The Dead ... Live
Psalm 130:1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD. 2 Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications! 3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered. 5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
CALL TO WORSHIP
*OPENING HYMN All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name #68
*INVOCATION AND LORD'S PRAYER Living God, as you released your friend Lazarus from the confines of death, by your living presence among us, free us from fear of death and free us for willing service in your kingdom. Empower us by your Spirit to raise up your resurrected arms over a dying world. In the powerful name of Jesus. 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 debts, as we forgive our debtors. And, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, forever. AMEN.
SCRIPTURE READING Ezekiel 37:1-14
1 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 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 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: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, 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. READER Jim Barker
OFFERING For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
*PRAYER OF DEDICATION So great a God, so great a Love, so great a gift, so great a salvation, so great a life, so great a destiny -- how our hearts are overwhelmed by your goodness, Lord. May others, through us, catch a glimpse of what you are, and may they also come to know the greatness of your name. AMEN
CHILDREN'S STORY TIME Sue Barker
PRAYER O God, You are the Creator of all the Universe and the giver of all life. We ask You to search the soul of Your church and, where we have need, breathe into us new life and vitality. Lord, in so many ways we have walked away from the tasks You created us as Your church to be about. Forgive us, Lord, and where there is need, lead us to be about filling it; and where there are the wounded in our world, help us to be about providing Your healing; and where the darkness of sin abounds, lead us to share Your Light. /// O God, with the gift of the Holy Spirit You have extended to all who would receive it eternal life. Touch us anew, Lord, and help us to see the areas we need to submit to Your will. Lord, so often we seem to choose the ways of the world and ignore all of those ways You came to teach us. So often we would have in our lives the things that bring the temporary pleasures of life and we lose our focus on the values that are eternal. Forgive us, Lord, and help us keep the focus of our hearts toward the Cross. /// O God, even while we were yet living in the world of darkness and sin You knew us and sent us a Savior. Restore the wounds of our hearts, God. Lord, so often we have sought to please those in the world around us and in the process we have little by little allowed the world's standards to become our standards. Forgive us, Lord, as we come ever closer to Easter we invite You to show us again where we have allowed the ways of the world to replace Your ways and lead us home. In Christ we pray. Amen.
*PREPARATIONAL HYMN Crown Him with Many Crowns # 3
SCRIPTURE TEXT John 11:1-45
1 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, "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 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, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." 17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles 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. 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, 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.
SERMON The Dead ... Live
Just last week the Mid-week service read "because someone prayed" in the Great House of God. because it applies to today's scripture lesson I would like to share it with you. (lucado P83 -85) I'd like you to think about someone. His name is not important. His looks are immaterial. His gender is of no concern. His title is irrelevant. He is important not because of who he is, but because of what he did.
He went to Jesus on behalf of a friend. His friend was sick, and Jesus could help, and someone needed to go to Jesus, so someone went. Others cared for the sick man in other ways. Some brought food, others provided treatment, still others comforted the family. Each role was crucial. Each person was helpful, but none was more vital than the one who went to Jesus.
He went because he was asked to go. An earnest appeal came from the family of the afflicted. "We need someone who will tell Jesus that my brother is sick. We need someone to ask him to come. Will you go?"
The question came from two sisters. They would have gone themselves, but they couldn't leave their brother's bedside. They needed someone else to go for them. Not just anyone, mind you, for not just anyone could. Some were too busy, others didn't know the way. Some fatigued to quickly, others were inexperienced on the path. Not everyone could go.
And not everyone would go. This was no small request the sisters were making. They needed a diligent ambassador, someone who knew how to find Jesus. Someone who wouldn't quit mid-journey. Someone who would make sure the message was delivered. Someone who was as convinced as they were that Jesus must know what had happened.
They knew of a trustworthy person, and to that person they went. They entrusted their needs to someone, and that someone took those needs to Christ.
"So Mary and Martha sent someone to tell Jesus, 'Lord, the one you love is sick'"
Someone carried the request. Someone walked the trail. someone went to Jesus on behalf of Lazarus. And because someone went, Jesus responded.
Let me ask you, how important was this person in the healing of Lazarus? How essential was his role? Some might regard is as secondary. After all, didn't Jesus know everything? Certainly he knew that Lazarus was sick. Granted, but he didn't respond to the need until someone came to him with the message. "when Jesus heard this, he said, 'this sickness will not end in death. It is for the glory of God to bring glory to the son of God.'"
When was Lazarus healed? After someone made the request. Oh, I know the healing wouldn't unfold for several days, but the timer was set when the appeal was made. All that was needed was the passage of time.
