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Friday, April 8, 2011

5th Sunday in Lent, Year A

The epiphany is that we are to see ourselves in Lazarus and see the miracle of his restoration of physical life as the beginning of our entry into eternal life that begins the moment we accept Jesus' offer of relationship with us.

"Lazarus Is Us," Reflections on John 11:1-45, Alyce McKenzie, Edgy Exegesis, Patheos, 2011.

Vincent van Gogh 1853 – 1890
The Raising of Lazarus
oil on canvas (50 × 65 cm) — 1890
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam
This work is linked to John 11:43

John 11:1-45
11Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. 3So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, 6after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 7Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 11After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” 13Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

17When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” 28When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus began to weep. 36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” 38Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

45Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him

A Little Bit for Everyone

Oremus Online NRSV Text


General Resources for the Texts this week


Textweek Resources For Sunday's Gospel from John

Some interesting articles on this passage:


William Loader's "First Thoughts"

Working Preacher thoughts on each lesson appointed for today


Chris Haslaam's Clippings Site

Unos recursos en Espanol

Prayer
O my all-merciful God and Lord,
Jesus Christ, full of pity:
Through Your great love You came down
and became incarnate in order to save everyone.
O Savior, I ask You to save me by Your grace!
If You save anyone because of their works,
that would not be grace but only reward of duty,
but You are compassionate and full of mercy!
You said, O my Christ,
"Whoever believes in Me shall live and never die."
If then, faith in You saves the lost, then save me,
O my God and Creator, for I believe.
Let faith and not my unworthy works be counted to me, O my God,
for You will find no works which could account me righteous.
O Lord, from now on let me love You as intensely as I have loved sin,
and work for You as hard as I once worked for the evil one.
I promise that I will work to do Your will,
my Lord and God, Jesus Christ, all the days of my life and forever more.

Prayer of St. John Chrysostom
Click here for more Lenten collects and prayers.


Some thoughts...
"The point of the saying, and ultimately of the narrative as a whole, is to make and celebrate the claim that people who believe in Jesus find life. It is eternal life, which includes timelessness or eternity in the temporal sense, but the focus is quality not quantity. It is sharing the life of God here and now and forever."  writes William Loader.

John's Gospel is a wonderful proclamation of the power, divinity, and transformation that is available to every person through Jesus Christ. The author has written, among the four Gospels, a compelling witness to Jesus as Lord and Savior, as the giver of light, breath, and life from the very creation of the earth.
The story of the raising of Lazarus has never ceased to inspire and enliven both my imagination and my heart for the work of the Gospel.  Our Gospel this week is the highest of revelationary narratives in the Gospel in both form and in content. 

Jesus' raising of Lazarus is a reason why so many follow him and is clear in 12:17-18.  He is as we know and have been experiencing throughout the Lenten readings the giver of life. (see 5:25-29), and precipitating his death (see 11:53). If we were reading along we would see that this is the last of a second set of miracle stories in John's Gospel that follow and highlight Jesus' teaching and conversation with his followers.

The passage begins with Jesus away and teaching, he is not present for his friend or his friends family.  They come to get him and tell him that Lazarus has died.  The words used to describe Jesus reaction to this are words that tell us he was affected greatly by the news. Again Jesus speaks of the work that must be done while he is with them, and that the work must be done in the light.  Certainly these are like the other sayings that we have seen apocolyptic forecasts.  Nevertheless, the very real human loss and desire for life is ever present as Jesus leaves to go to where Lazarus is buried.

He is of course returning to a place where he has shown power before and a place of danger. You might remember that he was almost stoned though he passed through them.  10:31, 39.

Jesus states that Lazarus has fallen asleep.  This is a common reference to death in the time of Jesus and after.  Chris Haslaam has done some very good research and provides links for other parts of the New Testament that say the same thing:  "A common New Testament description of death: see Matthew 9:24; Mark 5:39; Acts 7:60; 1 Corinthians 15:6; 1 Thessalonians 4:14; 5:10. (In several of these verses, the NRSV has died; however, the Greek can also be translated fell asleep.) [NOAB]"

Jesus words of peace and comfort are kind and simple....things will be better...they will be all right.  Yet we must also realize that the word used here is one that means "to be saved."  Sosthesetai is translated into "be saved." It is the word for salvation.  Our witness to the raising of Lazarus is not simply a witness then to healing story, or an act of kindness, or a hopeful act, but a transformational act of restoration of health - of true salvation.  It is a miracle, which like the other miracles in John's Gospel, clearly represent the work of glorifying God through the ministry of Jesus.

