When Jesus calls forth Lazarus from his sojourn in the tomb, Lazarus walks from the cave, re-entering a world almost exactly like the one he left. Close by, there was Jesus his best friend, and his two sisters. Lazarus would return home, a place of familiarity. He would resume his life, perhaps feeling a little unsteady, for awhile, but it would pass. His death experience would fade into memory.
When Jesus resurrected from the tomb, the world had already profoundly shifted, after only three days, precisely because of the resurrection itself. This was not a return to an old life, but to a new life, utterly changed from what had gone before. The shopworn patterns of the familiar were at a new place. No longer human time, but rather, now in God’s time.
God’s time is where we live today, even though we don’t yet see it, and certainly don’t fully comprehend it. We need to see this present life as a light shawl as something we’ve worn to take the chill out of the air, but now that the warmth has returned, we can drop the shawl, and move forward freely—unencumbered and unrestricted.
Let us pray. Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and afflictions of sinners. Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise. Among the swift and varied tides of the world, our hearts must surely be fixed where true joys are to be found. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
A reading from Ezekiel, in the Valley of Dried Bones
The people of Israel say, “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.” God said, “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. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 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.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.
The Gospel of John, at the 11th chapter
Jesus calls Lazarus to come forth from the tomb
Jesus said to Martha, “Lazarus will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary. 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.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep.
Then Jesus came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Jesus said to Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So, they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 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.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
Lazarus 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.”
The Lord’s Prayer
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, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Prayers of the People
A Prayer for Those Affected by the Coronavirus
O God of compassion, giver of life and health, we pray your healing mercies upon all who are in any way affected by the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Comfort and sustain those who have been stricken; relieve their pain, and restore to them your gifts of gladness and strength. Grant to all in authority the courage to make wise decisions that are essential for the common good, and strengthen them to lead institutions that care for those whom they serve. Watch over all first responders and those in the medical professions whose duty it is to care for the sick; guard them from all danger, and keep them safe in the knowledge that is through their sacrifice and service that the health of the whole community is promoted. Mercifully accept these our prayers, O God of all comfort, and our only help in time of need. Amen.
The Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton
Prayer for People Critically Ill or Facing Great Uncertainty
God of the present moment,
God who in Jesus stills the storm
and soothes the frantic heart;
bring hope and courage to all
who wait or work in uncertainty.
Bring hope that you will make them the equal
of whatever lies ahead.
Bring them courage to endure what cannot be avoided,
for your will is health and wholeness;
you are God, and we need you.
Adapted from New Zealand Prayer Book
In calling forth creation from the void, God, you revealed yourself in human form. You manifest your concern for your whole universe. Hear the world’s needs, as we bring the matters of our hearts before you.
Pour out your life-giving Spirit on your holy church throughout the world and equip its members to boldly proclaim their common faith and your bountiful blessings across the earth. Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer.
Let your Spirit move over our unruly time and heal its people broken in spirit and body. Bring peace to a weary and struggling world. Protect Mother Earth from human neglect. Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer.
Burn out all that is evil in us; consecrate us for holy service and empower us to work toward the salvation of the world. Give us energy and insight for the mission. Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer.
Renew the faith of all those who call you Lord, so that we may devote ourselves to worship, teaching, and prayer—all to reveal your grace, mercy, and healing to a fragile humanity. Give noble purpose to our secular leaders—particularly in this time of crisis, confusion, and fear—and a desire to do justice in the land and in the world. Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer.
Be with those who are dying and ill, and their families and loved ones. Bless the pastoral ministries of this congregation. Safeguard immigrants and refugees. Provide solace and healing to those beleaguered by hurricanes, floods, and fires, viruses, and any other human and personal calamities. Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer.
We especially pray for those we name now… (please add your petitions). Lord, in your mercy: Hear our prayer.
Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
A Confession of Our Sins to God
God of all mercy, we confess that we have sinned against you,
opposing your will in our lives. We have denied your goodness in each other, in ourselves, and in the world you have created. We repent of the evil that enslaves us, the evil we have done, and the evil done on our behalf. Forgive, restore, and strengthen us through our Savior Jesus Christ, that we may abide in your love and serve only your will. Amen.
Almighty God have mercy on us ☩, forgive us all our sins, and
through the grace of Jesus Christ, strengthen us in all goodness, and by the power of the Holy Spirit keep us in eternal life. Amen.
Loving God, we give you thanks for restoring us in your image and nourishing us with spiritual food in the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood. Now send us forth a people forgiven, healed, renewed; that we may proclaim your love to the world and continue in the risen life of Christ our Savior. Amen.
Sisters and brothers, when we go out into the world in peace, we live and walk as part of God’s beloved community. May God help us all to be of good courage, hold on to what is good, return to no one an evil for an evil. Strengthen the faint-hearted, support the weak, aid the suffering, do justice and hope, honor all people, and let our gentleness be known by everyone. May God, who raised our Lord Jesus from death, lift us up and restore us to wholeness. And may God bless us all, ☩ in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Amen.