Services: Sermons and Prayers

Fifth Sunday of Lent – Sunday 26th March – Collect & Readings


Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
delivered and saved the world:
grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross
we may triumph in the power of his victory;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen


Romans 8: 6 – 11
6 To be controlled by human nature results in death; to be controlled by the Spirit results in life and peace. 7And so people become enemies of God when they are controlled by their human nature; for they do not obey God’s law, and in fact they cannot obey it. 8Those who obey their human nature cannot please God.
9 But you do not live as your human nature tells you to; instead, you live as the Spirit tells you to — if, in fact, God’s Spirit lives in you. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ lives in you, the Spirit is life for you because you have been put right with God, even though your bodies are going to die because of sin. 11If the Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from death, lives in you, then he who raised Christ from death will also give life to your mortal bodies by the presence of his Spirit in you.
John 11: 1 – 45
1A man named Lazarus, who lived in Bethany, was ill. Bethany was the town where Mary and her sister Martha lived. 2(This Mary was the one who poured the perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.) 3The sisters sent Jesus a message: “Lord, your dear friend is ill.”
4When Jesus heard it, he said, “The final result of this illness will not be the death of Lazarus; this has happened in order to bring glory to God, and it will be the means by which the Son of God will receive glory.”
5Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6Yet when he received the news that Lazarus was ill, he stayed where he was for two more days. 7Then he said to the disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
8“Teacher,” the disciples answered, “just a short time ago the people there wanted to stone you; and are you planning to go back?”
9Jesus said, “A day has twelve hours, hasn’t it? So whoever walks in broad daylight does not stumble, for they see the light of this world. 10But if they walk during the night they stumble, because they have no light.” 11Jesus said this and then added, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I will go and wake him up.”
the disciples answered, “If he is asleep, Lord, he will get well.”
13Jesus meant that Lazarus had died, but they thought he meant natural sleep. 14So Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15but for your sake I am glad that I was not with him, so that you will believe. Let us go to him.”
16Thomas (called the Twin) said to his fellow-disciples, “Let us all go with the Teacher, so that we may die with him!”
17When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had been buried four days before. 18Bethany was less than three kilometres from Jerusalem, 19and many Judeans had come to see Martha and Mary to comfort them over their brother’s death.
20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed in the house. 21Martha said to Jesus, “If you had been here, Lord, my brother would not have died! 22But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask him for.”
23“Your brother will rise to life,” Jesus told her.
24“I know,” she replied, “that he will rise to life on the last day.”
25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me will live, even though they die; 26and all those who live and believe in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27“Yes, Lord!” she answered. “I do believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”
28After Martha said this, she went back and called her sister Mary privately. “The Teacher is here,” she told her, “and is asking for you.” 29When Mary heard this, she got up and hurried out to meet him. 30(Jesus had not yet arrived in the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him.) 31The people who were in the house with Mary, comforting her, followed her when they saw her get up and hurry out. They thought that she was going to the grave to weep there.
32Mary arrived where Jesus was, and as soon as she saw him, she fell at his feet. “Lord,” she said, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died!”
33Jesus saw her weeping, and he saw how the people who were with her were weeping also; his heart was touched, and he was deeply moved. 34“Where have you buried him?” he asked them.
“Come and see, Lord,” they answered.
35Jesus wept. 36“See how much he loved him!” the people said.
37But some of them said, “He gave sight to the blind man, didn’t he? Could he not have kept Lazarus from dying?”
38Deeply moved once more, Jesus went to the tomb, which was a cave with a stone placed at the entrance. 39“Take the stone away!” Jesus ordered.
Martha, the dead man’s sister, answered, “There will be a bad smell, Lord. He has been buried four days!”
40Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believed?” 41They took the stone away. Jesus looked up and said, “I thank you, Father, that you listen to me. 42I know that you always listen to me, but I say this for the sake of the people here, so that they will believe that you sent me.” 43After he had said this, he called out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44He came out, his hands and feet wrapped in grave clothes, and with a cloth round his face. “Untie him,” Jesus told them, “and let him go.”
45 Many of the people who had come to visit Mary saw what Jesus did, and they believed in him.


Our gospel reading this morning is one of those powerful passages of scripture that prepares us for the events of Easter.

Jesus had a special relationship with Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary & Martha – He had spent much time with them and they were dear friends. They had seen his miracles and had learned to trust him, to believe in him and so when Lazarus becomes ill Jesus is the person they turn to. You would expect such a dear friend would rush to help as soon as possible, but not so. Jesus delays a couple of days before deciding to return to Bethany.

The disciples were afraid to return because Jesus had been threatened on their last visit, and strangely enough it’s Thomas, the disciple who post resurrection had doubted that Jesus was alive, who urges their return.

It’s encouraging how we get glimpses of the disciples characteristics and can identify with their reactions. Sometimes our faith is strong and other times less so. It’s comforting to know we share similar experiences with those who first knew Jesus.
So they return to Bethany, despite the danger Jesus will always go where there is need.

Martha comes out to meet Jesus, this poor woman is heartbroken, her beloved brother is dead, the friend she felt sure could have saved him has turned up too late.
If only – how many times have we said that?
“If only you had been here, Lord, my brother would not have died.

