March 26, 2023 – The Fifth Sunday In Lent

Fr. Cal Calhoun

In the Name of God, the God of Resurrection, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

At a clergy retreat this past week, our leader talked about impasse. The impasses in our lives that stop us dead. They can leave us not knowing what to do next. These can take many forms. It might be something in our personal lives, family, marriage, illness, death or loss. It might be something related to our job or vocation, some event or bad news that sets us up a wall in front of us. It might be something societal like a pandemic, or racism, or gun violence, those things that can leave us feeling hopeless.  We all have them, impasses. Usually more than one in our lives. They cause suffering and hardship. And in moments, we may feel paralyzed, not knowing what to do next.

Our leader discussed impasse as one of the times that prayer, particularly contemplative prayer, can be most helpful, perhaps because there is little else that is helpful in these times. Contemplative prayer doesn’t guarantee answers, may not provide a way forward, but you might just be reminded of God’s presence, you might be reminded that God loves you, and desires to relationship with you. Just some small sense of one of those things, can give a glimmer of hope.

It seems to me, that is what we are seeing in our readings today. A glimmer of hope. There is an impasse. Lazarus is dead. That is it. That is the end. Four days dead. There is a valley of dry bones. As an aside, when I hear this story, I usually find myself asking, what are those bones even doing there? At any rate, bones, very dry bones we are told. What good are they now?

God can breathe life into anything. God does breathe life into many things. Look around, it’s Springtime. Things that were dead are coming to life. Resurrection is about way more than Jesus. Resurrection is about way more than Lazarus.  Resurrection is laid out in our Old Testament reading from Ezekiel. Resurrection is not just a New Testament thought. Resurrection is one of the primary threads running through creation. There is always a glimmer of new life. We are learning even “suns, and the planets in their courses” have a life cycle. They exist, and then they falter and die. And then they are absorbed into a black hole, or become part of another galaxy, and in that “death” they are part of creating something new. Life, death, and resurrection is central to all of creation.

I realize I’m talking a lot about resurrection this morning. Makes me wonder if there will be anything left to talk about in a few weeks. Have these readings come too early?  Are we getting ahead of ourselves? These readings are definitely pointing to the good news of Easter morning. And… we are not there yet.

But in these waning days of Lent, we are thrown a lifeline. We are pointed in the direction of new life. When we are dealing with the bareness of the desert, almost overcome in the 40 days in the wilderness, on this 5th Sunday of Lent, there is a glimmer of resurrection.

Br. David Vryhof of SSJE, says this in the context of the parable of the prodigal son, but I think it rings true when facing any impasse or when we are lost in the depths of Lent: When we awaken and are able to recall who we are and to whom we belong, when we stand up and dust ourselves off and begin the journey home, God comes running to meet us. God offers us forgiveness even though we don’t deserve it. God offers us pardon even though we haven’t earned it. God offers us a home even though we chose to leave it.

Whether you have an impasse staring you straight in the face, or that last impasse is gratefully in the rearview mirror, there is a glimmer of hope. There is new life. God is wants to pour on you forgiveness, pardon, and love, so that where you are at home is never in question. You are at home with God.

Let us pray.

Holy and gracious God, grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of this world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found. Amen.

Year A, The Fifth Sunday In Lent  –   March 26, 2023   –   The Rev. Cal Calhoun