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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7 thoughts on “Revised Common Lectionary: New Life”
this Sunday I have an idea of working with gospel, Ezekiel and Psalm – but that is alt of readings. I cut the John reading down to the verses in the Catholic lectionary. Paul Melley has a lovely sung version of the psalm, to which i have added images.
lent is rushing by, and I need to get a few extra services out soon, for the people preparing the PPT.
Any combination for this Sunday feels like a lot of readings! Hoping that you’re able to weave things together in the way you imagine. Blessings in planning ahead for upcoming services 🙂
I met a man today in the grocery store who shared his own resurrection story. He was dead to life after his son was shot in the face because he was simply in the wrong place. The father was hollow, dried up for years, until he met a man who responded when asked “how are you today” with … here it comes… I choose to be happy. The father told me these words brought him back to life, to love, to healing. Each day as he rises he reminds himself, I choose to be happy. If that is not resurrection for today, I don’t know what is. This man gave me the gift of a sermon in a nutshell, God indeed moved in the produce section of my local store today.
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Wow, what a powerful story! If you see that man again, thank him for us… I’m guessing that he provided the inspiration for more than one sermon this week.
Full disclosure: I am not preaching this week because I am presenting at the United Church of Christ’s W.I.S.E Conference. This conference is about mental health and it admittedly colored my readings of the texts this week. Here’s what I’ve got: https://rachaelkeefe.wordpress.com/2017/03/30/can-these-bones-rise/
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This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, for calling attention to such an important issue, and for tying it to faith.
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