and to live in God’s love, without fear of death and plague. Though we have strayed, by Jesus’ saving actions, we have been restored. We are now his family, members of his household, and heirs of his kingdom and rule. He has called us his friends. In this Lent, in a way many of us reading this have not ever had to do, cling to this promise. It is enough.