On the fifth Sunday in Lent, the Revised Common Lectionary brings us the raising of Lazarus and the reanimation of dry bones in Ezekiel. While it’s easy to see why the two stories are paired together, there are significant differences.
Lazarus is raised from the dead and can serve as protector and provider to his two sisters, while also living his own life in whatever way he sees fit… though we never actually learn much about his life apart from his relationship with his sisters. To explore more about Jesus’ extraordinary relationship with women, including Mary and Martha in this passage, check out this week’s Working Preacher post.
The dry bones, on the other hand, are simply resuscitated for the sake of illustration. The bones represent Israel’s forthcoming renewal, but they apparently don’t do anything with the Spirit God gives them aside from showing how powerful the return of Israel will be.
Both of these stories do highlight the power of the prophet to do the impossible – and thereby also highlight the power of God, working through the prophet. That is one direct connection that you could draw between the stories, if you are one of those preachers who likes to tie the readings together. Romans 8 also talks about living in the flesh, which is death, verses living in the Spirit, which is life. This is one of those rare Sundays in which the epistle, first lesson, and Gospel all touch on similar themes.
Psalm 130 is also assigned for Sunday – see this Tuesday’s prayer post for a beautiful musical rendition. This psalm acknowledges the depths of despair that a person can reach, and also the hope that God can provide even in the darkest times. Depending on what’s going on in the life of your congregation, this message could be poignant to hear from the pulpit.
This is the last Sunday in Lent before we enter Jerusalem with Jesus and endure the whirlwind of events that follow. Blessings to you as you prepare to lead your congregation through the Passion this year. Please share your ideas here about this week’s readings.
Katya Ouchakof is an ELCA pastor in Madison, WI, occasional blogger at Provocative Proclamations, and a contributor to There’s a Woman in the Pulpit. She is counting down the days until the next Star Wars movie comes out – 261 as of this posting!
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