Despite her sadness and disappointment Martha’s faith remains intact.
“Yes Lord – I do believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
She then goes to fetch her sister Mary who falls at Jesus’ feet. She echoes the words of her sister ”Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died.” Jesus witnesses her grief and sorrow and the sadness of those who have come to mourn and he is deeply moved. He may be the resurrection and the life, the Messiah, the Son of God, but this man is also truly human, he feels their pain and anguish and he suffers with them.

As was customary in those days Lazarus was placed in a cave and the entrance covered with a large stone. At this point Jesus wept. There are many theories as to why he wept.
Was it because he saw the despair and anguish suffered by the sisters and other mourners? Was it because he recognised that death entered our world through the influence of sin? Maybe as he stood at the entrance to the tomb, he realised that shortly his battered and broken body would also be laid in a tomb.

We are told there were mutterings in the crowd, questioning why Jesus had not cured Lazarus, he’d helped so many others, where was he when his dear friend needed him?
Again Jesus was deeply moved – maybe he wept at their lack of faith, but the fact he wept shows his compassion and empathy with the suffering surrounding him. It highlights his humanity and ability to suffer alongside us when we are distressed and grieving.

It’s interesting that Jesus tells the people to “Take the stone away”, after all he has the power to remove it without their help, but as in all situations humans must play their part in his ministry, they must be obedient and follow his instructions, he will not do for us what we are able to do for ourselves.
At this point Martha is determined to protect her brother’s dignity, she did not want her last memory of him to be unpleasant, what was Jesus thinking of? In her eyes it was too little, too late. However, Martha was focusing on the wrong person, she was concerned for her dead brother, but her close friend Jesus is the source of all life and ever so gently Jesus reminds her “didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believed?”
For her sake and the other mourners, he gives thanks that God listens to him, this proves his relationship with God, so they will believe that God had sent him into the world, that he was who he claimed to be, The Messiah, the Son of the living God.

When Jesus makes a claim he gives us proof – he said “I am the bread of life” and feeds 5000 people, physically and spiritually.
“I am the light of the world” and gives sight to the blind, physically & spiritually.
And there’s always the personal touch with Jesus, as he calls Lazarus by name – “Lazarus come out.”

Martha, Mary, the disciples, the mourners, nobody is prepared for what happens next.
Out of the cave walks Lazarus wrapped in his grave clothes. There must have been gasps from the crowd.
Jesus again gets people involved, “untie him, let him go”
Lazarus’ death was the instrument by which God would be glorified.
Unlike us, Martha, Mary, the disciples, the people watching did not know that soon Jesus will die, be buried and then would rise from the dead.

It’s not always easy to hold on to our faith when things happen that make us sad, and in our despair we sometimes like those two sisters wonder where Jesus is when we call on him in prayer and he doesn’t seem to respond. But he does answer, we ask and we do receive – but not necessarily what we asked for. We seek and we do find – but not always what we were looking for. We knock and the door is opened – but not always the door we wanted to go through.
Answer to prayer comes in God’s time and in God’s way – not ours.

I dare say Martha & Mary would have preferred a less public display of their brothers return to life, but Jesus needed this situation to prove that he was more than just a friend, he needed to prepare them for what was to come – to give his disciples something to hold onto in the testing days ahead, when he would be arrested and crucified.

So we follow Jesus on his terms in the belief that God loves us and wants the best for us even if it doesn’t always appear that way.

The pace of our modern world calls for instant answers, instant action, but God is adjusting history to his purposes and we are to trust his will, his power and his timing. Believing that truth is the essence of real faith.
One thing of which we can be sure Jesus is the friend who will never, ever let us down.
If we needed proof of that we only have to look at nature at this time of year when Spring brings the snowdrops, crocus and daffodils into bloom, new life springing up around us and we too can have new life through our faith in Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Lord God, our light and our salvation, we praise you for your gifts of life and faith.
We thank you for the desire that you have planted in our hearts, help us to meet you in prayer, to walk your ways, and to speak to others of our joy. Give us faithfulness in this present life so that we may come to know and praise your beauty, with all our brothers and sisters in the life to come. We make this prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen.


We pray together,

Father God, we acknowledge your greatness as revealed in both the vastness of the universe and in the rich variety of life we see in the world. That you care for your creation is undeniable for you sent Jesus that we would be shown the way to live, both in harmony with our neighbours and with the rest of creation.
So hear us now as we bring before you, in our prayers of intercession, our hopes and dreams in the days leading up to Easter with the promise of lives reborn. As we pray for better human relationships, for lives restored to wholeness and for Peace on Earth we seek no more than your grace allows.

Lord, in your mercy Hear our prayer.

Lord, we pray for your Church as it journeys through Lent and prepares for the great Easter celebrations, that its message will reach beyond the flowers and Easter eggs to carry the hopes of all Christians_ for a rebirth of the spirit and for a strong witness to Christ which touches the hearts of those beyond its bounds.
We pray for Christians who face daily persecution because of their faith.

Lord, in your mercy Hear our prayer.

