Sunday, 2 April 2017

How two mediaeval
friaries fared at
the Reformation

Saint John’s Hospital was established in 1135 and provided hospitality for mediaeval pilgrims arriving in Lichfield at night (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

In many mediaeval towns, the friaries, convents and religious foundations often stood side-by-side, providing the surrounding communities with the equivalent of hospitals, hostels, and places of hospitality and welcome.

Many of these religious houses came to an end in the 16th century, with the Reformation and the Dissolution of the monastic houses. The estates often enriched political supporters of the Tudor dynasty, but their loss also deprived many people of access to health care and education.

Despite the Tudor reforms, many religious communities survived, so that the presence of Franciscans, Augustinians, Dominicans or Carmelite often continued in towns and cities across Ireland and England for many decades because they lived among the people, while Benedictines and Cistercians on the other hand lost the large estates attached to their abbeys and monasteries.

In England, many friaries were unable to survive the Reformation. But some survived in new forms because they saw the coming changes and adapted to new circumstances. The tale of two friaries in Lichfield shows how one survived the Reformation and the other disappeared.

Place of pilgrimage

The Culstrubbe Gate was closed at night, barring entrance to Lichfield until the morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Chad is credited with converting the Kingdom of Mercia in the English Midlands to Christianity. After he died in 672, people claimed miracles at his tomb in Lichfield. He was declared a saint in 700, and when his body was moved to the new cathedral in Lichfield, his shrine became a popular place of pilgrimage.

The mediaeval cathedral stood inside a fortified close, protected by a defensive ditch, rampart and expanse of water. The city was enclosed and the four gates or ‘barrs’ were closed at night and did not open again until the morning.

Pilgrims who arrived late in the day found their entry was barred, and they were left outside for the night without shelter. To meet their needs, Roger de Clinton, Bishop of Lichfield (1129-1148), built an Augustinian priory just outside the Culstrubbe Gate, where the road from London arrived at the south side of Lichfield.

The priory was completed in 1135 and the house became known as the Hospital of Saint John Baptist without the Barrs. The Augustinian canons or friars were expected to provide food and shelter for travellers arriving late at night.

The old and the new ... inside the chapel at Saint John’s, with John Piper’s window at the east end (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In the 13th century, the Augustinian community at Saint John’s consisted of a prior, brothers and sisters, with a chapel and community buildings. Travellers and pilgrims ate and slept in a long mediaeval hall, with an undercroft below.

For 300 years or more, Saint John’s provided hospitality for travellers and pilgrims, while local people used the chapel as a place of worship. These neighbours were served by a chaplain, and in turn they endowed the hospital and built a chantry chapel. These benefactors included William de Juvenis, still remembered each year with a red rose on the Feast of the Nativity of Saint John Baptist (24 June).

The mediaeval hall was enlarged to provide a house for the Master of Saint John’s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

By the mid-15th century, the ditch and ramparts around Lichfield had fallen into disuse and the gates remained open at night for late arriving pilgrims. Times were changing, and when William Smyth became Bishop of Lichfield in 1492, he put Saint John’s to new uses, re-founding the priory in 1495 as a hospital for aged men and as a free grammar school.

New statutes provided for a Master who was a priest appointed by the Bishop of Lichfield. The hospital was to house ‘13 honest poor men upon whom the inconveniences of old age and poverty, without any fault of their own, had fallen.’ They were to receive seven pence a week, they were to be honest and devout, and they were to attend prayers every day.

The canons’ and pilgrims’ hall was enlarged to provide a house for the master and a new wing was added to the old building. This new ‘almshouse,’ with its row of eight chimneys, provided each almsman or resident with his own room and fireplace.

Surviving the Reformation

Saint Philip, representing Philip Hayman Dod, and Bishop William Smyth in a window in the chapel of Saint John’s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

When the dissolution of the monasteries began 40 years later in 1536, the changes made by Bishop Smyth a generation earlier ensured the survival of Saint John’s as a hospital or almshouse and as a school.

The former grammar school, where the schoolboys included Samuel Johnson and David Garrick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The grammar school was separated from the hospital in 1692, but the school continued to use the chapel, and the schoolboys included worthies such as Joseph Addison, Elias Ashmole, Samuel Johnson and David Garrick. Edward Maynard rebuilt the Master’s Hall once again in 1720 to keep up with modern Georgian architectural tastes, and the stone tablet above the doorway dates from this period.

By the early 19th century, Saint John’s must have had the character and the problems described by Anthony Trollope in his novels, including The Warden and Barchester Towers. In 1829, a north aisle was added to the chapel and a new three-bay arcade was built.

In another major restoration in 1870-1871, the Master, Philip Hayman Dod (1810-1883), repaired and renovated the chapel, raising the walls of the nave, building a new roof, and adding buttresses outside and a stone bell-cote and bell.

In 1929, the almsmen’s rooms at Saint John’s were rearranged to overlook the court or quadrangle, giving them more light and modern heating and sanitation. The Master’s House was renovated in 1958, new flats were added in the mid-1960s, and the inner quadrangle was completed with a new building. In the 1960s too, for the first time, married couples were allowed to take residence in the hospital.

