Sunday, March 26, 2017

Daily Devotion for Lent 2017 - Fourth Sunday in Lent

Today's Reading: John 11:1-16 (NRSV)

This is the second time that Bethany is mentioned in John's Gospel.  The first was in Chapter 1 when John the Baptist is questioned by priests and Levites sent by the Pharisees.  He points to Jesus rather than take any credit for himself.

Bethany is mentioned in Mark's Gospel when Jesus stays there at the house of Simon the leper.  The willingness of Jesus to stay in the home of a (presumably former) leper once again places Jesus in the company of the least of these within Judean society.

This shows that Bethany was a place known to Jesus as well as to his disciples.  I wonder what other stories of Jesus in Bethany are lost to history.

Lazarus is only known within John's Gospel.  His sisters, Mary and Martha, may be better known for their hosting of Jesus in Luke's Gospel when Mary sits at the feet of Jesus while Martha tends to the household duties.

When Jesus uses the metaphor of sleep
for death, it makes one think
about the similarities of the two states
in relation to being awake.
I really like the interplay in today's reading between Jesus and the disciples.  Jesus tries to use flowery imagery about sleeping and finally has to state bluntly, "Lazarus is dead."  John doesn't actually say that Jesus sighs loudly but you can almost hear it as you read the account.

Thomas who later doubts the resurrection backs up Jesus to the point of being willing to die with him.   He is either being sarcastic or faithful.  It is hard to know which.  Maybe both at the same time!

The initial dissent from the disciples concerning the mission of Jesus is a wonderful place to insert ourselves into the story.  When does following Jesus become too dangerous or inconvenient to our own plans?  Do we reluctantly go along with Jesus like Thomas or do we simply decide that we will pick up the trail when it is safer?

Since most Christians are not in danger for their faith in the United States, convenience is the more suitable topic.  With worship coming around once a week, do we ever put Jesus on the shelf while we tend to "more important" matters?  Each of us embraces our relationship with Jesus a little bit differently.  But the way you relate to Jesus should be expressed clearly in your daily routines.  After all, we don't want to stumble but rather walk in the light!

Prayer for the day:

Enable me O God to collect and compose my thoughts before an immediate approach to thee in prayer.  May I be careful to have my mind in order when I take upon myself the honor to speak to the sovereign Lord of the universe, remembering that upon the temper of my soul depends in very great measure, my success.  Thou art infinitely too great to be trifled with, too wise to be imposed on by a mock devotion and dost abhor a sacrifice without a heart.  Help me to entertain an habitual sense of thy perfections as an admirable help against cold and formal performances.  Save me from engaging in rash and precipitate prayers, and from abrupt breaking away to follow business or pleasure as though I had never prayed.  Amen.

    Susanna Wesley, 18th Century, England

Photo by Gregory Williams via  Used under the Creative Commons license.

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