Service and Sermon 3/29/2020

Sermon Lent5A20 Life Death Life Page 1

Grace and peace to you.

This Sunday we have two amazingly wonderful fantastic story experiences. Ezekiel’s experience in the valley of dead dry bones and when Jesus cried aloud “Lazarus, come out!”

When you read scriptures stories, it is good sometimes to reread multiple times, each time with your imagination making it more experiential by placing yourself in the various roles. I share my imaginings and invite you to put into the story your personal imagined experience. Maybe write and share it with family or a friend or with me by email. I would like to hear back from you if you do this exercise. For some, if you really get into the biblical stories like the Ezekiel vision it may be intense for moments with your imagining a bloody battle of men and even the later scene of the skeletons, sinews and flesh appearing. I tone down my writing from what I imagine but the very squeamish may wish to even skip the mildly graphic possible images. But then the deeper you go into the valley of death the later ending of coming to life is all the more glorious for having faced the reality of sin and death so I invite you to go into this valley of dead bones for the full impact.

You are Ezekiel or are alongside Ezekiel observing and experiencing with him. Feels like hands taking a hold of each upper arm picking me up. I am floating but the pull of gravity is my body weight of fear resisting going wherever I do not know yet. Then setting me down I am looking about from in the middle of a valley that my spirit says I know now that this is a place I certainly did not want to go.

Between me and the mountain ridges above and around I see a vast littering of dry dead bones, human I know because of the many human skulls lying among the bones. I want to protest ‘Get me out of here’ but a higher power that carried me here, it must be the Lord, has got me spell bound to stand frozen in place, my eyes are scanning the scene for understanding, and listening to him.

I hear “Can these bones live?’ On one hand, it is obvious the answer is no but on the other hand it is the Lord who is asking and it is hard to say no to him. But then I can’t bring myself to say yes in such an obvious overwhelming sight of death. In their slaughtering of one another it was the end of the human story. We know death is certain and final. I can’t say no or yes to the Lord so I escape having to answer by referring the Lord’s question back “O Lord GOD, you know.”

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With his answer I am not completely off the hook as God recruits me and I don’t have much of a choice when he tells me to do something, so I repeat what He told me to say to these long dead dry bones. “O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.” Can dry dead bones hear? Do even stormy winds and waves hear and obey?

I think it was even before I could finish saying the words that I could feel a force of wind blowing around me and by the time I finished speaking God’s Word I wanted to slap the palms of my hands over my ears as I heard such a loud clattering noise. It was a rattling of and sight of the dry bones moving. At first moment they were just moving but then I could see that they were coming together connecting quickly to form full complete parts then whole perfect skeletons. Then with growing amazement I could see sinews and flesh appearing on the bones. Now whole bodies are lying about on the valley floor.

I would be totally speechless but the Lord spoke giving me my breath to speak what he instructed, ‘say to the four winds to breathe onto the slain.’ Then a most amazing sight. The vast multitude of bodies were alive breathing and stood up on their feet. I was no longer the only one with a look of shock and amazement and bewilderment. They were not even grotesque with Zombie make-up but whole living humans. Perhaps some silent in shock or maybe others were racing with speech of shock and awe. What in the world has happened? Maybe something like what I saw happen on Pentecost with speaking in tongues?

The Lord spoke of what had been a life taking weigh on my heart. ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’

Before it had always been the same story. First nothing then life then you die, end of story. Isn’t that the way it is and always shall be?

Now the Lord has reassured me the answer to the fallen human condition - is life after death possible? The Lord spoke life at creation, he spoke life in the valley of dead dry bones, can he speak life into me, you, as well as the world of death today?

(Say Amen here? - Anyone reading my rambling heart and mind is probably a Lutheran which means we are not in the habit like our brothers and sisters in the Baptist or Pentecostal traditions to responding aloud throughout a preacher’s message.

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But since you are home alone and others cannot actually hear or see you, I invite you here to let go of some inhibitions and throughout this message to periodically say aloud ‘Amen!’ and or even raise hands and open palms up high or other reactions as expression of glad ‘Yes LORD!’

I invite you to imagine and feel our gospel story as well. The John eleven chapter is a long 45 verses of reading so here I will do an even shorter imagining than what I just did with Ezekiel. You can use this as a springboard to place yourself in the story. As you read consider each person or group of people as yourself to sense what they are saying and doing or their ways of reacting to what is happening and what the Lord is doing.

