As Christ’s Passion approaches
will you walk the way of the cross and put your trust in God?
Will you put your hope in God’s word?
Will you wait for the Lord with the eagerness of those who watch for the morning?
Will you live as those who believe that the Lord’s love never fails?
Will you share your hope with those in despair?
Pause for a moment then …
A prayer of approach
Living Lord Jesus,
let us draw near to worship you.
Let the same spirit that brought Lazarus out of the grave,
and raised you to new life,
dwell in us today. Amen.
Hymn: You Are the King of Glory (StF 594)
Prayers of Praise …
Jesus, Saviour of the world,
we give thanks and praise for your unfailing love;
the love that holds us fast;
the love that energises us and demands our response;
the love that is greater than all other loves.
In our worship, we promise you our love.
When we move beyond this sacred time,
may our love for you speak to our community and our needy world.
We will serve you.
We will love our neighbours
We will care for our earth.
As we commit ourselves to be good stewards of all you have given to us,
help us to listen for your voice,
ready to be surprised, and willing to travel with you throughout our lives.
… and Confession
Lord, forgive us when we don’t always trust you,
when we don’t always trust that you know best.
Forgive us when we think our timing is better than yours,
when we think that we know best.
Forgive us when we demand things from you,
when we want everything now,
and stamp our feet when we don’t get it.
Forgive us when we turn away from you,
when we don’t understand why things have gone wrong,
when we feel let down and hurt,
thinking that you have rejected us and abandoned us.
For you never reject or abandon us.
Forgive us, Lord, and give us renewed hope.
Keep us always in your light,
that we may always trust your love and power.
In thankfulness for your life, death, and resurrection,
we offer our thanks, our praise, our hope, and our joy.
In the name of Jesus Christ.
Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
delivered and saved the world:
grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross
we may triumph in the power of his victory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
Hymn: Lord I Lift Your Name on High (StF 332)
Reading: Ezekiel 37: 1-14
The Valley of Dry Bones
37 The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath[a] to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath[b] in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath:[c] Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath,[d] and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.”
Reading: John 11: 1-45
11 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent a message to Jesus,[a] “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, 6 after having heard that Lazarus[b] was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10 But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 11 After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” 13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Thomas, who was called the Twin,[c] said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Jesus the Resurrection and the Life
17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus[d] had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles[e] away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Jesus Raises Lazarus to Life
38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Some images to accompany this reading:
I’ve always found the verse, 21 … “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died”, an interesting one.
More than 20 years ago my own brother died unexpectedly in his twenties and so I’ve long since felt a connection with Martha and her sister Mary in the account of the death and raising of their brother, Lazarus.
Today we are acutely aware of the thousands of people across the world who have lost people they love to the coronavirus and who might well be asking, where is God? Those of faith might be asking, Lord, you have power over all creation; why couldn’t you stop this?
When we are unsettled, disappointed or frightened we cry out and even get angry with the person/people we feel are responsible for the situation. Quite often we will go as far as we dare in order to provoke a reaction from them. The disciples were dismayed that in the midst of a storm at sea Jesus was asleep and yelled, Do you not care?!. On the day of crucifixion Jesus himself cried out on the cross, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Reading the whole passage from John’s gospel, it is clear that rather than being indifferent to the situation, when he sees the family’s and the community’s distress, Jesus is moved to tears. v35 Jesus began to weep. He is in the midst of them in their suffering.
This story takes place close to Passover and Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion. We can see that this encounter shows us:-
- That Jesus powers of healing are not limited to physical presence
- That Jesus has power over death
- That physical death is not the end of life
To answer Martha’s initial outburst, Jesus might well have said, “I was here and Lazarus didn’t die!”
It might be, though, that at this time of isolation (entombment?) we identify more with Lazarus himself than Martha and Mary. Lazarus does not speak in this story, neither do we know what he is thinking as Jesus calls him to come out.
I wonder, where in our world is people’s talent and zest for life buried because of the injustices with which it is riddled?
What potential is being buried in our neighbourhoods? How is Jesus calling new life out of those situations?
How are we being changed as a result of the current situation?
Hymn: Compassion Hymn – Keith and Kristyn Getty
A prayer activity
Using a 1p coin (the old type – with the portcullis on the obverse)
The coin is round Pray for the world
The coin has the word one Pray for unity
The coin has an image of the Queen Pray for those in authority
The coin shows a portcullis Pray for those in prison or feeling shut in
The coin has small value Pray for those who don’t have enough
The coin has a date Pray remembering, thanking, hoping
A prayer to use in isolation
If you have access to some tea lights, these may help to serve as a focus for the prayer.
Lord of light, in these dark times of anxiety, loneliness and fear,
We come to you.
This day, I am thinking of many people, many of whom I would normally have seen in recent days. I call their names and faces now to mind, bringing them in prayer.
Call aloud the names of people you are thinking of, and light a candle for each one.
God, who is Spirit, you connect us in mysterious and inexplicable ways. Here, surrounded by light, I hold before you the faces, the names and the stories of all these people.
God, who is unity, hold us together, in these difficult times.
God, who is incarnate Christ, you know the fragility and the pain of human flesh. You know our weaknesses, and the anxieties we have about the future.
Give me courage for this day.
Light another candle, to represent yourself.
God who is love, help me to show your love in the decisions I make this day, in the choices I have made and in how I seek to protect those near me.
God who is light, bring us through the time of trial.
In Jesus’ name I pray,
O Lord, You Search Me and You Know Me
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil
For thine is the kingdom
The power, and the glory
For ever and ever. Amen.
Hymn: Jesus, the Name High Over All (StF 357)
Send us out from here, Lord,
to give abundantly to those in need
May the love we have received from you here
transform our lives and the lives of those we meet.
and the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among us and remain with us always. Amen.