Regrettably we still live in a world riven with division, conflict and wars. The words of the Prince of Peace have not been heeded and so we ask for dialogue and reconciliation in those areas of the world in turmoil.

We remember the consequences of conflict in the plight of displaced families and those who flee conflict and become refugees. We pray for all aid agencies.

Lord, in your mercy Hear our prayer.

We are blest with a world of great beauty, of great extremes of climate and geography and of life in uncountable diversity. We pray for those scientists tasked with assessing our impact on the world’s climate and the consequences that any change will bring.

Lord, in your mercy Hear, our prayer.

We pray for our own country and its peoples.
We pray for our elected leaders; that the great issues of the day will be debated honestly and openly and that decisions reaches will based on the best information available and applied with fairness at all levels across our diverse society.
We pray for all families in whatever shape or form—that children will be loved and nurtured and encouraged to lead active and fulfilling roles in society.
We pray for all agencies, both paid and voluntary, that support families through difficult times.

Lord, in your mercy Hear our prayer.

We pray for those in most need in our own families and neighbourhood, thinking of the housebound and those in hospital or hospice. We pray for all carers and visitors whether family members, voluntary or health care professionals – and so we ask that you bestow on them your gifts of patience, compassion and understanding.
We pray for those that we know who are sick, lonely, anxious or in some other special need at this time, as we share a brief moment of silence together as we name them in our hearts.
As we named them in our hearts so let them feel your presence and friendship in their lives as we commit them to your loving care.

Lord, in your mercy Hear our prayer.

We also remember those whose journey through life has ended and we pray for those left behind to grieve. Let them know that nothing is more dependable in times of sorrow than your steadfast and encircling love.

Lord, in your mercy Hear our prayer.

A final prayer for ourselves:-
Here Lord we stand at the beginning of a new week.
As you journeyed on trusting in your Father’s love-
So let us also go in faith and hope- into the days ahead with all its joys and sorrows too –
Guided on our way with your Spirit’s presence within us.

Merciful Father.
Accept these prayers for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen



Fourth Sunday of Lent – Sunday 19th March – Collect & Readings


God of compassion,
whose Son Jesus Christ, the child of Mary,
shared the life of a home in Nazareth,
and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself:
strengthen us in our daily living
that in joy and in sorrow
we may know the power of your presence
to bind together and to heal;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

John 19: 25b – 27
Standing close to Jesus’ cross were his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing there; so he said to his mother, “He is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “She is your mother.” From that time the disciple took her to live in his home.

4th Sunday of Lent / Mothering Sunday

Lord, as we continue on this journey of lent may the words that I speak be you words and may our eyes and ears be open to your message and see the paths before us. By your power, and through your grace, Amen.
Today is Mothering Sunday and for each one of us here today will bring a set of different circumstances, emotions and meanings. For many it’s about giving thanks to those who have been in our lives who have been of a mother figure. But for some this might not be the person you expect it to be, or for some it might be more than one person. But for the church Mothering Sunday is more than giving thanks to particular people.
Mothering Sunday started in the church back in the 16th century and it was in fact a time when people travelled from their now homes to their mothering church rather than their usual place of worship. The mothering church was often the church where you were baptised and brought up or a cathedral. It was an opportunity to come together as a church family and celebrate not just own mothers, but the mothering characteristics of the church and others. This included servants and labourers who would usually on other weeks be left to work in the houses or on the land. But today is also known as refreshment Sunday, where we can take a break from our Lenten fast as we meet with those who have impacted our lives.
As a result, the church recognises that there are many people who can be thanked and remembered today as a result of their work, this includes those we call mum, but also includes other parents, grandparents, wider family members, foster parents, carers, friends, godparents, people of this or another congregation, and of course God. Anyone can demonstrate mothering characteristics and theses are mentioned in our 1st Bible reading today, so let’s have a look.
In our reading from Colossians Paul is teaching those he is writing to, and us today, about some characteristics that we need to wear, so to speak. These are characteristics that are part of our physical and inner being, Paul tells us that these should be: Compassion, Kindness: Humility, Meekness, Patience, Forgiveness Love.
Combining all these we are told – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, and whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Now we are all capable of these things but it’s not easy to be all these things at all times. And I suspect if we are being honest with ourselves, we all probably wish we had more of or were better at each of them. This is where the role of the church comes in.
Our Gospel reading is not an easy reading and reminds us that for some, today is a hard day. In this reading we see Jesus on the cross, about to die, and his mum standing there beside him together with his best friend. But in this time of testing and upset there is hope. Jesus’ last words to his mother and friends is – to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” And then to his friend, also a disciple, “Here is your mother.” We often speak about members of the church being a family and the origin of Mothering Sunday reminds us of this. Jesus’ message of hope is that in the church we can be supportive of each other and encourage all to be faithful mothering figures which are clothed with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, forgiveness and love.
Whatever today means and brings to you, I hope that in this time of refreshment you are all able to recognise, and give thanks, to a number of people who have been supportive, taught and encouraged you to grow both as human beings and in faith. Also as we come together as a church family we make the commitment together that we all support and encourage each other in growth and ensure everyone experiences faith mothering characteristics which are today set before us