March 29 (Fifth Sunday in Lent): Psalm 130 and John 11:1-45

January 30, 2020 by Rev. Dr. Neal Presa

As we approach Palm Sunday and Holy Week, the lections for this fifth Sunday in Lent is about encountering God in the hearing. Do we hear God? Does God hear us?

John 11 is that wonderful story of Jesus raising his dear friend, Lazarus, from the dead, as Mary and Martha and the townspeople look on, and where Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” His desire and ability to raise Lazarus presaged Jesus’ own resurrection and newness of life from death’s tomb. The text says this: “And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me.” This is then followed by Jesus’ command to the dead: “Lazarus, come out!” Life comes from God because God has acted decisively. The heavenly Father heard his beloved Son’s prayer, and Lazarus, the beloved friend of Jesus and a beloved of God his maker, “heard” Jesus’ command to rise to newness of life.

Psalm 130 seeks life in the midst of despair, plagued by generational sin, and the consequences of iniquity. The desperation of the psalmist’s soul bleeds on the page. It’s as if the psalmist is tearing the sackcloth, pulling on the hair, with arms lifted to the heavens, tears streaming down his face: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD./ Lord, hear my voice!/Let your ears be attentive/to the voice of my supplications!” The psalm will end in calling upon Israel to hope in the steadfast love of the Lord, that notwithstanding the deep transgressions of the people, whatever public and private faults there might be, the Lord still loves, the Lord still abides, the Lord has not shut off God’s ears to the contrite heart that prays and petitions to the Lord. The Lord desires newness of life. Do you hear the Lord? When you and I lift up our prayers and our hearts to the Lord, the Lord encounters us, transforming us, and giving us new life again and again.