Modern changes

The discovery of 50 mediaeval skeletal remains has delayed work at Saint John’s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

After Lichfield Theological College in the Cathedral Close closed in 1976, new accommodation was provided in what became the Hospital of Saint John’s within the Close.

John Piper’s magnificent stained glass depicting ‘Christ in Majesty,’ was placed in the east window of the chapel in 1984. A sculpture of ‘Noah and the Dove’ by Simon Manby was commissioned by the trustees in 2006 and stands in the quadrangle.

At the beginning of this century, the original 1495 east wing of Saint John’s was renovated, enlarged and updated. At present, 18 new apartments are being built at Saint John’s without the Barrs. Completion was expected this Easter, but the project has been delayed since 50 mediaeval skeletal remains – adults and children alike – were found in shallow graves. Their remains may help archaeologists learn more about the lives, times and habits of mediaeval pilgrims.

Since the Tractarian Revival, the chapel of Saint John’s has stood in the Catholic tradition of the Church of England. The chapel continues to provide daily and weekly services, and regularly draws a congregation of residents and visitors. With its distinctive row of eight Tudor chimneys fronting Saint John Street, Saint John’s Hospital remains a living landmark in Lichfield, and the grounds remain an oasis of peace and calm in the heart of the cathedral city.

Saint John’s Hospital remains a living landmark in the heart of Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Franciscan foundation

The Friary was founded around 1229, when the first Franciscans or Greyfriars arrived in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A short distance north of Saint John’s and closer to the cathedral, the Franciscan Friary was a later establishment that once stood in a large estate on the west side of Lichfield.

Part of the surviving walls of the Friary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The friary was founded around 1229, when a group of Franciscans or Greyfriars arrived in Lichfield. Henry III gave them oak trees from local forests for building and grants of money, and they were given houses and land by Alexander de Stavenby, Bishop of Lichfield (1228-1238). In 1241, the Sheriff of Lichfield was authorised ‘to clothe the Friars of Lichfield.’ In 1286, Edward I provided eight oak trees from Cannock Chase for further building.

A gate leading into the former friary gardens (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

When a large fire in Lichfield destroyed the Friary in 1291, the people responded generously and the friary was rebuilt.

The friars had generous benefactors in Lichfield. Henry Champanar granted the friars a free water supply from his springs at Aldershawe. The Crucifix Conduit was built at the gates of the Friary at the corner of Bore Street and Bird Street in 1301, and remained there until the 20th century. When John Comberford died in 1414, he left 10 shillings for masses to the Franciscan mendicant friary in Lichfield.

The Crucifix Conduit stood at the corner of Bore Street and Bird Street from 1301 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The friars live a simple life of poverty, chastity and obedience and spent most of their time preaching and caring for the poor and sick of Lichfield. But with the wealth accrued from generous benefactors, the simple timber structures were replaced by large sandstone buildings on a site covering 12 acres. The large church had a nave measuring 110 ft x 60 ft, and a chancel 95 ft x 28 ft; the cloister was 80 ft square. The buildings also included a dormitory lodge, a refectory and domestic dwellings.

At the Dissolution of monastic houses, 301 years after the Franciscans had arrived in Lichfield, the Friary was dissolved in 1538. The majority of the buildings, including the church, cloisters, refectory and domestic buildings were demolished, and most of the site was cleared. The only buildings to survive were the dormitory on the west range and a house known as ‘Bishop’s Lodging’ in the south-west corner.

The estate and remaining buildings were sold for £68 in 1544 to Gregory Stonyng, the Master of Saint Mary’s Guild, which provided the effective civic government of Lichfield. He remodelled the buildings for his own domestic use.

Ruins in a garden

The ‘Bishop’s Lodging’ was one of the few friary buildings to survive the Dissolution (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In 1920, the 11 acres of the Friary estate that remained were bought by Sir Richard Ashmole Cooper, MP for Walsall. Cooper gave the Friary to the city to develop housing and to lay out new roads and suburbs.

The Library was built as the Friary Girls’ School in 1921 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

When the new Friary Girls’ School was built in 1921, the Bishop’s Lodging was incorporated into the south-west of the building. In 1928, a new road named ‘The Friary’ was built across the former site. In building the road, a clock tower was relocated, and much of the west range of the remaining friary buildings was demolished.

The site of former friary church was threatened with development in 1933. But an archaeological dig showed the extent and layout of the ruins, and the site eventually became a Scheduled Ancient Monument, preventing any further development.

A classical style portico became the entrance to the friary ruins in 1937 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A classical style portico from Sir Richard Cooper’s home at Shenstone Court was set up in 1937 to frame the entrance to the excavated ruins. The site is now a public garden and the slabs showing the layout of the walls of the cloister can be seen on the ground as well as parts of the north wall of the nave.

Across the street, The Bishop’s Lodging was the only part of the original Friary that survived. The Friary School moved to the north side of Lichfield in 1975 and the building became Lichfield Library. Now the Library is about to move, and the Friary School building and the Bishop’s Lodging are being converted into modern apartments, not without controversy. The memory of the Friary is still present in Lichfield today in names that include The Friary, Friary School, Friary Tennis Club and Friary Gardens.

