Homily Lent 5

Lent 5 29.3.2020 Bible Reading: John 11:1-45

What another extraordinary week it has been!

How disturbing and challenging for so many.

How devastating for those across the world who have lost loved ones to the virus.

Yet how wonderful, too, as we have seen so much kindness and compassion, commitment and care – yes, of course by the NHS whom we so rightly applauded on Friday and no doubt will do again – but also by individuals of every age.

What we are seeing, it seems to me, is a dawning recognition that actually how we relate to one another, not what we own, is the crucial, life-enhancing, thing.

Not being so busy that we don’t notice the needs of others but rather having hearts that do notice and spur us into action to help.

Last week, the Government sought 250,000 volunteers to assist the NHS, and had over 400,000 almost immediately.

Many communities have put plans in place to look out for their vulnerable residents; businesses are putting their resources at the service of those on the front line.

And on the other side of the coin, self-serving, mercenary enterprises and individuals are being called out and shamed into re-examining their approach and changing their ways of functioning and relating to customer, neighbour, community.

All this is hugely important and hugely encouraging, something to celebrate and give thanks for in the midst of this crisis.

But what of God?

Are we, like Mary and Martha, wondering where he is, asking ourselves why he remains absent when we are in such need?

And, of course, he isn’t absent.

He is seen and experienced in all those acts of kindness, compassion, commitment and care;  is present with the sick, the dying and the bereaved; is there in scientific establishments seeking a vaccine; and he is there, too, in refugee camps and war zones, where humans inhumanity to humans makes help something only to dream of. 

God is neither absent nor distant, but wholly present; he who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, stood and wept with Mary and Martha, shared their grief and transformed it through the joy of Lazarus’s resurrection.

Mary, Martha Lazarus: what a journey they made with Christ.  They must, surely, have been utterly changed by all they had lived, and died, through.   

How could their lives be remotely the same after the emotional roller-coaster of those earth-shattering events?

And we, too, will be changed by all that we are experiencing.

The world we thought we knew so well is now, in so many ways, an unfamiliar and unsettling one. 

But, however different or uncomfortable it feels, it is a world still held in God’s love – in all the turmoil of its suffering we, like Mary and Martha before us, will discover that God can transform our fear, our grief, our sense of loss into something wholly new and life-enhancing.

And so, as we continue on our Lenten path, travelling through the darkening days of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, and on towards the light and joy of Easter, let’s celebrate the goodness we see enacted around us, and recognise that God is here with us, and at work in our midst.