Morning Service Online - Sunday, 29 March 2020

With Cramond Kirk currently unable to hold services, Very Reverend Dr Barr is conducting Sunday morning services online. You can find the pre-recorded service for Sunday, 29 March on the Kirk's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/cramondkirk2 and below is the text of the service.

MORNING SERVICE

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Welcome

Welcome to morning worship at Edinburgh’s Cramond Kirk.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

This is the 5th Sunday in the season of Lent and within the Christian calendar it is known as Passion Sunday – from the Latin passio meaning suffering – and given the events of the last days and weeks, the devastating impact of the spread of the coronavirus and the suffering of so many people across the world, Passion Sunday could hardly be more appropriate.

So let me begin with some words from the Psalmist and then a prayer for Passion Sunday.

Psalm 130 : 1 & 2

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;

Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.

Let us pray

Gracious Father,

You gave up Your Son

out of love for the world:

lead us to ponder the mysteries of his passion

that we may know eternal peace

through the shedding of our Saviour’s blood

Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen

Let us hear the word of God

The gospel reading for Passion Sunday is taken from John 11.

It is the story of the death of Lazarus and I am going to read from verse 17.

This section describes the conversation Jesus has with Martha following the death of her brother Lazarus – it is a story about suffering and loss – but it is also a story about faith and it holds one of the great promises of the Christian faith.

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John 11 : 17 - 27

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’

Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’

Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’

Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’

‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied, ‘I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’

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Lazarus was dead………….and because John does not want his readers to be in any doubt about the fact, he tells us when Jesus finally arrived in Bethany the body had already been four days in the tomb.  

So Lazarus wasn’t just asleep or unconscious or even in a coma.

Lazarus was dead, the funeral had taken place and many Jews had come to comfort Martha and Mary in their loss.

For the Biblical scholars this story marks a turning point in John’s gospel.

It is the moment when the death and raising of Lazarus anticipates the death and rising again of Christ himself.

Yet when Martha meets Jesus on the outskirts of the village, her voice is full of hurt and resentment.

If you had been here Lord, my brother would not have died……….

Martha’s cry is the bitter cry of every man, woman and child, suffering and in pain – and how many people in our own country and across our world today are suffering and hurting like Martha.

Whatever else it does, this story promises that just as he came to Martha, Christ comes to all who are suffering with his gifts of comfort, healing and hope.

Yet whatever her anger and frustration, it was not the only thing Martha said, for having vented her frustration Martha went on to say;

But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.

It is the even now of Martha’s fear and hurt and grief I want you to hear.

With its emphasis on compassion, generosity and forgiveness, so much of Jesus’ teaching was concerned with the way we live, the quality of our relationships and the values to which we aspire.

As he called us to love our neighbour, so through organisations like Fresh Start or Christian Aid we express Christ’s concern today for people homeless or deprived of the basic necessities of food, clean water, education and medical care.

And even now in the middle of this awful situation, countless numbers of people have volunteered to be a good neighbour and through our Kirk Office we have been co-ordinating a Cramond Kirk and community response to pleas for help and support.

And even now so many people in the National Health Service are putting their own lives at risk caring for people who are sick.

Yet there is something else about Martha’s even now – something beautifully expressed by St Paul when he said,

"If it is for this life only that Christ has given us hope, we of all people are most to be pitied".[1]

The raising of Lazarus points us beyond, it points us beyond Bethany to Calvary and to the empty tomb of Easter dawn.

It points us beyond the things of earth to the things of heaven.

It points us to the mystery bound up in the person of Jesus Christ.

And on Passion Sunday the even now of Martha’s statement brings us the profound reassurance that having  shared completely in all the joy and suffering of human experience, even to the point of death, our hope in Christ, crucified and risen, is not for this life alone.

On Passion Sunday do you believe this – for if you do then even now in these difficult days you will find peace.

And like Martha you will know him to be who he truly is, the Resurrection and the Life.

Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession

In these difficult days

when so much of normal life has been put on hold

we turn to You

You have promised to be our help in every time of trouble

You have promised to be our refuge and our strength

Great is Your faithfulness O God

As sickness and fear spread across the world

we pray for medical staff in this country and in every country putting their lives at risk as they care for patients

Hold in Your healing presence and power all who contracted the virus

Your blessing on patients receiving intensive care

Grant courage to all who are fearful of falling ill and keeping themselves at home

and comfort every family who has lost loved ones to the disease

Help us reassure our children and young people

their lives disrupted by the closure of schools, colleges and universities                                                                                                    

Hear our prayers for politicians

and the scientists who are advising them

on what actions we should take

Hear our prayers for all whose businesses and livelihoods are at risk

Hear too our heartfelt gratitude for the many people who have volunteered to be a good neighbour

And during this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around one another, help us find ways of being the loving embrace of God

God of time

God of eternity

We pray for our own circle of family and friends

asking You to keep them in Your love as we keep them in ours

And believing nothing in life or death

in the world as it is or the world as it shall be

can ever separate us from Your love in Christ our Lord

even now keep our hope and faith strong

in Your eternal goodness and love

for great is Your faithfulness O God

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father

Which 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

The power and the glory

For ever

Amen

 

Go now in the peace and love of Christ our Lord

And the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit rest and remain with you and all whom you love, now and evermore

Amen

 

 

[1] 1 Corinthians 15 : 19 (REB)