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posted on March 26
WOLCOTT UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
5th SUNDAY OF LENT
MARCH 26, 2023
*Please stand as you are able
L: God, we are confident you are coming, bringing a world where all will be made right. Calm our anxiety, strengthen our patience, and keep our hope aflame, as we work towards, and wait for, your new day. Amen.
ANNOUNCEMENTS & CELEBRATIONS
PRELUDE: Bringing in the Light of Christ
CALL TO WORSHIP:
L: Welcome pilgrims on the way to the cross.
We are learning to follow Jesus. The journey is long, and the burden of our sins and struggles feels so heavy.
P; Yet we will hope in God because with God, there is steadfast love.
L: All around us, we witness neighbors and communities who are lifeless, despairing that they could ever be revived.
P: Yet God tells us that to come back to life, we must come together.
L: Year after year of change and struggle have taken their toll—how can anyone bring forth life when we feel so parched and tired?
P: Yet God meets the lifeless with the breath of life, reviving us again to worship and follow God’s way.
L: Pilgrims on the way, come let us worship God!
P: We come to worship God as we learn to live inside out! Amen.
(Written by Dr. Lisa Hancock, Director of Worship Arts, August 2022.)
*OPENING HYMN: “Breathe on Me, Breath of God” UMH#420
Breathe on me, Breath of God, fill me with life anew,
that I may love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do.
Breathe on me, Breath of God, until my heart is pure,
until with thee I will one will, to do and to endure.
Breathe on me, Breath of God, till I am wholly thine,
till al this earthly part of me glows with thy fire divine.
Breathe on me, Breath of God, so shall I never die,
but live with thee the perfect life of thine eternity.
OPENING PRAYER (in unison):
Hope of the world, Hope of all hearts, our hope remains in you especially when hope seems hard. Speak to us through your word. Come to us at your table. And sustain us in the hope of the covenant you have written on our hearts. Amen.
RESPONSIVE PSALM: Psalm 130
L: 1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! 2Lord, hear my voice!
P: Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!
L: 3If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?
P: 4 But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.
L: 5I w ait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
P: 6 my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.
L: 7 O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
P: 8 It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.
OFFERING: ”Spirit Of The Living God” UMH#393
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me. (repeat)
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me.
OFFERTORY PRAYER (in unison):
Almighty and restoring God, we have been living through some difficult days , as churches and as individuals. We experience days when we rise, wondering if we will make it through one more day, whether the church will survive for another generation; and we feel like those dry bones in the valley. As we offer our tithes and offerings, help us to hear the word of hope the prophet shares, not just with our ears but with our hearts. May it call us back to life and service, out of the graves of despair in which we have buried ourselves. In Christ’s holy name. Amen. (John 11:1-45)
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.
Romans 8: 6-11
8:6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law-- indeed it cannot, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
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.
L: May God’s Word give light to our path and strength for our living.
P: Thanks be to God.
SONG FOR ILLUMINATION: “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace” TFWS#2171
Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring your love.
Where there is injury, your pardon, Lord,
and where there’s doubt, true faith in you.
Make me a channel of peace.
Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope.
Where there is darkness, - only light,
and where there’s sadness, ever joy.
Oh, Master, grant that I may never seek
so much to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love with all my soul.
Make me a channel of your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
in giving of ourselves that we receive,
and in dying that we’re born to eternal life.
I have been reading, pretty much on a daily basis, Madeleine L'Engle's “Glimpses of Grace”. It is a collection of excerpts from different things she has written, many directly from her novels. She is very frank about her concept of the Bible and the stories in it. Like me, she maintains that the Bible was written by men, for men. If it had indeed been the actual hand of God, why hadn't the women been given equal treatment? It certainly wasn't about that apple thing, was it? Wasn't her gift to women from that time forward the pain of childbirth?
As a writer, she maintains that all stories are true. The events written about in those stories may be entirely fictional (Noah's Ark for example, probably does not record any historical event, as there is neither archaeological nor geologic evidence of such an event having occurred) but the stories are true stories.
In preparing for today's message, I read some notes that the story of that valley of the dry bones was entirely metaphor, that Ezekiel's account of the valley of the dead, those bones, those dry bones, is a metaphor for the nation of Israel being resurrected from their departure from God's ways, God's meaning, and the resultant overthrow of that once mighty nation by the forces of Babylon. Ezekiel's people had been evicted from their homeland and forced into labor in Babylon.
