Our Curate - Jane Quinton's reflection
5th Sunday of Lent (Passion Sunday) – “Do you believe…….?”
“Many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time”…….. these were the words of Prime Minister Boris Johnson when he addressed the nation a couple of weeks ago as the Covid 19 pandemic began to hit the UK.
Sombre words that have already come true for many thousands of people across the world, and will continue to do so for a while yet….. I myself already know of someone who has lost their life to this virus…….
And yet, despite these unprecedented times of disruption and death, never in my lifetime have I witnessed such a sense of our global community being ‘connected’ with one another. We are all in this together – and it seems to be providing wonderful opportunities of showing support and care and love for our fellow brother and sister……..
On Thursday night it was so moving to see millions of people come out on to the streets or hang out of their windows to applaud and show support for the NHS and care workers (an idea which began in Spain)……… it has been inspiring to see the number of people who have answered the NHS call for volunteer drivers….. and how wonderful it has been to just witness people looking out for each other, trying to find ways to help one another, particularly those who are vulnerable.
But for all these acts of kindness and love, there is also the reality that we are living in uncertain and unsettling times - something which will understandably be making us feel worried, anxious and fearful. Even those who have a faith may find themselves asking, ‘why Lord………..?’
And so how very comforting it is to read our gospel text this week – a reading which breathes hope into the situation in which we find ourselves.
It is the story of Lazarus, and his sisters Martha and Mary who send a message to Jesus as soon as they realise their brother Lazarus is unwell.
Although Jesus loves His 3 friends, when He gets the news of Lazarus’s illness, we are told that He ‘purposely stays two days longer in the place where He was….’ And by the time He eventually arrives at their home, Lazarus has died……
In turn, both sisters run to Jesus and say, “If you had been here my brother wouldn’t have died”……
There will of course be many prayers being lifted to God at the moment, especially for our loved ones to survive this pandemic, and though many of those prayers will be answered, there will be others that will seemingly go unanswered……
And many people will be crying tears of anguish – just as Martha and Mary and others were doing at Lazarus’s tomb.
But John is very clear to record that when Jesus saw them all crying, He was ‘greatly disturbed and deeply moved, and He also began to weep’…….
Through all our pain, especially the worst pain of all, that of losing someone we love, God weeps with us…. Because He loves His creation, and especially us His children……. each one of us is precious in His eyes…….
In fact He loves us so much that He always had a great plan – a plan that would enable His children to once again be with Him, living in a loving relationship that we had spoilt through our sin. It was a plan of great sacrifice to Him…… a plan that involved His Son Jesus giving up His own life to the excruciating pain of death on a cross……
But….Jesus says to Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die……….. Do you believe this?”
One of my favourite quotes is from the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and comes when Sonny the owner of the hotel is trying to reassure one of the new residents that the unfinished hotel will be completed: “Everything will be all right in the end” he says…… “and if it's not all right, then it's not yet the end!”
We are living in times when many thousands are seeing their loved ones die from this virus, but...there is hope!
Because the words Jesus spoke to Martha and Mary after they had seen their beloved brother die, Jesus also continues to speak to all of us.
“Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live…..”
Because, this is not yet the end………….
Jesus, through His own death on the cross, and then rising from the grave on Easter Sunday, has opened up a way for us all to share a new and eternal life where there will be no more tears, no more pain…… a life beyond this one that will be perfect.
And He has done it because He loves us……. each one of us….
“Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” Jesus said to Mary.
And then He went over to the tomb and said to Lazarus, “Come out…….” And the dead man came out…..
Just as Jesus called to Lazarus so He calls to each one of us today……..
Come out’ of that dark place of fear, and take my hand…….. do not be afraid because I am here, and I am the resurrection and the life ………..
In the days of uncertainty that lie ahead I pray that not only will we find new ways of connecting with each other, but that each one of us will also find ourselves connecting – again, or for the first time - with the God of love who created this world and every single one of us in His image of love; the God who loves each one of us as His own child; the God who cries with us….. truly feeling our pain; and the God who literally gave His life for us, suffering death on the cross, in order that ‘everything will be all right in the end’…………. because death in this life is not the end…….
Can you, do you, will you, believe this?’