Service for Sunday 10 April 2011
Year A Lent 5. Ezekiel 17:1-7; Psalm 130; Romans 8:6-11; John 11:1-45. Purple
Call to worship Psalm 130 responsive (from Uniting in Worship)
Hymn Together in Song 147 To God be the glory
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
once more we are approaching Easter
and as we come closer to the cross
we are more and more aware of the cost of our redemption
That nothing we have could cover the debt we owe you
nothing we could do could make up for the way we have turned our backs on you
and yet, you have come to us
you have paid the cost for our failings
you have borne the responsibility for our actions
We confess we do need redemption
We have sinned against you
we have said and done and thought things that disrespected you
we have said and done and thought things which have hurt our neighbours
we have failed to say and do and think what was worthy of your people.
We thank you that you have paid the price of our redemption
And pray that you would help us to respond to that gift.
In Jesus' name. Amen.
Declaration of forgiveness
Hymn Together in Song 162 Thank you
This is the word of the Lord
Thanks be to God.
Hello. My name is Martha. I live in Bethany with my sister Mary and my brother Lazarus. Jesus had been a close friend of our family for a long time. Mary and I had an argument about him once – it was during one of his visits – there's always so much extra work with visitors, and Jesus comes with such a crowd – so many extra people to feed, to find bedding space for, to clean up after, extra water to bring from the well – you know what it's like. I was exhausted, still working late into the night, and Mary was sitting with the men, listening to Jesus! I'd talked about this with her before – that it wasn't a woman's place to be there, and that we had work to do – Mary had said I should come and sit with her, that we should make the most of having Jesus with us while he was here. That was sort of prophetic, considering what happened, that we might not always have him here. But at that time, I didn't think about any danger he might be in, or that one day he would leave and never come back to our home – all I thought about was the work I had to get done, and Mary wasn't helping! Well, I went to Jesus and complained – and he told me how sad it was that I was so busy, and I should join Mary and just sit with him and listen. He was always like that – it was as if he didn't realise that women and men weren't supposed to sit and talk together like that. So many things that were so important to everyone else, just didn't seem to matter to him. Mary understood that – I wish I had understood it sooner.
Our little argument was long over when our brother Lazarus became ill. You'd like Lazarus if you knew him. He's a good man, everyone likes him. Jesus always liked him.
Lazarus was so sick. We called the doctor, but he didn't do anything, just told us to keep him comfortable. Of course, we kept him comfortable! We'd been doing that before we called the doctor!
Mary and I were at our wits' end. The only thing we could think of was to send someone to Jesus with a message asking him to come straight away. I have to confess I didn't even think about the risk that would mean for Jesus, and maybe if I had thought about it, I would have asked him to come anyway. There was just nothing else we could think of, so we asked a neighbour to take the message, and we nursed Lazarus as best we could, and we just kept saying to each other: “When Jesus gets here, Lazarus will get better, and we'll have a big celebration, and everything will be good again.”
But Jesus didn't come. We waited and waited, and Lazarus got sicker and sicker, and Jesus didn't come. We couldn't understand why he didn't come – we had no doubt how much he cared about Lazarus, about our whole family.
And then, our brother died. What could we do? We buried him. We were so sad! And still Jesus didn't come!
It was three days, before Jesus finally came. Someone told me he was out on the road approaching, and I ran out to meet him. I guess I sounded accusing, maybe I was accusing, I said “If you'd been here my brother wouldn't have died.”
He didn't argue with that. He didn't try to tell me why he hadn't come straight away. Later, Thomas told me that people in Jerusalem were planning to kill Jesus, and coming here meant he was putting himself and all his followers in danger. But just then, all I knew, all I could think, was Jesus could have made everything all right. He could have saved my brother.
Jesus didn't argue with me: instead he told me my brother would rise again. I knew that, I said I knew that everyone would be resurrected on the last day.
Then he looked me right in the eyes, and he said “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, event though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
I looked back at him. I didn't fully understand exactly what he meant, but I did know exactly why Mary and I had known, not just believed, but really known, that he could have saved Lazarus. I said what I knew: “Yes Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God the one coming into the world.”
I know the people who killed Jesus are still looking for his followers – and saying that I believe this about him is dangerous – but after what Jesus did, there is no way I could ever not believe.
After he and I spoke, Jesus wanted to talk to Mary alone, but all the crowd of mourners followed her out to see him. Jesus seemed quite upset about that. There was always something special between Jesus and Mary, and I think maybe he wanted to talk to her about the same things he'd said to me. But there was no chance, he ended up talking to the crowd, getting them to show him where Lazarus was buried.
Jesus prayed, not asking God for anything, but thanking God. I hadn't felt like thanking God, not with my brother dead – but Jesus was always thanking God in situations where the rest of us couldn't see anything to be thankful for!
Then he told the crowd to open up the grave. Now, no-one trusts Jesus more than my family does, but even Mary objected to that! I didn't say anything: I was still a little lost in the “resurrection and the life” stuff Jesus had said when we were alone. But, they did it, they opened the tomb, and Jesus called to Lazarus to come out.
This isn't one of those stories where someone made a mistake and the person wasn't really dead. Lazarus had been dead for days! Yet, when Jesus called to him, Lazarus got up and came out. He was alive again.
We did have that celebration a bit later – the one Mary and I had planned for when Lazarus got better. And Jesus was there, talking to us about God's love, as always. It was a little bit scary at that time, because then we knew that some of the authorities were planning to kill Jesus, and some powerful people were making moves to have Lazarus killed as well because people were believing Jesus because of him. It was scary, but we celebrated, we had to celebrate! Our brother had been dead and now he was alive! God had given him back to us.
At the celebration, Mary gave Jesus a wonderful gift – she poured an expensive perfume over his feet, and wiped them with her hair. It was expensive, it was her dowry, her entire future, being poured out over his feet! Judas complained, Judas was always complaining about something, well, we found out about him as well, didn't we?
Jesus defended Mary, and said she was preparing him for his burial. That sort of put a dampener on the party, I can tell you. Jesus had reminded us about the danger he and Lazarus were both in – having lost our brother once, we were now in danger of losing him and Jesus both.
Well, everyone anywhere near Jerusalem knows what happened from there. The people plotting against Jesus got their way, they had him killed.
He could have avoided it, if he'd just stayed away from Judea. If he hadn't come when we called, he wouldn't have been killed.
Jesus gave my brother new life: but the price was his life! We didn't know it would cost him so much. Lazarus says his life is far more precious than it ever was before because of what Jesus paid to give it back to him.
Jesus said to me “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
Yes, Lord, I believe. I don't know why you had to give your life, why you loved us enough to do that, but I believe.
Hymn Together in Song 526 Lord Jesus Christ, you have come to us,
Prayers of the People
we pray for your world
we pray for the people of Japan dealing with the aftermath of disaster and the continuing crisis with the damaged nuclear plant
for the people of the many Arab countries which are in political and social turmoil
for the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, dealing with wars
for the people who are running from danger as refugees
for people who live with the problems of poverty and hunger and homelessness
for people who live with violence in their own homes
for people who live with fear.
And we pray for our congregation here -
(prayer list from newsletter)
And we pray for the people whose needs are not known to us, but are known to you.
Be with each one we pray,
and help us to be there for each other's needs
may we truly be a community of your love
In Jesus' name. Amen.
Service of Holy Communion (SLD1 Uniting in Worship)
Hymn Together in Song 684 Love will be our Lenten calling