Would Jesus have responded if the messenger had not spoken? Perhaps, but we have no guarantee. We do, however, have an example: The power of God was triggered by prayer. Jesus looked down the very throat of death's cavern and called Lazarus back to life.......All because someone prayed.
"The one whom you love is sick" (v. 3). This brief statement makes clear that there is no logical connection between illness and God's favor. When illness and other misfortune strike, our first impulse is to think that God has abandoned us or, worse, is punishing us. No, he still loves us. Even when he doesn't seem to spring to our aid, as in the case of Lazarus, even when he appears absent from our lives, our plight is not forgotten.
When Jesus was informed of Lazarus' illness, he responded that this sickness would not end in death (v. 4). Lazarus died but death was not his final end because Jesus was his friend and Jesus has shown himself to be the resurrection and the life.
You've heard of the twice born experience, our natural birth and our spiritual birth, but Christians are also among the twice dead. We die to our old sinful nature, beginning in baptism, and we die physically. Our spiritual birth would not be possible without our death to selfishness and sin. Our birth into the kingdom of heaven would not be possible without our physical death. Of course, looking at it from another perspective, life involves many births and many deaths. As Martin Luther states, we must, through repentance, die daily to sin so that we might rise to newness of life.
At the age of 56, George Fredrich Handel was a pathetic shadow of what he had been. He had incompletely recovered from a paralyzing stroke and was almost broke. For years, his Italian operas were well received but the aesthetic tastes of the public switched to French stage plays rather than Italian operas. For Handel, life had become a soulless shadowland much like the experience of the captive Israelites that Ezekiel addressed. One night, as he was limping home through the dreary London fog, Handel was contemplating his fate. When he got home, he found a piece of mail from a man named Jennings. It was a manuscript that he hoped Handel might develop into an oratorio. As Handel thumbed through the piece, the words suddenly came alive. "Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people ... and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed." Instantly, his depression and gloom fell away as the composer feverishly penned the music that flooded his entire being. He hardly paused to eat or sleep as the melodies and harmonies flowed from his pen. Seventeen days and nights later he was finished. The Messiah lifted Handel out of his valley of dry bones and became an instant favorite, that has continued to ring out the Christian message of resurrection life down through the corridors of time. (Based on an article from Pulpit Resource; March 28, 1993.)
We must be very careful about pointing to specific causes for particular misfortunes and it is often not helpful to attribute such things to the will of God. Who are we to say? Nevertheless, we err when we view tragedy strictly from our subjective perspective. Too often, we focus only on the impact that events have on our own lives. Jesus claimed that the reason for Lazarus' illness was to glorify God (v. 4). We should also look at tragedy from God's perspective and ask: How is God being magnified? How is God making himself known to me and others through this event?
The compassion of Christ. When Jesus witnessed the sorrow surrounding the death of Lazarus and the pain evinced in Mary and Martha, the text says more than once that he was deeply moved, profoundly disturbed. It also states that Jesus wept. The Greek stoics believed that to show compassion or feeling was a sign of weakness. Therefore, since God is all-powerful, he cannot be moved by human pain or sorrow. Such compassion would prove that humans had power over God. Consequently, God is the unmoved mover, apathetic to human woe. This is not the God we see in Christ, who weeps with his people over their loss and yet still has the power to raise them to newness of life.
Lord of life and death,
we come to you like Martha and Mary.
Gratefully we receive your Son,
who is our resurrection and life.
Jesus feels our pain and can transform it.
We know that you will grant whatever he asks.
Therefore, let Jesus free us from the troubles
that now bind us.
Let him resurrect our lives
from the death stench that envelops us.
Let him restore the joy in our hearts
and the hope in our days.
In the powerful name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.
___ Affirmation of Faith
I believe in God,
the Creator of the world
and Father of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
I believe in Jesus,
the Messiah, the Son of God,
the one coming into the world.
He is the resurrection and the life.
Those who believe in him, even though they die,
And everyone who lives and believes in Jesus Christ
will never die.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
guiding power who sends us out
to those who have never heard the good news
of Jesus' love and the life he offers.
I believe in the joy
that follows the faithful witness of this good news,
and in the freedom from all the bonds of death
for those who believe.
*INVITATIONAL HYMN Rejoice, the Lord is King # 282
*BENEDICTION "If we let him go on like this,
everyone will believe in him,"
the Pharisees and priests said of Jesus.
High priest Caiaphas added,
"... it is better for you to have one man die for the people
than to have the whole nation destroyed."
How true were their words.
Jesus is unstoppable.
Even in death he rises to new heights.
Everyone will believe in him.
And those who follow him,
and act in his Spirit,
are equally unstoppable.
May it be so with you,
in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Ezekiel 37:1-14 That Dead Church Lives!
