As we are unable to hold any church services at the moment, here is a short service for personal contemplation from Revd. Ken.
Good Morning, welcome to this short Act of Worship for the 5th Sunday of Lent.
Let us Pray: 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 our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
The context in which this ‘Seventh Sign’ of the revealing of Jesus’ glory through the raising of Lazarus from the dead is that Jesus has withdrawn from Jerusalem prior to His return to the city for the final Passover and subsequent crucifixion.
His choice of retiring to the far side of the Jordan had great significance for Jesus. For it was in this place that John had baptised those who came to him, including Jesus himself. And it was here that the voice of God had come to Him and assured him that He had taken the right decision and was on the right road: “You are my own dear Son. I am pleased with you”. Luke Chapter 3 verse 22.
Subsequently, it was as He was preparing himself for what lay before Him that He received an urgent message from a family that He was particularly close to, “Lord, your dear friend is ill.”
Jesus responds to this message from sisters Mary and Martha on behalf of their brother Lazarus by making two comments:
First of all in verse 4, He tells His disciples that, “this illness will not prove fatal in the long run” and secondly, again in verse 4, “the final outcome will be life rather than death, therein, manifesting the glory of the Son and the further glory of the Father through Him”.
Jesus then informs His disciples that they will remain where they are for two more days. In so doing, this story teaches us two things about God’s delays in answering people’s requests.
The first is that they are inevitable. You see, our imperfect desires make us want immediate answers and leave us unprepared for the patient revealing of God’s plans.
And secondly, God’s delays are not final. For He will come in His own time and in His own way! God is the best of timekeepers and He is never late for His appointments, despite what we imperfect creatures may think!
Anyway, after 2 days have gone by, Jesus says to His disciples in verse 15, “Let us go to him.”
On arriving at the home of Mary and Martha, Martha is the first to go out to meet Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died”, she says, verse 21. Her words could be construed as a rebuke for Jesus’ slowness in responding to their message. On the other hand, she may have simply been indicating that had Jesus been able to be there earlier, then He could have saved Lazarus from death. Martha’s next words though sound much more hopeful as she says, “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask”, verse 22. Jesus replies by saying, “Your brother will rise to life.”…………………..” “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” To which Jesus makes this remarkable reply as He says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will live, even though they die; and those who live and believe in me will never die.” Verse 25.
What an incredible statement that is!
Having said that, we shouldn’t be surprised, for it is in effect the culmination of the unfolding revelation of the preceding chapters of the Gospel of John, where He has been revealed in a number of different ways as the giver of life: for instance
Materially, He gave life to water as He made it into wine,
Spiritually, He offered the new spiritual life of the Kingdom of God to Nicodemus. And to the Samaritan woman at the well He offered the life which springs up within a person satisfying all thirst.
Physically, He imparted life to a dying boy, a paralytic man, and a man born blind.
And finally, He says of himself that He is the ‘good shepherd’ of God’s flock who has come to give life to the full to all who will believe in Him and to die for those who put their trust in Him. See John Chapter 10 v10 & 11.
So then, in closing, let me say this, the life that Jesus brings is first and foremost ‘eternal life’, the life of the long awaited for Kingdom of God.
Secondly, the life He gives and offers is nothing less than the indestructible life of the resurrection, the very life of the deathless God himself.
Thirdly and most importantly, it is His gift for the here and now. Martha believes in some such life at the distant horizon of history when the Messiah eventually appears. But Jesus invites her to rethink that thought radically and to see that the resurrection life that He is speaking about is present here and now through faith in Him.
“Do you believe this?” That was the question that Jesus put to Martha on that day in Bethany and it is the question He puts to you and to me today! What is your response going to be?
A Prayer for the needs of the world:
Lord God, breathe your life into our world, breathe healing to all who are suffering from the corona virus, breathe strength to all doctors and nurses and to carers, to those involved in keeping the food chain operating and to all members of our emergency services.
Lord God, breathe your life into our lives, breathe patience, understanding and courage that we might do what is right and what is required in order to help defeat this pandemic.
Lord God, breathe your life into all who are unwell, breathe your healing and wholeness. For all suffering with mental health issues breathe peace of mind and a sense of comfort and belonging.
Lord God, breathe your peace into those who are approaching death, breathe courage and hope for the journey and a belief in your promise of eternal life.
Lord God, breathe your comfort and strength into the hearts of all who are mourning and grant them assurance that their loved one is safe in your presence.
Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your Son our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
A Closing Prayer of Blessing:
(from 2 Corinthians Chapter 4)
Never be discouraged even though your world decays; be renewed in your spirit day after day, look forward to tremendous and eternal glory, and fix your heart on your unseen home which will last for ever; and the blessing of God Almighty – Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you this day and for ever more. Amen.