Sunday Service, 5th Sunday in Lent

Good morning and welcome to this fifth Sunday in Lent. This isn’t quite the service we are used to, but let us be grateful for all those who have come together to make this simple service possible – for support, love and a familiar tone which reminds us of our shared love of God, our church and the people in it. 
To see the entire service, scroll down. The service has a welcome letter, links to the readings, sermon from Rev Robert Frede, the anthem, prayer and hymn. Enjoy this Blessed Sunday.

From Rev Robert Frede:
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
It is a strange feeling to prepare a sort of a sermon, a meditation, for you and to know that it will take a while before we will see each other in church again.
I hope that all of you are well and there are people around you to make the daily life these days feel less isolated and lonely.
If you get the feeling it would be good to talk to someone feel free to call me at 06-22920471.
Yours in Christ,
Robert Frede

This Sunday is the 5th Sunday of Lent, our readings of the Scripture are taken from
Ezekiel 37, 1-14, Romans 8, 6-11 and John 11, 1-45

Click to read:
Old Testament: Esekiel 37: 1-14.
New Testament: Romans 8, 6-11
Gospel: John 11, 1-45

Our God is a God of Life.
On first sight the reading of today’s gospel is about Death and Life.
Lazarus is dead and buried and in the end of the gospel he rises from the grave. Death and Life are the subject as it seems.  But is that all?
In this way everything seems very easy. A man is dead and returns to life. We all would wish that our life was as easy as it seems in the story. In our real life people do not return from Death to Life – yet we wish it sometimes with our whole heart.
But the message of today’s gospel is more than the story of a miracle.
It is – in my opinion – better to say that today’s gospel about Lazarus is about Life and Life.
Death means dead. Death means that you are cut off from everything that is life. Death, even in the Scriptures, means a dark and endless hole in the time. You will not find a glorification of the death anywhere in the Bible. But in the Bible, death always means more than only a physical death. The Biblical death means more than only the physical death of the body. The word death means that a human being is cut off from every kind of contact. In that way death is the greatest enemy in the Bible. The horrifying nothing.
Death means to be cut off from every kind of contact.
Not only separated and cut off from other human beings, but cut off from God too. For that reason you can say: there are human beings who are dead when they still alive. People who are not able to get in real contact with other human beings.
Death is an enemy. And an enemy deserves to be fought.
An enemy like death, being cut off and separated from each contact, does not fit in with us human beings. And he does not fit in with a God who is said to be in love with all mankind. A God who is well known for his love to human beings as if all of them would be his own children.
Death is an enemy, but in the Bible it is possible to overcome him.
In the end it is God Himself who is the Lord of Life and Death. God will take care for us, his creation, no matter how.
This is the way I try to give an explanation when I am asked what will happen with a deceased – a beloved father, mother, brother, sister or dear friend – after his or her death.
The only honest answer is: I do not know it.
That I was not there yet. Nobody returned from there to take our fears away. So I do not know anything about the what and how but I am absolute sure about one thing:
God is merciful with us in the Death too.
God loves us beyond the borders of the death. And I try to say that death in itself must not be hideous, because God will be faithful to us even in our death.
A couple of days ago a mother told me that during the lessons about the “cycle of life” at the Primary School of her daughter they talked about death. The teacher spoke quite normally about it and certainly not in a sense that the ‘great nothing” follows on life. The daughter was not scared in any case by the word “death” after the lesson. In the explanation about death the teacher gave a little glimpse of trust and hope it seemed.  Fear can harm you seriously – certainly if it is about serious things like death.
But it remains always hideous when a beloved person dies. It is terrible that you are cut off from a human being you love. You never want to miss your parents, your children or your friends. You want to be in touch with them always. The fact that someone will not answer anymore is a serious grief. That is the pain we feel. It means to be separated forever. That is the real death – there is no contact anymore.
Death and life, life and death. There is no human being who can escape this. It is part of our human condition. That is the reason why it is good to stop off at certain points in our busy lives. It is important we do not try to eliminate the questions about life and death, keep them away from us but that we take time for those questions.
Lazarus was called by Jesus out of his tomb. He hobbled out of the gravesite. His hands and feet bound with linen strips. And Jesus says: “Unbind him” Liberate him, one could say. Make him free from the shackles of death.
In God there is no death and no life – in we are.
There is a traditional Dutch hymn we sometimes sing in the service:
“God die ons heeft voorzien en kent bij onze naam,
die ons ten leven riep en houdt in ons bestaan.
Wie zal ons scheiden ooit van God ons goed en bloed.
Geen toekomst en geen dood bedreigt ons meer voorgoed.”
(God  created us/planned us  and knows us by our names
He called us into life and takes care for us.
Who can separate us from God, our goods and blood,
No future and no death threatens us anymore forever)
Our God is a God of Life.
Our God is a God of hope for a future full of life for every human being. The story of Lazarus tells us that it is good and right to be full of grief after someone has died. Even Jesus weeped when he reached the gravesite of Lazarus – John tells us in the gospel. John does not hide the pain of someone’s loss and missing.
But the story of John wants to explain to us mainly that there is no reason for us to be afraid of the death itself.
Because the Lord of Life – of our Life – is the Lord of the Death too.
Prayer from our intercessions team:
We pray that at his time of Passiontide, when Jesus did not seek his own glory but that of you the eternal judge, we can remember to live and work to the greater good.
While at this time this means, like Jesus, that we must “hide ourselves”, we pray that by hiding we are helping, that while hiding we can continue to do good, and that when when our seclusion is finally over, we can emerge together with your light brighter and more constant in our world.
Help us to foster that light by reminding us that we all carry a small portion to light our way, to help us, our friends, family, and society see your truth; and that together with your glory this can illuminate the whole world.
Help us to shine that light wherever it is needed – particularly at this time into the hearts of those afflicted by the current global pandemic. Strengthen those working tirelessly on our behalf and guide their hands as they heal, govern and minister to us. Comfort the sick and those close to them and ease the passage of those souls lost for a time to us but gained for ever by your eternal kingdom.
We ask this in your name,

Anthem: Anthem God so loved the world – Stainer (click to view)

Hymn There’s a wideness in God’s mercy – NEH 461(click to view)

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.

Go in peace to love and service the Lord. In the name of Christ, Amen.