The Fifth Sunday in Lent

Service of the Word

M:       We worship today in the Name of our Triune God:  God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

C:        Amen.

Confession of Sins

 

M:       We have come into the presence of God, who created us to love and serve Him as His dear children.  But we have disobeyed Him and deserve only His wrath and punishment.  Therefore, let us confess our sins to Him and plead for His mercy.

C:        Merciful Father in heaven, I am altogether sinful from birth.  In countless ways I have sinned against you and do not deserve to be called your child.  But trusting in Jesus, my Savior, I pray:  Have mercy on me according to your unfailing love.  Cleanse me from my sin, and take away my guilt.

M:       God, our heavenly Father has forgiven all your sins.  By the perfect life and innocent death of our Lord Jesus Christ, He has removed your guilt forever.  You are His own dear child.  May God give you strength to live according to His will.

C:        Amen.

Prayer and Praise

 

M:       In the peace of forgiveness, let us praise the Lord.

OH, TASTE AND SEE

C:        Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.  Your Word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.  Your faithfulness continues forever.  Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.

 

PRAYER OF THE DAY

M:       Let us pray.

The minister says the Prayer of the Day.

 

Eternal God and Father, help us to remember Jesus, who obeyed your will and bore the cross for our salvation that through His anguish, pain and death we may receive forgiveness of sins and inherit eternal life; we ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 

C:        Amen.

 

 

The Word

 

FIRST LESSON – Ezekiel 37:1-14  (Sermon Text)

Through the vision of dead bones restored to life, the prophet announces that the people of Israel would one day return from the “grave” of captivity to live in their own land again.

 

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.  He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry.  He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”  I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”  Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!  This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones:  I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.  I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life.  Then you will know that I am the LORD.'”  So I prophesied as I was commanded.  And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone.  I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.  Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says:  Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.'”  So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.  Then he said to me:  “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.  They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’  Therefore prophesy and say to them; ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says:  O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel.  Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them.  I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land.  Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.”  (NIV1984)

 

PSALM OF THE DAY – Psalm 116 

I love the LORD, for He heard my voice;

He heard my cry for mercy.

Because He turned His ear to me,

I will call on Him as long as I live.

The LORD is gracious and righteous;

when I was in great need, He saved me.

For You, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death,

my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.

How can I repay the LORD

for all His goodness to me?

I will lift up the cup of salvation

and call on the name of the LORD.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son

            and to the Holy Spirit,

as it was in the beginning,

            is now, and will be forever.  Amen

SECOND LESSON – Romans 8:11-19eba

By the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, we have received life and future glory with Jesus.

 

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his spirit, who lives in you.  Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it.  For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.  And by him we cry “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.  (NIV1984)

 

 

VERSE OF THE DAY

The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.  (Mark 10:45)

 

CThese words are written that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.

 

GOSPEL LESSON – John 11:17-27, 38-45

Jesus demonstrates His power over death by raising Lazarus from the dead.

 

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.  Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother.  When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.  “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”  Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”  Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?”  “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”  Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb.  It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.  “Take away the stone,” he said.  “But, Lord, said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”  Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”  So they took away the stone.  Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”  When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.  Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”  Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.  (NIV1984)

 

After the Gospel, the congregation says:

 

C:        Praise be to you, O Christ!

 

SERMON  The Amazing Season of Lent— God’s Amazing Power!

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

 

Have you ever been at a point in your life when you have been overwhelmed by a feeling of hopelessness?  No matter how hard you study you just can’t seem to get the grade that you want in a certain class in school.  You fall madly in love with someone only to find out that they are secretly in love with your best friend.  You get passed up for that promotion at work— again.  Just when you think you can see the light at the end of what has been a long dark financial tunnel one of the kids needs braces or the car breaks down.  Someone you love with all your heart dies.  And, as we have all learned, one little virus can completely upend our life in ways that we had never imagined.

 

Hopelessness comes in all kinds of forms, doesn’t it?  Sometimes hopelessness strikes on a personal or individual level.  Sometimes hopelessness strikes on a collective or national level.  And sometimes hopelessness strikes on a world-wide level.

 

The sermon text that we have before us today gives us an example of how hopelessness can completely overwhelm even the people of God.  Today as we continue our sermon series entitled The Amazing Season of Lent we are going to see how even the most hopeless situation can be overcome by:  God’s Amazing Power.  First, let’s see how God’s amazing power overcame the hopelessness that God’s people felt in the days of Ezekiel.  Then let’s see how God’s amazing power overcomes the hopeless situations we find ourselves in today.

 

The ministry of the prophet Ezekiel was divided by one momentous event:  the fall and destruction of the beloved city of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians.  Before the fall of Jerusalem Ezekiel proclaimed to God’s people a very powerful call to repentance.  After Jerusalem had fallen to the Babylonians and after the Temple of the Lord lay in smoldering ruins Ezekiel’s ministry focused on proclaiming to God’s people a very powerful message of consolation and hope.