While Ezekiel's fellow exiles remained ethnically pure and ritually clean, they did so without benefit of all of the accoutrements of their temples and holy places. Meanwhile, the jews that had remained behind in the region of Samaria intermarried with the invaders. This was their way of making peace with an extremely difficult situation. Though no longer racially pure in the eyes of the refugee population, the Samaritans did their best to also hold on to their Jewish heritage, faith, rites and traditions. Unlike their evicted brethren, all of the accoutrements that were left behind were available to the Samaritans. It is because of these events that Samaritans were looked down upon from that point forward.
Ezekiel's account of the valley of the dead, those bones, those dry bones, reminds us that God can restore flesh to those bones any time he wishes and He chose Ezekiel to bare witness to this fact. Even after restoring sinew, muscle and flesh to those bones, God pauses before restoring breath to the bodies he had just restored to flesh. He pauses so Ezekiel can likewise pause and reflect on what God has just done and wonder what He will do next. Of course, as Madeleine L'engle would remind us, this event is simply a vision, a story. The truth is a metaphor for how God could resurrect the people of Israel once again into a strong, loving, benevolent nation of believers.
All of the disciples of Christ know the story of the resurrected battlefield. It is most likely a parable of Jewish heritage, a story of recovery of faith, a story of how Jesus might be a vessel of the new resurrection of Israel while under the thumb of their latest invaders: Rome. Aware of this power of God to renew, aware that Jesus is most likely God in the flesh, they are surprised when Jesus delays traveling to visit his friend who is, apparently, on his deathbed.
Jesus tells his disciples to wait. He knows His friend will die from this illness but insists that His disciples rest, pause before returning to Lazarus' home to witness the true nature of God's power. It is here that Jesus reveals the nature of his humanness to those waiting for him to arrive. Lazarus was his friend. Like a true friend would do, the tears of Jesus flowed freely. Who among us would not express our mourning, our loss, our sympathetic feeling for the pain our friend might have suffered while ill? Jesus feels all of these feelings, feels the sorrow, is saddened that he should have been there to serve as a healer for his friend.
That would not have served to demonstrate the full power of God's love for us. While it might be wonderful for us to have the power of healing, a simple display of affection and love that might serve to make us all believers of the power of faith healing! How easy would it be to rebuild our church with such a simple demonstration of miracle. This is the same resurrection that God showed Ezekiel.
This has been story. There is no factual, archaeological evidence of this event. No one recorded Lazarus' death in the town offices or on the temple register. No such historical record exists. It is a story of Jesus. Whether it is to be understood as something that actually occurred is up to our individual understanding of who Jesus was, who Jesus was meant to be.
It is through our faith that we accept this story of Jesus as being factual. It was passed down by word of mouth for decades before being written in the book of life. As God breathed life into the lifeless bodies that Ezekiel had spoken to, Jesus breathed life into his friend, Lazarus. This is one of those events that, unless we had actually witnessed that resurrection, we find it hard to believe as that sort of thing just doesn't seem to happen these days, no matter how much we wish that a loved one would return to us.
The last time I wrote about these passages was three years ago. I had just received an email from Vail telling me to stay home, don't go to work on that Saturday morning, our ski season had come to a close. We were facing the realities of an illness we knew very little about with a president who wanted us to believe he was the physician in chief. Our governor shortly issued a shelter at home order to stay in place for at least two weeks. I wrote that it might not be a bad idea to ride out the rest of Lent sheltered in such a manner.
We rested, we waited, we tried new ways to meet, new ways to be in communion, new ways to worship. We are emerging healthier, more complete, better prepared for a future event. We have found new ways to be close, new ways to be a community of God, new ways to breathe life into this community that we call a church of God.
Let us be in prayer:
Lord, just as you breathed life into the bodies Ezekiel breathed life into, just as you restored Lazarus to life, you restore your own church to life. You help us to find new ways every day for us to share our love with you. May we be strengthened by Your love, Your Spirit, Your wholeness. May we continue to hold our lives up to You as an example of the ways love continues to restore us to life.
Hymn: “Trust and Obey” UMH#467
When we walk with the Lord in the light of his word,
what a glory he sheds on our way!
