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March 13, 2005 – 5th Sunday in Lent

        Revised Common Lectionary Readings

        Ezekiel 37:1-14

        Psalm 130

        Romans 8:6-11

        John 11:1-45

Illness Does Not Lead to Death

*Call to Worship

God whose life holds all life,

God for whom death is not the end,

God of all time and every place,

we gather here before you in faith.

Christ with human feet,

treading along every road in every rocky place,

forming the way as you go

so that we may see you ahead of us,

we gather here before you in faith.

Spirit, marked with all the signs of heaven,

healing, comforting, enduring, and liberating,

we gather here before you in faith.

Let us worship our God.

*Prayer of Invocation        

Break through our barriers of unbelief, O God.

Visit us within our hopes and fears today.

Come to us in clear life as we gather here,

that our lives may be renewed

through your healing life.

*Prayer of Confession       

Holy Jesus, renewer of life,

we know there are times

when we do not believe that you can save us.

We lie down and die to life

before we have held open to your healing

or any other gifts that you may bring

for giving us fresh hope and courage.

Silent reflection.

Forgive our lack of trust, loving Jesus.

Forgive our acceptance

of the things of death.

Sometimes we commit others to death

because we cannot imagine what could change

and bring them into new life.

Sometimes we are impatient for solutions

when you are gently leading us

down the hard path

toward a different way forward.

Silent reflection.

Forgive our lack of trust, loving Jesus.

Forgive our acceptance

of the things of death.

Forgive us when we doubt that,

in life or death,

you will never leave us alone,

that you hold all in your loving hands

for us and for those whom we love.

Forgive us if we think that you do not care

when those we love leave us in death,

or that death is some sort of punishment

and an end of life and love.

Be with us, Jesus Christ, in life

and in death. Amen.

*Words of Assurance       

Death bows before the sacred life of God,

all death and every death.

The refusal to lay down guilt

is to hold to ourselves

the death of separating ourselves

from God’s love.

Choose life.

Forgiveness waits for us if we will receive it.

Thanks be to God.

*Prayer of Thanksgiving   

We thank you, O God,

that there are no boundaries to your love.

We thank you that, even in death,

you travel with us and save us.

We thank you that you join our grieving,

weeping with us for the loss of those we love,

and joining us at the tombs of life.

We thank you for the signs all around us –

of life that springs forth

after deathly experiences,

for the power of renewal in all creation.


*Stewardship Thought      

The story of Lazarus – his life and death – has a certain mystery around it as, although whatever Jesus did gave his friends an experience of the renewed life of Lazarus, he was never mentioned again in Scripture. It is also puzzling that the disciples were so surprised by the rising of Jesus if they had witnessed a literal bringing back to life of Lazarus. Whatever the reality, it is interesting to reflect on the theme that “illness does not lead to death.” There is a sense in which that is often profoundly true – not just in the fact that many people get better, are healed in one way or another, but in another way. It could be that part of the promise of God is that there are many ways to die. Some of us can choose to die from illness in ways which are full of vivid life – when the life of God is made very clear around our death.

*Offertory Sentence                           

Your offering will now be received.

Bring it to God in faith and love.

*Offertory Prayer                                

The faith and love that lies in our offering

is added to these, our gifts, O God.

Receive all that is there, we pray. Amen.

*Prayer of Intercession      

Come to us, healing God.

Come to us as one who holds us in your arms

when our bodies, minds, hearts, or souls

are weak with pain,

or ill with the afflictions of humankind.

Come to us like a loving mother,

searching for that which troubles us

and assure us that you are near.

Come to us like a loving father,

tenderly embracing us with your kindness.

In the silence, we bring all that troubles us.

A silence is kept.

Hear our prayers, O God,

and stay with us if we fear the deaths before us.

As we look at our world,

we see there so many people and situations

that seem destined for dying.

Silent reflection.

As we look upon these troubled parts of life,

give to us the wisdom and inspiration

that comes from seeing them with your eyes, Jesus Christ.


Show us the life that could rise

from within them, O God.

Grant us new life within so that we never

give others over to death

when there are your ways

through to freedom and hope.

Be with us, we pray. Amen.


Let us leave this place as those

who have been freed from the bonds of death.


Go in peace, go in grace.

Go with the life-renewing power of Jesus Christ

and the everlasting love of God. Amen.


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