Sunday, 10 April 2011

When the Spirit breathes

Lent 5 year A Sermon  
Out walking this week…reflecting on the readings for today…I saw a stunning vision… which spoke to me of the power of the Holy Spirit to breathe life into…
even the driest and deadest valleys in our lives…

across the road from the golf course… I saw the wind raise up a heap of golden leaves… and swirl them round and round… in the glorious sunlight. The first part of our message today begins in Ezekiels valley of dry bones. Let us open our hearts and our minds and our spirits for a word from God.

Ezekiel  Reading

it was full of bones. He led me all around them.
there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, "Mortal, can these bones live?" I answered, "O Lord GOD, you know." Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. [pause]

Thus says the Lord GOD… I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.

And in the living memory of people here today…
are ingrained images of deathly fields… like this picture from World War Two Berlin…

or the killing fields of Cambodia.

Twin towers slide
The collapse of the Twin Towers in New York…

Tsunamis slide
Tsunamis in Indonesia and Japan

CTV slide
Or most recently the devastated CTV building in Christchurch

Whether by war…natural disaster or human folly...there come to us these images of dry bones…And it is the foundation of our faith…that over and over again…into the desolation that confronts us…
the Spirit of God promises to breathe new life.

And so it’s into these stark landscapes… that we are called… to speak hope and life…always pointing to God’s future and the power of God’s Spirit… to transform and heal.

Team shot slide
And so it was we sent our ministry intern Heather Simpson…into the devastation…to join the army of relief workers in Christchurch. At the same time Graham McDougal responded to the call as a civil engineer.

Before going…Heather asked us to pray for her
while she was away and she promised to tell us what she learned on this journey. And so today she will

Heather speaks off the cuff
Collapsed buildings slide
Food parcel slide
Knox slide
Knox close up
Knox signs

Diane comes back
Part 2 ‘waiting…slide
We’re not here…echoes of course ‘He is not here…he is risen’…And yes from a post Easter perspective…
we proclaim the light and hope of the resurrection…But as Jesus makes his final journey toward Jerusalem… death is very much on his mind… The second part of our message today is the story Lazarus dying

Blank slide
Perhaps it’s this shadow… and the memory of angry crowds that threaten to stone him… maybe it’s these thoughts…that cause Jesus to delay for two full days when he hears his friend Lazarus is dying

But Lazarus dies…and his body is entombed while his sisters Mary and Martha… wait for Jesus…

When Jesus finally arrives at the edge of town…Lazarus has been buried for four days. His sister Martha runs to meet Jesus at the edge of town…
And breathlessly she cries, Master, if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. [pause]
In the shadow of death there’s nothing for Martha but grief and desolation…she trusted Jesus would arrive in time…and now it’s too late… [pause]

But it seems that even in her grief… Martha remains hopeful and tells Jesus…

Slide words
…even now I know God will give you… whatever you ask  [pause]

And in response to Martha’s faith…Jesus promises her

Slide words
Your brother will rise again.

Blank slide
But Martha doesn’t understand and brushes off Jesus reassurance. "I know he’ll rise again in the resurrection on the last day."

And here I imagine… Jesus takes her by the shoulders and looks right into her eyes…Martha

slide words
I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live… and everyone who lives and believes in me… will never die.

Slide words
Do you believe this?
And there on the outskirts of Bethany about four kilometres out from Jerusalem…
Martha makes her confession of faith.

Slide words
"Yes, Lord, I believe you are the Messiah,
the Son of God, the one coming into the world." [pause]

Part 3 slide life from death
Of course the Hebrew people always understood
the breath of life comes only from God.
Ezekiel prophesied it to the valley of the dry bones…
the Spirit would lift…the Spirit would raise up…the Spirit would blow …and what was once dead…would live.
In part three of our message Jesus reveals that he is the resurrection and the life…

We know how Lazarus’  story ends

at Jesus’ command… Lazarus comes out of the tomb…
his hands and his feet… and his face…
still protected by the grave cloths…

But something more must be done… for Lazarus to live fully…and so Jesus commands the mourners… to…

"Unbind him, and let him go."

And many who saw what Jesus did, believed in him. [pause]

The Spirit blows and Lazarus is raised…

We hear in his prayer to the Father that Jesus’ has complete faith… that death is no match
for the power of God…

Jesus calls his friend out and Lazarus comes…
The cloths that protected Lazarus in death…
are lifted and unwound…and he is unbound…
and set free.

And so it can be for us today…though we who believe …are given new life in Christ…
we sometimes remain bound by things that keep us from loving and living fully…emotional scars, regrets, shame, anger, jealousy bitterness and unforgiveness.

All these need to be…exposed to the life giving Spirit of God in faith.

Please stand as we pray together.