Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sermon for Year C Lent 5

It’s later than we think…

Today we celebrate the 5th Sunday in Lent.
Next Sunday is Palm Sunday,
also known as the Sunday of the Passion.
Next Sunday is our doorway into Holy Week—
but once we pass through that doorway
so much comes so quickly—
Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday,
Holy Saturday, the Easter Vigil and then,
Easter Day—
So much so fast
we hardly have time to process much less ponder.

So this week, this last week of Lent, is a good time to pause and look ahead
for what is to come and what it all means in our lives
as people who follow Jesus.

Today’s gospel is about generosity.
Mary comes bearing an extravagant gift, expensive oil—
And she squanders (so some think) it all on Jesus.
Jesus who has accepted, fed and healed the poor throughout his ministry
“You will always have the poor with you,
But you do not always have me.”
Sometimes this text is used to say there is no point in trying to help the poor
Because Jesus himself says the poor will always be with us.

Jesus is not demeaning the poor—
Instead Jesus is saying,
pay attention to the moment that is right before you.
It is always later than we think.
Mary senses that.
Jesus knows that.

Pay attention to the moment.
Pay attention to these last moments of Lent.
How has your Lenten discipline been?
Have you stopped craving chocolate or television or video games or whatever it was you gave up?
Or have you forgotten what it was you intended to give up—
You did pretty well the first couple of weeks
and then sort of fell into a state of Lenten amnesia?
It happens.
Have you taken on something that has enriched your spiritual life
or made happier the lives of those around you?
In these last days of Lent
pay attention to the presence of God
and be present to all that is right in front of you.

As we head down the final leg of our journey to Holy Week
we have time
to think about the myriad ways God is generous to each of us.
We have time to consider and to act,
to be more generous to one another,
more generous to our families,
more generous to those in our parish family,
more generous to those in our community.
To be extravagant with our love as Mary was as she anointed Jesus.
What better way to prepare for Holy Week.

Thanks to a Spanish pilgrim who traveled to Jerusalem in the 4th century,
We know a great deal about the history and liturgies of Holy Week.
This pilgrim, a woman named Egeria,
kept an amazing journal,
about what she called “the Great Week.”

Her journal, written around the year 380,
details all the services of Holy Week
the early Christians celebrated in Jerusalem.
And like Egeria,
those pilgrims took these liturgies back home with them,
back to their home churches
in places far from Jerusalem.

Holy Week is indeed a great and powerful week.
It is why we, as Episcopalians do not jump
over all that happened to Jesus between Palm Sunday and Easter.
We do not skip the foot washing, the last supper,
the crucifixion, the time in the tomb,
the world plunged into darkness and despair.
We walk the way of the cross.
We do this through our liturgy—
praying the Stations of the Cross,
Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday,
the Easter Vigil.
And then…and only then…Easter Day.

This week, this last week of Lent,
is our time to prepare for that journey of Holy Week.

This week is a time to consider the new things
that are springing forth in our own lives
and in the life of this parish.

As the prophet Isaiah says,
Do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.

Lent is the metaphor for the wilderness times of our life.
But the wandering in the desert is not forever.

Get ready!

Resurrection is coming.
The river is about to burst out of its banks.
We are almost there—
but not quite.

As we head toward “the Great Week”,
as the pilgrim Egeria called it,
we are gifted with a little more time to practice generosity,
to reach out to those we love
and to embrace those who reach out to us.

Jesus knew the truth.
It is always later than we think.

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