. I told him that congregation was stone cold dead when he arrived, and I thought he would just give it a decent Christian burial and move on. There's no way anyone would have blamed him -- it was a dead duck!" He paused before adding, "Now, who knows? The congregation might well live another 20 years. Or forever," he chuckled.
"Like you say, it's been dead for years," one of the men agreed. "For a long time nobody would accept a call there."
"Nobody except a naive kid," Ray countered. "Well, anyway, it ain't dead no more! You can't believe the life he has pumped into that lifeless bunch."
"Like a breath of fresh air," someone suggested.
"More than a breath, my friend," Ray corrected. "It's more like a whole new spirit in the congregation. On my last visit there to meet with their board, I could hardly believe it. Besides, the whole town's talking about how that congregation came alive."
No one spoke for a moment, then one of the four offered a theory. "You know, I think sometimes these young people come fresh out of seminary so starry-eyed and naive they don't realize it can't be done ... so they just go ahead and do it."
Ray contemplated the last few comments, then before getting up to return to the meeting he said, "Well, I suspect the kid called upon the Lord a good bit for the fresh air that's blowing in that place."
The village of Bethany was located about two miles east of Jerusalem on the road to Jericho. It was near enough to Jerusalem for Jesus and the disciples to be in danger, but far enough away so as not to attract attention prematurely.
As their brother grew very sick, Mary and Martha turned to Jesus for help. They believed in his ability to help because they had seen his miracles. We, too, know of Jesus’ miracles, both from Scripture and through changed lives we have seen. When we need extraordinary help, Jesus offers extraordinary resources. We should not hesitate to ask him for assistance.
Any trial a believer faces can ultimately bring glory to God because God can bring good out of any bad situation (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28). When trouble comes, do you grumble, complain, and blame God, or do you see your problems as opportunities to honor him?
Jesus loved this family and often stayed with them. He knew their pain but did not respond immediately. His delay had a specific purpose. God’s timing, especially his delays, may make us think he is not answering or is not answering the way we want. But he will meet all our needs according to his perfect schedule and purpose (Philippians 4:19). Patiently await his timing.
John 11:9, 10
“Daylight” symbolizes the knowledge of God’s will, and “night,” the absence of this knowledge. When we move ahead in darkness, we will be likely to stumble.
John 11:14, 15
If Jesus had been with Lazarus during the final moments of Lazarus’s sickness, he might have healed him rather than let him die. But Lazarus died so that Jesus’ power over death could be shown to his disciples and others. The raising of Lazarus was an essential display of his power, and the resurrection from the dead is a crucial belief of the Christian faith. Jesus not only raised himself from the dead (10:18), but he has the power to raise others.
We often remember Thomas as “the doubter,” because he doubted Jesus’ resurrection. But here he demonstrated love and courage. The disciples knew the dangers of going with Jesus to Jerusalem, and they tried to talk him out of it. Thomas merely expressed what all of them felt. When their objections failed, they were willing to go and even die with Jesus. They may not have understood why Jesus would be killed, but they were loyal. There are unknown dangers in doing God’s work. It is wise to consider the high cost of being Jesus’ disciple.
John 11:25, 26
Jesus has power over life and death as well as power to forgive sins. This is because he is the Creator of life (see 14:6). He who is life can surely restore life. Whoever believes in Christ has a spiritual life that death cannot conquer or diminish in any way. When we realize his power and how wonderful his offer to us really is, how can we not commit our lives to him? To those of us who believe, what wonderful assurance and certainty we have: “I will live again, and you will, too” (14:19).
Martha is best known for being too busy to sit down and talk with Jesus (Luke 10:38-42). But here we see her as a woman of deep faith. Her statement of faith is exactly the response that Jesus wants from us.
John stresses that we have a God who cares. This portrait contrasts with the Greek concept of God that was popular in that day—a God with no emotions and no messy involvement with humans. Here we see many of Jesus’ emotions—compassion, indignation, sorrow, even frustration. He often expressed deep emotion, and we must never be afraid to reveal our true feelings to him. He understands them, for he experienced them. Be honest, and don’t try to hide anything from your Savior. He cares.
When Jesus saw the weeping and wailing, he too wept openly. Perhaps he empathized with their grief, or perhaps he was troubled at their unbelief. In either case, Jesus showed that he cares enough for us to weep with us in our sorrow.
Tombs at this time were usually caves carved in the limestone rock of a hillside. A tomb was often large enough for people to walk inside. Several bodies would be placed in one tomb. After burial, a large stone was rolled across the entrance to the tomb.
Jesus raised others from the dead, including Jairus’s daughter (Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:42, 43; Luke 8:40-56) and a widow’s son (Luke 7:11-15).
