Watch now

March 26, 2023
Fifth Sunday in Lent
10:00 am



Lent’s days are winding down, Merciful God,
and we are no closer to having contrite hearts.
Our small complains still loom large,
and we don’t hurry to show mercy, or rush to be kind. 

The old habits of Fat Tuesday are still alluring,
and we resist the emptiness of the desert that reveals you –
the places where you make yourself known to us,
where you wait in the quiet for us to be ready, still feel alien. 

Yet, Loving God, we come to you,
trying to lose our lives for the life you offer,
seeking the wisdom of our brother Jesus,
hoping to be blown open by the Spirit. 

Bring us fully into your Lenten gifts, we pray,
and accept the Lenten gifts we offer to you.  Amen.

PRELUDE                   “Jesus Walked the Lonesome Valley”                    Hugh Livingston


We gather to worship God
God who makes bones dance
God who calls Lazarus from the grave.
God who forgives us and gives us hope.

*HYMN No.  800 “Sometime a Light Surprised”
1 Sometime a light surprises
the child of God who sings;
it is the Lord who rises
with healing in his wings;
when comforts are declining,
he grants the soul again
a season of clear shining
to cheer it after rain.

2 In holy contemplation
we sweetly then pursue
the theme of God’s salvation
and find it ever new;
set free from present sorrow,
we cheerfully can say,
“Let the unknown tomorrow
bring with it what it may.”

3 It can bring with it nothing
but he will bear us through;
who gives the lilies clothing
will clothe his people, too;
beneath the spreading heavens
no creature but is fed;
and he who feeds the ravens
will give his children bread.

4 Though vine nor fig tree neither
their longed-for fruit should bear,
though all the fields should wither,
nor flocks nor herds be there,
yet God the same abiding,
his praise shall tune my voice;
for while in him confiding,
I cannot but rejoice.


If the Lord marked our iniquities, we could not stand. But there is forgiveness with God. In trust and faith, let us offer our confessions to God.


Out of the depths we cry to you, O Lord. Hear our voices and let your ears be attentive to the voice of our supplications. We come into your presence confessing our sins, aware we have behaved in ways that are contrary to your desire for our living. We come into your presence aware that too often we allow lifelessness to gain the upper hand. We come into your presence aware that we put our trust in our own abilities. Forgive us, O God. Infuse us with your life-giving spirit. Breathe into us and make us come alive.  

Response No. 471 “O Lord, Hear My Prayer”

O Lord, hear my prayer.
O Lord, hear my prayer.
When I call, answer me.
O Lord, hear my prayer.
O Lord, hear my prayer.
Come and listen to me.


Hope in the Lord!
With the Lord, there is steadfast love.
With God, there is great power to redeem.
Thanks be to God who redeems us from all our iniquities.

*RESPONSE No. 288 “Spirit of the Living God”

Spirit of the living God,
fall afresh on me.
Spirit of the living God,
fall afresh on me.
Melt me; mold me;
fill me; use me.
Spirit of the living God,
fall afresh on me.


Christ is our peace. He has reconciled us to God in one body by the cross.  We meet in his name and share his peace. The peace of the Lord be always with you.
And also with you

ANTHEM                   “I Can Only Imagine”                       Amy Grant



Our souls wait for the Lord and in God’s Word we hope. We wait for the Divine Word to envelop and guide us. We wait for the creating word to give us life and bring nourishment to our parched souls. Our souls wait for the Lord and in God’s Word we hope.  

SCRIPTURE               JOHN 11:1-45

11 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent a message to Jesus,[a] “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather, it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”5 Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, 6 after having heard that Lazarus[b] was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?”9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble because they see the light of this world. 10 But those who walk at night stumble because the light is not in them.” 11 After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.”[c] 13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Thomas, who was called the Twin,[d] said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus[e] had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother.20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[f] Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah,[g] the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house consoling her saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

45 Many of the Jews, therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did believed in him. 

RESPONSE No. 544 “Bless the Lord” x3

Bless the Lord, my soul,
and bless God’s holy name.
Bless the Lord, my soul,
who leads me into life.

SERMON “RESTORE: Lazarus Raised to Life”

No one asks Lazarus if he wants to be RESTORED.

That’s the fascinating part about our gospel story today. No one asks if he wants to return to a broken and hurting body, tangled relationships, and the responsibilities of his finances and his job and his family. He was a good man. No doubt he had gone straight to the bliss of union with God. What a terrifying and awful feeling, to be yanked back down to Earth with such suddenness. Many people who have near-death experiences return to life with a new sense of purpose, with joy and awe at the knowledge that there truly is something in the beyond and it is so beautiful and loving.

But for everyone who returns with joy and purpose, there is someone else who returns with a profound sense of despair and rejection. “I saw God,” they say. “I saw God and felt God’s love and experienced heaven’s peace, and God threw me back. God didn’t want me. God saw fit to return me to this petty human life in this small, limited human body. How could God do that?”

