Lent 5A, Reflectionary

Bring Out Your Dead

As we try to adjust to having four people at home all the time, one of our strategies is rotating the choice of post-dinner activity, to bring ourselves together for something that counts as play. On Friday night, my 24-year-old daughter picked a movie she felt was essential to the cultural education of my 15-year-old stepson, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I’m fairly sure the only time I watched it all the way through was at a campus screening in 1981, but I recognized the cultural touchstones. 

I vaguely remembered the plague scene, a cart being wheeled through the muddy streets of a village, while Eric Idle cries…

I’m sure it seemed hilarious in 1975, when an image like the one below would have been unthinkable, but I cringed to see it.

It’s Wednesday, and I have no idea how things will be this weekend, when pastors will do their best to share a good word with the people they serve. The lectionary for Sunday feels uncomfortably close to our situation. Lent is almost over, and we are approaching the top of the curve in Jesus’ story just as we are trying to flatten the curve in ours. We are living, most of us, one day at a time, even one hour at a time, waiting for the next news update, waiting for a million shoes to drop.

This week’s gospel lesson, John 11:1-45, is one of my favorite stories in the New Testament, because I love Martha and her family and their relationship with Jesus. He is intimately acquainted with them; the sisters feel free to be themselves with him, Martha jousting and Mary collapsing, both expressing their disappointment without reserve. We learn that their loss is his loss, too, even as he knows he will be bringing Lazarus back to the world of the living. 

We will be brought out of this eventually, but for now, we are in the tomb with Lazarus, waiting. Lives are being lost, along with many understandings about life we considered reliable in the First World in the 21st century. The close ties of all who live on this planet have never been illuminated so plainly. This week’s texts proclaim the hope of our faith: death is not the end. What will our lives proclaim to the world? I hope our testimony will be love and care, accompaniment of those who mourn, and space to weep for what we will lose and have lost already.

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Psalm 23, Reflectionary

God is My…

In this week when we are all strategizing our response to a new abnormal, It feels providential that wrapped into the lectionary for Sunday is the 23rd Psalm. In The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms for the Struggle, I wrote a psalm in conversation with it, Are You?  You’ll find the text below. Pages of notes and fragments on legal pad paper trace the path I took from one metaphor to another, trying to find the image that resonated for me but would also be common enough to be recognizable and relatable to readers. 

What would speak broadly to people in this moment? 

From Australia this week, where he is in isolation after he and his wife were diagnosed with COVID-19 Tom Hanks channeled the man he played on screen and thanked the helpers on Instagram. In Italy, a start-up company used a 3D printer to manufacture valves desperately needed for Coronavirus patients. Ai Fen, a doctor in Wuhan, China, is speaking out against authorities who covered up the outbreak there, trying to get the word out before censors erase the truth.

God is my helper, my engineer, my physician; God is my whistleblower…

Who is God to us in this moment? Who is the God we call out to in prayer?

If you will be streaming worship on Facebook Live or bringing your community together on Zoom, I hope you’ll ask who God is to them in this moment. Use the psalm to frame the question. Invite responses in a comment stream or via text message or in a chat box. Please know I am praying for you and the people you serve, today and in the weeks to come.

You’re welcome to use my psalm in worship or wherever it might be helpful.