Fifth Sunday in Lent
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:6-11; John 11:1-45
The theme for Lent: CLOSE ENCOUNTERS AT THE CROSS
Each week a script will be provided, following the gospel lesson, concerning those whom Jesus met.
Fifth Sunday in Lent: CLOSE ENCOUNTERS AT THE CROSS: MARY, MARTHA, LAZARUS CALLS TO WORSHIP
Call to Worship #1:
L: Jesus had confidence in life after death. That confidence can be ours.
P: The grief felt at Lazarus’ death was overcome by the reassurance of Jesus.
L: He said, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
P: In raising Lazarus, Jesus demonstrated that death is not beyond the hope found in resurrection.
L: We are strengthened in our faith by the mighty acts of Jesus.
P: We are given courage and confidence by the power of God to overcome our worst fears. AMEN.
Call to Worship #2:
L: Lazarus, though dead, was called to life by Jesus.
P: May we be called to the light of righteousness.
L: As others witnessed this resurrection, they believed in Jesus.
P: May we, who have heard, believe in the power of Jesus to conquer our fears and doubts.
L: Praise be to God who has given us Jesus.
P: Praise be to Jesus who has given us life. AMEN.
Call to Worship #3:
[Using THE FAITH WE SING, p. 2106, “When Jesus Wept,” offer the following call to worship as directed.] Soloist: singing “When Jesus Wept”
L: Fear had gripped the friends and family of Lazarus.
P: But Jesus released the bonds of fear when he released the bonds of death from Lazarus.
L: We fear death and tremble at the thought of it.
P: Jesus conquers our fears and releases the bonds of death.
Soloist: singing “When Jesus Wept”
L: Lord, help us hear your words of hope and courage.
P: Lord, give us open hearts and spirits to receive your healing love. AMEN.
Call to Worship #4:
L: Our lives feel all disjointed as though they were a valley of dry bones.
P: But the Spirit of God will bring connection and continuity to our lives.
L: The Spirit of God breathes hope into each one of us.
P: The Spirit of God challenges us to be people of faith.
L: Open our hearts, Lord, and bring us to your light.
P: Open our lives, Lord, and break us free from doubt and fear. AMEN.
PRAYERS, READING, BENEDICTION
Healing and Empowering God, we are sometimes so sure that things will not work out, we doubt even your ability to put things right in our lives. We lack such faith. But Jesus came to show us that our most dreaded enemy--death--can be overcome by faith. Heal our doubts and our longings for assurance and give us spirits of trust and hope. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. AMEN.
Prayer of Confession
God, we confess that we are frightened by death. We have experienced the loss of loved ones and have heard, all too often, of the horrible losses sustained by the young people who live in lands of warfare and strife. In this scripture today we encounter Lazarus and his family. They, too, long for Lazarus to be alive again. Jesus’ power to resurrect Lazarus confuses us. We long for that type of healing for our loved ones. And so, when their bodies cannot be healed and they die, we slip away from our faith, proclaiming that it is a nice story. Give us courage to face our fear. Give us awareness that you have offered to all those who have gone before us, a place in your kingdom. Help us move away from the prison of death to the light of eternal life and hope. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. AMEN.
Words of Assurance
Though darkness and death appear all around, there is the comforting healing light of God’s love shining on you and in you. Feel the warmth of the presence of God and let go of your fear, for God is with you. AMEN.
Lord, we have come a long way on this journey. For so many of us, we know where the scriptural road will take us; and we will walk triumphantly into Jerusalem, eat a supper meal with Jesus, and watch as he is taken from the garden and brought before the authorities. We will weep at the foot of the cross as he speaks words of love and forgiveness, and we will wail at the tomb. We do not like this part of the journey and would just as soon skip it. But here we have the story of his friend, Lazarus, who has died. His sisters, Mary and Martha, have confidence that he could have been healed, but they do not think that he can be raised from the dead. That is part of our problem. We want to have confidence in the healing restorative power of Jesus, but we cannot escape our fear of the arch enemy, death. Jesus’ proclamation of eternal life is real. We need to let go of our fear, for life in eternity is also God’s promise - a home with God. Can we come out of our darkness? Can we risk believing in Jesus? Those are hard questions and cannot be answered without the trip to Jerusalem, to the cross and to the tomb. God, please be with us on this journey. AMEN.
Readers’ Theater: CLOSE ENCOUNTERS AT THE CROSS: MARY, MARTHA, LAZARUS
[The large rough wooden cross is placed in the front of the chancel/worship area. Place burlap at the base to cover the stand. Have the same person read the part of Jesus each week. It should be someone with a good speaking voice. Each person who encounters Jesus will be wearing/carrying a length of cloth. When their encounter with Jesus is complete, they place the cloth over the arm of the cross and leave. The navy blue fabric, worn last week by the man born blind, is removed from the cross and draped down the left front of the worship center, slightly overlapping the red fabric of the woman at the well].
[Note: This particular setting will require three people, one portraying each of the characters listed above. The color for Mary will be a light beige (symbolizing constancy); the color for Martha will be bright yellow (symbolizing hope); the color for Lazarus will be bright green (symbolizing new life). Each of these characters will wear their color and at the end of the presentation will drape their color over the arm of the cross.]
Narrator: Jesus had been informed that one of his most beloved friends, Lazarus, was gravely ill. But he insisted that this illness would not lead to death but would be used by God as a witness to the Son of God. But word came to Jesus that Lazarus had died and all were saddened by the news. Jesus insisted that this was the time to go to the home of Mary and Martha, sisters of Lazarus. Before Jesus arrived, Martha got word that he was on his way, and she hurried out to meet him.
Martha: Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.
Jesus: Your brother will rise again.
Martha: I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.
Jesus: 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. Do you believe this?
Martha: Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.
Narrator: And having said this, Martha returned home to tell Mary that she had spoken with Jesus, who was on his way to see them. Mary got up quickly and ran out of the house to see Jesus.
Mary: Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
Jesus: Where have you laid him?
Mary: Lord, come and see.
Narrator: They led Jesus to the tomb in which Lazarus had been laid. All those who followed Mary and Jesus were amazed and moved by his love for his friend Lazarus. When they arrived at the cave, Jesus gave them instruction.
Jesus: Take away the stone.
Martha: Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.
Jesus: Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?
Narrator: And so they rolled the stone away.
Jesus: Father, I thank you for having heard me. I know 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. Lazarus, come out!
Narrator: And Lazarus came out, his hands and feet bound with the strips of cloth and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus: Unbind him, and let him go.
Narrator: Many of the people who had come with Mary and Martha to the tomb had seen what had happened and they believed in Jesus.
[Martha, Mary, and Lazarus place their cloths on the arm of the cross and they depart]
Lord, unbind us from our fears and doubts. As we go from this place of worship, be with us in our witness to the power and love of Jesus Christ. AMEN.
The traditional color for today is: Purple, but I have added “character” colors for this worship setting.
[Please take note of the worship setting described in the Readers’ Theater section.]
SURFACE: No risers on the worship center.
FABRIC: Cover the worship center with purple fabric, draping it to the floor but not puddling the fabric. Beginning on the left side of the worship center, place the drapes of Satan (black), Nicodemus (purple), the woman at the well (red), and the man born blind (navy blue), so that they overlap slightly. You will need to make sure that there will be room for the colors of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus on the worship center.
CANDLES: Place two candles on either side of an open Bible.
FLOWERS/PLANTS: Not recommended for this setting.
ROCKS/WOOD: Not recommended for this setting.
OTHER: Place an open Bible in the center of the worship table.