The memory of the Friary is still present in street names in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

This feature was first published in April 2017 in the Church Review (Dublin and Glendalough) and the Diocesan Magazine (Cashel, Ferns and Ossory)

Passion Sunday and the final sign
in the last two weeks in Lent

‘Come out, Lazar’ … Paul Spicer and the Chapel Choir of Selwyn College, Cambridge

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 2 April 2017, the Fifth Sunday in Lent:

11.15 a.m.: Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, Tarbert, Co Kerry, the Parish Eucharist.

Readings: Ezekiel: 37: 1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8: 6-11; John 11: 1-45.

In the name of + the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Our Gospel reading this morning is one of the best-known passages in the Fourth Gospel for a number of reasons:

1, In the Authorised Version or King James Bible, once the most popular English-language version of the Bible, contains what is popularly known as the shortest verse in the Bible: ‘Jesus wept’ (verse 35). Later translations fail to provide the same dramatic impact as these crisp, short two words, ‘Jesus wept.’

2, The command, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ has given rise to a number of childish, schoolboy jokes about athletic performance and not even winning a bronze medal. There is hardly the same potential in the New Revised Standard Version where Jesus says: ‘Lazarus, come out!’

3, Lazarus himself is an interesting dramatis persona. He is often confused with the Lazarus in Saint Luke’s Gospel, the poor man at the gate, who is the only character to be named in any of the parables. But he has also given his name to hospitals and isolation units. He has inspired a corpus of mediaeval songs and poetry. More recently, he inspired Paul Spicer’s great modern composition, Come out, Lazar, commissioned by Bishop Tom Wright when he was the Dean of Lichfield Cathedral.

It is difficult to consider any Gospel story without bringing to it a whole repository of cultural baggage. But the first readers of this story in the Early Church also had their expectations, built up slowly but thoughtfully, with care and with dramatic intent.

The name Lazarus means ‘God helps,’ the Greek Λάζαρος (Lazaros) being derived from the Hebrew Eleazar, ‘God’s assistance,’ or: ‘God has helped.’ So, already the name of the principal character in this story introduces us to expectations of God’s actions, God’s deliverance.

Jesus tarries. He waits four days – like the children of Israel wait 40 years in the wilderness before reaching the climax of their liberation.

But then this is an Exodus story. Lazarus is called forth with the word: Exo (ἔξω), and he goes out (ἐξῆλθεν, exelthen, verse 44). Exodus leads to true liberation, to the fulfilment of God’s promise. And so, when Christ commands the onlookers to ‘let him go!’ (verse 44), it has the same force as Moses telling Pharaoh: ‘Let my people go!’ (see Exodus 9: 1, &c).

Jesus tarries. He waits four days – like the 40 days he spent in the wilderness. He resists the temptation to be merely a miracle worker, to put on a show, to convince by sleight of hand.

But when Christ calls for the rock to be rolled back, like the rock that is struck in the wilderness, new life comes forth.

And so this morning, I want to look at this Gospel story and to ask three questions:

1, What is unique about this story?

2, Why do we have this story at this time in Lent?

3, What does it say about Christ, and his call to us?

1, So, what is unique about this story?

This story is not in the other three Gospels. In the Gospel according to Saint John, the raising of Lazarus from the dead is the last – and the greatest – of the seven Signs performed by Christ.

This seventh Sign is the crowning miracle or Sign in Saint John’s Gospel, what John Marsh calls the crux interpretationis of the whole Gospel, for it reveals Christ as the giver of life, holding together his two natures, his humanity and his divinity.

And this reading also contains the fifth of Christ’s ‘I AM’ sayings in this Gospel: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live’ (John 11: 25).

2, Then, why do we have this story at this time in Lent?

Today, the Fifth Sunday in Lent, is known in traditional Anglican calendars as Passion Sunday and marks the beginning of Passiontide, the final two weeks in Lent.

Next Saturday – the Saturday before Palm Sunday – is known in the Orthodox Church as Lazarus Saturday, with Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday marked as days of joy and triumph between the penitence of Great Lent and the mourning of Holy Week, but looking forward to Christ’s resurrection on Easter Day.

This Sign is the Sign that precipitates the death of Jesus, for this is the Sign that convinces the religious leaders in Jerusalem that they must get rid of Jesus.

And so, the raising of Lazarus from the dead by Christ is an appropriate Sign to recall as a prelude to Holy Week, as a prelude to our preparations for the climax of Lent and to mark the death and resurrection of Christ.

3, What does it say about Christ, and his call to us?

This seventh Sign holds together the two natures of Christ, his humanity and his divinity.

It shows his humanity as he weeps at the death of his friend and asks: ‘Where have you laid him?’ (verse 35).

Jesus loved Lazarus, who had died in Bethany. When he is told of his death, his response is enigmatic (verse 4). But the tenderness he shows counters any possibility of a harsh interpretation of that reply – Jesus loves … he loves Mary, he loves Martha, he loves Lazarus … he loves you, he loves me.

And we have a revelation of Christ’s divinity. In him we see the love of God, the tender love of God. And he alone can command Lazarus to come forth from the dead (verse 43).

