The Daily Office | March 20, 2018
Psalms 102, 103
Titus 2:9-3 end
Collect: Ash Wednesday
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made, and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Collect: The Fifth Sunday in Lent
Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: 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; through Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Lent reminds us that the God above has entered into the mess and pain of our broken lives. He took on flesh in the form of Jesus Christ to save us from our sins. He hungered, he thirst, he wept. Our Gospel today reminds us that Jesus Christ entered into relationship and with that relationship, suffered the pain of loss. Although he knew he would conquer death, he still wept at the brokenness it incurred.
Jesus allows Lazarus to die so that Jesus could display the power of God, to give a foretaste of the victory he would win on the cross and in the empty tomb. He tells Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
Those who believe in Christ do not die but fall asleep. Jesus says this about Lazarus and Paul says this in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.”
Death is not the final word. No, it is only the beginning of a new work, a new life by the power of Jesus Christ. Maybe you’ve experienced death and continue to grieve the loss. Take comfort, for Jesus weeps with you, and take heart, for he has conquered death and it is not the final word.
Or maybe it’s not a loved one, but perhaps a friendship or relationship has died. The person still lives but for some reason, you no longer speak or are estranged. Maybe a full and beautiful season has ended. Whatever may be “dead” in your life, know that we worship a God in the business of bringing new life from dead things, who redeems the broken parts of our lives for his glory and our good.
As Martin Luther writes,
“God receives none but those who are forsaken, restores health to none but those who are sick, gives sight to none but the blind, and life to one but the dead. He does not give saintliness to any but sinners, nor wisdom to any but fools. In short: He has mercy on none but the wretched and gives grace to none but those who are in disgrace. Therefore no arrogant saint, or just or wise man can be material for God, neither can he do the work of God, but he remains confined within his own work and makes of himself a fictitious, ostensible, false, and deceitful saint, that is, a hypocrite
So bring out your dead, give them to God. Know that he is both with you in your pain and over it in his sovereignty.