Even when confronted point-blank with the power of Jesus’ deity, some refused to believe. These eyewitnesses not only rejected Jesus; they plotted his murder. They were so hardened that they preferred to reject God’s Son rather than admit that they were wrong. Beware of pride. If we allow it to grow, it can lead us into enormous sin.
The Jewish leaders knew that if they didn’t stop Jesus, the Romans would discipline them. Rome gave partial freedom to the Jews as long as they were quiet and obedient. Jesus’ miracles often caused a disturbance. The leaders feared that Rome’s displeasure would bring additional hardship to their nation.
John regarded Caiaphas’s statement as a prophecy. As high priest, Caiaphas was used by God to explain Jesus’ death even though Caiaphas didn’t realize what he was doing.
THEOLOGICAL REFLECTION ON THE LESSONS
Lesson 1: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Ezekiel is commanded to prophesy to the dry bones, symbolic of the discouraged state of the people of Israel, and the bones came together, taking on tendon and muscle. Then he prophesied again and the Spirit of God came into the lifeless corpses and they were truly alive. This is a graphic illustration of the power of the Word. This is the same principle witnessed in the Genesis creation accounts: God created life through his spoken Word. When the Word of God is spoken, the Spirit of God gives fresh hope to the downtrodden and life to the dead.
The Spirit raises up the living-dead. There are levels of death, just as there are levels of life. At the point in the vision, when the prophet prophesies to the bones and they come together with flesh and sinew, there is the appearance of life without its reality. We might say that these are the living dead, without soul or spirit. There are millions like them today. Because of hardship, war and other kinds of abuse, they are little more than breathing corpses. Some have chosen to serve at the altar of the gods of wealth and power and have lost their souls. They too are among the host of the living-dead. Only through the resurrection power of Jesus Christ are we fully and eternally alive.
"Our hope is gone" lamented the captive people of God (v. 11). No one can live without hope. In tests done on rats, those rodents placed in a situation that was obviously hopeless, died quickly; they gave up. However, when the rats were put into an environment where they were trapped but there seemed to be a possibility of escape, they endured far longer. Our faith, informed by the Word of God, buoys us up when we are caught in life's swirling eddies. As children of the Eternal One, no situation is hopeless. We are never beyond the pale of God's redemptive grace.
Lesson 2: Romans 8:6-11
Brain-dead sinners and brainwashed believers. Paul describes the natural (unredeemed) mind as being brain-dead (v. 6) because it is hostile to God and unwilling to submit to the will of God (v. 7). Technically, of course, Paul is referring to the mind, the seat of volition, rather than the organ in our cranium. Nevertheless, in the thinking of most people there is a strong relationship between mind and brain. Those who are opposed to the things of God may be brilliant but they are truly brain-dead because they have short-circuited their God-connection.
Then, there are brainwashed believers. Actually, there are two types of brainwashed believers. There is the bad kind. You know, the person who rigidly holds that he is 100% right and that anyone who disagrees with him is a fool and a sinner. Such a mind-set stems from a person who is frightfully insecure. He is afraid that if he permits anyone to challenge his house of dominos, it will all come crashing down. However, there is a good kind of brainwashed believer. This is the person whose mind has been washed by the Spirit of God. Such a believer has freely given over her mind to the flow of the Spirit, trusting that God will lead her to new depths of truth. Her body may be nearly dead but her brain (mind) is alive (vv. 8-11).
Lesson 2: Romans 8:11-19
Just deserts. The litany we hear constantly in this present age goes something like this: I demand my rights! Give me what I have coming! They want what they feel they have earned. Paul reminds us of the danger of demanding our rights, insisting on our wages. "The wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (v. 23).
PREACHING APPROACHES WITH ILLUSTRATIONS
Lesson 1: Ezekiel 37:1-14
Sermon Title: God Raises The Living Dead
Sermon Angle: Not only does God raise the dead (those who have physically died), he also raises the living-dead (those who have broken contact with God or are without hope). This sermon is directed to those who go through the motions of living but whose spirit is dead. 1. Ezekiel addressed a people without hope (the living-dead) 2. Many people today are in the same predicament 3. The Word of God raised them to life and gave them hope 4. The Word of the Risen Christ raises us and gives us hope
We humbly and thankfully bow before the one who has power
over life and death: humbly because of our overwhelming need to
live, and thankfully because of Jesus' love that gives all we
___ Encourage people in the congregation to stand up in their pews and share with the rest of the congregation how Jesus had saved someone they loved from death. They might also be given opportunity to share how Jesus has saved some thing from death, such as a peace treaty, a marriage, etc. This could be followed with a time of silent prayer when people are encouraged to go to Christ with concern about someone or something under the threat of death. Like Martha and Mary they can appeal to Jesus for the resurrection of the threatened person or thing.