March 26, 2023 - 5th Sunday in Lent

For the week of March 26 to April 1 – 5th Sunday in Lent

Morning prayer: God of all consolation and compassion, Your Son comforted the grieving sisters, Martha and Mary; Your breath alone brings life to dry bones and weary souls. Pour out Your Spirit upon us, that we may face despair and death with the hope of resurrection and faith in the One who called Lazarus forth from the grave. Amen (Lectionary prayers)

Hymn #467 Trust and Obey

  1. When we walk with the Lord in the light of His word, what a glory He sheds on our way!
    While we do His good will, He abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey.

Refrain: Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

  1. Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share, but our toil He doth richly repay;
    not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross, but is blest if we trust and obey. (Refrain)
  2. But we never can prove the delights of His love until all on the altar we lay;
    for the favor He shows, for the joy He bestows, are for them who will trust and obey.
  3. Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at His feet, or we'll walk by His side in the way;
    what He says we will do, where He sends we will go; never fear, only trust and obey.

Psalm 130:4-8

But there is forgiveness with You, so that You may be revered.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I hope;

my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with Him is great power to redeem.

It is He who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

Children’s message Pomegranate Exodus 28:33-34

On its lower hem you shall make pomegranates of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, all around the lower hem, with bells of gold between them all around— a golden bell and a pomegranate alternating all around the lower hem of the robe.

Children’s Message 

Pomegranates are only referenced in the Old Testament. It is a staple fruit. It’s hard outer layer made it better to carry along than figs or dates. Just 3.5 ounces of pomegranate seeds has 14 grams of sugar, so it is a good fast energy food.

The Israelites complained to Moses about being out in the desert where there were no pomegranates. For them, there was a connection between the absence of pomegranates and God’s absence.

King Solomon relied heavily on using this fruit to describe the beauty of his wife saying her cheeks were like the halves of a pomegranate.

The number of the seeds in each fruit ranges between 200-1400 and that is primarily what we eat. The inner flesh is squeezed for juice and pulp. The outer portion was used in dying cloth for clothing.

The number of seeds makes this fruit particularly easy to grow with little help. The bushes tend to grow in groves and intertwine, and in our climate the pomegranate harvest is between March and May.

Beauty and fruitfulness were seen as a blessing of prosperity, which is why pomegranates were found carved in Solomon’s Temple dedicated to God. The pomegranate reminds us that sometimes we need to be seedy to be a blessing.

Prayers of Intercession:  Thank You, Lord, for hearing our prayers for those dear to our hearts.  We now pray as You have taught us: 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 sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us, not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen. 

Offering spotlightThe board of trustees is entrusted with the care of our buildings and grounds.  They could not keep up with these old buildings without the community of faith stepping up to weed, paint, or monitor the condition of our buildings and grounds.  Thank you for giving your offering and your time to support the upkeep of our beautiful facilities for the worship of our Lord, and for the many community services held here. 

Offering prayer: Almighty and restoring God, we have been living through some difficult days. We experience days when we rise, wondering if we will make it through one more day. As we offer our tithes and offerings, help us to hear the word of hope Jesus shares, not just with our ears but with our hearts. May it call us back to life and service, out of the graves of despair in which we may buried ourselves. In Christ’s holy name. Amen. (Discipleship Ministries- edits are mine)

Hymn: #314 In the Garden

  1. I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses,
    and the voice I hear falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses.

Refrain: And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own;
and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.

  1. He speaks, and the sound of His voice is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
    and the melody that He gave to me within my heart is ringing. (Refrain)
  2. I’d stay in the garden with Him though the night around me be falling,
    but He bids me go; thru the voice of woe His voice to me is calling. (Refrain)

Scripture John 11:1-6, 17-45

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped His feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom You love is ill.” 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.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was.

When Jesus arrived, He found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met Him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give You whatever You ask of Him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “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. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Messiah, the Son of God, the One coming into the world.” 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.” And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to Him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met Him. 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. 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.”

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 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.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank You for having heard Me. 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.” When He had said this, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 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.”

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in Him.