Which group was Lazarus in? Was his reaction thanksgiving or disappointment? We don’t know, because Lazarus never speaks in the gospels. He probably couldn’t get a word in edgewise with everyone who saw him RESTORED to life.

But nobody asks Lazarus if he wants to be RESTORED. And nobody asks us. Lazarus was Jesus’ friend. And it turns out, RESTORATION is the price of friendship with Jesus.

RESTORATION is scary, because the price of RESTORATION is responsibility. Once we have been brought back to life by Jesus, we have a mission to accomplish. We are compelled by the miracle to share with others the truth that they too can experience this radical rebirth. We strive, even knowing that it all is a free gift of God’s grace, to act in some way that is worthy of the enormous cost and sacrifice that Jesus made to help us attain it.

We seek to honor the gift by honoring the giver, and we honor the giver by honoring God’s presence in one another. Pretty words for a very difficult task. It really would have been easier and much nicer to stay dead. Dead, we’re in eternal bliss with God. RESTORED, we have to begin the journey anew, the journey of loving, of failing, of forgiving, of trusting, of the whole mess of joy and pain that this human spiritual life is.

The other question that torments many people who read this text is why Jesus let Lazarus die in the first place. It’s the same question the disciples and the townspeople are asking themselves. It’s the same question Mary and Martha ask him directly when they see him, Martha running out to demand why his love wasn’t strong enough to come when they called him, Mary hiding away because she fears her anger will overwhelm her and she will lash out at him. They both make the exact same accusation: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

How many times have we asked the same question, sometimes in rage, sometimes in sadness, sometimes in confusion, sometimes in despair? Lord, if you had been here, my child would not have died. Lord, if you had been here, my ability to pay my bills would not have died. Lord, if you had been here, my church would not have died. Lord, if you had been here, my marriage would not have died. Lord, if you had been here, my sobriety would not have died. Lord, if you had been here, my faith would not have died.

What a painful truth it is, to discover that Jesus is not going to ride to the rescue in shining armor on a white horse. Mary and Martha discover it. Lazarus discovers it. The disciples discover it. Jesus will not save us from the Cross, because he will not save himself from the Cross. And he will not save us from the Cross because straight through the Cross is the only path to RESTORATION.

It’s no easier for him than it is for us. Jesus weeps in this gospel. He, a respected spiritual teacher in this community and on top of that the Son of God, loses his composure completely. The pain he feels as he witnesses some of the people, he is closest to on Earth suddenly question their trust and love of him, question their belief in him, look at him with disappointment and anger in their eyes because they believe he has failed them—it hurts. But he will not spare himself this pain, nor will he spare Mary, Martha, and Lazarus their pain, because it is through that pain that they must travel to reach the day of RESTORATION.

So, it is for us. We have one week left to decide if we are going to Jerusalem with Jesus or not. We have plenty of time to back out. Next week is Palm Sunday, and very soon the joy of walking with Jesus and seeing him heal and feed and teach so many people, the joy of experiencing him heal and feed and teach us, will start to have a very steep price. Suddenly we are being asked to go somewhere very dark and scary, a place where the authorities are crashing down on all sides, where the once loving crowds turn against us and him, where we discover to our bewilderment that we are shouting for his crucifixion with the crowd. He will be arrested, he will be tried, he will be convicted, and he will be executed.

And we have a choice whether or not we will witness it. The first disciples split down the middle on this choice. Most of them ran away. A few of them stuck it out all the way to the foot of the Cross and laying him in the tomb. Most of the ones who talked the biggest ran the fastest. Jesus loved them anyway.

We can run, too. We can skip straight from Palm Sunday to Easter Day, figuring, well, it’s all going to work out in the end, why put myself through all that depressing crucifixion stuff and the terrible long week leading up to it? Jesus will love us anyway.

He will. He absolutely will. But we will never taste the fullness of RESTORATION until we go to the Cross with him. We can stay safe. We can stay dead. We can keep our eyes closed and our hearts no longer beating, and our bones and spirits as dried up and motionless as the dry bones in Ezekiel’s valley. It will be peaceful. And it will be empty.

Or we can go with him. We can pray and read scripture and live in community every day of Holy Week, walking with Jesus in real time through the last week of his life, bolstering our courage by sticking together, refusing to give up, no matter how hard it gets. We can face the truth that we can be rescued from pain, or we can be resurrected to new life, but we cannot have both.

Jesus letting Lazarus die and then calling him back to life was a gift to Mary, Martha, Lazarus, the disciples, and us. He is about to go through the same process, although with much, much higher stakes and a great deal more pain. But he lets us see what will happen ahead of time if we go with him. He shows us that first of all, there is life on the other side of death, and second, that is true not just for the Son of God, but for regular people, for the friends of Jesus, and that is us. The first thing he says when Lazarus walks out of the tomb is, “Unbind him, and let him go.” We too can be unbound, unbound from our fear, from our lies, from our grief. No one asks Lazarus if he wants to die, and no one asks him if he wants to be resurrected. Each is the price of the other. No one asks us, either—and yet the question remains. On the other side of that question are freedom, life abundant, resurrection and RESTORATION!!