I am sure you already in life have experienced grief due to the death of a loved one. Even though we are people who know the Lord and that his love will embrace us in the resurrection, grief is a real part of our lives. The family and friends of Lazarus were grieving even before he died. When we fear the death of a loved one in the hospital or care center, we cling to hope of a miracle turn around and he or she will live with us for a little longer. When our hope is dashed, we grieve. Lazarus was ill and his loved ones turned to the only hope they knew might heal him. Perhaps part of their grief is that they had their hopes on Jesus for they knew he not only loved Lazarus but many times he had already demonstrated he could heal people. But Jesus delayed and Lazarus died. What now? The only things we could now do is grieve with tears, wrap up and bury Lazarus, cry ‘if only… then Lazarus (insert the names of your loved ones) would live. In our modern world we lessen a little the facing of death of our loved ones by hiring a funeral home to prepare the body. The cloths we use now are nice clothes and make-up. Still, it is a painful experience of loss. We cry and we gather at the tomb. Today even gathering for a funeral is more difficult and hinders our grieving process. And while our weeping lessens with time this is all we can do. Or is it?

Back more into our gospel and imagined role. When you finally see Jesus, you let him know your heart is broken. You are sorry he was not able to be here in time. Jesus’ eyes look into yours and around at the many lives in tears. Then you see some tears now rolling down from his eyes. Jesus loved Lazarus also and even though he knew what he was going to do ‘Jesus wept.’

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Besides loving Lazarus, I see Jesus loved Mary and Martha and all those gathered. That is also reason for his tears. Not just for Lazarus but for all the grieving loved ones. When others, often even strangers or even fictional movie characters are grieving I can get emotional watery eyes and ‘choke up’ with sadness because I have known grief too. Jesus knew their lives were more shattered with the death of their loved one. Jesus does not want me or any one of his loved ones, to go through the pain of grief. Through my tearful blurry eyes, I see Jesus. He weeps.

So, there is more to do than grieve with tears, wrap up and bury my love, cry ‘if only’ then my love would live. When in my world there is an invasion of sin, death, or some viral threat there are some additional things we can do. Jesus turned to his Father in heaven with thanks and praise. Then I see and hear Jesus not crying in grief but with authority, “Lazarus, come out!” It sounded like He spoke to me? I feel the struggle of trying to get up and then walking little steps with awkwardness towards the voice. Now I am one of the loved ones standing around seeing and hearing the command to me and the others, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

There may be the stench of four-day death but if there is, I do not notice because it is so overwhelming to see Lazarus, He’s alive!

Soon, at the end of our Lenten journey, at the cross we will go and hear Jesus again offer the promise of being in Paradise, hear his cry to the Father, see him surrender to God, see him entombed in death. Then I see the followers of Jesus weeping not grief but astounded in joy learning that Jesus came out of death that we may have life again.

So it is. We have another story of life and death that does not end there but rather continues as “Life Death Life!’

May we continually turn to our Father in heaven, cry out in every situation from cries of grief and fears, to cries searching, and of course, cries of joyful celebration. He’s alive! With the Holy Spirit may we unbind our lives of anything that tries to wrap tight and seal us in death, free us to live in Him who gave his life for me/us.

(You may say Amen. Even sing and or raise joyful voice to the Lord who raises his loved ones to eternal life! Amen.)

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Again, I invite you to reread and redo various scripture stories using imagination to give a sense that you are in the experience.

Final additional thought: The Covid virus is like a burial cloth binding us.

This too will pass’ and because He loves us and is risen from the dead, I know this is the greatest ‘Life Death Life’ experience.

This is a time to cry out to our Father not only to unbind us with our grief and fears but also with thankful and joyful hearts of praise knowing God our Father who knows us and love us and is with us through all things.


You may like to computer search for the lyrics of “Because He Lives!”

May God protect and bless you, may you be freed of binding cloths, free to celebrate God’s love. Amen and Amen.


Service of the Word: Fifth Sunday in Lent

Good morning. The Lord be with you.

While we are the Church in Suspension at about 10:30 am each Sunday you are invited to ‘gather’ by computer as the community of Christ by the Lake using this emailed file as a guide. This is a modified Service of the Word from the Evangelical Lutheran Worship book which each of you can adapt. You can read aloud or silently, use pauses here and there, if you are not alone then consider taking turns reading portions, or otherwise adapt to help your heart and mind to worship God in Christ that we love. The cues ‘P:’ and ‘C:’ usually represent pastor or presider portions and C the congregational part however for this private in-home worship you may read/say any and all parts. I hope that soon I will be able to send you a recorded or live service you can open to see the altar area and I leading us through the worship. I have another emailed attachment you may open that is for sermon reflection on some portion of the day’s scriptures. Have a Bible near reach for reading the lessons. Come, Let us worship the Lord with gladness.