 

That glorious message of consolation and hope is portrayed in a very dramatic way here in our text for today.  Look at the opening verses of our text.  The Lord brought Ezekiel into a valley that was “filled with bones”— bones that are described as being “very dry.”  Then the Lord asked His servant, “Son of man, can these bones live?”  Ezekiel’s answer was:  Lord only you know.  Then Ezekiel was told to “prophesy” the word of the Lord to these “very dry” bones.  If you have your Bibles open to our text look at verses 4-6.  What is the pronoun that repeats here?  It is the pronoun “I.”  To whom is this pronoun referring?  It is referring to the Sovereign Lord!  Can these “very dry” bones do anything to bring themselves back to life?  Absolutely not!  Therefore, if these “very dry” bones are to live it is due purely to God’s amazing power!

 

Now look at verses 7-10 of our text.  Through the power of God’s Word— prophesied or proclaimed by the Lord’s servant Ezekiel— this valley of “very dry” bones “came to life and stood up on their feet— a vast army.”  If this is not a testimony to the amazing power of the Lord our God I don’t know what is!

 

The key, however, to properly understanding this text is found in verse 11-14.  We read, “Then he (the LORD) said to me:  ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.  They say, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.”  Therefore prophesy and say to them, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says:  O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel.  Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them.  I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land.  Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.”’”

 

As the people of Judah and Jerusalem watched the Babylonian army tear down the wall around Jerusalem and burn both their beloved city as well as the Temple of the Lord their God they undoubtedly remembered how the Assyrian army had done a similar thing in the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  As the people of Judah and Jerusalem were rounded up like cattle for that long, difficult and completely humiliating march into exile they remembered that when their brothers and sisters in the Northern Kingdom were marched away into exile— they never came back.  They were “absorbed” into the Assyrian Empire never to be seen again.  With those memories and with that historical background it is no wonder that the people of Judah came to the conclusion recorded here in our text:  “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.”  With those memories and with that historical background it is not surprising that when the Lord asks Ezekiel, “Son of man, can these bones live?” that Ezekiel responded by saying, “O Sovereign LORD you alone know.”

 

Humanly speaking the situation that God’s people now found themselves in was completely hopeless.  The Babylonian Empire was by far the biggest and the strongest empire the world had seen up to that time.  But the Lord had promises to keep, didn’t He!  The Lord had promised father Abraham that one of his descendants would be this world’s Savior from sin.  The Lord had promised King David that one of his descendants would rule over God’s Kingdom forever! Through His servant Isaiah the Lord had promised that a virgin would conceive and give birth to Immanuel.  Through His servant Micah the Lord had promised that our Savior would be born in the little town of Bethlehem.  Because of the promises that the Lord God Himself had made there was hope for the people of Judah and Jerusalem!  While they did not have the power to rescue themselves from the hands of their enemies, while they did not have the power to “breath new life” into their nation— a nation that now appeared to be as “dead” as a valley full of “very dry” bones— God’s amazing power would accomplish what God’s own people could not.  God’s amazing power would rescue His people from the hands of their enemies.  God’s amazing power would bring His people “back to life” as well as bring them back to Jerusalem.  God’s amazing power would see to it that God’s amazing promises would be fulfilled!

 

We know from history that God did indeed allow the people of Judah and Jerusalem to return home from their captivity in Babylon.  But I think that this portion of Scripture has been given to you and to me for a far greater purpose than just a lesson in history.

 

As I mentioned earlier there are times when we too can feel overwhelmed by a sense of hopelessness.  There are times when our work or our finances or our health or our relationships can lead us to say, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.” But there is nothing, my friends, absolutely nothing that overwhelms us with more hopelessness than our three greatest enemies:  sin, death and the devil.  When we are honest with ourselves and recognize just how much we have sinned against the Lord, when we stop to realize that because of our sin we deserve to die— not just physically but also eternally— when we admit that Satan has had a field day as he successfully bombards us with temptation after temptation after temptation, then we come to understand the depth of the hopelessness that overwhelms us by nature.

 

Now you can turn on your television and find any number of preachers who will tell you that through the “power of positive thinking” you can pull yourself up out of the depths of despair and hopelessness.  You can turn on your television and find any number of preachers who will tell you that they have the power to lay their hands on you and heal you of all your ills.  You can drive to any number of churches where you will hear that the “cure” for your spiritual condition of being dead in this valley of “very dry” bones is:  do something!  Make your decision!  Do your penance!  Feed the hungry!  Free the oppressed!  How sadly silly!  When Ezekiel was asked, “Can these bones live?” the thought of these “very dry” bones doing something to bring themselves back to life never even entered Ezekiel’s mind!