Liturgy and Commentary provided by John Buchanan, James Liggett, Whitney Rice, Mary Kaye Bond, Sharon Core, Sandy Boyce, Teri McDowell Ott, Stephanie Workman, the Presbyterian Church Book of Confessions, Scott Hoezee and the Book of Common Worship.

*AFFIRMATION OF FAITH from “A Statement of Faith: Jesus Died For Sinners”

We believe that in the death of Jesus on the cross God achieved and demonstrated once for all the costly forgiveness of our sins. Jesus Christ is the Reconciler between God and the world. He acted on behalf of sinners as one of us, fulfilling the obedience God demands of us, accepting God’s condemnation of our sinfulness. In his lonely agony on the cross Jesus felt forsaken by God and thus experienced hell itself for us. Yet the Son was never more in accord with the Father’s will. He was acting on behalf of God, manifesting the Father’s love that takes on itself the loneliness, pain, and death that result from our waywardness. In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not holding our sins against us. Each of us beholds on the cross the Savior who died in our place, so that we may no longer live for ourselves, but for him. In him is our only hope of salvation.  

*HYMN No. 775 I Want Jesus To Walk With Me”

1 I want Jesus to walk with me;
I want Jesus to walk with me;
all along my pilgrim journey,
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me.

2 In my trials, Lord, walk with me;
in my trials, Lord, walk with me;
when my heart is almost breaking,
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me.

3 When I’m in trouble, Lord, walk with me;
when I’m in trouble, Lord, walk with me;
when my head is bowed in sorrow,
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me.


God of valley and grave, we come before you today and pray for your life-giving presence in places that seem dry and dead. There are those places we know from the news: Ukraine, Turkey, Syria, Greece, East Palestine — places where war, natural disaster and human greed has left dead bodies and broken lives behind. “Mortal, can these bones live?” You asked, O God. And for people in these places where they have had to bury ones they love even as they worry about their own living, give them breath that indeed they may live.

And then there are the places that don’t make the national news, but we know oh so well because they are close to us … [what are the dry and seemingly dead places in your community? Offer those prayers here.]

Across your created world, your people wait and hope. We wait for an end to gun violence. We wait for an end to racial injustice. We wait for an end to the hatred of White supremacy. We wait for an end to the priority of money over people. We wait for an end to all those things that rob your people of life, that rob your people of breath, that rob your people of wholeness.

And we hope … we hope for the promise of the morning, the time when a new light will break on the horizon hinting at the glory of your presence in our midst. We hope for the promise of the resurrection, of the life that is ours even when we don’t see it fully. We give thanks for … [Offer the prayers of joy from your community here.]

As we gaze across your world, O God, we wonder where we fit in. Where would you have us be, O God? What would you have us do? You know, O God if the bones can live. Do you invite us into partnership with you as you did with the mortal in Ezekiel 37? Do you extend to us the invitation to co-create? Do you hold forth for us to see the ways we can be your presence of life, of wholeness, of healing for your creation? Is it possible that in those things for which we wait, you invite us to be a sign of hope? Give us the courage to live the reality of the resurrection. Give us the courage to witness to new life. Give us the courage to step into your created world with your words of prophecy, with the courage to believe that you call us and guide us so that bones may live and your people may breathe.

In your name, we pray in the way that Jesus taught us, “Our Father…”. us to pray like this: “Our Father …”.

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 debts, as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.



We bring before God gifts of gratitude in response to God’s gift of breath, life, and wholeness.


*RESPONSE N0. 605 “Praise to God the Father”

Praise to God the Father;
praise to God the Son;
praise to God the Spirit:
praise to the Three-in-One.
Sing praise, sing praise to the Lord on high.
Praise to God Almighty;
praise to the Holy One.


Good and gracious God, may these gifts be one of the ways your life-giving presence is experienced in our community. Use this money and use us to give hope to the hopeless, wholeness to the broken and fullness to the hungry. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.

*HYMN No. 796 “We Come To You For Healing, Lord”

1 We come to you for healing, Lord,
of body, mind, and soul,
and pray that by your Spirit’s touch
we may again be whole.

2 As once you walked through ancient streets
and reached toward those in pain,
we know you come among us still
with power to heal again.

3 You touch us through physicians’ skills,
through nurses’ gifts of care,
and through the love of faithful friends
who lift our lives in prayer.

4 Through nights of pain and wakefulness,
through days when strength runs low,
grant us your gift of patience, Lord,
your calming peace to know.

5 We come to you, O loving Lord,
in our distress and pain,
in trust that through our nights and days
your grace will heal, sustain.


Listen for the voice of God calling to you, “Mortal, can these bones live?” And in confidence, answer “O Lord God, You know.” And then hold on — because God just may use you to make it happen. And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit rest, remain and surround you today and all days. And all of God’s people say … Amen.