Good morning. I am sure we all miss attending our Church and especially each other. Feel free to call each other and check-in and communicate your feelings and talk about your week.
Though, at the time, we cannot physically be there, we can join together in prayer and in faith. God will enjoin us with our intentions and our supplications for all the good that he does for us. As we near the end of Lent, let us keep in mind that this time is a perfect time to become close to Christ, renew our relationships, forgive those who have done harm to us and allow His grace to permeate our soul and improve our spiritual being.
Let us open with the hymn, “Peace in the Valley”
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Reading 1 EZekiel 37:12-14
Thus says the Lord GOD:
O my people, I will open your graves
and have you rise from them,
and bring you back to the land of Israel.
Then you shall know that I am the LORD,
when I open your graves and have you rise from them,
O my people!
I will put my spirit in you that you may live,
and I will settle you upon your land;
thus you shall know that I am the LORD.
I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.
Reading 2 ROMans 8:8-11
Brothers and sisters:
Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh;
on the contrary, you are in the spirit,
if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
But if Christ is in you,
although the body is dead because of sin,
the spirit is alive because of righteousness.
If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,
the one who raised Christ from the dead
will give life to your mortal bodies also,
through his Spirit dwelling in you.
Verse Before The Gospel JohN 11:25A, 26
I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will never die.
Gospel JohN 11:1-45
Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany,
the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil
and dried his feet with her hair;
it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.
So the sisters sent word to him saying,
“Master, the one you love is ill.”
When Jesus heard this he said,
“This illness is not to end in death,
but is for the glory of God,
that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So when he heard that he was ill,
he remained for two days in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to his disciples,
“Let us go back to Judea.”
The disciples said to him,
“Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you,
and you want to go back there?”
“Are there not twelve hours in a day?
If one walks during the day, he does not stumble,
because he sees the light of this world.
But if one walks at night, he stumbles,
because the light is not in him.”
He said this, and then told them,
“Our friend Lazarus is asleep,
but I am going to awaken him.”
So the disciples said to him,
“Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.”
But Jesus was talking about his death,
while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep.
So then Jesus said to them clearly,
“Lazarus has died.
And I am glad for you that I was not there,
that you may believe.
Let us go to him.”
So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples,
“Let us also go to die with him.”
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus
had already been in the tomb for four days.
Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.
And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”
When she had said this,
she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying,
“The teacher is here and is asking for you.”
As soon as she heard this,
she rose quickly and went to him.
For Jesus had not yet come into the village,
but was still where Martha had met him.
So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her
saw Mary get up quickly and go out,
they followed her,
presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him,
she fell 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 had come with her weeping,
he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said,
“Where have you laid him?”
They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”
And Jesus wept.
So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”
But some of them said,
“Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man
have done something so that this man would not have died?”
So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb.
It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him,
“Lord, by now there will be a stench;
he has been dead for four days.”
Jesus said to her,
“Did I not tell you that if you believe
you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone.
And Jesus raised his eyes and said,
“Father, I thank you for hearing me.
I know that you always hear me;
but because of the crowd here I have said this,
that they may believe that you sent me.”
And when he had said this,
He cried out in a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out,
tied hand and foot with burial bands,
and his face was wrapped in a cloth.
So Jesus said to them,
“Untie him and let him go.”
Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what he had done began to believe in him.
Today is the fifth Sunday of Lent. Gradually, we are coming close to the end of Lent. On the other hand, we are getting close to, the paschal feast.
In order words, we are gradually moving away from the zone of suffering to the zone of glory. Hence, all the readings of this Sunday give us hope, and paint a picture of a very bright future for us. Even if it as simple as holding our Sunday Service in the chapel, we will be joyful. Please be confident that we will get through this and be a bit better for it.
In the first reading, God tells us of the new things he has started doing among us, and for us. He is restoring our hope, and giving us every reason to continue living. This means that in spite of the difficulties of this present moment and season, the Lord will put a smile on our faces soon.
Surely, he will do this because: “Weeping may endure at night but joy comes in the morning”. There is hope because we are approaching our morning. Hence, we must be positive about the future as we approach the Paschal celebration.
This is because God is ready to fulfill his promises to us.
In our second reading, Paul tells us that he decided to count everything as a loss for the sake of Christ. This was in order to gain the future glory to be revealed in Christ. He understood the worth of the new life offered by God in Christ. He knew that: “The glory of the latter shall be greater than that of the former”. Paul saw all these revealed to him. So, he remained resolute in his faith. He did this even to the point of “reproducing Christ’s death in himself. This same promise must sustain us to the end.
In today’s Gospel, the Pharisees brought an adulterous woman to Christ. They thought that Christ will condemn her immediately. They thought he will give them the permission to go ahead and stone the woman to death. However, they were wrong, because Christ came to save and not to condemn. They were wrong because, the ways and thoughts of Christ are different from theirs. So, instead of condemning her, Jesus restored her life, and offered her a new chance to live. He simply told her: “Go and sin no more.”
Like this woman, Jesus is always giving us new opportunities in spite of our weaknesses. He knows how vulnerable we are to sin. He knows the forces we contend with every day in our life. His mission is to save us from all of them, and not to condemn us. This is why he says: “I have come that they may have life and have it in full”.
Today, we should be encouraged by these words of Jesus “Neither do I condemn you.” The complete forgiveness of Christ is incredible. When he says these words to us, he means them. He means that our negative past is behind us. So, Christ will always fill us with Joy. This is what he will complete for us soon through his death and resurrection. Everything goes to the Cross. All of our trials, tribulations, and sin are found there. And as we age and our own wisdom tells us, there is nothing here on Earth that forgives us and loves more than Jesus. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He was here long before we came and will be here long after we go. So put all your troubles and worries here. By removing them, you see the world in a different light and wonder “how could I have lived that long under that duress”? And simply, that’s the message we have to pass on to others. Many have gone to their rest never knowing this.
As we approach the glorious season of Easter, the Lord equally says to us: “Go and sin no more.” This is an injunction we must believe and put in to practice. He promises us a better future and a share in his glory if we remain faithful to this command.
Finally, we must constantly run to Jesus irrespective of our situation. This is because, he is ever ready to acquit us of all the charges against us. So, let us shout for joy: “What marvels the Lord worked for us, indeed we were glad!”
As this pandemic worsens, I’d like to provide all of you some important resources. It may go on longer than we have hoped for but know there are places to go for help. Whether it’s anxiety, depression, or a simple question I have listed some resources for you here. Here is a link that will provide some answers to some of the questions regarding this complicated and unpredictable issue:
How you can get/give help
May you, the congregation at United Riverside Congregational Church, find a closeness with your family and your faith that tightly binds you to only God that finds forgiveness, rest, and peace during this trying period.
Enrich your life with these qualities to prepare you for the joy of His resurrection.
And though we cannot be physically together in faith and in fellowship, we have the one single blessed power of God to simply, pray. Pray for our world, our health, and that we are all healed from sickness and all the ills that plague us.
I guarantee we will all come out of this as better Christians with an even stronger relationship with God and his Church. And may the Holy Spirit lead and guide you that you may watch and listen for opportunities to obey the Spirit’s promptings for opportunities.
Pray for five minutes in the morning and five minutes before retiring. God is open to all whom are open to him.
If you need anything please reach out to me at 978-771-7094 as I am more than willing to assist.
Peace be with you!