..does God make mistakes? & if he does, does he learn from them for the next time? ..listen to God speaking through prophet Jeremiah; “I will make a new covenant..not like the one I made with their ancestors” ..a God who, as we get it wrong time & time again, offers more & more of himself “they broke that covenant of mine, so I had to show them who was master”..a master who instead of teaching us a lesson, he offers us a deepening loving unconditional relationship
“deep within them I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts” & he wrote then & now “you are mine” ; Lord have mercy “I will be their God & they shall be my people..” ..for infinity.. ; Christ have mercy “I will forgive their iniquity [ & ours ] & never call their sin [ & ours ] to mind” ..forgiven & redeemed.. ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
“Mary has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her” we all know Luke’s brief & brusk account of the story of Martha & Mary, where Mary sits primly properly & beautifully dressed, devotedly at Our Lord’s feet, smitten by his musings, whilst Martha, in her creased pinnie & look of dishevelment, frets overheatedly over preparing a three course meal in the kitchen, where, at meal table, Mary is likely to ask unthinkingly “is there no Yorkshire relish to go on the beef?” a Jesus more at home with the gentle contemplative rather than the frenetic disciple; prayer rather than good works..& John, who writes years later, takes up Luke’s story & rewrites it, widens its scope, & deepens its spirituality..& what a difference in tone, style & relevance. It is a typical John’s gospel long in length & on diversity; tension between urgency & neediness of humanity & the patience/trustfulness of divinity..we meet Lazarus, brother of Martha & Mary; we learn it is this Mary who anointed Our Lord’s feet with ointment & tears..no wonder she now sits at his feet, a forgiven penitent, making up for lost time..someone I know very well..& they sent a lovely message to Jesus “Lord, the man you love is ill” no need to name him, it could only be one man, the favourite of Jesus..& what did the divine Jesus do at getting the news, 2 miles distance from Lazarus?..Gilling to here, that close..if he ran he would be there in 40mins..he delayed for 3days..would you believe it? instead, there is a divine explanation to his disciples..holy wordplay..& when they eventually got there they were too late..the house full of mourners..& Martha came out to meet Jesus “Mary remained sitting in the house” notice the contrast, feel the electricity & the mood of the moment; Martha’s reaction part 1 is softened mellowed into a response part 2; “if you had been here, my brother would not have died” part 1..how would she have felt?..angry bitter let- down, 2 miles distance & it took you 3 days!..& you are too late!..she’d be livid betrayed, wouldn’t you be? wouldn’t you?..& then part 2 edited version brings in faith/ spirituality “but I know that even now, whatever you ask of God, he will grant you”..an act of faith, of self- surrender “into your hands I commend my spirit” words Our Lord would voice in not so many days’ time, & where pray had he learned them? & who had he learned them from? his Father in heaven? or his beloved Martha in her grief?..does Jesus learn from us for the next time?..& he goes into deep spiritual wordplay with her, an intimate divine exchange..she professes her faith in the resurrection on the last day, & he trumps it by telling her that, if she/we believe, there is no such thing as death “do you believe this?”.. do you believe this? do I believe this? & she says “I believe that you are the Christ” she has the privilege/blessing in John’s gospel of voicing what Peter professes in the other three gospels “who do you say I am?”..”you are the Christ” for that Peter got title “rock”.. papal authority & succession..the rock of the Church..& here John gives that moment of recognition & disclosure, & dare I say authority to..to?..a woman..women so long left out excluded/devalued/kept at a distance by Judaism & Catholicism..”I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God”..& Martha goes to call her sister..now notice “in a low voice” the human anger & bitterness has gone, divine intimacy emerging..”the Master is here & wants to see you” “she threw herself at his feet” like old times, the penitent sinner, humble forgiven redeemed, & she voices same words as Martha’s but with a softness, a calm of self-abandonment, tears of remorse & self-surrender..& all this, this humanity in divinity, moves the human Jesus to tears “where have you put him?” “come & see” Jesus wept, real tears real sorrow real hurt & real love.. & I would want to push the pause button on iPlayer here, with 2wks yet to go to the failure despair & desolation of Holy Thursday & Good Friday. It is inappropriate to enter the domain of a resurrection which John, with hindsight, writing so much later than the other 3 eye witnesses composed after Jesus’ own resurrection..& then cut & pasted it into this beautiful story in an earlier episode. 5th week of Lent is a moment, a real moment, to pause & reflect..alongside Mary, forgiven penitent disciple & contemplative.. “the Master is here & wants to see you”..you..you & me.. “Lord, come & see..” come & see us, in the state in which we find ourselves at this covid moment of physical emotional relational & spiritual exhaustion.. “Lord, if you had been here, 127,000 of our brothers & sisters would not have died” & Jesus said “take the stone away” he did it for Mary, as she remorsefully lovingly kissed his feet..& will you approach him, to do him the same service in love & penitence? ..will you? “do you believe this?” do you?.. [ 5thSunLent YrB/A John 11;1-45 ]