Humanity and divinity. The death, burial and shroud of Lazarus represent our own sinful state. And the raising of Lazarus is a foreshadowing of the Resurrection of Christ and of the General Resurrection.

Here too we engage with two recurring Johannine themes. There is the contrast between light and dark, a theme in recent weeks, as in the stories about Nicodemus and the blind man healed at the pool of Siloam.

And there is the contrast between seeing and believing. Think of Thomas’s apparent faith at this point, how it turns to folly, anticipating the drama in Bethany but not yet having seen for himself that Lazarus is dead (verse 16). And compare this with his refusal later to believe that Christ is risen from the dead until he sees for himself after the Resurrection (John 20: 24-25).

Or compare Thomas’s reluctant faith after the Resurrection, with Martha’s trusting faith after the death of her brother.

Martha addresses Christ twice as ‘Lord’ (verses 21, 27). But she then uses three distinct titles in affirming her faith in Christ.

Her confession of faith before Lazarus is raised from the dead is an unconditional faith: ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world’ (verse 27). It is like Mary’s ecstatic confession to the disciples after meeting the Risen Christ in the Garden on Easter morning: ‘I have seen the Lord’ (John 20: 18). It is the promise at the very end of the Book of Revelation: ‘Surely I am coming.’ Amen. Come Lord Jesus (Revelation 22: 20).

When Martha then speaks of Christ as the Teacher (verse 28), she is using the same title Mary uses when she speaks to him on Easter morning, ‘Rabbouni! … Teacher’ (John 20: 16).

When Jesus asks: ‘Where have you laid him?’ (verse 34), he uses the same phrase used by the women at the empty tomb on Easter morning (John 20: 2), the same phrase Mary uses when she approaches Jesus in the garden (John 20: 13).

Martha’s free confession, her unconditional faith, her passion, are so unlike Thomas’s confession of faith, which only comes after he gets to see what he demands, even if eventually he confesses: ‘My Lord and my God’ (John 20: 28).

Martha moves beyond personal interest in seeking for her brother; now she moves beyond even that wider but limited circle of want and need to accepting God’s will.

Do we believe because God answers our shopping-list requests for favours?

Or do we believe because of the totality of God’s liberating acts, God’s loving acts, God’s faithful acts for us?

Do we set conditions and terms for our belief, our faith, our commitment?

Death was not the end for Lazarus … this time around. There is no further mention of him in the Bible. His first tomb in Bethany remains empty. According to tradition, he was 30 years old when he was raised from the dead. But, of course, he had to die a second (and final) time. And, at that death, it is said, Lazarus was buried in Larnaka in Cyprus.

Death comes to us all. We all end in the grave. No miracles, no wishing, no praying, can avoid that inevitability. So what was wrong with the fact that Lazarus had died? That he was too young? We will all find when death comes that we are too young.

Perhaps what the Gospel writer is saying here, in a deep and profound way, is that death without the comfort of knowing the presence of Christ is distressing for anyone who seeks to be a follower of Christ.

In the Litany, which is used less-and-less frequently in the Church of Ireland, we are invited to pray: ‘from dying unprepared, save us, good Lord’ (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 175). For we know that death is not the end. In his death, Christ breaks through the barriers of time and space, bringing life to those who are dead. Those who hear the voice of Christ live.

I once interviewed Archbishop Desmond Tutu and asked him about the death threats he faced in South Africa at the height of apartheid. He engaged me with that look that confirmed his deep hope, commitment and faith, and said: ‘But you know, death is not the worst thing that could happen to a Christian.’

When Christ looks up and says: ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me,’ the Greek conveys more of the prayerful action that is taking place: And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Πάτερ, εὐχαριστῶ σοι’ (Páter, efcharisto soi, ‘Father, I am giving thanks to you’). Lifting up his eyes is a prayerful action in itself, and combined with his giving thanks to the Father has actions and words that convey Eucharistic resonances.

Comfort for the living, comfort for the dying and comfort for those who mourn.

In our Eucharist this morning, we remember not just Christ’s passion and death, but also his Resurrection, and we look for his coming again.

Christ in his life points us to what it is to be truly human. In the grave, he proves he is truly human. He has died. He is dead. Yet, unlike Lazarus the beggar, he can bridge the gap between earth and heaven, even between hell and heaven. But, like Lazarus of Bethany, he too is raised from death not by human power but by the power of God.

‘But you know, death is not the worst thing that could happen to a Christian.’ We know this with confidence because of the death and resurrection of Christ. Death is not the end.

TS Eliot opens the third of his Four Quartets, East Coker, with the words:

In my beginning is my end.

But he concludes with these lines:

Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here and now does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petral and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.


Let us give thanks to God for life, for death, and for the coming fulfilment of Christ’s promises, which is the hope of the Resurrection, our Easter faith.

‘Surely I am coming.’ Amen. Come Lord Jesus (Revelation 22: 20).

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

‘In my beginning is my end’ (TS Eliot) ... a lake view on the Farnham Estate in Co Cavan (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Collect:

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 our Lord.

Post Communion Prayer:

God of hope,
in this Eucharist we have tasted
the promise of your heavenly banquet
and the richness of eternal life.
May we who bear witness to the death of your Son,
also proclaim the glory of his resurrection,
for he is Lord for ever and ever.