Confession and Forgiveness

P: We gather in the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.

C: Amen.


P: God of all mercy and consolation, come to the help of your people, turning us from our sin to live for you alone. Give us the power of your Holy Spirit that we may confess our sin, receive your forgiveness, and grow into the fullness of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

C: Amen.


P: Let us confess our sin in the presence of God and of one another. Most merciful God,

C: we confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not our neighbors as ourselves. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name. Amen.


P: God, who is rich in mercy, loved us even when we were dead in sin, and made us alive together with Christ. By grace I/we have been saved. In the name of +Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven. Almighty God strengthen us with power through the Holy Spirit, that Christ may live in our/my hearts through faith.

C: Amen.


P: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

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C: And also with you.


Prayer of the Day: Almighty God, your Son came into the world to free us all from sin and death. Breathe upon us the power of your Spirit, that we may be raised to new life in Christ and serve you in righteousness all our days, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

The Word (Not reprinted here, Please use your Bible)

First Reading: A reading from Ezekiel 37:1-14


May Conclude reading: The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.


Psalm 130

Second reading: A reading from Romans 8:6-11

May Conclude reading: The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.


Lenten Verse: Return to the Lord, your God, who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.

P: The holy gospel according to Saint John 11:1-45

C: Glory to you, O Lord.

(Read the Gospel lesson)

Gospel response:

P: The gospel of the Lord.

C: Praise to you, O Christ.


Sermon: See emailed attached message.

P: Creed: May we profess our faith using the Apostles’ Creed.

C: I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated on the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

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The Prayers: With the whole people of God in Christ Jesus, let us pray for the church, those in need, and all of God’s creation.

(For today, here you may say your prayers that are on your heart and mind.)

(From Ida McAllister, Synod Office Manager: As some of you probably heard on the news tonight(Sat.) Jonesboro AR was struck by a tornado this afternoon. Bishop Mike has spoken with someone from the church there and the tornado missed them by about two blocks. None of the members of the church had damage to their homes or were injured. The areas of Jonesboro that did have damage were the city center and a section of town with low income housing. Your prayers are welcomed for those affected by the storm.’

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

(Note: Even though you may be home alone you may say the plural “we” pray’ to emphasize that you are not alone but in communion with the earthly church body praying in union of heart spirit.)


(Prayers Conclude)

Into your hands, gracious God, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in your mercy; through Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.


Peace: Perhaps you may select several people and send them an email ‘Peace of Christ be with you always’ greeting. If you receive an ‘e peace’ then reply ‘And also with you.’


Offering: Mail or set aside until church worship gathering resumes.

Christ by the Lake Lutheran; 1304 C.S. Woods Blvd., Bull Shoals, AR 72619


Thanksgiving for the Word

Let us pray.

Praise and thanks to you, holy God, for by your Word you made all things: you spoke light into darkness, called forth beauty from chaos, and brought life into being. For your Word of life, O God,

We give you thanks and praise.


By your Word you called your people Israel to tell of your wonderful gifts: freedom from captivity, water on the desert journey, a pathway home from exile, wisdom for life with you. For your Word of life, O God,

We give thanks and praise.

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Through Jesus, your Word made flesh, you speak to us and call us to witness: forgiveness through the cross, life to those entombed by death, the way of your self-giving love. For your Word of life, O God,

We give thanks and praise.


Send your Spirit of truth, O God; rekindle your gifts within us; renew our faith, increase our hope, and deepen our love, for the sake of the world in need. Faithful to your Word, O God, draw near to all who call on you; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory forever.



We pray together The Lord’s Prayer.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.


Blessing: The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord’s face shine on you with grace and mercy. The Lord look upon you with favor and + give you peace. Amen.



Go forth into the world to serve God with gladness; be of good courage; hold fast to that which is good; render to no one evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak; help the afflicted; honor all people; love and serve God, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.

We will. Thanks be to God.


(Sing? Till We Meet Again!)


Liturgy reprinted from Augsburg Fortress Evangelical Lutheran Worship, copyright @2006






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