Church of England Diocese of Truro Camborne and Tuckingmill

Sermon for Sunday 29th March 2020

28 Mar 2020, 6 p.m.

5th Sunday in Lent - 29th March 2020

Readings: Ezekiel 37:1-14, Romans 8:6-11, John 11:1-45

Ezekiel 37:1-14

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. He led me all round them; there

were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, ‘Mortal, can

these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to

these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord

God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on

you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you,

and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’

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. 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. Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath:

Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain,

that they may live.’ I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and

they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

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.” 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. And you

shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves,

O my people. 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.’

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.

John 11:1-45

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.

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 for 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 for 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 upwards 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.

Sermon

Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone. You shall love the LORD your

God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.

(Deuteronomy 6:4,5)

Jesus said (Matthew 22:38-40), ‘This is the greatest and first commandment. And a

second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two

commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

What is our response in this time of difficulty? I don’t know. But I trust God. God

and the people of God have been here before, and the people found that God

provided.

Today’s first reading is from the prophet Ezekiel at the time of the Exile to Babylon.

It would have been ‘normal’ for a people taken into captivity to give up their old gods

and worship with their captors. The people of Judah had not done this, they still

worship God, but they were feeling overwhelmed and desolated (see Psalm 137!)

They are the dry bones of Ezekiel’s vision; and although they have been feeling cut

off, yet the power of God Almighty, through the word spoken by the prophet in his

vision, brings the bones together, covers them with flesh, and then the spirit coming

from the four cardinal directions breaths new life into them in a way that is somehow

similar to God’s action in creation.

We today are in danger of feeling cut off from each other as we practice social

distancing; may God help us to feel connected through our sense of solidarity with

each other as we do our best. We face many choices daily, and many of our choices

feel black and white and yet may not be – just one example. I should not go to the

shop when I need more milk, I should order it online and have it delivered (not on its

own!) Or should I? I should go to the shop while I am still able and let others whose

need is greater take the delivery slot provided by my shop.

The government are saying stay at home, and that is clearly the ‘right thing to do’,

but a manager of Iceland was on the radio pleading for the ‘able bodied’ to let them

deliver to those in greatest need. The wisdom of Solomon is clearly required. What

should we do? Trust in God, pray that what we do will be His will, and hold in our

hearts our love for our neighbour and their needs. At the very least this will help us

not to hoard stuff!

Today’s epistle tells us of Paul’s thoughts on the difference it makes living a ‘Christ

centred’ life, living ‘in the Spirit’, compared against living a ‘self centred’ life, ‘in the

flesh’ or ‘in the body’. Living in the body is the old way of being; living in the Spirit

means living according to the will of the Father, living a fuller life through the

resurrection of Christ in anticipation of our own resurrection, and living in the power

of the Spirit. It is the power of the Spirit that enables us act correctly: listening for the

word of God, an active listening, it is being obedient to God’s will. This obedient

listening is what enables us to love, to be kind to our neighbours.

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus improving Martha’s understanding of the resurrection

(and that of the disciples). She believes that Lazarus will be resurrected ‘at the last

day’, but Jesus, saying that he is the resurrection and the life, show that the

resurrection life is available through Him, now. The kingdom of God, as He has said,

is close at hand. Lazarus is raised from the dead, and is seen in the next chapter

reclining with Jesus at a meal. Death is the last enemy to be destroyed – Jesus is here

showing God’s sadness and anger about the inevitability of death in the human

condition.

Lazarus is raised from the dead, dry bones are brought back to life, we are filled with

the power of the Holy Spirit, our God is with us in our challenges. We can count our

blessings, naming them one by one, every day, and know that God is good. We can

thank all our friends, and everyone who is looking out for friend and neighbour. It is a

great reminder of the joy and comfort of belonging to a community. We are certainly

not alone!

This is the Good News of the gospel: that God so loved the world that he gave his

only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal

life. (John 3:16) The eternal life is available here and now, not just in the next life,

although it is in the next life that all will be fully revealed and perfected. To the extent

that we try to live trusting in God and loving our neighbour, we are doing our part to

bring in the Kingdom of God, here and now. To the extent that we fail in our human

frailty, we are sustained through grace by God’s redeeming love, here and now.

Amen.

My prayer for us all today is:

Sustain and deepen us, O God, in our friendships;

for in the delight of shared lives, we see your joy,

and in the acceptance of mutual vulnerability

we know your Son, Jesus Christ

who is Saviour and Lord of all.

Amen.

Tony Le Fevre

email: [email protected]

phone: 01209 901 432

Collect

Gracious Father, you gave up your Son out of love for the world:

lead us to ponder the mysteries of his passion, that we may know eternal peace

through the shedding of our Saviour’s blood, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.