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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 March 29, 2020

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

Our first reading is from Ezekiel, a priest who became a prophet to the people of God who were exiled in Babylon. This was a time when God’s people felt increasingly helpless and hopeless.

In the midst of this near-despair, Ezekiel has a vision of a valley of dry bones, bones which have no life left within them. God asks Ezekiel, “Mortal, can these bones live?” Ezekiel knows that only God can answer that question because only God has the power to bring these bones to life. So Ezekiel answers, “O Lord God, you know.”

Muscles grow on the bones; skin covers the muscles; and, finally, God breathes the breath of life into the bones, and the living people stand on their feet. They are a great multitude, and God is going to bring them home. God tells the people, “You shall live, and I shall place you on your own soil.”

We have never had to leave our homes and go to a foreign land and live in exile for fifty  years, but we can at least begin to absorb how these people must have felt when they heard the word of the Lord. They realized that God was very much with them and that, in the midst of this dire situation, there was actually hope.

Though we have never been in exile in Babylon, we are gong through a kind of exile from our normal lives. We are spending as much time as we can in our homes. In a sense, our world is shutting down. Many businesses are closed. Some are working with partial staffing and working from home. Grocery stores have special times for senior citizens to shop. Truckers continue to drive so that we may have groceries and other necessities. I saw a wonderful tribute to them on the Today show.

Our medical workers, our beloved doctors nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, EMTs and other professionals are working day and night, in many cases without adequate equipment. We hope and pray that they may have that equipment as soon as possible. People who cannot go to work will need their unemployment insurance and other help. Businesses which have had to close will need help to stay afloat. We pray that our leaders will work together to take care of those who are in need. Thank God they passed a relief bill which is much needed by workers who have been told to stay home, businesses which have had to close, and hospitals and medical workers, to name a few. May we all do whatever is necessary to take care of each other.

This vision of Ezekiel, this promise from God to a people in exile, speaks to us almost as much as it spoke to God’s people two thousand five hundred years ago. God can bring life out of death. God can and does bring hope out of despair.

Our gospel for today makes this message even stronger. Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, is ill. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are Jesus’ closest friends. Jesus does not rush to Bethany. He waits two days.

When he finally says to his disciples, “Let’s go to Judea again,” they remind him that the authorities are trying to kill him. Thomas finally says, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” This is a signal to us that the following events are a foreshadowing of his own death and resurrection.

When Martha hears that Jesus is coming, she goes to meet him and scolds him for not coming sooner. Jesus tells her, “Your brother will rise again.” Mary also goes out to meet Jesus and says the same thing Martha said, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.”  When Jesus sees her weeping, he cries, too. He is human. One of his closest friends has died.

They go to the tomb. Jesus tells them to take away the stone. Martha tells Jesus that Lazarus has been dead four days. There is a stench. This death is real. They take away the stone. Jesus cries with a  loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man comes out of the tomb. Like the bones in the valley, he is walking. But he is still trapped in pieces of the cloths they had wrapped him in. And Jesus commands, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

At these words of Jesus, the dead body of Lazarus comes to life, and then he is set free. Resurrection is not only coming from death into life, but it is being set free to live that new life. We have been set free.

Because of the cross and resurrection of our Lord, we are in eternal life now. We are in that new life now. We have come out of the cave of our imprisonment to sin, and we are in that new and deeper dimension of life in Christ. We are set free from the power of sin and death.

As we reflect on our reading from Paul’s Letter to the Romans, we can say that, because of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and because we have received the Holy Spirit in baptism, we have set our minds on the Spirit. We are living in the Spirit. Christ is in us, and we are alive in him.

In a sense, we are in exile. In a sense, we are in a cave of isolation. We are doing this because scientists and medical experts tell us that this is what we need to do to flatten the curve of a deadly pandemic.

Our situation may make it easier for us to identify with God’s people in exile in Babylon and with Lazarus, dead in a cave of a tomb.

God is calling us to be a people of hope, a people of faith. God has given us the will to stay together through the medium of Zoom and  email and telephone and FaceBook and the power of God’s love. Please continue to listen to the science. Listen to the experts. Once again, I thank God for Governor Scott and Dr. Levine.

Above all, we need to remember that God is with us. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, is leading and guiding us. The Holy Spirit is giving us the very breath of life. May we be a people of fortitude, hanging in there. May we walk as children of the light. Amen.

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