Evening lights after sunset at Stowe Pool and Lichfield Cathedral … the contrast between light and dark is a theme throughout Saint John’s Gospel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 11: 1-45

1 ἦν δέ τις ἀσθενῶν, Λάζαρος ἀπὸ Βηθανίας, ἐκ τῆς κώμης Μαρίας καὶ Μάρθας τῆς ἀδελφῆς αὐτῆς. 2 ἦν δὲ Μαριὰμ ἡ ἀλείψασα τὸν κύριον μύρῳ καὶ ἐκμάξασα τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ ταῖς θριξὶν αὐτῆς, ἧς ὁ ἀδελφὸς Λάζαρος ἠσθένει. 3 ἀπέστειλαν οὖν αἱ ἀδελφαὶ πρὸς αὐτὸν λέγουσαι, Κύριε, ἴδε ὃν φιλεῖς ἀσθενεῖ. 4 ἀκούσας δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Αὕτη ἡ ἀσθένεια οὐκ ἔστιν πρὸς θάνατον ἀλλ' ὑπὲρ τῆς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ, ἵνα δοξασθῇ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ δι' αὐτῆς. 5 ἠγάπα δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς τὴν Μάρθαν καὶ τὴν ἀδελφὴν αὐτῆς καὶ τὸν Λάζαρον. 6 ὡς οὖν ἤκουσεν ὅτι ἀσθενεῖ, τότε μὲν ἔμεινεν ἐν ᾧ ἦν τόπῳ δύο ἡμέρας:

7 ἔπειτα μετὰ τοῦτο λέγει τοῖς μαθηταῖς, Ἄγωμεν εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν πάλιν. 8 λέγουσιν αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταί, Ῥαββί, νῦν ἐζήτουν σε λιθάσαι οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι, καὶ πάλιν ὑπάγεις ἐκεῖ; 9 ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς, Οὐχὶ δώδεκα ὧραί εἰσιν τῆς ἡμέρας; ἐάν τις περιπατῇ ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ, οὐ προσκόπτει, ὅτι τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου τούτου βλέπει: 10 ἐὰν δέ τις περιπατῇ ἐν τῇ νυκτί, προσκόπτει, ὅτι τὸ φῶς οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν αὐτῷ.11 ταῦτα εἶπεν, καὶ μετὰ τοῦτο λέγει αὐτοῖς, Λάζαρος ὁ φίλος ἡμῶν κεκοίμηται, ἀλλὰ πορεύομαι ἵνα ἐξυπνίσω αὐτόν. 12 εἶπαν οὖν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτῷ, Κύριε, εἰ κεκοίμηται σωθήσεται. 13 εἰρήκει δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς περὶ τοῦ θανάτου αὐτοῦ. ἐκεῖνοι δὲ ἔδοξαν ὅτι περὶ τῆς κοιμήσεως τοῦ ὕπνου λέγει. 14 τότε οὖν εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς παρρησίᾳ, Λάζαρος ἀπέθανεν, 15 καὶ χαίρω δι' ὑμᾶς, ἵνα πιστεύσητε, ὅτι οὐκ ἤμην ἐκεῖ: ἀλλὰ ἄγωμεν πρὸς αὐτόν. 16 εἶπεν οὖν Θωμᾶς ὁ λεγόμενος Δίδυμος τοῖς συμμαθηταῖς, Ἄγωμεν καὶ ἡμεῖς ἵνα ἀποθάνωμεν μετ' αὐτοῦ.

17 Ἐλθὼν οὖν ὁ Ἰησοῦς εὗρεν αὐτὸν τέσσαρας ἤδη ἡμέρας ἔχοντα ἐν τῷ μνημείῳ.18 ἦν δὲ ἡ Βηθανία ἐγγὺς τῶν Ἱεροσολύμων ὡς ἀπὸ σταδίων δεκαπέντε. 19 πολλοὶ δὲ ἐκ τῶν Ἰουδαίων ἐληλύθεισαν πρὸς τὴν Μάρθαν καὶ Μαριὰμ ἵνα παραμυθήσωνται αὐτὰς περὶ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ. 20 ἡ οὖν Μάρθα ὡς ἤκουσεν ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἔρχεται ὑπήντησεν αὐτῷ: Μαριὰμ δὲ ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ ἐκαθέζετο. 21 εἶπεν οὖν ἡ Μάρθα πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν, Κύριε, εἰ ἦς ὧδε οὐκ ἂν ἀπέθανεν ὁ ἀδελφός μου: 22 [ἀλλὰ] καὶ νῦν οἶδα ὅτι ὅσαἂν αἰτήσῃ τὸν θεὸν δώσει σοι ὁ θεός. 23 λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Ἀναστήσεται ὁ ἀδελφός σου. 24 λέγει αὐτῷ ἡ Μάρθα, Οἶδα ὅτι ἀναστήσεται ἐν τῇ ἀναστάσει ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ. 25 εἶπεν αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἀνάστασις καὶ ἡ ζωή: ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμὲ κἂν ἀποθάνῃ ζήσεται, 26 καὶ πᾶς ὁ ζῶν καὶ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμὲ οὐ μὴ ἀποθάνῃ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα: πιστεύεις τοῦτο; 27 λέγει αὐτῷ, Ναί κύριε: ἐγὼ πεπίστευκα ὅτι σὺ εἶ ὁ Χριστὸς ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ὁ εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἐρχόμενος.