 

There is only one way for us to be brought from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive, my friends.  It all comes down to God’s amazing power!  Look at verse 14 of our text.  The Sovereign Lord says, “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live.”  What do those words make you think of?  As soon as I see and hear those words I think of God’s amazing power as He uses His holy Word and His holy Sacrament to “pour” His Holy Spirit into our hearts and give us the gift of spiritual life!  Through God’s amazing power we have been “born again.”  For most of us that miracle took place when we were baptized as an infant.  Through God’s amazing power we have been given the ability to truly live— both to live for our Lord while we are here on this earth as well as to live with our Lord forever in heaven.  Through God’s amazing power we know that through the cross of Jesus Christ (Pointing to the cross) we no longer have to worry about our three greatest enemies!  When it comes to our sins what does the cross of Jesus Christ guarantee to us?  It guarantees to us that all of our sins are completely forgiven!  When it comes to death what does the cross of Jesus Christ guarantee to us?  It guarantees to us that for everyone who believes and trusts in Jesus as their Savior from sin physical death is most certainly the doorway to eternal life in heaven!  And when it comes to our enemy Satan what does the cross of Jesus Christ guarantee to us?  The cross guarantees to us that the devil has been defeated, that the victory belongs to Jesus and that through faith in what Jesus has accomplished for us His victory is now our victory!

 

Yes, my friends, through God’s amazing power the hopelessness that can so easily overwhelm us has been driven away just as surely as the rising of the sun drives away the darkness of the night.  And, yes, that statement even holds true in the pandemic that people all over this world are now enduring.  Whether it is COVID-19 or cancer, whether it is the natural disasters that we see taking place all over the world or the nastiness that we all too often see taking place between people— all such things are a direct consequence of the sin that permeates the very fabric of every single thing that exists.  Praise God that every time we lift up our eyes to this cross (Pointing to the cross) we are able to hear the Son of God say, “It is finished!” (John 19:30)  Praise God that in just two short weeks we will hear our risen Lord and Savior say to us, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19)  Praise God that we have the sure confident hope that comes from knowing that no matter how and no matter when our life here on this earth comes to an end, our Savior has given us that wonder-filled promise, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25, 26).

 

My prayer then this morning is that you will strive by God’s grace to always live in the joy and in the confident hope that comes to you from God’s amazing power.  Remember your Baptism when God first “poured His Spirit” into your heart and adopted you as His own dear child.  Make God’s holy Word and God’s holy Supper a regular part of your life so that God’s Holy Spirit is continually being poured into your heart in an ever-greater measure.  And whenever Satan tries to overwhelm you with a sense of hopelessness, trust in the amazing power of your God!  Turn to the cross and let that cross remind you of what the Sovereign Lord says through His servant Ezekiel, “Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.”

 

To God be the glory!

 

Amen

 

APOSTLES’ CREED

 

I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day He rose again from the dead.  He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.  From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

 

OFFERING  During this time of uncertainty we still yearn to bring our thank offerings to our dear Lord and Savior.  We ask that you continue to set your offerings aside so that when we are able to come together again in God’s House we will be able to place our offerings on His altar.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH

 

O Sovereign Lord, as we come before you today we kneel in awe of your amazing power.  In your amazing power you not only created all things in heaven and on earth, but in your amazing power you open your hand and provide for the needs of all living things.  In your amazing power you grant physical life and you take it away.  In your amazing power you guide and direct and rule all things in heaven and on earth.

 

O Sovereign Lord, as we come before you today we also kneel in awe of how you used your amazing power to provide us with spiritual life.  Through the power of your Holy Spirit working through the Message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it comes to us through your powerful Word and Sacraments you have created the gift of saving faith in our hearts.  This glorious gift of faith enables us to live for you while we are here on this earth and enables us to live with you forever in your heavenly Home.  Through the power of your Holy Spirit working through your holy Word and Sacraments you assure us of the forgiveness of our sins and empower us to share your powerful Word with others.

 

O Sovereign Lord, as we come before you today and as we kneel in awe of your amazing power we thank and praise you that in your grace and in your mercy you used your amazing power to grant success to Dan Kirk’s heart procedure.  We ask that you grant him healing and comfort as he now recuperates at home.  Wrap your loving arms around both Dan and Arlene as together they continue to put their faith and their trust in you.

 

And finally, O Sovereign Lord, as we come before you today and as we kneel in awe of your amazing power we humbly ask that you would use your power to help us in this time of great need.  As more and more people are infected with the coronavirus, as more and more people are dying, we turn to you for help and for strength.  Use your amazing power to protect us from this disease.  Use your amazing power to support and protect all the first responders.  Use your amazing power to graciously grant us the insight we need to develop a vaccine against this disease.  Use your amazing power to help us accept whatever your will for us might be.

 

In Jesus’ Name we ask this and in Jesus’ Name we pray:

 

LORD’S PRAYER

C:        Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.  Amen.

 

M:       O Lord God, our heavenly Father, pour out the Holy Spirit on your faithful people.  Keep us strong in your grace and truth, protect and comfort us in all temptation, and bestow on us your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

 

C:        Amen.

 

 

M:       Brothers and sisters, go in peace.  Live in harmony with one another.  Serve the Lord with gladness.

The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.  The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.

 

C:        Amen.

 

 

Announcements

On Palm Sunday, April 5, we plan on livestreaming our worship service.  If we have your email address you will be receiving an email from Kevin Baughman instructing you on how to join the livestream.  If you want to make sure you can join us please send your email address to Pastor Lockman at SBL4@aol.com.