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The Easter Morning Sermon can be found here
Maundy Thursday: 9 April sermon can be found here
Sunday 5 April
The text for the Palm Sunday sermon can be found here
Sunday 29th March - Passion Sunday
One of the journalists in The Times is fascinated by clergy leading services online in their studies in their sweaters, because it gives the world the opportunity to see what makes clergy tick – my study is filled with books but I suspect that is not much of a surprise and does make me seem very well read, although you may be asking how many I have read.
This week has seen things move fast- last week I was broadcasting from church, this week from home- although in my suit not my sweater, last week there were restrictions but this week almost in lockdown. It all feels very odd and yet behind it as the police keep reminding us, is not an extended holiday but a pandemic where people including Prince Charles and Boris Johnson are sick and where people are dying around the world. As Christians we take very seriously the need to protect others by following the guidance given.
This has meant that as we self isolate, our lives are put on hold and our usual social contacts curtailed- yet at the same time the phones are ringing, the inbox bulging and we are all taking to Facebook, to Zoom, to skype. It is not just vicars in their studies in their sweaters who are opening up but many people are talking to each other, often about very serious and very personal issues- concerns about our loved ones, about our own lives and about deep things- the trivial seems to have been forgotten and in the quiet of the moment we look for people and thoughts that really matter. Serious times but as so often with humanity the vast majority step up to the plate.
Into in this comes Passion Sunday and in particular two of the readings that we heard today that speak to us in testing times- one is the immediately familiar Ezekiel reading of the valley of the dry bones- the prophets vision where what seems to be dead is brought back to life, little by little, one by one the people defeated and hopeless are raised up again. I suspect you can hear the song in your heads about them dry bones- yet it is a reading about return and restoration not just dry bones. New life from despair and loss that God’s brings about.
The second is of course our gospel which is another familiar story as Jesus brings back to life his friend Lazarus who has died- not so much resurrected as re-animated but one which points to who Jesus is and starts to suggest that the trajectory of Jesus life will move to death but then to resurrection- that death is not the end.
Yet before Lazarus comes out of the tomb, we can other emotions in play- Martha and later Mary’s anger “If you had been here our brother would not have died”, the disciples perplexity as Jesus puts himself in harm’s way and Jesus own reaction – as the alcoholic in the Longport once informed me the shortest verse in the bible- Jesus wept. Into this story come many emotions and much sadness- ultimately it is one of love, loss and faith- involving Jesus as much as anyone and his response to Lazarus’ suffering.
Today we may feel anxious or isolated, we may be concerned for a friend or sad for someone is suffering illness or bereavement. That is the place we are in –where the people of Ezekiel’s time were, where Martha and Mary were, even where Jesus was- in a dry place, a sad place.
Yet both readings show us that it is but a part of things, that new life lies ahead. As we move through these weeks as the news will continue to be difficult and the streets deserted, where there will be anxiety and sadness, we know ultimately like Ezekiel 37, like the story of Lazarus, like the
story of the passion itself, that will not be the end- in that we have faith even when things seem confused and the news unsettling