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Sunday 29th March 2020

posted 28 Mar 2020, 00:56 by CHS Info   [ updated 30 Mar 2020, 13:37 ]
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Sunday 29th March 2020

Last Sunday of Lent

The sermon and the whole parish eucharist can be played by clicking on the arrow.



Ezekiel 37:1-14 The Valley of Dry Bones

37 The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very 

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath[a] enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”

John 11:1-45 The Death of Lazarus

11 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Jesus Comforts the Sisters of Lazarus

17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

35 Jesus wept.

36 Then 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 From the Dead

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

The Plot to Kill Jesus

45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

Prayers for this week and the sermon can be found as a pdf here.


“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”

John 11:3-4

Lord, the one that you love is ill.

How true.  How very true.

We are ill.

We’re all ill.

So, the question cannot be whether or not we are ill but rather, whether or not this is an illness that leads to death? or to God’s glory?

This pandemic is more than just an illness it is also a revelation: a beautiful revealing of how sick we all were to begin with.  The grave clothes are being stripped away as the illness reveals what is wrong with us, with our culture, with our society, with our economy.

To be sure, in the midst of it, there are so many exquisite, tender signs of hope and love and communion; but it is also opening our eyes to things we had been blind to.

For me Lazarus’ tomb is a familiar place: a place where I sometimes dwell and hide all that is broken and wounded and sick in my own life.  It is a safe place, because it is hidden, and I am not forced to share my hurt with anyone else or even acknowledge that it exists.  It is also a dangerous place because, in it, nothing is ever going to get better.

The grave clothes binding Lazarus are like the bandages over a wound: we need to unbind them so that the wound may heal but then again, if they are bound, we don’t have to look at what lies beneath.  Lazarus’ sisters do not want the stone rolled back from the mouth of the tomb: what’s inside, what lies beneath, stinks.  It may frighten, it may terrify.  What if they cannot cope with what they are confronted with?

What if we cannot cope with what we are confronted with?

It takes courage to face the stark reality of things: the systemic inequality and injustice that have made the impact of the virus so much worse than it could have been; the greed, the fear, the division it has generated.

It also takes courage to own our part in it.

I do not know whether it is worse for the sisters, the friends and neighbours who have to confront the stench of decay when the tomb is opened; or for Lazarus, who must expose himself and his sickness, to the world around.

When Jesus raises Jairus’ daughter form the dead he does it in private, he goes into the room on his own, he takes her by the hand and whispers to her, “little one, rise”.

Now, that is the kind of resurrection I want.

But for Lazarus, everything is SO public, so open to display.  Jesus does not enter the cave, he stands and shouts, he SHOUTS at the dead man.  And then he hands him over to the gathered crowd: unbind him and let him go.

And, this is definitely NOT the kind of resurrection I want: this public display where all and sundry get a good look in and the sick man must be restored not through the healing hands of Christ but the hands of his relatives and neighbours.

It needs to be public because Jesus is not just offering the chance of new life to the dead man, he is offering it to everyone. 

Everyone is sick, everyone stinks, everyone needs to confront what is wrong, everyone needs to work for its healing.

The grace of this virus is its radical universality and equity.  No one is immune, no race, no nation, no class of people.  We are in it together, for better and for worse.

Healing is never a once and for all offer.

But this pandemic, this crisis, is perhaps a once for all moment - because it is so communal, because it affects every single one of us – a moment to choose, together, whether we will gather the grave clothes more tightly around ourselves, or whether we will respond to the voice of Christ, who calls us out into the light.

Whether this is an illness that leads to death, or, to God’s glory.


God, our hope is in you.

Breathe on us and our world, as you blew your breath into the field of dry bones.

Bring life into our weariness, and joy into our despair.

Breath of Life, hear our prayer.

We pray for those living with only the bare bones of resources…

for those with no fresh water, for those who have lost their land and their livelihood.

We pray for those who feel that the life has gone out of their relationships…

for those feeling friendless, for those who have lost loved ones, especially the families of victims of violence.

Breath of Life, hear our prayer.

We pray for those who feel entombed by their circumstance.

Those whose lives are constrained and bound, those who live with depression.

We pray for those who feel let down, disappointed, abandoned.

for those who are anxious and those who fear for the future.

Breath of Life, hear our prayer.

We pray for those who are tempted to despair.

For the imprisoned, the sick, the refugee, those who live with the threat of conflict and violence, those who lack the essentials for life.

Breath of Life, hear our prayer.

God of hope, draw close to them.

Bless them with the promise of hope that no despair can overcome.

Raise us all from the tombs of our past mistakes into the light of new possibilities.

Breathe life into our weakness and bless us with fresh strength.

Breath of Life, hear our prayer.

God of life, breathe on us now, confirming your presence within us,

Call us from our tombs, give us courage to entrust ourselves to you and one another

That we and all your children may be unbound and set free

To breathe your life and love and hope and restore your world to fullness of life.

Breath of Life, hear our prayer.