Sunday 29th March – 5th Sunday of Lent
Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
delivered and saved the world:
grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross
we may triumph in the power of his victory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
A reading from the letter of Paul to the Romans.
To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 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, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 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. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 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.
Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John.
A certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ 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.’
Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’ 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. But those who walk at night
stumble, because the light is not in them.’ After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother 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, and told her privately, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 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. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’
Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 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.’ Jesus said to her, ‘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 upwards 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!’ 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.’ Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.
John 11: 1-45
A theme from today’s Gospel is friendship: something we sometimes take for granted. If popular magazines are anything to go by, we don’t spend much time thinking about friendships at all. The articles are all about romantic relationships and examine them from every possible angle.
Romantic relationships are what we are obsessed with though, rather than friendships. Friendships may get a passing mention, but they get little deep analysis.
And this is a bit strange when friendships can last much longer. Someone may be romantically attached several times, but he or she may well have friends who last throughout their lives. There may be times when we don’t see or talk to friends for long periods, but we know we can still turn to them when we need them.
Jesus seems to have had such a committed friendship with Lazarus. We are told that Jesus loved him. We are never told how Jesus comes to be friends with Lazarus, but it seems that Jesus is completely committed to him. And when informed that Lazarus was ill, Jesus went to him. Even though it means going to Judea, where his life was under threat.
How many people would do the same? How many people would put their life at risk to help a friend? Many probably like to think that they would, but also hope that they are never put to the test.
As well as friendship, today’s Gospel also concerns the idea of life, and what a truly free life is all about. A truly free life is not freedom to do anything we like when we like, but living a life that gives freedom and life to others. This is the way of living that brings true happiness, and not the thrills of self-indulgence and self-obsession.
If we are true to our friends then we enrich our own lives and give our friends a fuller life: hence the significance of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. The best thing we can do for our friends is give them life – that is to make their lives better.
When Jesus gets to his friend, Lazarus is already dead and buried. Jesus suggests that he is only asleep,but I think we would consider him as well and truly dead, since he has been in a tomb for days and people are worried about the smell. Nonetheless, Jesus brings him back to life.
We will all have friends who will die. We may be desperate to do for them what Jesus did for Lazarus, but our prayers may not be granted in the manner we would like. We can pray that they are at one with God, and hope that is so.
What we can also do is be there for them when they are alive. We all have imperfect human lives, in both physical and spiritual senses. That means our lives are not as fully free or human as they could be. If we have friends who help heal those imperfections, and if we do the same for them, then everybody concerned can live a human lifin all its fulness – closer to that which God intended.
Jesus gave Lazarus life in a real physical sense. What we offer in friendship can have an effect that is just as real: just as life giving. We can help those around us to live life in all its fulness.
As for Jesus, he was committed to the whole of humanity just as much as he was to one man – Lazarus. When Jesus died on the Cross, he did not die for the sake of one person, but for all of us. What remains for us, is to make sure that it is not a one-sided friendship.
Benefice Prayer Diary – please pray for Age Concern and the Crediton Fellowship
A simple version of morning and evening prayer is available here on the Diocesan website.
We ask for God’s help and guidance for everyone, individuals, local communities, countries, continents
and the world in negotiating these horrible times.
In a time of great uncertainty, please help our leaders to make right decisions in choosing the appropriate time to follow a path and help us to learn from the experiences of other nations, the best way forward.
Let us pray that individuals quickly learn to behave more selflessly in their actions and that a community spirit Is engendered everywhere.