More Than We Can Ask or Imagine
More Than We Can Ask or Imagine
On the last Sunday we all were in church at St. John's, the procession was lining up in the chapel as we readied to begin the service. The painting of Dr. George Davidson looked out at us from the wall at the end of the side aisle. He was Rector of St. John's from 1913 until 1951. His 38-year tenure makes him not only the longest serving priest in the history of our congregation, but also the priest that oversaw the building we all love and look forward to worshiping in again soon. It wasn't until that day just three weeks ago (it seems much longer ago) that another one of Dr. Davidson's experiences as Rector comes to mind -- as the priest who saw St. John's through the ravages of the First World War and the last pandemic in our history, the Spanish Flu in 1918. While we look forward to going back into our archives to see records from that era once we return to the building, we still can appreciate that we have been in dire situations before and have come out the other side. We can also know that the same faith that sustained the people of St. John's through those turbulent days still sustains us.
The Gospel appointed for this coming Sunday, from the 11th chapter of the Gospel of John tells the story of two famous biblical sisters, Martha and Mary who send for to Jesus to come heal their brother Lazarus, who has fallen ill. Jesus waits two days before he decides to go to their village to see Lazarus and by this time Lazarus has died. When he arrives in their village the two sisters are grieving the loss of their brother. Martha seems angry with Jesus -- "If you would have only been here, he wouldn't have died. Even now, I know whatever you ask, God will give you." Martha and Mary hoped for a healing, but in the end, they received resurrection. Jesus goes to the tomb and calls Lazarus forth from the grave, a foretaste of the great day of resurrection of Jesus himself after his own suffering and death. Events we will remember liturgically in two weeks’ time.
In these days we are experiencing fear, maybe grief and maybe even some anger. We wonder what is going on in the world. Has God shown up? Is Jesus here? Why is this happening? At the end of the service of Morning Prayer in our Prayer Book, a passage from the Book of Ephesians may conclude the service: "Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20,21). Mary and Martha didn't know how Jesus would address their situation of death and loss. But it seems Martha's appeal echoes the resurrection hope of St. Paul: "Even now I know whatever you ask God will give you."
As we come to the end of this Lenten season and look forward to the day of resurrection two Sundays from now, we cannot know how God will bring us through our present circumstances, but we know God will bring us through. In these days, let the words of Ephesians be our affirmation and our prayer. Even when it seemed impossible, when there was a literal dead end in front of them, Mary and Martha still believed God would make a way where there was no way. And Jesus showed up in the midst of their fear and their faith. Yet remember in the Ephesians passage, the Apostle gives glory to God whose power "working in us" can do more than we can ever ask or imagine. So how will we -- the community of St. Johns, our city, our state, our nation, our whole church, indeed the whole global family -- be agents of resurrection at this time. How will the Holy Spirit use us to bring an end to this crisis and new life on the other side. We invite you to pray another prayer, for self-dedication, in the Prayer Book in these days reflecting on the theme of Ephesians:
Almighty and eternal God,
so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated unto you; and then use us, we pray you, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.