Year A: March 29, 2020
First Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Dem Bones by Bob Barner
(Written for ages 4-8)
Comment: Perhaps you have seen a skeleton on Halloween or in a health class at school God gave Ezekiel, the prophet, a vision of a whole valley, probably a battle field, of human bones that are separated and dry Can these bones live? God tells Ezekiel to speak to these bones and say, “Hear the word of the Lord.” God says, “I will put breath in you and you shall live.” Ezekiel saw the bones brought to life and they stood on their feet, a vast multitude, God sent this message to Israel when Jerusalem, their capital, and the Temple of God had been destroyed. They thought God had abandoned them; they had no hope. But Ezekiel brings them good news through this vision. God says, “I will put my spirit within you, you shall live, and I will bring you back to your own country.” God’s words give hope to anyone who is discouraged, feels forgotten and helpless. Even you.
You may have heard the African-American spiritual sung that tells about the bones reconnecting, Today’s book is based on that spiritual. Despite the sidebars that deal with bones from a human anatomy standpoint, those sidebars can give understanding to how bones are knit together. The illustrations, although of skeletons, show the bones alive with joy.
Second Reading: Romans 8:6-11
If a Chicken Stayed for Supper by Carrie Weston
(Written for ages 3-7)
Comment: Paul describes the Roman Christians (and us) in very uncomplimentary terms: weak, sinners, ungodly, enemies of God. So you may think that God did not care for us and was our enemy. Not so, says Paul. God proved his love for us in that while were still sinners Christ died for us” God didn’t wait for us to be come good and loving, while we were weak, ungodly, enemies, God acted to change us, to come to us in Christ, to pour God’s love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Through Christ we are no longer God’s enemies and now can live the abundant life of Christ through faith. The important fact to Paul is that God acted first.
A mother fox leaves her five little foxes behind with admonishment to not leave the den. But they do, and because they don’t know how to count, keep thinking one of them is lost. A kindly mother hen finds them and counts each in turn, assuring them they are all together. In gratitude (and because they are scared), they beg her to come into their den with them, which she does. The mother fox arrives home with vegetables, looking at the chicken with great interest as she stirs a soup pot. But as the fox looks at her children and the hen who has acted lovingly towards them, the mother fox is changed. She invites the chicken to stay for vegetable soup and the last page shows them enjoying one another in community around a table. The chicken’s actions of love and care have transformed the fox’s nature.
This book is out of print but there of many used copies available and a search shows many copies in libraries.
Gospel Reading: John 11:1-45
(Written for ages 5-8)
Comment: In this story of deep grief and great joy, we begin moving closer to the story that will be the focus of the approaching Holy Week. The grief of Mary and Martha and Jesus over the death of Lazarus is real. It is painful. It is hard. But Jesus’ power to restore life from something that is dead is also real and an occasion for wonder and joy. All of these realities – death and new life – are present in this story of Lazarus. And they are realities for us today. Where do we see pain and hopelessness in our own lives or in the world? Where do we see signs of new life blossoming in places that once seemed to have no life at all? Martha’s words about Jesus point us to where we find that new life: “Yes, Lord. I believe you are the Christ, God’s Son, the one who is coming into the world.” (v. 27)
A music teacher arrives in Cateura, a small town in Paraguay that is built on a trash dump. Everyday, garbage trucks roll up to dump more waste. Favio Chavez sees the children playing amid broken glass and trash and wants to give them something more beautiful. He tries to start an orchestra with some instruments he has gathered, but realizes they are not accessible to the children in town whose parents could never pay for them. So, with the help of others, he scours the trash for things that might make suitable instruments. A piece of water pipe becomes a flute. An oil drum becomes a beatable drum with the addition of an old x-ray film attached to it. The orchestra becomes a place where the children learn about dedication, community and hard work and the town is lifted up through the sounds of music. Ada goes from a timid child to first violin in the orchestra and her world expands as the Recycled Orchestra traveled to play in venues all over the world. Ada’s story and the the story of Lazarus are both stories of the realities of the things that bind us – poverty, alienation, death – and the reality of new life.
The Revised Common Lectionary Links this week are co-written by Union Presbyterian Seminary alumnae Virginia C. Thomas and Ann Thomas Knox.