28 Καὶ τοῦτο εἰποῦσα ἀπῆλθεν καὶ ἐφώνησεν Μαριὰμ τὴν ἀδελφὴν αὐτῆς λάθρᾳ εἰποῦσα, Ὁ διδάσκαλος πάρεστιν καὶ φωνεῖ σε. 29 ἐκείνη δὲ ὡς ἤκουσεν ἠγέρθη ταχὺ καὶ ἤρχετο πρὸς αὐτόν: 30 οὔπω δὲ ἐληλύθει ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἰς τὴν κώμην, ἀλλ' ἦν ἔτι ἐν τῷ τόπῳ ὅπου ὑπήντησεν αὐτῷ ἡ Μάρθα. 31 οἱ οὖν Ἰουδαῖοι οἱ ὄντες μετῇ αὐτῆς ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ καὶ παραμυθούμενοι αὐτήν, ἰδόντες τὴν Μαριὰμ ὅτι ταχέως ἀνέστη καὶ ἐξῆλθεν, ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῇ, δόξαντες ὅτι ὑπάγει εἰς τὸ μνημεῖον ἵνα κλαύσῃ ἐκεῖ. 32 ἡ οὖν Μαριὰμ ὡς ἦλθεν ὅπου ἦν Ἰησοῦς ἰδοῦσα αὐτὸν ἔπεσεν αὐτοῦ πρὸς τοὺς πόδας λέγουσα αὐτῷ, Κύριε, εἰ ἦς ὧδε οὐκ ἄν μου ἀπέθανεν ὁ ἀδελφός. 33 Ἰησοῦς οὖν ὡς εἶδεν αὐτὴν κλαίουσαν καὶ τοὺς συνελθόντας αὐτῇ Ἰουδαίους κλαίοντας, ἐνεβριμήσατο τῷ πνεύματι καὶ ἐτάραξεν ἑαυτόν, 34 καὶ εἶπεν, Ποῦ τεθείκατε αὐτόν; λέγουσιν αὐτῷ, Κύριε, ἔρχου καὶ ἴδε. 35 ἐδάκρυσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς. 36 ἔλεγον οὖν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι, Ἴδε πῶς ἐφίλει αὐτόν. 37 τινὲς δὲ ἐξ αὐτῶν εἶπαν, Οὐκ ἐδύνατο οὗτος ὁ ἀνοίξας τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς τοῦ τυφλοῦ ποιῆσαι ἵνα καὶ οὗτος μὴ ἀποθάνῃ;

38 Ἰησοῦς οὖν πάλιν ἐμβριμώμενος ἐν ἑαυτῷ ἔρχεται εἰς τὸ μνημεῖον: ἦν δὲ σπήλαιον, καὶ λίθος ἐπέκειτο ἐπ' αὐτῷ. 39 λέγει ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Ἄρατε τὸν λίθον. λέγει αὐτῷ ἡ ἀδελφὴ τοῦ τετελευτηκότος Μάρθα, Κύριε, ἤδη ὄζει, τεταρταῖος γάρ ἐστιν. 40 λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Οὐκ εἶπόν σοι ὅτι ἐὰν πιστεύσῃς ὄψῃ τὴν δόξαν τοῦ θεοῦ; 41 ἦραν οὖν τὸν λίθον. ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἦρεν τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ἄνω καὶ εἶπεν, Πάτερ, εὐχαριστῶ σοι ὅτι ἤκουσάς μου. 42 ἐγὼ δὲ ᾔδειν ὅτι πάντοτέ μου ἀκούεις: ἀλλὰ διὰ τὸν ὄχλον τὸν περιεστῶτα εἶπον, ἵνα πιστεύσωσιν ὅτι σύ με ἀπέστειλας. 43 καὶ ταῦτα εἰπὼν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ ἐκραύγασεν, Λάζαρε, δεῦρο ἔξω. 44 ἐξῆλθεν ὁ τεθνηκὼς δεδεμένος τοὺς πόδας καὶ τὰς χεῖρας κειρίαις, καὶ ἡ ὄψις αὐτοῦ σουδαρίῳ περιεδέδετο. λέγει αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Λύσατε αὐτὸν καὶ ἄφετε αὐτὸν ὑπάγειν.

45 Πολλοὶ οὖν ἐκ τῶν Ἰουδαίων, οἱ ἐλθόντες πρὸς τὴν Μαριὰμ καὶ θεασάμενοι ἃ ἐποίησεν, ἐπίστευσαν εἰς αὐτόν.

Translation (NRSV):

1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ 4 But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ 5 Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, 6 after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

7 Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ 8 The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’ 9 Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10 But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’ 11 After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’ 12 The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ 13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. 15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ 16 Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ 23 Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ 24 Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ 25 Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ 27 She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’

28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ 37 But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’

38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’ 40 Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew 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.’ 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This sermon was prepared for Sunday 2 April 2017.

