Sunday April 2, 2017
Year A, Fifth Sunday in Lent
Fifth Sunday in Lent :: Purple ::
Ezekiel 37:1-14 :: Psalm 130 :: Romans 8:6-11 :: John 11:1-45
Call to Worship (Responsive)
Adapted from Psalm 130
L: Out of the depths we cry to you, O LORD
P: LORD, hear our voices! Let your ears be attentive the voice of our supplications!
L: If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, who could stand?
P: But there is forgiveness with you, and you are revered.
L: We wait for the LORD, and in the word of the LORD we hope;
P: Our souls wait for the LORD more than those who watch for the morning.
L: Hope in the LORD! For with the LORD is steadfast love and great power to redeem.
P: The LORD will redeem us from all of our iniquities.
We come together O God, as a collection of dry bones in the desert, seeking life. We come hoping for your breath of life to be breathed into us again. We come feeling lost and hopeless, cut off completely. Breathe into us, O breath of God, fill us with life, and empower us to live. Guide us in your word. Let us hear your prophecy of hope. We have come with only our worship to offer you. Accept it we pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 8:6 says “To set the mind of the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (NRSV)
A few years ago, an appreciation letter from Qinghua Wang, a student support by Global Ministries Child Sponsorship program was received. A Disciples-UCC group visited the school where Global Ministries helped to build a new school building. She read this letter to all donors from our two denominations. While its words are now slightly aged, its meaning about our shared ministries still rings true.
An appreciation letter:
First of all, I would like to express great appreciation on behalf of all those luckily and financially sponsored by you. It says in Chinese: No appreciation is enough for great kindness. But here, I still want to thank you all for your kindness, which has provided us with hope and courage to live a better life.
I lived in desperation. My mom died from HIV infection when I was 8 years old, and my dad was infected with HIV as well. It was terrible for a child at this age. I have had to take all the responsibility of looking after my sicker and sicker dad. At the same time, my grandmother had a severe illness. I experienced even more difficulties. I have to take care of my weak dad and also my sick grandmother while I am going school. Even through this, I will enjoy such a difficult life with the hope you gave to me. Two months ago, my sister, who did labor work in a city, was injured and nearly lost her life. She had no money to pay for medical services, and her boss refused to provide any coverage for her medical care. My dad, in such bad health, had to go there and look after my sister.
It was such a disaster that I am too sad to speak about it. In fact, if I had not received your help and love, I would have lost all my confidence to continue my life. Luckily, the difficulties didn’t affect my study, but strengthened my faith to study harder. People always say that children from poor families take more responsibility earlier. I persisted to study hard and got excellent scores. I didn’t feel lonely and was looked after well by the leaders and teachers of my school. I sensed the great warmth from the community and continue to study even harder and will not disappoint those nice people who gave me love and hope. Your kindness means a lot to me, as great as a mountain. The only thing I can do to reward your kindness is to study hard.
To all of you kind people here, we were all unfortunate orphans before, but now how happy we are since we have so many kind people like you around. You give us so much love, and I cannot express my gratitude by any words. On behalf of all unlucky children, I would like to say, “Thank you, and wish you nice people a peaceful and happy life forever.”
Through you, God’s love reaches those children who are in difficulties and in need.
Great and Mighty God, who gives us life, even in the midst of death, we come today offering our gifts. Use and multiply them, that all of your children in difficulty and need will know your love and thrive in the hope which only you can give. We offer these gifts and this prayer in the name of Christ our Lord. Amen.
Near the end of the account of Jesus and the raising of Lazarus, there is one of my favorite Jesus quotes. Jesus has called Lazarus out of the tomb, and he comes to the opening, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. He looks, no doubt like a mummy in modern films. Then Jesus says “Unbind him, and let him go.” I love that quote because it reminds me of what happens at this table. At this table we lay before the Lord our sins; we show Christ our bindings and signs of death. At this table Christ says in essence to us “Unbind them from their sins, and let the go.” Come to the table, and allow Christ to release you from the bonds of sin and death.
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Scripture Quotations from the New Revised Standard Version. Online Scripture links a service of the Jean and Alexander Heard Divinity Library, of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN. Check out all of the awesome resources there at http://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu