Fifth Sunday in Lent
Readings – Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:6-11; John 11:1-45
Primary Elections are coming up, on 14 May. We will again host a polling place in our parish hall. It is a good thing for us to do. As people of faith, we lift up our voices and vote on the issues of the day. As people of faith, we are to be engaged in the concerns of the day.
In 1914 Andrew Carnegie called together religious leaders, scientists, and politicians to promote world peace. World War I had just begun and the hope was that our country would not enter the conflict. Yet, when we did, the Carnegie Council supported the effort. Following the war, the Council supported the formation of the League of Nations. During the Great Depression, they supported the government intervention in the economy on behalf of the unemployed. Just prior to World War II the Council challenged discrimination against Japanese Americans and African-Americans. Again, in wartime, they supported our mobilization, and following the war supported the formation of the United Nations.
The first president of the Carnegie Council was the Rev. William P. Merrill, a Presbyterian minister who served in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, in Chicago, Illinois, and in New York, New York. He was also a hymn writer. In our current hymnal, we find “Rise up, ye saints of God”, originally known as “Rise up, O men of God” in the 1940 Hymnal.
Rise up, ye saints of God! Have done with lesser things, give heart and soul and mind and strength to serve the King of Kings. Rise up, ye saints of God! His kingdom tarries long; Lord, bring the day of truth and love and end the night of wrong. Lift high the cross of Christ! Tread where his feet have trod; and quickened by the Spirit’s power, rise up, ye saints of God!
This hymn came to mind as I read the passage from Ezekiel about the dry bones and the Spirit of God. We will hear this passage again on Easter Eve. The dry bones cried out–
And Ezekiel gave voice to God and replied–
Without hope, without a mission, without purpose, we dry up; we are like the walking dead. I fear that there are many around us who are without hope, who are without a mission, and who are without purpose. In many ways, our challenge as the Church today is to be the Ezekiels of today. We are to be God’s messengers; we are to be angels of God and breathe life into others.
As we awaken each morning, whether, at 6 or 7 or 8 or 9, we rise up to change at least one other person’s life for the better. We share the Spirit given to us at our baptism. We rise up each morning to be the breath of Jesus calling upon the dry bones of our neighbors, the dry bones of our community, the dry bones of our commonwealth, the dry bones of our nation, and the dry bones of our world.
The first verse of Psalm 130 may describe our situation, “Out of the depths have I called you, O Lord”, yet I do not think we need to “wait for the Lord”. The Lord God has acted; the Lord God has shown us the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In Jesus Christ, we have been shown how to live in loving God, in loving neighbor, and in loving self. And the Lord God renews our spiritual strength through worship, through the sacrament of bread and wine, of body and blood. We have been raised to a life of mission as St. Paul wrote to the Romans–
We have been unbound, like Lazarus, to continue the vision, to continue the mission of the Risen Jesus. We engage in mission each and every day. We, you and I, rise up as the saints of God.
Rise up, ye saints of God! Have done with lesser things, give heart and soul and mind and strength to service the King of Kings Rise up, ye saints of God! His kingdom tarries long: Lord, bring the day of truth and love and end the night of wrong. Lift high the cross of Christ! Tread where his feet have trod; and quickened by the Spirit’s power, rise up, ye saints of God! Hymn #551