Guest Post: Greg Richards on Waiting for Resurrection

Greg Richards is a writer and College Minister who lives in San Antonio, TX with his wife and four children. This is a brief reflection on the liturgical readings for this Fifth Sunday in Lent 2011.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part (A Lenten Reflection on Resurrection)
Ezekiel 37, Romans 8:8-11, and John 11:1-45

I have always been taught that patience is a virtue. Often this discussion
of patience was immediately surrounding my own impatience. I can remember
very clearly being told how virtuous patience was while waiting for the
school bus on a rainy day. There were even annoyingly slow songs about
turtles and not being impatient. I have long suspected that patience is
exactly the sort of virtue we hide behind because we are too afraid to
step out and take God seriously.

In arguably the single coolest story in our Scriptures, the prophet
Ezekiel finds himself in a valley filled with the bones of dead people. He
walks back and forth among them and has a conversation with God. God tells
him to preach to these dry bones, and immediately they spring to life and
began to regrow flesh. The point is clear, God’s word brings back life
where once there was only death. Ezekiel tells the people that what
happened to these bones in the valley of death, will also happen to God’s
people spread around the world. Resurrection is coming…but first there
is waiting.

In our Jesus story this morning, the most confusing element for me is that
Jesus waits. His friend, his very good, dear, friend is sick and dying,
and like many of us he gets word that time is short. Jesus get the message
that we all fear getting when a loved one is sick- come quickly, there
isn’t much time. Your friend is dying, now is the time for impatience.
Jesus says no. Jesus waits, because “this sickness will not end in death,
but in God’s glory.” Jesus waits, because “he loves Mary and Martha and
their brother Lazarus.” Mary and Martha are understandably furious,
because they know/believe/understand/have faith/have confidence/are
convinced that Jesus could have healed their brother.  The limit of their
faith is the limit of their sight. They have seen Jesus heal before, but
now he will do something new. Resurrection is coming…but first there is
waiting.

As we near the end of Lent, it is a confusing, surprising, relief to be
given stories of resurrection. The stories of resurrection encourage and
challenge us to stay the course, to finish our season of preparation. I am
struck again, though, by the pictures of waiting that precedes
resurrection in our stories. The sort of waiting Ezekiel calls God’s
people to is a waiting of repentance, fasting and renewed faithfulness to
our God who brings new life. The waiting we see in Jesus’ story is full of
prayer, sorrow and community. This sort of waiting- the repentant, honest,
communal, expectant, hopeful waiting does in sound like virtue after all.
In the end it is the end that makes the virtue. Patience is a virtue
because of the cross, resurrection and reign of Jesus. Resurrection is
coming…but first the waiting. And often times, the waiting is the
hardest part.