Sermon 26th March

Readings Ezekiel 37, 1-14, John 11, 1-45

The fifth Sunday of lent, is traditionally when we turn our thoughts to Christ’s Passion. Next week Palm Sunday marks the start of Holy week as Jesus turns his face toward Jerusalem. We shall have our meditative services on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, followed by the glorious celebration of Easter both at our sunrise service at  at St Peter’s.

Today though, our readings set the scene. They are precursor’s to the story of resurrection which the passion of Christ leads up to, the culmination of Jesus’ work and ministry, and the ultimate sign of God’s love for the world.


In Ezekiel we see dry bones come to life through the breath of God. In John we see Jesus, bring life out of death as he raises Lazarus, the ultimate sign in John’s gospel that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God. He is, he says, the resurrection and the life. Like Easter, they are both stories of great hope, although they both begin with sadness and apparent hopelessness. Ezekiel sees the dry bones of Israel, dead and lifeless, incapable of worship or indeed anything. Mary and Martha and their family despair at the death of Lazarus, and Jesus’ apparent delay, who could have healed him. Yet, in both passages, the presence of God brings life out of death, hope and renewal.


For today’s church, for our church, it may seem too easy to draw parallels, the dry bones of our struggling and ageing churches being like the dry bones of an exiled and hopeless Israel, our congregations dry and lifeless amongst the spiritual desert of contemporary society.

And like Lazarus’s family, perhaps we also lack the faith to recognised that God brings life even in apparent hopeless situations, even when all seems dead and lifeless.


But if we are an Easter church, a church of the resurrection of Christ, not a church of the death of Christ, then these readings should bring hope. The breath of God, the Holy Spirit is able to resurrect the dry and lifeless bones of our church to new life, clad us with flesh and bones of love and compassion and true worship, breath into us the new life of the fruits of the spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Reveal to the world, to the community around us, those fruits of the spirit instead of them looking forlornly at our dry bones. Reawaken a real passion for Christ. Animate our dry bones for God’s purposes. And despite our frequent lack of faith and doubts of God’s ability to do that, to make all things new, the story of Lazarus gives us hope that in the Easter church, God makes all things new and even in the face of grief and apparently hopeless situations, if we turn to Christ and trust in him, the unbelievable, the seemingly impossible, the gift of new life is possible.


As we approach the passion of Christ, we will remember his ultimate sacrifice for us, that eliminates our human failings and opens a new way, a new purity in our love for God. But, as an Easter church, a church of the resurrection, we might also open ourselves to that promise that the risen Jesus first gave to his disciples, that promise of the Holy Spirit which we shall celebrate at Whitsun, that we might have the faith to allow the breath of new life to reanimate our dry bones. Amen