On Sunday April 2nd I led worship at Kirk Hammerton Chapel. Worship began when we said Psalm 130 responsively. We sang ‘Father of everlasting grace,’ before I led the opening prayers of praise, thanksgiving, confession and the Lord’s Prayer. The first reading was Romans 8.6-11. I gave a short talk about how we should treat each other and listen to our conscience to prevent us from repeatedly hurting others. We sang, ‘The Spirit lives to set us free,’ before the reading from the Old Testament, Ezekiel 37.1-14. The dramatised reading was based on John 11. 1-45 which took place before we sang, ‘O breath of life, come sweeping through us.
I explained how Ezekiel was a prophet who was spoken to by God in visions and pictures. He was brought in a trance to a field of dry bones of men long dead in battle. He was commanded to prophesy over the bones and make them hear. He did as God had told him and the bones after a strange rattle reassembled themselves into their original bodies and were covered with sinews, flesh and skin. He was commanded to prophesy again and summon the four winds to breathe God’s Spirit into the dead bodies and restore them to life, which he saw happening. God explained that the bones were Israel and it was a promise that Israel would rise from despair and hopelessness of death to becoming a living community. This prophesy came after the exile and gave the people renewed hope of a future.
Jesus was at the far side of the Jordan, when he heard from Mary and Martha of the severe illness of their brother, Lazarus, but he delayed his journey for two days, even though they were his friends. Did he delay going because God had not told him to go? He was so in tune with his father that he waited for the right time to go. The disciples were anxious about him going as he had been threatened already by the authorities in Jerusalem and the village was very near Jerusalem, but Jesus knew that God’s will and work needed to be done. When Jesus and his disciples arrived Lazarus had already been dead for four days. Everyone was in mourning and the sisters felt that he could have been saved if Jesus had come earlier. The pain and suffering of the sisters and the loss of Lazarus moved Jesus to tears. However although Martha and Mary did not expect a miracle, Jesus prayed aloud to God showing his dependence on God and called out to Lazarus, who came out all bound up and needed to be released. That led to opposite reactions; many of those present believed in Jesus, but others had a very different and hostile reaction and reported to the Pharisees.
In both Ezekiel’s vision and in the raising of Lazarus God is the supreme mover; both show the glory of God restoring life by the power of his Holy Spirit. Paul affirmed that all that called upon the Lord would have the Spirit sweeping through their lives. They had a new quality of life and a new mind set, which helped them to follow God. We as believers need to be filled with God’s Spirit daily so we can grow in our faith following our Lord Jesus. May we allow God to sweep through our lives and restore and renew our faith daily.
We sang ‘I cannot tell why he whom angels worship’ before I led the prayers of intercessions. Worship concluded as we sang, ‘Jesus the name high over all.’