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Our readings this morning remind us that while death is certainly a part of life, they also remind us that new life can and does emerge out of our experiences of death.  These is timely for our consideration as we come to the end of the season of Lent and our journey with Jesus to the cross. 

Our first reading this morning comes to us from the mouth of Ezekiel.  Prophetic priest or priestly prophet, Ezekiel offers a radical vision of restoration for a widely dispersed and spiritually desolate community of listeners feeling devoid of all hope.

Reading from the book of Ezekiel, Chapter 37, verses 1-14

The Valley of the Dry Bones

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. 

He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 

He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” 

I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” 

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.  

Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 

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.

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. 

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. 

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.”

I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

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.’ 

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. 

And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, O my people. 

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.”


Our second reading this morning comes to us from John’s gospel.  Offered here on the last Sunday in the season of Lent, we have another one of those blockbuster stories from John’s gospel-the story of Lazarus’ death and his raising to new life.  

Some biblical scholars suggest the story well placed for our reflection on the last Sunday in the season of Lent; a kind of a dress rehearsal, if you will, for what lies ahead for Jesus in Jerusalem.  

For just as Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, so, too, God will raise Jesus from the dead at Easter. 

Listen with care for what new insights into the life of the Johannine community, your own life own life, or the life of the church you find shimmering here in the shadows of this poignant story.  

A reading from the gospel according to John, Chapter 11, verses 1-46

The Death of Lazarus

Now 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 the 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 had fallen asleep, he will be all right.” 

Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought he was referring merely to sleep. 

Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.  For your sake, I am glad that 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 go, that we may die with him.”

Jesus the Resurrection and the Life

When Jesus arrived, he found Lazarus had already been in the tomb for 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 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”

Jesus Weeps

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. 

Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 

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. 

When Mary came to 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?”

Jesus Raises Lazarus to Life

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 upward 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.”

The Plot to Kill Jesus

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done.

Listen to what the Spirit is saying to the church.  

Thanks be to God, amen.