While we do his good will, he abides with us still,
and with all who will trust and obey.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
Not a burden we bear, not a sorrow we share,
but our toil he doth richly repay;
not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross,
but is blest if we trust and obey. Refrain
But we never can prove the delights of his love
until all on the altar we lay;
for the favor he shows, for the joy he bestows,
are for them who will trust and obey. Refrain
Then in fellowship sweet we will sit at his feet,
or we’ll walk by his side in the way;
what he says we will do, where he sends we will go;
never fear, only trust and obey. Refrain
A TIME OF PRAYER
L: We live in a world full of need and sorrow, risk and struggle, hope and despair. So, as we remember all those in need of prayer in our community and in our world, I ask you:
People of God, can these dry bones live?
P: These bones are hungry, thirsty, and tired. Yet only God knows if these bones can live.
L: People of God, can these dry bones live?
P: These bones are suffering and in trouble. Yet only God knows if these bones can live.
L: People of God, can these dry bones live?
P: These bones face harmful division in families and communities. Yet only God knows if these bones can live.
L: People of God, can these dry bones live?
P: These bones struggle for life in a world threatened by war and rumors of war, by violence of every kind. Yet only God knows if these bones can live.
L: People of God, can these dry bones live?
P: These bones inhabit an earth that needs attention, care, and responsible stewardship. Yet only God knows if these bones can live.
L: People of God, these bones are all of us. Now hear the good news: God breathes on us that we may live and that we may share this new life with our community through God’s grace and love.
P: Thanks be to God, who gathers and breathes the Breath of Life into our dry bones. Amen. (Written by Dr. Lisa Hancock, Director of Worship Arts, August 2022.)
The Lord’s Prayer “Kyrie” TFWS#2275
Kyrie, Kyrie, eleison. Kyrie, Kyrie eleison.
Christe, Christe eleison. Christe, Christe eleison.
Kyrie, Kyrie eleison. Kyrie, Kyrie eleison, eleison.
*CLOSING HYMN: “Lord of the Dance” UMH#261
I danced in the morning when world was begun,
And I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun,
And I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth.
At Bethlehem I had my birth.
Dance, then, wherever you may be;
I am the Lord of the Dance said he.
And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be,
and I’ll lead you all in the dance, said he.
I danced for the scribe and the Pharisee,
but they would not not dance and they would not follow me;
I danced for the fishermen, for James and John;
they came to me and the dance went on. Refrain
I danced on the sabbath when I cured the lame,
the holy people said it was a shame;
they whipped and they stripped and they hung me high;
and they left me there on a cross to die. Refrain
I danced on a Friday and the sky turned black;
It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back;
they buried my body and they thought I’d gone,
but I am the dance and I still go on. Refrain
They cut me down and I leapt up high,
I am the life that’ll never, never die;
I’ll live in you if you’ll live in me;
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he. Refrain
*THE SENDING FORTH:
L: We’re coming out of the wilderness.
We know God’s promise.
God will surely keep it.
Jesus is in us.
The Spirit is moving among us
and driving us out of here
to keep living in the hope
of full salvation,
all things new.
Go in hope and the peace of our Triune God.
Congregational Response: “Bind Us Together” TFWS#2226
Bind us together, Lord, bind us together
with cords that cannot be broken;
bind us together, Lord, bind us together,
Lord, bind us together in love.
There is only God, there is only one King;
there is only one body, that is why we sing.
Bind us together, Lord, bind us together
with cords that cannot be broken; bind us together,
Lord, bind us together, Lord, bind us together in love.
We are led this morning by Pastor Michael Thorpe and Rev. Pat Thompson
you may call/text Pastor Mike at 802-355-9574
"Prayer is not a substitute for action;
it is an action for which there is no substitute."
Those who are struggling with cancer: Gary H., Amanda, Gary G., Steve S.,
Elizabeth K., Inez, Carrigan N., Donna, Bob F., Louise S. and daughter, Tony
Those suffering from dementia and their families
All those who are struggling to pay the high cost of food and fuel
All those anywhere who are struggling to find housing
Families of all of those who continue to lose their lives in mass shootings
All those who continue to suffer from covid
People of the Ukraine who continue to struggle
Gail D., who is still in the nursing home
Peter, Sally’s b-i-l, who had a setback with his PT this past week
All those who continue to struggle with drug addiction but refuse to seek help
All those who have survived the earthquake in Turkey and Syria
and have to deal with the aftermath
Elizabeth K., who is experiencing a flare-up of her pain due to her cancer
Carroll P., a friend of Barb’s who lives in Florida, and had a stroke this week
(It is our policy to keep and individual or a prayer concern on the list for
two weeks unless we recognize it as an ongoing concern. It may then be paired
with other similar concerns. If someone/some concern is removed that you
would like to have continued, please contact Rev. Pat at email@example.com).