Bridgenorth United Church-Service Outline March 29th, 2020

            LENT 5 “Conversations that Unbind Us”

“This is a time to be slow, Lie low to the wall…

  until the bitter weather passes…

  Try, as best you can, not to let the wire brush

  of doubt scrape from you heart…

If you remain generous; time will come to good,

  And you will find your feet again on the fresh pastures

  of promise, where the air will be kind

  and blushed with new beginnings. 

       Except from “To Bless the Space Between Us” by John O’Donohue


Life and Work of the Church Family

Song      “Lord Prepare Me” #18 (MV)   

Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true.

With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living, sanctuary to you.

Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true.

With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living, sanctuary to you.

Call to Worship

On the spiritual journey we can raise our voices together.

We can look into one another’s faces and proclaim.

We are not alone. We are walking together by the power of all that is holy and always with us…in this way we are alive in the Christ Spirit and God’s grace…To this we say Amen…


Hymn “O Holy Spirit, Root of Life” #379


Lenten Candles

Jesus speaks and Lazarus is resurrected to life. Jesus shows us the hope that leads us out of despair, the light that can lead us out of darkness. As we approach the end of our Lenten journey & Jesus’ passion we too,

are called out of darkness and into light with new hope breathed into us…

   Each week we will extinguish one candle…

   A ritual to mark the 6 weeks of Lent…

   As I extinguish the third candle…we pray together…

Loving God, we open our hearts to you. We invite you into our innermost being, only to find you already there. Strengthen us in the quiet spaces within us and then lead us into the work of peace. Amen.

Sung Blessing   “Don’t be Afraid” (More Voices #90)

Don’t be Afraid, My Love is stronger; My love is stronger than your fear.

Don’t be afraid, My love is stronger. And I have promised;

promised to be always near.    


Centering Prayers


Hymn     “Breathe on me Breath of God” #82


     OPENING OUR EARS TO GOD

Scripture     John 11: 1-45 “The Raising of Lazarus”

A man named Lazarus, who lived in Bethany, was ill. Bethany was the town where Mary and her sister lived. Mary was the one who poured the perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill. The sisters sent Jesus a message…Lord your dear friend is ill.

When Jesus heard it he said: The final result of this illness will not be the death of Lazarus; this happened in order to bring glory to God, and it will be the means by which the son of God will receive glory.

Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard the news that Lazarus was ill, he stayed where he was for two more days. Then he said to his disciples: Let us go back to Judaea. Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep but I will go and wake him up. When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had been buried four days before. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed in the house. Martha said to Jesus. If you had been here, Lord, my brother would not have died! But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask him for. Jesus said to her…your brother will rise to life. Martha said;

I know that he will rise to life on the last day. Jesus assured her:

I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? Yes Lord, Martha replied, I do believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God who has come into the world…After Martha said this, she went back and called her sister Mary privately. “The teacher is here and he is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up and hurried out to meet him. The people who were in the house with Mary, comforting her followed her when they saw her get up and hurry out.

They thought that she was going to the grave to weep there. Mary arrived where Jesus was, and as soon as she saw him, she fell at his feet and said, Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died! Jesus saw her weeping and he saw how the people who were with her were weeping also; his heart was touched, and he was deeply moved… Where have you buried him?…Mary said…”Come and see…” Jesus wept.

The people said, “See how much he loved him! But some said, “He gave sight to the blind man, didn’t he? Could he have not kept Lazarus from dying?” Deeply moved once more, Jesus went to the tomb, which was a cave with a stone placed at the entrance…Jesus ordered…Take the stone away! Martha said, Lord, he has been buried for 4 days…there will be a bad smell…but Jesus said to her…Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believed…They took the stone away. Jesus looked up and said…

I thank you Father, that you listen to me. I know that you always listen to me, but I say this for the sake of the people here, so that they will believe you sent me. After a brief pause Jesus said loudly.

Lazarus COME OUT! And Lazarus came out, his hands and feet

wrapped in grave clothes with a cloth around his face. Jesus told them…

   Untie him and let him go…

  For the word of God among us…

  For the word of God within us…Thanks be to God.

Gift of Music     


Sermon “Rise Again!” John 11:1-41 Rev. Dr. Anne Gowans Blinn

A number of years ago I took part in a grief service before Christmas sponsored by a funeral home…six ministers took part…

The minister who volunteered to read scripture chose…

“The Raising of Lazarus”! (from the dead) he read all 53 verses of John 11!! As his voice rose and fell over the story…

I began to feel very uncomfortable…BECAUSE…

I could see the expression on people’s faces…after all…their

grief was very fresh…and THIS is a story that needs some introduction and maybe even some discussion, interpretation or conversation…! The minister chose it because he thought it would be helpful! After all it is a story of a family who had their grief turn to joy when a loved one was returned to life by the power of Jesus’ words…Was this reading comforting?

…To people who had recently suffered a painful loss?

…To people who were grieving at Christmas time…

Was this reading helpful…I wonder!


