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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 2, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
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Lent 5A RCL April 6, 2014

Ezekiel 37:1-14
Psalm 130
Romans 8:6-11
John 11: 1-45

Have you ever faced a time when you felt the worst had happened, that things just could not go downhill any further? That is the situation we see in our opening lesson today. The mighty Babylonian Empire has come in and conquered the people of God. The temple has been leveled, the people have been deported to Babylon. Biblical scholar Gene M. Tucker tells us that Ezekiel was one of the first to be deported, Ezekiel was a priest who is known as the prophet to the exiles.

There they were, in an alien land. They had some freedom, enough to worship in their own way, but they had lost the land God had given them, and the center of their worship, the temple, was a pile of rubble. In short, they had lost everything. But they gathered together, and they prayed, and they studied the scriptures, and God gave Ezekiel this shatteringly powerful and life-giving vision. God would breathe life into God’s people. Indeed, they did return home. They rebuilt the temple; they rebuilt their lives, and they flourished. Whenever we feel discouraged about the future of the Church or the ability of communities of faithful people to rise up out of the ashes, we need to remember this vision which came true and which comes true over and over again.

As we turn to our gospel for today, we recall that last week Jesus healed the man who had been born blind. The religious authorities were not pleased with this. Then Jesus began to teach that he is the good shepherd. There was a confrontation with the authorities, and a crowd actually gathered to stone Jesus, so he went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing. In other words, he withdrew from Jerusalem for safety.

Now Jesus hears that Lazarus is ill. Mary and Martha send a message. We need to pause and meditate on this. Jesus has withdrawn to a safe place, or a safer place. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus live in Bethany, only two miles from Jerusalem. Jesus has spent many wonderful hours with these dear friends. Mary has sat at his feet in the formal position of a disciple. Martha has served many delicious meals. These are Jesus’ dearest friends. Their home has been a haven for him. But that is no longer true. Any place that near Jerusalem is going to be dangerous for Jesus.

At first, Jesus hears that Lazarus is ill. He delays the trip to Bethany. He knows it will be dangerous. But then he says to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples remind Jesus that people had tried to stone him. Jesus says that their friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but this is a way of saying that he realizes that Lazarus has died. He knows that he must go to Bethany. Then Thomas says, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Thomas knows how dangerous this is going to be. We are facing the death of Lazarus, and we are also facing the death of our Lord.

When they are still two miles away, Martha comes out to meet them. She is hopping mad. “Lord, if you had been here, he wouldn’t have died!” With Martha, you always know what she is thinking. And then she expresses her faith in Jesus. And he says those words which have rung down through the ages, “I am the resurrection and the life Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live….” Mary comes out to see him and says the same thing, “Lord, if only you had been here, this would not have happened.” Mary is more sad than angry. She is in tears.

The depth of what has happened grips Jesus, One of his best friends has died. He cries over this loss. He cries in front of all the mourners who have followed Mary out to meet him. They go to the tomb. Martha points out the facts: there will be a stench. Lazarus has been dead for four days

It is a cave, They take away the stone. Jesus prays. Then he calls to his dear friend, “Lazarus! Come out!” And Lazarus stumbles out of the cave, wrapped in his grave cloths. Then Jesus issues the command, “Unbind him, and let him go!” Jesus calls to each of us, this last Sunday before the beginning of Holy Week. He calls us by name, because he is the good shepherd, and he knows us and we know him. He calls us to move from death to life, He calls us to allow him to free us from anything that might bind us or imprison us or enslave us.

In our epistle for today, St. Paul talks about the difference between lifein the flesh and life in the spirit. When Paul refers to “the flesh,” he does not mean our human body. As Christians, we do not see the body as bad or evil. Herbert O’Driscoll has an excellent way of explaining what Paul means by “the flesh.: O’Driscoll writes, “To be in the flesh means for Paul that one is living out our flawed human nature without reaching for the grace that lies beyond ourselves. The spirit that lives in such a life is a solitary spirit. Paul points to another way of living. This is the way of reaching out beyond ourselves for a Spirit that comes from Christ.” (The Word Today, Year A, Volume 2, p. 42.) Our goal is to allow Christ to live in us and through us.

All of our lessons today remind us that God can and does bring life out of death. This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday, and we will be with our Lord as he is welcomed as a hero, and we will also be with him as he makes a decision to live out the power of love and self-offering rather than operate on the basis of human and earthly power.

What are these lessons telling us? No situation is hopeless. God can and does bring new life to communities of faith and to communities in general. Seeking our Lord’s will and asking his grace to do his will brings us to life in the spirit, life on a new level.

May we continue to walk the Way of the Cross with our Lord. May our faith grow and deepen with every step. Amen.

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