26th March 2023 10.30am – Fifth Sunday of Lent Eucharist

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23 03 26 The Fifth Sunday of Lent Eucharist

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The Readings

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.’

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.

Scripture Quotations are from: New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Sermon
By Revd Dr Alan Billings


As you know, there are four gospels. Four accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Three of those accounts – Matthew, Mark and Luke – are in many respects very similar. They have many of the same stories of the things Jesus said and did, often in very similar words. That has led scholars to believe that while those who wrote them did so in different places and at different times, they nevertheless had some common written material they were all drawing on.

But the gospel reading we have just had today is taken from the fourth gospel, that according to John. And that is very different.

We can best appreciate the differences between John’s gospel and the other three if we think about the beginning and the end of their accounts. Matthew, Mark and Luke tell a very human story, speaking of things from, as it were, ground level. John seems far more theological, considering matters from an altogether loftier perspective.


Take the stories of the birth of Jesus. Luke tells us about a poor young couple, Mary and Joseph, desperately trying to find a bed for the night, but failing. And so their baby is born in a stable. We can almost feel the hot breath of the animals, the cold of the night air and the pain of childbirth. A down to earth, human story. Jesus comes into the world as a vulnerable human baby.

But John speaks of the birth quite differently. He, as it were, looks down from some high vantage point and tells us that what we have here is the Word of God, who was with God from the beginning, and indeed is God. And now that Word is made flesh and lives among us. The emphasis is on this baby as the Word of God rather than a vulnerable child.

Something similar happens at the end with the death of Jesus. Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us a harrowing story of a man being put to death in pain and agony. Not just physical pain, but the emotional and psychological pain of dying feeling unsure about what he has achieved, if anything, even feeling abandoned by God: ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.’
A vulnerable man, helpless, in the power of his enemies. This is Jesus as portrayed by Matthew, Mark and Luke.

But John sees things differently. Jesus at the end, according to his account, is always in control. If he dies, it is because he chooses to give himself into his enemies’ hands and he chooses to lay down his life, it is not snatched from him. As he dies he does not cry out ‘My God, why have you forsaken me,.’ No. In John’s account Jesus dies crying out, ‘It is finished.’ It is accomplished. In other words, I have done what I came to do.

A vulnerable Jesus. A Jesus in control.

And yet for all his attempts to show the life of Jesus as the working out of a plan that he is in control of, John occasionally shows us what the other gospels also show – the vulnerable Jesus. The Jesus who is like you and me.



We have it in today’s gospel reading in a series of short comments. Jesus is on his way to the village of Bethany, to see Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, who is ill. John tells us that Jesus loved Martha and her sister Mary and Lazarus. He loved them. He speaks about Lazarus as a friend. But to love someone, to really love someone, means that you give up any attempt to control them or manipulate them. You give yourself to them. You, as it were, hand to them the capacity – yes, to return your love, which is wonderful – but also to hurt you. To love someone is to make yourself quite vulnerable.

And we finally see the depth of the love that Jesus has for Lazarus, and the extent to which he is, therefore, vulnerable, in what may be the best known and certainly the shortest verse in the Bible. Jesus wept. When Mary says to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ Jesus wept.

As he tell the story of Jesus, John seeks all the time to draw out his true significance for all people in time and eternity. Jesus is indeed the Word of God. The Word of God come among us to show us that whatever comes our way in life or death, all things in the end are within our heavenly Father’s knowledge and control.

But in coming to show us this, the Word of God, is made flesh. He becomes one of us because it is by sharing our human emotions, that Jesus shows us what God is like.

Jesus wept. And when Jesus wept, we know that that was God weeping too.









The Prayers
Prepared by Veronica


Lord God. As we draw near to the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, we pray for grace to observe this time with awe and reverence as we contemplate the great sacrifice he made for us in dying on the Cross for our salvation. We pray for the Church worldwide, that we may grow ever closer to each other as we observe this most solemn of times for all Christians.
Lord, in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.
We pray for the world, and for all your people experiencing war, famine, excessive heat or floods. Help us to understand their needs and do all that we can to help them, whether as individuals supporting charities, or as citizens of what remains one of the richer countries of the world. Your Son told us to love one another: inspire governments of richer countries to continue to put aside .7% of their riches to help those in dire need. We remember before you also those in our own country for whom life at present is very difficult, as everyday items get ever more expensive, and beyond their means to pay for them. Help us to help them also.
Lord, in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.
We pray for our City and local community of Walkley. As local elections approach, inspire all candidates to think of the needs of the city as a whole, and the particular needs of the area they hope to represent. We pray also for everyone involved in preparing for our own Walkley Festival, and that the two weeks will be truly memorable in bringing our community together.
Lord, in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.
We pray for all who are ill at this time, and remember Lazarus whom Jesus loved. We pray for all doctors, nurses and care-workers, both professional and family members, that they may find the will to continue their work and eventually receive the recognition they deserve in terms of pay. We pray for all known to us in special need of your healing grace at this time………
Lord, in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.
We remember before you all reaching the end of their natural life, that they may find their resting place with You, alongside all others who have already died. We remember those especially dear to us by name in a moment of silence…..
Lord, in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.
Rejoicing in the fellowship of Mary, Mark and John, and all your saints, we commend ourselves and all Christian people to your unfailing love.

Merciful Father,

Accept these prayers

for the sake of your Son,

our Saviour Jesus Christ.