Dying with Lazarus and rising
with Christ on Passion Sunday

The Raising of Lazarus by Duccio di Buoninsegna (ca 1260-1318), Kimbell Art Museum

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 2 April 2017, the Fifth Sunday in Lent:

9.45 a.m.: Saint Mary’s Church Askeaton, Co Limerick, the Parish Eucharist.

Readings: Ezekiel: 37: 1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8: 6-11; John 11: 1-45.

In the name of + the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Our Gospel reading this morning is one of the best-known passages in the Fourth Gospel for a number of reasons:

1, In the Authorised Version or King James Bible, once the most popular English-language version of the Bible, contains what is popularly known as the shortest verse in the Bible: ‘Jesus wept’ (verse 35). Later translations fail to provide the same dramatic impact as these crisp, short two words, ‘Jesus wept.’

2, The command, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ has given rise to a number of childish, schoolboy jokes about athletic performance and not even winning a bronze medal. There is hardly the same potential in the New Revised Standard Version where Jesus says: ‘Lazarus, come out!’

3, Lazarus himself is an interesting dramatis persona. He is often confused with the Lazarus in Saint Luke’s Gospel, the poor man at the gate, who is the only character to be named in any of the parables. But he has also given his name to hospitals and isolation units. He has inspired a corpus of mediaeval songs and poetry. More recently, he inspired Paul Spicer’s great modern composition, Come out, Lazar, commissioned by Bishop Tom Wright when he was the Dean of Lichfield Cathedral.

It is difficult to consider any Gospel story without bringing to it a whole repository of cultural baggage. But the first readers of this story in the Early Church also had their expectations, built up slowly but thoughtfully, with care and with dramatic intent.

The name Lazarus means ‘God helps,’ the Greek Λάζαρος (Lazaros) being derived from the Hebrew Eleazar, ‘God’s assistance,’ or: ‘God has helped.’ So, already the name of the principal character in this story introduces us to expectations of God’s actions, God’s deliverance.

Jesus tarries. He waits four days – like the children of Israel wait 40 years in the wilderness before reaching the climax of their liberation.

But then this is an Exodus story. Lazarus is called forth with the word: Exo (ἔξω), and he goes out (ἐξῆλθεν, exelthen, verse 44). Exodus leads to true liberation, to the fulfilment of God’s promise. And so, when Christ commands the onlookers to ‘let him go!’ (verse 44), it has the same force as Moses telling Pharaoh: ‘Let my people go!’ (see Exodus 9: 1, &c).

Jesus tarries. He waits four days – like the 40 days he spent in the wilderness. He resists the temptation to be merely a miracle worker, to put on a show, to convince by sleight of hand.

But when Christ calls for the rock to be rolled back, like the rock that is struck in the wilderness, new life comes forth.

And so this morning, I want to look at this Gospel story and to ask three questions:

1, What is unique about this story?

2, Why do we have this story at this time in Lent?

3, What does it say about Christ, and his call to us?

1, So, what is unique about this story?

This story is not in the other three Gospels. In the Gospel according to Saint John, the raising of Lazarus from the dead is the last – and the greatest – of the seven Signs performed by Christ.

This seventh Sign is the crowning miracle or Sign in Saint John’s Gospel, what John Marsh calls the crux interpretationis of the whole Gospel, for it reveals Christ as the giver of life, holding together his two natures, his humanity and his divinity.

And this reading also contains the fifth of Christ’s ‘I AM’ sayings in this Gospel: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live’ (John 11: 25).

2, Then, why do we have this story at this time in Lent?

Today, the Fifth Sunday in Lent, is known in traditional Anglican calendars as Passion Sunday and marks the beginning of Passiontide, the final two weeks in Lent.

Next Saturday – the Saturday before Palm Sunday – is known in the Orthodox Church as Lazarus Saturday, with Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday marked as days of joy and triumph between the penitence of Great Lent and the mourning of Holy Week, but looking forward to Christ’s resurrection on Easter Day.

This Sign is the Sign that precipitates the death of Jesus, for this is the Sign that convinces the religious leaders in Jerusalem that they must get rid of Jesus.

And so, the raising of Lazarus from the dead by Christ is an appropriate Sign to recall as a prelude to Holy Week, as a prelude to our preparations for the climax of Lent and to mark the death and resurrection of Christ.

3, What does it say about Christ, and his call to us?

This seventh Sign holds together the two natures of Christ, his humanity and his divinity.

It shows his humanity as he weeps at the death of his friend and asks: ‘Where have you laid him?’ (verse 35).

Jesus loved Lazarus, who had died in Bethany. When he is told of his death, his response is enigmatic (verse 4). But the tenderness he shows counters any possibility of a harsh interpretation of that reply – Jesus loves … he loves Mary, he loves Martha, he loves Lazarus … he loves you, he loves me.

And we have a revelation of Christ’s divinity. In him we see the love of God, the tender love of God. And he alone can command Lazarus to come forth from the dead (verse 43).

Humanity and divinity. The death, burial and shroud of Lazarus represent our own sinful state. And the raising of Lazarus is a foreshadowing of the Resurrection of Christ and of the General Resurrection.

