Worship Resources

Presbyterian Church

Of

Muskogee

3-29-20

 

Good morning, Brothers and Sisters. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I was hoping to live stream worship this morning, however, the microphone on my computer isn’t working. This will be a prayerful exercise in reading instead.

 

Let us pray.

 

Eternal God, you have called us to be members of one body. Join us with those who in all times and places have praised your name, that, with one heart and mind, we may show in this time of separation the unity of your church, and bring honor to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

Psalm 130

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications! If you, O Lord, should mark inequities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem. It is he who will redeem Israel from all its inequities.

 

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. 2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. 5 Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath[a] to enter you, and you shall live. 6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath[b] in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

7 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. 8 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. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath:[c] Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath,[d] and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

11 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.’ 12 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. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 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. 2 Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent a message to Jesus,[a] “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 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.” 5 Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, 6 after having heard that Lazarus[b] was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9 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. 10 But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 11 After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” 13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Thomas, who was called the Twin,[c] said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” 17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus[d] had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles[e] away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[f] Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah,[g] the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” 28 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.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 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. 32 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.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So 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?” 38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 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.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 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.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 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.” 45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

I love roller coasters! It’s a bumpy ride up that first big hill, lots of anticipation, big build up. Then, right before you nose dive at 1000 miles per hour and your stomach joins your tonsils…there is a pause, a short moment when your life flashes before your eyes and you realize the horrible mistake you made by getting on this death machine. This fifth week of Lent is that short pause before we plummet into the depths of Holy Week.

The psalmist captures this pause beautifully in this mornings reading: “I wait of the Lord, my soul does wait, and in his word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord more that the watchmen for the morning, indeed, more than the watchmen for the morning.” You can almost see what the psalmist is imagining as you read the verses. What is he imagining, do you suppose? The psalmist is not really thinking about the watchmen. He knows what they are watching for. They are the gate keepers in the midnight hour. They protect the city from being attacked suddenly in the middle of the night. They watch intently for intruders and sound the alarm so everyone has time to make ready for battle. They are keen observers of the night and that is what the psalmist means. He waits and watches keenly and intently for the Lord. But what does he see in his mind’s eye? What does he imagine as he writes down those words? Is he looking back over his life; is he looking forward? What do you see? If we pause with the psalmist, what do you see? Do you look back to consider all that has happened in life, how you have waited and hoped and all the happenings along the way? Is it a restful pause for you in the midst of a chaotic life? What do you see in the pause?

Ezekiel stood in this pause as the Lord set him down in the valley of dry bones. Surrounded by the memory of battles long since fought, surrounded by bones – no life, no flesh, no breath, no Spirit – the history of Israel. And in his vision, God commands Ezekiel to prophecy to the bones and causes sinew and flesh and skin to come upon the bones and the breath of life, the Spirit of God to enter into the bodies – the future of Israel. Ezekiel stands in the middle of what God has done and what God will do.

Jesus stands in the pause in our gospel lesson this morning. It is the shortest verse in all of scripture and yet it means so much, “Jesus wept.” It is especially significant in John’s gospel account because John spends so much time focusing on Jesus’ deity or divinity that we could easily forget that Jesus is also a man, a human being, with thoughts and feelings. Jesus was capable not only of miracles and wise teachings, but of love and grief, pain and sadness, joy and hope. Jesus wasn’t just some agent of God doing miracles and saying smart things and challenging the world order. He was a man of depth and emotion. And so in the middle of what might have been just another story about Jesus healing someone, Jesus pauses. He pauses and weeps. He stops in the midst of all that has happened to experience his loss and grief over the death of his friend Lazarus.

And that means everything to us, because we are connected to Jesus Christ in that grief, in the mourning over our loved ones – in the loss we feel – in our worries, our hopes, our dreams, our discouragements, and our joy. God’s love for us is like Jesus’ love for Lazarus. It doesn’t protect us from hardship or loss, from death or grief, but it promises life beyond hardship and loss, life beyond death and grief and it promises to make us deep wells of God’s grace. And if we are deep wells of God’s grace, then we can have confidence that no matter where we find ourselves in life, in whatever circumstance, we will persevere with Jesus Christ at our side and not only that, but we will be beacons of hope to those around us.

We stand in the pause of the fifth week of Lent, in the pause of life as we know it, and we are quickened, just as Jesus was, to face the trials of our time and culture and in the end, to stand, by the grace of God, in the joy of life eternal.

 

Let us pray.

 

God of all mercies, we give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all living things. We bless you for creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your boundless love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. Give us such an awareness for your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Redeemer, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory now and forever. Amen.