Good Deeds Punished
Friday, March 30, 2007 -- Week of 5 Lent
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.
Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html
Today's Readings for the Daily Office (p. 956)
Psalms 95* & 22 (morning) 141, 143:1-11(12) (evening)
* for the Invitatory
Jeremiah 29:1, 4-13
John 11:1-27, or 12:1-10
(I chose to read John 11:1-27)
There is an old saying, "no good deed goes unpunished."
From Jerusalem, the prophet Jeremiah writes an encouraging letter to the exiles in Babylon. He tells them to "seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile" and to build home and families. He promises them that God has good plans for their future. Jeremiah's lyrical words have comforted centuries of seekers: "When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart." I can remember being taught that verse as a child and letting its promise energize my heart filled prayer and quest for God.
But Jeremiah's counsel is received with mixed results. There are other prophets in Babylon and Jerusalem who take issue with him. They are encouraging the people to keep up the fight. They want no settlement in Babylon; they want nothing good for those who have attacked them. They want to continue the resistance and the battle. Jeremiah finds himself in a contest between prophets.
In John's Gospel we begin the story of Lazarus' death and of Jesus' raising him from the dead. Mary and Martha call for Jesus while Lazarus is gravely ill. Jesus postpones the two-mile trip for a couple of days. Lazarus dies. Jesus declares that this death is for the glory of God and of the glory that Jesus shares as the Son.
I have always been touched by the pathos of the scene when Martha rushes out to greet Jesus upon his arrival. We know that she had put her trust in Jesus when she called him at Lazarus' illness. She believed that if Jesus would come, Jesus would heal her brother. He did not come. What sort of conflicted emotions must have surged within her? Her friend Jesus had not lived up to her expectations. He did not come when she called. Now her brother is dead. She expresses her anguished grief.
"Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him." What an amazing expression of trust.
Tomorrow we will read the rest of the story. Jesus will raise Lazarus from the tomb. Ironically, in John's account, it is this act that will set in motion the intentions of the religious and political authorities to execute Jesus.
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