Message     Divine Rising                    Pastor Becky

Mary and Martha have a problem, Lazarus is sick. In response to this, they call upon Jesus. They want Him to come and heal their brother. Their problem gets worse, Lazarus dies. Then Jesus shows up. It seems it is all too late, but not for Jesus. He is about to reveal His glory and His plan for community in the face of trouble.

Martha meets Jesus first. Martha is rarely talked about without including her sister, Mary. In the gospel of Luke, we first meet them. Jesus comes to their home, Martha is busy making salad, setting the table, and preparing everything for their guest. She says to Jesus, make my sister help me. But Jesus says no – Mary has chosen the better. Mary is at Jesus’ feet listening to every word He says. It is this same busy woman, the one who takes care of everyone and everything, who makes the theological statement of who Jesus is and what she believes about Him. She proclaims Jesus is the Son of God. She recognizes Jesus’ relationship to God, “Even though my brother is dead,” she says, “I know if You ask God, God will give You anything.” In this she pledges her belief in Jesus.

Martha yields to Jesus, but Mary challenges Him to conquer death. She brings Him to the place where death won.

Up until Lazarus’ death, Mary and Martha are alone. They have reached out to Jesus. They send for Him, it is only once Lazarus dies the community notices. They come to mourn with the sisters. Yet, even surrounded by the assembly, Lazarus is still dead. They can help comfort the sisters, but without Jesus Lazarus is dead.

The raising of Lazarus is a miracle. Jesus, relying on His relationship to God, calls Lazarus out of the grave into life. Yet, in order for Lazarus to live the stone needs to be rolled away and Lazarus needs to be unbound. Neither of these tasks does Jesus do. Jesus calls upon the community to do them. He recruits them not because Jesus can’t perform these tasks, but because Lazarus needs his community.

We all need community.

It is the community response I focus upon. Like Martha, I am confident in who Jesus is: the way, the truth and the life. He is my Savior, my friend, my redeemer. I have full faith in Jesus and His relationship to the Trinity. If Jesus asks God for something, I fully believe God will do it. I have chosen to follow Jesus and in following Him, I try to do what He has called me to do. To care for the widow, the orphan, the oppressed and the outcast. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give water to the thirsty, visit the sick and the imprisoned. None of this is new to us. We order our lives individually and collectively as the Body of Christ.

But here we have another dimension to what Jesus asks or expects from us as Jesus’ community.

We have to go back to Lazarus’ tomb. There is a stone there. If Jesus called Lazarus out and it was still in place, Lazarus couldn’t come out. Either he wouldn’t hear Jesus or if he did, Lazarus can’t move the stone because he is still bound in his grave clothes.

It is the community that removes the barrier between Lazarus and Jesus physically. Now Lazarus can hear and respond to come out into life.

What are some barriers between Jesus and those needing to hear Jesus calling? Our traditions, our needs, our distractions, and our prejudices can be barriers. See, no one in the community claimed the stone was too big to move or too heavy to push out of the way. They came together and moved it. What do we need to move, to clear a pathway to Jesus? What will we no longer hold on to that may keep folks away?

Back to the tomb, Lazarus responds to Jesus and comes out. He is still bound in his death clothes. His hands are tied, his ankles are tied together, he wasn’t able, even after responding to Jesus’ call, to help himself. Someone else untied his hands and ankles, someone touched him and physically freed him. Lazarus couldn’t rejoin his sisters or the community on his own.

We are called to be in a physical relationship because after the miracle there was still need, the need of reunification and only community can do that. Jesus makes all things possible for all of us, each of us, and Jesus calls each of us to be the Body of Christ and Jesus calls the Body of Christ to be the community of the Kingdom of God. We are to usher in new life, this new life of following Jesus to graves we all find ourselves buried in: graves of brokenness, isolation and despair. Once there, we are to unbind each other and allow ourselves and those that will and have joined themselves to Jesus and us to live and live abundantly.

Hymn #707 Hymn of Promise

  1. In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;

In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!

In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

  1. There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;

There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.

From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

  1. In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;

In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,

In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

Go into your week with the blessings of The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit.