Sylvia Alloway, Granada Hills, CA

Warm-up Question

Is the Coronavirus really a threat to ordinary Americans? Do we actually need to take the inconvenient prevention measures many health and government officials suggest (staying at home, cancelling group events, keeping a distance between yourself and others, etc.)?  Why or why not?

But Seriously…

In January of this year an unusual disease suddenly began infecting people in China. Medical researchers discovered that it was caused by a new viral strain, which they called the Coronavirus. At first, the sickness seemed limited to China. Why worry, thought the rest of the world.  And then it began to spread across nations alarmingly fast. The Big Question:  How serious is the threat?  On the face of it, some say, “not very.” Compared with the entire world population, relatively few get sick and even fewer  die. Young people rarely contract it.  Why the big fuss? There is all manner of advice and information available. Whom do we believe? 

Some people from Italy, where the outbreak has led to a nationwide quarantine, decided to tell others how serious the virus really is. In a video, ten ordinary Italians of all ages tell the world what they would have said about the illness ten days ago, had they known what reality would bring. Here are some quotes:

“A whole nation stuck at home. Didn’t see that coming, huh?”

 “We’ve seen some worrisome videos… of people not taking this thing seriously.”

“Just being able to breathe air in your own house is something you should already be grateful for.”

“So maybe re-think your Saturday night plans.”

Watch the video here: (Contains strong language)

So, the threat is real. Seriously.

Discussion Questions

  • Did any one of the comments made in the video stand out to you? Which one and why?
  • Since young people seldom catch this disease, why should they follow guidelines for slowing its spread?
  • The world is worried. God tells us that we needn’t worry, because God is in charge. With this in mind, how can Christians deal spiritually and emotionally with this crisis?

Fifth Sunday of 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 C at Lectionary Readings

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

Gospel Reflection

A dear friend is very sick, and his relatives reach out to you. Please, come! What will you do? Most likely, you’ll drop everything and rush to be with your friends. So, Jesus’ reaction to the news about Lazarus is puzzling. We are told that he loved this family. Then why did he stay where he was for two more days, instead of hurrying to heal his friend, as he had done for perfect strangers? Was it because Bethany, where Lazarus and his sisters lived, was only a few miles from Jerusalem, where the authorities were waiting to kill him? Did he somehow know that Lazarus would get better? (When he says that Lazarus is only asleep, his disciples assume that’s what he means.) Jesus tells us the answer from the very first. He waits for God’s timing, because God will be glorified by this illness and death. Wait, what? 

Three times God’s timing is questioned. Each sister laments that Jesus did not come soon enough to heal their brother. The mourners who have come to comfort the family wonder why the person who healed a blind man (see John 9:1-34) did not come in time to save a loved one. 

Martha is grieving, but she is not faithless. She believes that there will be a final resurrection and more importantly that Jesus is the Son of God. We hear the Lord’s famous declaration “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.”

What an impossibly wonderful statement! When Lazarus is raised, God will be glorified. Eventually he will die again. And yet he lives! God is glorified in death, in life, and finally in the greatest resurrection ever. Jesus will raise all believers together when he returns.

Jesus calls Lazarus back and God is glorified. Many of the mourners who witness this astounding miracle believe in Jesus, the resurrection and the life himself.

Pandemic illness is terrible, ugly, and frightening. Ignoring it will not make it go away. We can’t help but ask, “What is God doing?” Like Mary and Martha, we think our timing is better than God’s and suffering can’t possibly be turned to good. Like the disciples and the sisters, we must wait with Jesus. And if we do, we will see him glorified, and we will never really die.

Discussion Questions

  • In Italy, where everyone must stay isolated from others, the residents of an apartment building all came out on their balconies and began to make music together. What do you think motivated them to do this? In what way can affliction either turn people against each other or bring them together?
  • If someone you know decided that they would not take any of the precautions which the medical establishment suggests, how would you convince them otherwise? Build an argument based on facts.

Activity Suggestions

  • Play the story game. Start with a single sentence, for example, “Garth’s grandfather was sick.” Each person in the class adds a sentence. The point of the story is to show how God brings glory out of suffering.
  • Using video equipment or a phone, take the argument from the discussion question and turn it into a recorded public service announcement. Encourage students to act out a scene, rather than simply standing and talking. 

Closing Prayer

All loving, whose care for us is unfailing, use us to show others how you can bring good from evil and joy from suffering.  May our faith in the coming resurrection give us the compassion and courage we need to bring Christ’s love to the world. Be with those who are sick, isolated, or fearful. Strengthen them with your love.  Amen