Herefordshire (South & East) had their second live Zoom worship session this week, click here to watch the full service.
The Prayers were led by Revd Kath Baldwin & Deacon Angie Allport.
The readings are:-
Ezekiel 37:1-14 – Read by John Parsons
John 11:1-45 – Told by Phil Summers
The service was led by Revd Phillip Warrey
StF 440 Amazing Grace and StF 82 O Lord my God were sung by Jessica & Michael Bullett
Technical Operator – Caroline Warrey
Materials for the service came from the Singing the Faith Website, and were written this week by Revd Sally Coleman
More information on our circuit and worship can be found at:-www.herefordshiremethodists.org.uk/connect
Reflection – by Revd Phil Warrey
Today we remember it is Sunday, and it is Passion Sunday or the first Sunday of the Passion.
The sense of the word passion here is from its Latin root patior, and passus sum, meaning “to suffer, bear, endure”, its also the root to our English word patience.
We start today to think of Jesus’ final two weeks on this earth, his patience with the disciples and the children of Israel, the poignancy of his “triumphal” entry into Jerusalem, his agonising decision to take up the cup of suffering in the garden of Gethsemane, the torture of arrest, mock trial and his agonising death on the cross.
Today we begin the process of this two week reflection leading up to Easter Sunday all with the lens of, or an eye on Jesus’ resurrection: that we glimpse this week in the story of Mary, Martha and Lazarus as so beautifully told by Phil Summers.
We’ve sent out by email to everyone we have email addresses for the “Worship at Home” sheet which has today’s readings on it. Next week we hope to be able to send these out to everyone not on email by post too. You will hopefully get an opportunity to read the readings before the Sunday, and read them again in the week. Later today you can read or watch again this reflection, allowing you to be able to reflect on it further. I urge you as you read the readings to read them slowly, breathing the words in, and to see what words and phrases in the readings speak to you, and reflect on those first, and what God is saying personally to you through these words and phrases.
What struck me today was how Jesus appeared to do nothing at first after he had heard that Lazarus was ill. It was 2 days before he decided to go to Bethany (the house of the poor). God’s timing is not our timing, and that is one of the hardest things us people of faith need, to have patience and endure with.
Why two days, what was he doing? Possibly, we can work that out from the rest of the story, he was praying, he was agonising over whether he should continue on his path to Jerusalem, the disciples had warned him not to go back to Judea, this chapter ends with the High Priest declaring that “one man must die for the people” (John 11:50).
When you consider our two readings together today, with Ezekiel prophesying to the dry bones, and the Lord bringing life back to the dry bones, and Jesus bringing Lazarus back to life, our theme for today points to Resurrection and new life.
We know that Jesus decides to “set his face towards Jerusalem”, this is part of his passion, part of his suffering, part of his bearing his cross, part of enduring his cup of suffering, but we get a glimpse of “Sunday is a coming”, we get a glimpse through the beautiful, and even humorous story of the raising of Lazarus of Jesus’ own, and one day our own resurrection.
I say humorous as we have this comic theatre moment of Jesus asking for the stone to be moved, and Martha saying, we can’t open the tomb as there will be a dreadful smell, and in that intimate emotional moment between Martha and Jesus, can you see a smile on Jesus’ face as he says “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”. Lets do our best to believe, so we too can see the glory of God.
We are now entering a time when we all know someone who has the virus, or we know someone who knows someone who has the virus. So we rightly let’s keep praying for healing and for the virus to go away. Most people will recover, and the virus will eventually go away. Why will it take so long, why this virus now, we don’t know, lets have patience with God, and endure. One day we will understand, when we see God face to face.
Inevitably there will be some that will die during this period, and we can model our behaviour on that of Mary, Martha and Jesus. Mary was angry with Jesus, and God is big enough to take our anger, and still continue to offer us his love, Jesus wept, we too will weep and that too is a right and proper outlet of our emotions. Martha believed that Lazarus would rise again on the last day.
Jesus brought Lazarus back to life, and the young girl that he spoke “Talitha Kumi” to, and the widow’s son, and the Centurion’s boy. However, all these people were still mortal and they had to endure going through death again.
Let’s ponder again on Jesus’ words to Martha, and Martha’s reply:
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.”
As Jesus asked Martha so we ask ourselves, do we believe this? I do.
Let’s remember that other passage from John’s gospel, John 14, that we will hear at so many funeral in the coming months and take comfort that Jesus told his friends, and continues to tell us, that in his Father’s house (in our heavenly Father’s house) there are many mansions and that he has prepared a place for us all.
Let’s take comfort in the knowledge that one day we will be re-united and resurrected with all those we love, and live in the kingdom of God in one of the mansion prepared for us.
In the meantime as God called Ezekiel, he calls us all to preach to the dry bones, there are many people living in fear and anxiety at this time, when we ring our friends and our families, preach (in the sense of that word of “proclaim”, tell the story, indicate clearly), tell the story of God’s love in your life, and how you have hope and joy, because you know God is in your life and your story and God’s story is intertwined.
And Keep safe, keep caring and keep praying.