We are told that Lazarus had been in the grave for three days. There is a lot written around the idea of the Jewish burial services and the timeliness of such activities once the person has died.  But I do not wish to get into this though it is interesting. I believe that the real meat of the text is in the conversation about salvation and resurrection.

As we continue the discourse on the resurrection we note that the Pharisees believed, along with other popular movements of the day, that all the Jews would be raised.  Gentiles too if their integrity was judged by God to be suitable.  I like how Chris Haslaam has written about these next two verses.

Verse 25: Jesus modifies Pharisaic doctrine. His words are not only about resurrection but also about the fate of those faithful to him. Jesus is not only the agent of final resurrection but also gives life now: see also Romans 6:4-5; Colossians 2:12; 3:1. Mere physical death can have no hold over the believer. [NOAB]
Verse 26: The believer has passed from the death of sin into life: see also Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8. [BlkJn]
Jesus then gives life now and in the age to come.  Immediately Martha offers the same statement as the blind man in last weeks lesson.  Her words, while a question refer to previous affirmations in the Gospel. She is convinced...convinced that the proclamation of Andrew on the Galilean shore was true 1:41.  She is convinced that Nathanael's proclamation is true. 1:49.  She is convinced that the good news revealed int he feeding of the 5 thousand is true. 6:14.

Jesus approaches the tomb and calls Lazarus forth. It is not a resurrection story. But we cannot miss the conections as Jesus calls forth the dead from the tomb as he will most certainly do in the Easter miracle bringing all of the saints into light. 

I also am struck  by the reality that Lazarus must be unbound and that many participate with Jesus in this work of freeing him from death into life, from darkness into light.

The Gospel tells us that this miracle of reviving Lazarus is for the glory of God. It is also brings many more into the Jesus movement. We cannot see the disturbing events that lay ahead of Jesus without seeing the impact of this great miracle on the movement itself. For surely, as the Gospel testifies, the leaders of the day were worried and concerned.

This is a great miracle story.  It is one that is rich with intertextual meaning and connections. It highlights Jesus' as the one who gives life and breath.  As Jesus says in the beginning of the text day is becoming night, and yet as we read we see that it will be Jesus who brings us out of the shadow of the darkness of the tomb into the light of day. 

The witness of this passage is an evangelical one pointing us to the truth of the person of Jesus Christ so that we might believe and then raise the dead ourselves!

We are here hovering at the edge of Lent and fully preparing for Holy Week.  The blogger and pastor Meda Stamper reminds us...just as Jesus has met us at our tombs so we must follow him now to his own.


The Lambeth Bible Study Method
This Bible study method was introduced by the African Delegation to the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church. It is known by both names: "Lambeth" and "African." This method is derived from the practice of Lectio Divina. The entire process should take about 30 minutes.

Question #5: "Briefly identify where this passage touches their life today," can change based upon the lesson. Find lesson oriented questions at this website: http://www.dcdiocese.org/word-working-second-question

Opening Prayer: O Blessed Lord, who caused all Holy Scripture to be written for our learning. Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them that we may embrace and hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

1. One person reads passage. This person then invites a member of the group to begin the process.

2. Each person briefly identifies the word or phrase that catches their attention then invites another person to share.

3. Each shares the word or phrase until all have shared or passed using the same invitation method.

4. The passage is read a second time, preferably from a different translation. The reader then invites a person in the group to begin the process.

5. Each person briefly identifies where this passage touches their life today, and then invites someone who has not shared yet.

6. The passage is read a third time, also from another translation, and the reader invites a person to start the process.

7. Each person responds to the questions, "What does God want me to do, to be or to change?"

8. The group stands up in a circle and holds hands. One person initiates the prayer “I thank God today for …” and “I ask God today for…” The prayer goes around the circle by squeezing the hand to your right.

9. When the circle is fulfilled, the person who initiated the prayer starts the Lord’s Prayer, “Our father..."

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