April 4, 2014

Jesus Calls Us From Death To New Life (Lent 5 Readings)

\The readings are all about calling people from a state of potential spiritual death to a state of new spiritual life. Ezekiel is given a vision and instructed by God to prophesy and bring the bones of dead soldiers back to life. Paul teaches us to apply this wisdom to our own lives by contrasting the lives of people who are spiritually dead in their sinful nature; with the lives of people who have found a new spiritual life guided by the Holy Spirit. In the raising of Lazarus we see a dramatic example of Jesus calling someone He had a relationship of love with; from death back to physical life. These Readings encourage us to examine our own relationship of love and faith in Jesus as we go through our Lenten preparation for Easter.

1. Ezekiel is learning to follow instructions
God is teaching him. He is asked to do something that seems impossible. It is a test of faith. Ezekiel is learning to trust God and be guided by the Holy Spirit. He is also learning about the desire of God, the power of God and the glory of God.

  • Desire of God is that all people will have life and live in daily, personal relationship with God – right-relationship = righteousness = holy = unpolluted by disloyalty, rebellion and sin
  • Ezekiel sees that He has the power to do this – to bring what was dead to life.
  • Resurrection of the soldiers reveals the power and glory of God and gives us all hope
  • Outward physical sign of the inner spiritual grace of our own resurrection – definition of sacrament / how we explain the invisible spiritual dimension          
2. Paul contrasts those controlled by the sinful nature with those guided by the Holy Spirit

The sinful nature is what we all start with. We are born selfish and fearful. As we go through life we separate into two groups. Many people end up like the spiritually blind people we talked about last week.
  • They are like alcoholics or drug addicts who are dependent on emotional pain relief to escape the fear in their lives.
  • They are like slaves who cannot escape from the spiritual bondage of fear and addiction
  • Special meaning for men and women in the Caribbean who have inherited a history of slavery which robbed them of their identity and value as men and women of God:
    • See men who cannot take responsibility, plan, organize, direct and control – i.e. manage their own lives successfully
    • See women who cannot manage their sexuality and respect men
    • Evidence that deep down inside they have believed the lies – taught by the Anglican Church, that black men and women were created inferior to white men and women
    • Consequence is a deep spiritual bondage that cannot be broken by apologies, declarations and counseling alone
    • Believing a lie – even a lie taught by the Church, is a sin which opens a spiritual doorway for lying spirits that can continue the oppression
    • Good News is that this sin-guilt and spiritual oppression can be broken through Confession and Absolution
  • Paul reminds us that people in bondage have no hope of eternal life. They have no peace and little joy. They are doing it "my way".
  • Paul contrasts this with people who have responded to the call of Jesus to repentance, forgiveness and right relationship with God. The receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and are led by the Holy Spirit.
  • The challenge is the difficulty of getting people who are spiritually blinded out of their destructive pattern. For most people this means a personal crisis – our ministry is to be there with the Good News
3. Jesus called Lazarus to new life
This is an important teaching. We do not have to wait until the Last Day. The Good News is that we can begin to experience our Resurrection Life while we are still physically alive. In fact Jesus says we must believe in Him while we are physically alive as a condition of receiving eternal spiritual life. This is not just something clergy say to scare people. Jesus says it very clearly in this Reading. "…whoever lives and believes in me will never die." (John 11.26):
·         More than believing that Jesus existed as a real person.
·         Belief means we know, understand and live the teachings of Jesus.
·         We put 'our whole trust in Him' to quote from the Baptismal promises.
·         Recognize our dependence on Jesus death for our personal sins.

Jesus calls us from death to new spiritual life
The readings remind us of the importance of a deep personal relationship with Jesus as opposed to belonging to or supporting any particular church. The church cannot 'get you into heaven'. The church can give you teaching and opportunities for Confession, Absolution, spiritual experience and healing. In the end we each have to be like Mary and Martha and Lazarus who knew Jesus personally. They ate and drank with Him as we eat and drink with Him in the Eucharist or during grace over meals at home. This is what connected them spiritually to Jesus.

This is what enabled them to have a new and eternal spiritual life

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