5th Sunday in Lent Worship

Open this post for our worship offering for Passion Sunday, 29th March including some music links, the prayer for the day, a reflection, some intercessions and a hymn. This ‘service’ will take about half an hour.

We begin with a ‘Virtual Choir’ singing ‘Down to the River to Pray’

The Prayer for the Day (Collect)

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.

The First Reading: Romans 8:6-11 

To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

Psalm 130: (click link below) Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

The Gospel Reading: John 11:1-45. The Death of Lazarus

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.

Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” 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. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

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. 

A Hymn: “How Deep the Father’s Love for us”

A Reflection by Revd Jane Cresswell

Our readings today offer us the stark contrast of life and death.  With Easter falling relatively late this year, this 5th Sunday of Lent falls at a perfect time to see those things brought into sharp focus.  The new life of spring visible in the trees and the flowers contrasts sharply with the sombre news of so many deaths across the globe due to the Coronavirus.

Life and death – such themes are key to our humanity. 

Many people spend their lives trying not to think about death.  In our culture most of the time we behave as if it is something that needs to be kept apart and politely ignored.  And perhaps that is why we find it so difficult when something beyond our control threatens to cause so many deaths.

We don’t need to fear death when we have a sure and certain hope of resurrection through our Lord Jesus Christ – words that are said at every Christian funeral and yet sometimes seem so hard for us to grasp and truly believe.

Yet this life also matters profoundly.  I’ve never forgotten the comment of a preacher who came to my church when I was a child who said “God likes life.  He invented it.”  Simple words and yet profound.  It is because God is a God who created life, God who is the life giver, that we have the confidence to pray for healing and restoration for individuals, for the world, for the church.

There are plenty of things that are death dealing in this world.  We tend to focus out on such things as hard drugs, excessive alcohol, barbaric political regimes, and, topically at this time, Pandemics.  The inner things such as bitterness, resentment, apathy, greed, despair, bigotry are of course equally death dealing.  They sap our life itself destroying our enjoyment, and stifling our growth as people and community.

God does not want for us as individuals, or us as his body the church, or the world as a whole to remain in the grip of what is death dealing.

If today’s gospel tells us anything, it tells us that redemption comes from above and sometimes it is when we feel that all hope for healing has been lost in human terms.  Mary and Martha … what hope could they see?  Yet with God all things are possible … it is God who gives life.

A Hymn – Sing to the tune of ‘Eternal Father Strong to Save’

1. When gath’ring clouds around I view,
And days are dark, and friends are few,
On Him I lean who not in vain
Experienced ev’ry human pain;
He sees my wants, allays my fears,
And counts and treasures up my tears.

2. If aught should tempt my soul to stray
From heav’nly wisdom’s narrow way;
To fly the good I would pursue,
Or do the sin I would not do;
Still He who felt temtation’s pow’r,
Shall guard me in that dang’rous hour.

3. When sorr’wing o’er some stone I bend
Which covers what was once a friend,
And from his voice, his hand, his smile,
Divides me for a little while;
Thou, Savior, mark’st the tears I shed,
For Thou didst weep o’er Lazarus dead.

4. And, oh, when I have safely past
Thro’ ev’ry conflict but the last,
Still, still unchanging, watch beside
My painful bed, for Thou hast died;
Then point to realms of cloudless day,
And wipe the latest tear away.

Our Intercessions

Lament for Coronavirus:

O God you search us and you know us; 
you know our selfishness and potential for great good, 
you know our fragility and anxiety. 
Why do we need this time of pestilence and affliction 
to show you what you already know about us? 
You made us for glory and enjoyment; 
why is there now such misery and constraint? 

Our lives are a shadow of what they were a week or two ago. 
We’re fighting over interpretations of self-isolation, 
over toilet rolls, over redundancy payments and social distancing; 
and we’re missing the gatherings and companionship, 
the sports and performances that gave life so much joy. 
It feels like the whole world is discovering what it’s like to be mentally ill, 
as we lose all sense of control and feel the building blocks of society 
crashing down around us like a burning barn. 
Everything that was good seems now to be illegal. 
People are in misery with the virus, 
in fear about contracting the virus, 
cooped up to protect others against the virus. 
Those who aren’t part of the online revolution 
are isolated like never before.

Come among us in your Spirit. 
Show us new ways to be human and to be community. 
Lift our hearts from gloom and give us gratitude for what we have. 
Turn our anger into kindness, our fear into cooperation, 
and our loneliness into new ways to find and cherish one another. 
And renew our trust in you. Amen. (Revd Sam Wells; St Martins-in-the-Fields)

Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

Lord of my darkest place: Let in your light

Lord of my greatest fear: Let in your peace

Lord of my most bitter shame: Let in your word of grace

Lord of my oldest grudge, Let in in your forgiveness

Lord of my deepest anger: Let it out

Lord of my loneliest moment: Let in your presence

Lord of my truest self – my all: Let in your wholeness. (Alison Pepper)

Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer

Jesus our healer, I place in your gentle hands those who are sick. Ease their pain and heal the damage done to them in body, mind or spirit. Be present to them through the support of their families and friends and fill them with the warmth of your love, now and always. (Alison Ashwin)

Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer

Lord, during this pandemic, I pray for all key workers whose work is about helping others. Be with them in their tiredness, their frustrations and their fears and lift their spirits that they might rise to the challenges they face in supporting us all.

Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer

Be thou a bright flame before me, Be thou a guiding start above me, Be thou a smooth path below me, Be thou a kindly shepherd behind me, today and for ever. Amen. (St Columba: c.521-597)

Our Anthem: (click the link below) by Orlando Gibbons ( 1583-1625, organist at Westminster Abbey from 1623 )

O Lord, increase my faith, strengthen me and confirm me in Thy true faith. Endue me with wisdom, charity, and patience, in all my adversity. Sweet Jesu, say Amen.

The Grace:

May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with me now and always. Amen

Coffee and Biscuits:

Whilst we can’t meet in corporate worship and fellowship, we can communicate online by making ‘comments’ below or setting up Skype or Zoom meetings between us. If you would like to share your feelings at the end of this ‘service’, please do ‘comment’ and we’ll set something up to join together online.

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