The gospel writer begins with the account of Jesus receiving sad news that a close friend was gravely ill…his sister had sent word for him to come to them immediately…But strangely Jesus waits three days…(3 days is the resurrection number) His followers are confused…why wait? At one point he tells them that Lazarus is sleeping…”we will wake him…” And then in the next breath Jesus bluntly says…”Lazarus has died.” Let us go to him…Martha, Lazarus’ sister defies custom when she hears that Jesus is nearing Bethany…leaving her sister Mary alone to receive visitors…Martha goes out to meet Jesus and when she meets him on the road she asks him…the question we all ask…when we lose someone we love… ”WHY?” Jesus responds…

“Your brother will rise again…”



Can you can hear it…the shift in the narrative

“from a literal understanding to metaphor…from the future to the present…”* Martha on the other hand speaks of resurrection as a future day…A day her people believed would come…when the world would end…& the kingdom of God would come into being…Jesus brings her back to the here and now by saving… “I am the resurrection and the life…”

Marcus Borg…author and theologian writes that this has to be…

“One of the most spectacular miracles attributed to Jesus…”

but he cautions us that to truly understand the story is to know that this is not history “remembered”…no…it is the assurance that life never ends…AND yet as Jesus goes to the tomb he becomes “deeply troubled”…in Greek the words mean he shutters in anger and grief…and then the tears come…Jesus wept…!


Bishop John Shelby Spong (Jesus for the Non Religious pg.95)

admits that the “Supernatural language of miracles often blind us to the meaning of Jesus…so much so that people often reject the religious viewpoint…BUT if we can free Jesus…WE HEAR

his invitation to enter the God experience known as the

“fullness of life…” (Or the kingdom of God) Spong wrote

“I seek Jesus because he lived out the meaning of God”…

we glimpse God in him…we feel God with us…so the gospel writer John wants us to know… Christ then can also be in you and me…


Tom Harpur author of “Life after Death” wrote that the

“Christ spirit “Kick starts dead minds and hearts into the fullness of life…” (Water into Wine pg. 104 & 1060


Thomas Moore…author of “Care of the Soul” believes the Lazarus story is important especially if we take on the story at its depth



“Jesus (writes Moore) is revealing a truth that everyone knows but sets aside…that if the world could live by the principle of love, it would find its healing and come back to life.”

Writings in the Sand” Page 148)

And finally St. Paul…when he wrote to a grieving people…he said,

Fullness of life is our “light in the darkness…”

We may be afflicted in every way…but not crushed…

Perplexed but not driven to despair…it seems Paul knows…

It is hard to roll the heavy stone of grief from our hearts…

We read in John that the power of Jesus’ words gave Lazarus back to his family…all I know is when I lost my father I clung to WORDS…words from friends…“sorry for you loss” & “peace be with you.” Words from scripture…”in my Father’s house there are many rooms (in Greek “resting places) I go to prepare a place for you…” words from the UC service book put in my hands when I was ordained ”Safe in the arms of Jesus…until we meet again. And from the raising of Lazarus I cling to the power of Jesus’ words…untie him…let him go…powerful words…Even today…

I turn to a healing blessing from John O’Donohue…

who penned a book called To Bless the Space between Us…

I return to time and time again…“ It begins…

”When we lose someone we love our life becomes strange…”

and ends with these words…

Gradually you will learn acquaintance with the invisible form of your departed…When the work of grief is done…

The wound of loss will heal…

And you will have learned to wean your eyes from that gap in the air…and be able to enter the heart in your soul…

Where your loved one has awaited your return all the time…”

(To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donohue) pg. 118

Amen.



OPENING OUR LIVES TO GOD

Gathering of our Offering

Offertory 

Doxology           “Your work, O God” V.U. #537

Your work, O God, needs many hands to help you everywhere

And some there are who cannot serve unless our gifts to share.

Because we love you and your work, our offering we make;

Be pleased to use it as your own, we ask for Jesus’ sake.

Prayers of Dedication


Closing Prayer & the Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed by Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen

Prayer Response: “Cradle me in your Arms” #91 (MV)

Cradle me in your arms, cherish and comfort me.

O Jesus source of healing love…in your presence I am free…

Cradle me in your arms, cherish and comfort me.

O Jesus source of healing love…in your presence I am free…


Hymn  “I Danced in the Morning” #352


Benediction & Sung Benediction

May the Lord walk beside us as we leave this quiet place…

For the Lord will always guide us if we walk in the light of His grace.

May we feel God’s love around us as if keeps us faithful and strong.

For the peace of God surrounds us, and now we must pass it on.

                         Go now and pass it on.


In our Prayers…

Les Crouse; The family of Barb Scott

For all the people we love and care for…for our neighbours and friends…

for people we do not know who are suffering in this time of isolation…

We pray to you O God for peace within all who are afraid…

and we pray that all the people we carry on our hearts

and in our prayers will be well…

In this time of separation, fear and illness…