Over the last few weeks our outlook on life has shrunk. Whereas just a few weeks ago we could come and go as we pleased, not just here in our country but around the world.
Nowadays that world seems different, smaller and somehow more fragile. It brings into perspective how despite all our apparent progress how vulnerable we really are.
For us here at St. Mary’s our church is closed.
And all of us spend our time at home, our freedom is restricted.
Consequently, the world looks different and our outlook on life has shrunk. Perhaps it’s inevitable for though wonderful acts of kindness and generosity have been manifest amongst us, at a time like this we tend to focus on our own concerns and worries.
From the practical – will have enough food to eat?
Will I have work, get paid, pay the bills.
To the profound – what shall I do with all this time, or even will I survive this?
These questions are seldom asked for we have become accustomed to a life of plenty and an abundance of opportunity.
Whilst we hope and pray that these days will soon be forgotten the feelings kindled by them find echoes in the story of Jesus.
Today is Passion Sunday, the Sunday when our attention shifts in our journey through this season of Lent.
Whereas up until now our attention has been focused a bit more on how we might draw closer to God through our giving up, chocolates, biscuits and booze and taking up, Lent courses (when they ran), reading and more time for prayer.
Now our attention turns to Jesus and what lies before him the days to come.
Jesus’ ministry was wide and varied.
He dealt with all sorts of peoples in all sorts of situations.
He taught in synagogues, in rooms, by lakes and on hillsides.
His was a bold and broad vision for how humanity might live and love.
And yet the world in which he inhabited seemed to shrink as he came towards his last days.
Disciples leave him.
People with whom he shared his life, people who knew him called for his death.
Perhaps then he struggled to hold onto that bold vision of love which he lived and spoke of.
A vision of hope, love and new life that we encounter in our Gospel reading this morning from St. John.
In it, Lazarus, Jesus’ friend has died. Jesus is not there but he journeys to see him and his sisters. He meets Martha on his way.
He is compassionate to her and invites her to believe more “I am the resurrection and the life” he says.
To prove it, the stone is rolled away and Lazarus is unbound.
Grief, like Martha’s can shrink our outlook on life.
At the moment there is much grief around.
For those who are suffering and who have lost their life to Coronavirus of course.
But more subtly for all of us as we come to terms with a different kind of life for a time.
It’s strange to hear the roads quiet, and yet though there is strangeness there is opportunity here.
For whilst our fear, our anxiety, our sense of being vulnerable are real important questions are forced to the surface as we are reminded how precious life is. How love is what matters most and of how we all get lost sometimes.
As Jesus weeps at the grave of his friend Lazarus, perhaps he weeps over us too. Weeps over how we lose our way. How we invest our lives in that which doesn’t bring life.
How we fail to love as he might wish.
So perhaps, contrary to what we might first think could these days be a time when Jesus says to us “take away the stone” and live. Live into a broader vision of what it is to be a human being.
Here we turn to the Old Testament reading.
As we meet Ezekiel who was placed in the valley dry bones.
It was a desolate place.
A place you would want to leave as soon as possible.
Yet it was here that words of life are heard “I shall put my spirit within you and you shall live.”
Both readings this morning speak into our situation today.
Jesus’ world contracted as he approached his passion, it was for him the narrow way.
This narrow way is something he talked about in Matthew’s Gospel. There he said “the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life”.(1)Matthew 7.14
Life at this time feels hard and like a narrow road and yet for Jesus the narrow road he walked to Calvary opened out into the joy of resurrection and new life.
So, we pray that through these days when perhaps our outlook on life has shrunk.
When we feel more vulnerable and afraid.
When we wonder what to do with the time, though I know some of you are working hard from home that we might take this time to reflect on the things that matter most remembering that Christ has walked this path before.
For Him the narrow path opened out into a new expansive life beyond our imagination.
That new life is our hope, both for this life for when these days pass and for the life to come.
Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life”.
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