Ezekiel 37, 12-14 + Psalm 130 + Romeans 8, 8-11 + John 11, 1-45
Prepared during a time of self-isolation during the pandemic.
The three men invited to the Garden by Jesus are the same three who just, weeks before, went with him up a mountain to witness his glory. They like what they see on that mountain, and Peter says: “It is good for us to be here.” The next time Jesus climbs a hill, they will be nowhere in sight. Those disciples who once argued over who gets to sit on his right or his left are all gone somewhere, replaced by two thieves on his right and on his left. That crowd shouting, “Hosanna” has changed its tune now crying out: “Crucify him.” With these scenes and thoughts in mind, we enter into a week we call, Holy to celebrate and observe the Passover.
That solemn yet joyful entry into Jerusalem is for the sake of Passover. At first it is for the sake of a Passover past and remembered, but it becomes a new Passover for the present and the future. They fast. They sacrifice a lamb. They eat the flesh of that lamb never alone, but with friends and family. They tell the amazing story of the Covenant to which they were invited by a God who loved them first with a love that knew no limit to forgiveness. That Passover celebration was never finished that night. Before the fourth and final cup of wine, Jesus leaves the room, and there begins a new Passover. He prays first with his Father about that last cup which will finish and seal the covenant while the three who were so anxious to be with him before now sleep. They are gone as the sacrifice begins. When the Lamb is sacrificed and its blood poured out for the new covenant, they are hiding almost dead like Lazarus until they are called out with news too good to be true except that it is true. “I thirst” says the Lamb of God, and with some wine on a stick, he drinks the last cup and says, “It is finished.” The Covenant of love and mercy is sealed.
With this Passion proclaimed, and our remembrance of that Passover Supper in an upper room, yet to come, one Lent comes to an end this week, but another has just begun. What we began on February 26 of this year was our annual fast calling us to give up, give away, and refresh our relationship with God. What we may have given up for Lent in our seasonal fasting seems insignificant when compared to what we are giving up now. Some call it “Social distancing”. Others, like me, call it “Physical distancing”. Regardless of the word, there is a very real experience of distance that finds us calling each other by phone, texts, and email waiting and watching for all of this to pass over. While we wait and watch, a hunger stirs in our hearts for companions, for neighbors, friends, and the community of faith where we are fed by the Word of God and the Bread of Life. It will do us no harm to experience this fasting if we remember who we fast with and what we fast for. The Covenant we share gives us an identity as God’s people. It means we are a people formed through sacrifice and love even though we often leave the “sacrifice” part up to others. Many in this Covenant with us have suffered and fasted before, and they still do today out of our sight. Christians in refugee camps, our brothers and sisters in the parts of this world where Mass is forbidden, and those who have gone before us in concentration camps and prisons have suffered this hunger before and remained faithful and hopeful. While we fast from the Flesh of the Lamb of God, and while we long for him to come under our roof again, we wait in confident hope that like those people who once followed Jesus into the wilderness, we will be fed again and with abundance. In that hope, we keep a vigil now and watch and wait for that day when we may rise up together to sing Hosanna and shout Alleluia.