I hope your preparations have been fruitful this week. I don’t regularly put myself in the situation of preparing a sermon while on vacation, but here I am at my inlaws’ dining room table with my iPad. A family emergency required us to leave for the Maritimes a few days earlier than planned, so my sermon preparation got pushed back.
If I was any good at coming up with sermon titles, my title for this week would be, “What has God done for you lately?” All of our readings recall God’s saving power and compassion.
If your folks are like mine, many have probably begun to watch The Bible on History Channel. After watching the first episode (haven’t seen the second yet. Looking forward to watching it when we get home) it seemed to me God had become a secondary character compared to the epic characters of Noah, Abraham, Sarah and Moses. This reading from Isaiah brings God back into this epic story. Isaiah calls us to look forward, not back, to remember that God is doing a new thing. As we bring Lent to a close, and we know what is coming, this is the Sunday for us to look forward, begin to anticipate the promise of the resurrection.
This psalm is another of my favourites. “When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, then we were like those who dream” (NRSV). The Common English Bible says, “…it was like we had been dreaming”. My paraphrase would say, “It was like a dream come true.” This is what salvation feels like. Even when we do not receive all we want, can we still dream?
The passage from Philippians recalls our Lenten journey as a race, we are almost done. The end of the race, the end of Lent, is not the goal. The goal is the transformed life that comes only through Christ’s resurrection. This is a good Sunday to ask, “What’s next?” After keeping a Lenten discipline, you could take another 50 day journey by making an Easter commitment. What has your Lenten discipline strengthened you to do?
The most loving expression of gratitude for the saving work of God is in the actions of Mary, sister of Lazarus. One could take this opportunity to explore gospel parallels, or the ways in which women are assumed to be sinful. Given the season, I would stick with the theme of gratitude. What has God done for you that would bring you to perform such an extravagant act? Maybe it is time to look at your own salvation history to find the answer.