Sermon Lent 5 April 2, 2017

Ezekiel 37:1-14                      Psalm 130                   Romans 8:6-11              John 11:1-45

May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer.

Death and Resurrection are things we are going to get heavily into in the next two weeks and our Readings prepare the way for us.  First, with Ezekiel and his valley of bones;  Ezekiel lived at the time of the Exile in Babylon.  God’s message for the exiles was that Israel would be reconstituted.  Isaiah and Jeremiah had warned the people of Israel that God would take action against them if they did not amend their ways – they didn’t listen, so off they went to Babylon.  They were there for seventy years that meant that everyone who had been taken away would have died before the nation could return.  God had decided to start anew, and that was the sign to Ezekiel – the nation would be rebuilt – old bones but with new flesh, new people built on the heritage they came from.  He gave that message to the people and many of them settled down in their new land and as Jeremiah had told them  “Build houses and live in them;  plant gardens and eat what they produce.  Take wives and have sons and daughters;  take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters;  multiply there, and do not decrease.  But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare”  (Jeremiah 29:5-7).  That same message rings true for the refugees and exiles that come to live with us from far off lands.  Many of the Jewish exiles did just that they settled down and when it came time to return some stayed but many returned and rebuilt their homeland and reconstituted their nation as God prophesied to Ezekiel.  Many of today’s refugees will return but many will stay and prosper with us.

It is said that those who were exiled wrote today’s Psalm 130 for comfort and we can gain comfort from it too because we in a way are exiles.  We were banished from God’s nearer presence, we were banished when the knowledge of Good and Evil came into our lives, when we found out that there was another side of life that tasted sweet, and was more tempting than the serenity of the Garden we were given.  I stand here a sinner and like perhaps many of you looking back over life would now choose the serenity of the Garden rather than the sweet fruit of succumbed temptation, because it eventually turned sour in our mouths.  Today we should pray  “Out of the depths have I called you, O Lord;  Lord, hear my voice;  let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.  My soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning”.  The Good News is that the Lord has come and we have been rescued.  Paul tells us how.

At our baptisms we received the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit is our path to redemption and new life, away from the temptations of our old life.  Even though we have sinned, all that is washed away in baptism, and the Spirit becomes the life in us that knows better, that chooses better, that does better.  And we will participate in the prophecy to Ezekiel, we will live again because we have the Spirit.  Just as in Creation the Holy Spirit moved over the waters and brought order out of chaos, so the Spirit brings order and serenity to our lives as God intended for us in the first place and intends for us in our eternal futures.

Lazarus is an interesting character, although he never says anything he occupies quite a bit of space in our thinking.  The Chief Priests had planned to put him to death because of Jesus’ miracle of raising him from the dead was attracting many people to believe in Jesus as the Messiah.  Lazarus is said to have become a Christian and lived as a missionary in Cyprus, much more than that we do not know.  We do know however that having been raised from the dead in his flesh and blood he was destined to die again.  His resurrection allowed him more time to do more ministry and bring more people to Christ;  perhaps we should look at each day that we live as a gift of more time whereby we can do the same.

The difference between Lazarus’ resurrection and Jesus’ and indeed ours too is that Jesus was, and we will be, raised to eternal life, no more dying again and the bodies we will receive will be spiritual bodies not subject to Death or decay  (1 Corinthians 15:14).  Adam and Eve were made from dust, elements of the material world, whose bodies eventually return to the dust, our spiritual bodies will be made from Spirit and will be everlasting.  With material bodies we need stuff to keep us going, food and water at least, and then we create a lot of waste as we make the things we need.  None of that will apply;  for the first time in our lives we will live without needs and the Earth will be better for it.  We will not consume and discard.  We will live in a pristine state in a balance with all Creation, neither taking nor discarding but enjoying.  Now that is something to look forward to especially in a world where things now are going so wrong, it will be a return to the Garden in the middle of which stands the Tree of Life from which we will receive spiritual fruit much as we are nourished in spirit by Scripture (Revelation 2:7).

Up until the time of Jesus the problem with the world was Sin.  We had eaten the proverbial apple of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and there was really no way for us to progress on to something better, Sin always got in the way;  seeing that, God decided upon the events of the next two weeks.  God decided that it was time for Sin and Death to be overcome so He used the fears and the egos of us, His creatures, for Jesus to die and to rise again, not by the power of another miracle worker but by the Power of The Miracle Worker, to overcome that most dreaded of conditions – Death !  Now we will see how Jesus was lauded as the Messiah, how He made His own memorial with us – Holy Communion – how He was betrayed, tortured and brutally murdered, only to triumph for us over Death and the Grave.  These are the most momentous two weeks in human history.  Celebrate them with gusto and thanksgiving.  Amen.

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