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Homily and Prayer for The Fifth Sunday in Lent - Year A
Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:6-11; John 11:1-45
"Jesus Wept"


READING:  Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:6-11; John 11:1-45
HOMILY :  "Jesus Wept"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
a-le05su 973000
                   
     The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
     for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
     found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
     SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.

     Sources:  The brief homily uses some of the words of Charles
     Kirkpatrick's (www.sermons4kids.com) children's story for 2002
     Jesus weeping.  The Prayers of the People are again based upon
     the Thanksgiving Prayer of Bruce Prewer for Lent 5A (2002), but
     with variations not found in our earlier file.


A REFLECTION ON THE READINGS: "Jesus Wept"
         
     O Lord, we pray, speak in this place, in the calming of our minds
     and in the longing of our hearts, by the words of my lips and in 
     the thoughts that we form.  Speak, O Lord, for your servants
     listen.  Amen.

I read once of a little girl who hurt her finger, and she ran to her daddy,
who was busy studying for an exam in his den.  She showed him her finger,
but he was so caught up in what he was doing he just looked at it and said,
"Oh, that will be all right," and sent her on out.  

     She ran to her mother, weeping and crying, and her mother said,
     "Oh, dear, does it hurt so much?" 
          
     The little girl said, "No, mommy, it's just that daddy didn't
     even say, ' ouch.'"  
         
     That is what she wanted, somebody to say "Ouch" with her. 

The story of the Raising of Lazarus is a central story in the gospel of
John.   

It is a story of wonder
     - the wonder that Jesus, upon hearing his friend Lazarus was sick -
     and even knowing he was dead already - did not return immediately to
     Bethany to either heal him - or to comfort Mary and Martha - but
     rather stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
     - and the wonder that when he did arrive in Bethany and had spoken
     with Mary and Martha that he proceeded to the tomb, not to mourn the
     death of Lazaras - but to raise him from the dead - and that is a
     quite a wonder is it not?   

It is a wonder that after four days in the tomb - four days, as the ever
     practical Martha puts it, for a bad odour to have developed - that at
     the command "Lazarus, come forth" her brother is completely restored
     to life, with only his burial clothes needing to be taken off so that
     he could resume living.

Jesus shows his disciples that he is indeed Lord of both the living and of
the dead.

Not only is the story of the raising of Lazarus a story of wonder and of
power, it is a story that provides us with two statements that have echoed
down the centuries.

The first of these is uttered by Jesus in response to Martha's belief in
him and her belief in the resurrection of the dead at the last day.

Jesus says to her - and through her to us all:

     "I am the resurrection and the life. they who believes in me will
     live, even though they die; and whoever lives and believes in me
     will never die." 

And the other is the statement, long hailed by grammar teachers as the
shortest and most perfect sentence in the English Language, let alone in
the Bible: "Jesus wept."

Jesus knew what he was going to do - right from the time he first heard of
the illness of Lazarus. Jesus knew that he would raise Lazarus to life so
that more might believe in him.

So why did he weep when he arrived at the tomb?

I know of two other places in the Bible where Jesus is portrayed as
weeping.

The Bible tells us that Jesus cried when he prayed for others.  In the
     Letter to the Hebrews it says that he "offered up prayers and
     petitions with loud cries and tears...."  (5:7)

And in the Gospel According to Luke we are told that Jesus cried when he
     saw people who were missing out on what God wanted for them.  Luke
     records that when Jesus approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept
     over it and said, "If you had only known on this day what would bring
     you peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes." (Luke 19:41-42)

I think that Jesus wept because he felt our pain and our suffering,
     that he wept because - though he knew, like the Father in our opening
     story, that everything would be alright in the end  - he had a heart
     that was open to the tears and the hurt of those around him, 
          a heart that identified with them, 
          a heart able to say "ouch" when we say "ouch", 
          a heart able to mourn for us even when we are not able to mourn
for ourselves

Jesus weeps for us 
and Jesus weeps with us.

Remember another famous statement in the Gospel according to John with me.  

The statement "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us".

God's love is no abstract thing.  
It is concrete and specific.

The eternal Word takes on human form 
     - so that our human form may take on eternity,
Jesus walked among us -
      because he cared for us,
he cared so much - that he gave his life for us on the cross.

Jesus wept.

He wept for us 
and he weeps with us.

Jesus still weeps with us when we are hurting, 
     and he still weeps for us when we do not see or accept the gifts that
     God offers to us.

The story of the raising of Lazarus tells us that Jesus is indeed Lord of
the living and of the dead.

And it tells us more 
     it tells us that we can take our burdens to him and that he will
     listen  and he will say "ouch" with us in our time of pain,
- in that time that comes before our time of healing, 
- before our time of resurrection
- before that time when indeed everything will be alright.....

Let us pray...


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
We thank you, loving God, for the vulnerable yet wonderful gift of life. 
To be alive and to know it is a unspeakable honour.  We thank you that from
start to finish our life is precious in your sight.  May we always praise
you for it...  Lord, hear our prayer... 

We thank you, loving God, for the Spirit that is able to cloth dead bones
with new flesh and give to them the breath of life.  We praise too for
Jesus who, by his own death has conquered death for us all. and who by his
resurrection offers the gift of hope to all who believe.  May we accept
your gift of new life and walk in obedience to your living word till the
time of glory is fully revealed to us and in us...  Lord, hear our
prayer....

Loving God, Lord Jesus, we thank you for your tears....  for your saying
ouch with us, for your suffering  with us and for us.  We pray for others
too, O Lord, with our own tears and our own cries:
     - we pray for the suffering and the lost ones in Jerusalem and in all
     the places around it this day where violence and hatred and fear hold
     sway.....
     - we pray for the children around this world today who hunger for a
     scrap of bread and for all the little ones - and the big ones too - 
     who have no place to lay their the heads...
     - we pray for those who mourn today like Mary and Martha mourned, we
     pray for them and for those who fear for ones who are precious to
     them....
     - and we pray for families who are mixed and confused - perhaps our
     own families - perhaps the family of a friend or a neighbour that is
     in darkness and distress....
Lord, hear our prayer...

Lord, we know you are able to help us - and that even now God will grant
you whatever you ask.  So, Lord, we hold before you now - with hope and
with tears - with joy and with sorrow - the different matters that have
been placed on our hearts today by our brothers and sisters - and by your
Spirit.  Look into our hearts and hear the words of our lips....  We pray
for... BIDDING PRAYER...  Lord, hear our prayer...

We ask all that we ask - and we give thanks for all that we thank you for 
in the name of Christ Jesus - who taught us to pray to you as one family,
saying

     Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be 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,
     the power and the glory, for ever and ever.  Amen


copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2005
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.


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