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Friday, March 27, 2020

From Mother Vicki

Psalm 130 for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

“Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice;
let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.
If you, Lord, were to note what is done amiss, O Lord, who could stand?
For there is forgiveness with you; therefore you shall be feared.
I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; in his word is my hope.”
Psalm 130:1-4
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

“I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; in his word is my hope.” Psalm 130 is a powerful psalm that reminds us that prayer can take all forms, including crying out to God for help in this particular time of incredible suffering and fear.  We pray for our dear Lord to be with all of those who are ill and in pain.  We pray for all who are caring for the sick and dying--for our hospitals, assisted living and nursing homes, and all other facilities attended to by our courageous doctors, nurses, administrators and staff.  We pray for our ambulances, police and fire departments, for all EMTS and first responders.  We pray for everyone who is working to continue to provide necessary goods and services.  We pray for our mayors, governors, legislators, advisors and our president as they work to help us in this time of unprecedented need.  We pray for those who are alone, and we pray for all of us that we may not lose hope.  We pray for all who are mourning, that, by the grace of God, they may be comforted.  And finally, we pray for all who have died, that they may rest in God’s peace.

Our scripture readings for this Fifth Sunday in Lent are powerful readings about life and death. Ezekiel 37:1-14 is the story about the valley of dry bones, and an incredible conversation between the Lord and the prophet Ezekiel.  The Lord asks, “Mortal, can these bones live?” Ezekiel responds, “O Lord God, you know.” Then the Lord answers, “Prophesy to these bones…, and say to them, “O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.” Ezekiel prophesies, and do you remember what happens?  There is a noise, a rattling, as the bones come together, then sinews, then flesh.  Then the Lord says, “Prophesy to the breath...Come from the four winds, O breath, and breath upon these slain, that they may live.”  Ezekiel does that, “…and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.”  And the Lord says, “And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from the graves, O my people.  I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live….”

This great hope of the resurrection through the breath of God into our dry bones, the spirit of the Lord God within us, is matched by the equally powerful Gospel reading from John 11:1-45, the raising of Lazarus from the dead. In the course of this narrative, we find out that despite being told that Lazarus is deathly ill, Jesus takes his time getting to his friend’s house.  This is confusing to his disciples, who wonder about it.  And when Jesus arrives and speaks with Martha and then Mary, we find out that he wept.  This is such a poignant detail.  Jesus is fully human and understands how profound and upsetting death is to us mortals.  I always hear in this story, as Jesus responds to the grieving woman, his full comprehension of what his suffering, crucifixion and death will not only put him through, but also all of those who love him. 

Having waited long enough so that everyone has to agree that Lazarus is truly dead (Martha reminds him that there will be a stench because Lazarus has been dead four days), Jesus asks them to take away the stone and calls to him, “Lazarus, come out!”  The dead man comes out, still wrapped in the strips of cloth in which they buried him.  Jesus says, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
“Unbind him, and let him go.”  Those simple words, reminders to us that death is not the ultimate end.  Death tries to frighten us and binds us up in fear and sorrow.  But that is not the last word.  The love of God breaks through that barrier and frees us.  As the Apostle Paul wrote powerfully in Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I pray that you are all taking good care of yourselves, and being careful by staying home, avoiding direct contact with others, and washing your hands constantly.  This personal Lenten retreat, on which we have all embarked, is a surprise and something for which we have not really prepared.  However, it still gives us the opportunity to rethink our priorities, refresh our bodies by appreciating the gift of “down time” and enough sleep, and refresh our souls by adding some private devotions into our day—saying Morning or Evening prayer, memorizing a prayer or Bible passage that is inspiring, finding music that is calming, or reading the Bible or other spiritual literature.  It also gives us time to clean up clutter and do a spring house cleaning, if we are so inclined.  Starting small might help us actually do that!

I am grateful to my husband who has been helping to set up a video process that allows Jan Valentine (who is not in the office) to post things and send them out via our e-blast.  I recorded one on Wednesday in honor of The Feast of the Annunciation.  We will be sending out another video on Saturday or Sunday with a short sermon and prayers.

We are so grateful for the beautiful icon of the Angel Gabriel and Mary in Our Lady Chapel “written” (this is the correct word to use when referring to icons) by Father John Walsted, a dear friend of Saint John’s and a very gifted and profound iconographer and priest who died in 2014.

Our buildings are closed.  We are paying attention to what officials are saying, and especially, the guidelines we are receiving from our Diocesan Bishop, The Right Reverend Andy Dietsche.  It is unlikely that we will be able to open before May.  We will let everyone know whenever more specific information is available.  But just remember that God has not abandoned us.  You are not alone.
“There is a balm in Gilead, to make the wounded whole,
there is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.”
LEVAS II Hymn 203
Lenten blessings and love,
Vicki+

Rector
Saint John’s Episcopal Church
Getty Square
1 Hudson Street
Yonkers NY 10701
mothervsirota@gmail.com
cell: 443 257 9963

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