Worship Service for the 5th Sunday in Lent

Hi everyone,

Welcome to worship for this 5th Sunday in Lent, landing on March 26, 2023!

The bulletin for this service can be found here. The bulletin will include the order and words of worship with your responses in bold, the page and hymn numbers out of the ELW, and the full sermon manuscript. As always, all the words that you need to know will be on your screen, and the sermon is on this page below the worship video.

If you would like to enhance your online worship experience, you may have a lit candle to signify our connection to each other throughout time and space and it can be extinguished near the end of the service after the closing hymn. You are also welcome to participate in communion by having something small to eat and drink prepared, and they can be consumed at the appropriate time in the service, where further instruction will be provided.

May God’s rich blessing and providence be apparent to you, today and always!

O Lord, we wait for you, and in your Word we trust.  By the power of your Spirit, set our hearts and minds on the source of life and peace: Jesus Christ our Saviour.  Amen.

So I’ve been pretty inactive on social media for a while now, which has been pretty weird for me and my friends, as there was a time that I couldn’t stop posting and adding funny pictures and all that stuff.  In fact, people I know still talk about how at one point, I was editing my birthday everyday on Facebook so that everyday it would say that it was my birthday.  I carried that on for like a month and near the end people were still wishing me a happy birthday.  And I’d like to think that it was because of me that Facebook changed the rules around editing your birthday, I think they limited it to once or twice a year or something like that.  Anyway, I don’t do social media anymore not because I have something against it, not at all.  I have no problems with the fact that people continue to use it for various reasons, I just stopped using it aside from an occasional buy or sell from their buy and sells. 

I find that for me, it’s just too emotionally draining. 

Again, nothing against those who continue to use it, in fact it’s the main way my spouse gains new clients and stuff.  Just for me social media provides a window into our society that takes a lot out of me.  It reminds me of how people can be so set in their ways and understandings of the world.  It reveals to me time and again just how we as a society in general are so impatient, selfish, and as I mentioned last week, arrogant.

Many of the posts that I see now seem to be about people promoting “equality” by quietly promoting their own superiority.  I see others who speak up against oppression while they oppress those who not just disagree but just seek clarity on what they’re talking about.  I see a bunch of posts that claim to be following God when really it seems like they’re acting like they’re God in God’s place.  Because it sounds to me like they’re acting like they have all the answers, they know what’s best, and they can run this planet better than even God can.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think the world has a whole slew of problems and many, if not all, demographics have faced some sort of oppression throughout history.  But I hardly think that’s a reason or an excuse to continue the problems and oppression by further dividing people by our own pompous attitudes and condescending comments.  I get it though, the people who post these things might be feeling angry, or are in pain, and maybe they feel oppressed and powerless.  So the answer to that is to passive aggressively lash out on the platform that is readily available to them, in hopes that it would ease their pain and maybe even put a stop to the situation that they’re going through.  This might be under the guise of acting out of faith, but I actually see it as complaining about not getting what they think they deserve, and then in turn blaming whoever they wish to label as the oppressors in that situation.

And in light of this, I see Martha and Mary’s comments to Jesus about how their brother Lazarus wouldn’t have died had he been there not statements of trust and faith, but more like complaints that they didn’t get the treatment that they thought they deserved.  And off the bat, maybe we would think the same thing as well, Mary and Martha didn’t deserve their brother dying when they were so close to Jesus.  They didn’t deserve the pain that really could have been so easily avoided in their eyes.  They most certainly didn’t deserve Jesus hanging back for like 2 days just waiting for it to happen.  I mean, this family that I like to call MMaL (Mary, Martha, and Lazarus), is probably the most famous associates of Jesus aside from his actual 12 disciples, which might I add, we can only name like 4 of.  So for them to reach this level of fame, you’d think they’d have some perks.  They did have faith, no question about that, and we’d think that their faith should have automatically gotten Jesus to do what they thought was best for them.  And that was keeping their brother alive, which of course didn’t happen.

So the way I see it, them saying “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” is like them saying, “where on earth were you Jesus?  We did everything right and yet you treat us like this?”  I can even see a little “how can a good God let bad things happen to good people” questioning rising up a bit in there.  They were in pain, yes of course, their beloved brother has died.  They were hurt because death hurts.  And so maybe they were lashing out at Jesus for not preventing this tragedy from happening in the first place.

And again, don’t we do that in our times of trouble?  We look back at what has happened and we come up with reasons as to why it shouldn’t have and blame others for allowing it to have.  We dig up the past, some of which has ironically been immortalized by social media, and we try to cancel those we don’t like.  We see deplorable things that have transpired that we can’t agree with and we try to retroactively erase them by pulling down statues, ruining mementos, and accusing foul play and claiming unfair oppression.

It’s like everyone is a victim.  Everyone needs to feel like a victim.  And then everyone victimizes others in order to ease their pain.  They’re the ones who cheated and acted unfairly.  They’re the ones who oppressed and exploited the weak.  They’re the ones who didn’t know better and made us feel bad so they deserve the abuse we’re going to give them now. 

And Jesus is the one who wasn’t there for us in our time of need.

But the thing is, things do happen.  Tragedies and oppression take place.  Death always rolls its head around and tears us apart.  And it hurts.  It breaks us.  It causes us to fall on our knees and shakes our fists in the air and cry out “why?!?”  Why did this happen?  Why did God abandon me?

But you know what? God doesn’t promise us that bad things won’t happen.  God doesn’t tell us that if we’re good, only good things will come to us and we’ll never feel pain again.  God doesn’t say that death will never come.

But God does say that the sting of death has been taken away.

See, bad things will happen.  We will feel pain, brokenness, betrayal, and just general annoyance at the world.  We will lose loved ones and we ourselves will die.  All of that will happen, our faith doesn’t prevent it.  But what our faith does do is help us through this pain.  It reminds us that there is comfort and healing in the Spirit and community.  It tells us that we aren’t alone, but Jesus is there alongside us, mourning with us but also rejoicing in the new life that comes out of and in spite of the brokenness and dry bones of despair. 

Yes, we might not like feeling pain and oppression.  Sure, we would like to erase the inerasable past and cover it up with strong words and edgy memes of social media.  And of course, we don’t have our loved ones miraculously come back to life.  But there continues to be healing found in all that we go through.  There is a compassion that lifts us up when we are down, showing us that our value and worth isn’t defined by the tragedies that befall us.  There is life even in the face of death because we are all connected to this eternal story of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness.

So while hurt and pain continue to happen, we can rise above them and be examples of peace and healing.  While evil and brokenness continue to exist, we can resist them not by joining forces with them but rather showing them how love and forgiveness can conquer all.  While we continue to face death on so many fronts, we can confidently see the life found in spite of it, showing us God’s providence and mercy and bringing us together as the body of Christ, living eternally in the story of humankind.  A story that reveals to all God’s abundant blessing even when it isn’t exactly as we deserve.

At this end of the season of Lent, as we draw nearer to the cross of oppression and death, may we look forward to the life on the other side of the tomb and be lifted up by the arms of love and grace.  Thanks be to God.  Amen.

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