Brenda Henry, Carnegie, PA

Warm-up Question

What issue in your community would like to see addressed and why?  Are there others who have a different perspective than you? What are some of their reasons for their position? 

Invitation to Care

In the city of Dumaguete, Negros Oriental Island, in the Philippines, groups of people have come together to fight against a proposal that they believe will severely impact their community. This proposal, P23-B, is a land reclamation project that seeks to develop the coastlines of the city. Proponents of the project argue that the development project dubbed “The Smart City” will bring new residential and commercial businesses that are beneficial for community growth. 

Opponents of the proposal, using the rallying cry, “No to 174 Dumaguete,” argue that the project will destroy the marine life along their coastline, disrupt the livelihood of the fishing community, and impact the quality of life for the fisherfolks. To them, the harm to the community is not worth the alleged gains of the project. 

Discussion Questions

  • Do you know of development projects in your community? What are some of the stated benefits of those projects? Who will benefit? What is the potential harm of the project to people and the environment?
  • How can you be a part of advocating for the care of your community and the environment?

Fifth Sunday in Lent

Ezekiel 37:1-14

Romans 8:6-11

John 11:1-45

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year A at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

In our gospel we read the story of Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, who dies and is brought back to life by Jesus. We are invited into Jesus’ conversation with the disciples and with Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha. Jesus tells the disciples that Lazarus’ illness is not fatal, yet we learn that Lazarus dies. Both Martha and Mary challenge Jesus by saying “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  The sisters’ statement implies that Jesus failed their expectations:  He could and should have done something to save their ill brother who was Jesus’ friend. 

This narrative also shows a community that comes together to care for Lazarus’ family and comfort them in their grief. Jesus responds by acknowledging the sister’s grief. He weeps, revealing his grief and compassion. Jesus also acts; he reassures Martha by saying “I am the resurrection and the life.”  A response Martha perceives as a future answer. 

However, the response actually promises Martha an action which attends to the immediate need of the sisters, while also pointing to eternal hope. Jesus models compassion and concern, as well as taking action to care for the life and well-being of others. We too are invited to care for and attend to the gift of life granted to us through Jesus’ resurrection.  That care begins now. It may entail facing opposition and challenges that defy immediate, easy answers.  The outcome we seek may be long in coming. Yet as a community, with faith and trust in Jesus, change is possible. 

Discussion Questions

  • Can you recall a time when you experienced a difficult situation and others did not respond in the way you thought they should?  How did that make you feel? How did your feelings change if you realized their actions were helpful?
  • How can working together with others who may share a different perspective from yours help to address individual or community concerns?

Activity Suggestions

  • Take the community activity that you named before and identify two strategies that you can do to make a change.  Invite someone to help you design the strategy. 
  • Identify a community group or organization whose work interests you and see if there are any volunteer opportunities.  Ask to shadow the leaders to learn what they do.

Closing Prayer

Gracious and loving God, thank you for giving us the promise of life through your son Jesus. Help us to see the ways that we can care for our neighbors and our environment. Grant us the courage to advocate for justice, the wisdom to seek support, and the heart to trust that you are with us always. In Jesus’ name. Amen