Here too we engage with two recurring Johannine themes. There is the contrast between light and dark, a theme in recent weeks, as in the stories about Nicodemus and the blind man healed at the pool of Siloam.

And there is the contrast between seeing and believing. Think of Thomas’s apparent faith at this point, how it turns to folly, anticipating the drama in Bethany but not yet having seen for himself that Lazarus is dead (verse 16). And compare this with his refusal later to believe that Christ is risen from the dead until he sees for himself after the Resurrection (John 20: 24-25).

Or compare Thomas’s reluctant faith after the Resurrection, with Martha’s trusting faith after the death of her brother.

Martha addresses Christ twice as ‘Lord’ (verses 21, 27). But she then uses three distinct titles in affirming her faith in Christ.

Her confession of faith before Lazarus is raised from the dead is an unconditional faith: ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world’ (verse 27). It is like Mary’s ecstatic confession to the disciples after meeting the Risen Christ in the Garden on Easter morning: ‘I have seen the Lord’ (John 20: 18). It is the promise at the very end of the Book of Revelation: ‘Surely I am coming.’ Amen. Come Lord Jesus (Revelation 22: 20).

When Martha then speaks of Christ as the Teacher (verse 28), she is using the same title Mary uses when she speaks to him on Easter morning, ‘Rabbouni! … Teacher’ (John 20: 16).

When Jesus asks: ‘Where have you laid him?’ (verse 34), he uses the same phrase used by the women at the empty tomb on Easter morning (John 20: 2), the same phrase Mary uses when she approaches Jesus in the garden (John 20: 13).

Martha’s free confession, her unconditional faith, her passion, are so unlike Thomas’s confession of faith, which only comes after he gets to see what he demands, even if eventually he confesses: ‘My Lord and my God’ (John 20: 28).

Martha moves beyond personal interest in seeking for her brother; now she moves beyond even that wider but limited circle of want and need to accepting God’s will.

Do we believe because God answers our shopping-list requests for favours?

Or do we believe because of the totality of God’s liberating acts, God’s loving acts, God’s faithful acts for us?

Do we set conditions and terms for our belief, our faith, our commitment?

Death was not the end for Lazarus … this time around. There is no further mention of him in the Bible. His first tomb in Bethany remains empty. According to tradition, he was 30 years old when he was raised from the dead. But, of course, he had to die a second (and final) time. And, at that death, it is said, Lazarus was buried in Larnaka in Cyprus.

Death comes to us all. We all end in the grave. No miracles, no wishing, no praying, can avoid that inevitability. So what was wrong with the fact that Lazarus had died? That he was too young? We will all find when death comes that we are too young.

Perhaps what the Gospel writer is saying here, in a deep and profound way, is that death without the comfort of knowing the presence of Christ is distressing for anyone who seeks to be a follower of Christ.

In the Litany, which is used less-and-less frequently in the Church of Ireland, we are invited to pray: ‘from dying unprepared, save us, good Lord’ (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 175). For we know that death is not the end. In his death, Christ breaks through the barriers of time and space, bringing life to those who are dead. Those who hear the voice of Christ live.

I once interviewed Archbishop Desmond Tutu and asked him about the death threats he faced in South Africa at the height of apartheid. He engaged me with that look that confirmed his deep hope, commitment and faith, and said: ‘But you know, death is not the worst thing that could happen to a Christian.’

When Christ looks up and says: ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me,’ the Greek conveys more of the prayerful action that is taking place: And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Πάτερ, εὐχαριστῶ σοι’ (Páter, efcharisto soi, ‘Father, I am giving thanks to you’). Lifting up his eyes is a prayerful action in itself, and combined with his giving thanks to the Father has actions and words that convey Eucharistic resonances.

Comfort for the living, comfort for the dying and comfort for those who mourn.

In our Eucharist this morning, we remember not just Christ’s passion and death, but also his Resurrection, and we look for his coming again.

Christ in his life points us to what it is to be truly human. In the grave, he proves he is truly human. He has died. He is dead. Yet, unlike Lazarus the beggar, he can bridge the gap between earth and heaven, even between hell and heaven. But, like Lazarus of Bethany, he too is raised from death not by human power but by the power of God.

‘But you know, death is not the worst thing that could happen to a Christian.’ We know this with confidence because of the death and resurrection of Christ. Death is not the end.

TS Eliot opens the third of his Four Quartets, East Coker, with the words:

In my beginning is my end.

But he concludes with these lines:

Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here and now does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petral and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.


Let us give thanks to God for life, for death, and for the coming fulfilment of Christ’s promises, which is the hope of the Resurrection, our Easter faith.

‘Surely I am coming.’ Amen. Come Lord Jesus (Revelation 22: 20).

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

‘In my beginning is my end’ (TS Eliot) ... a lake view on the Farnham Estate in Co Cavan (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Collect:

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 our Lord.

Post Communion Prayer:

God of hope,
in this Eucharist we have tasted
the promise of your heavenly banquet
and the richness of eternal life.
May we who bear witness to the death of your Son,
also proclaim the glory of his resurrection,
for he is Lord for ever and ever.

Evening lights after sunset at Stowe Pool and Lichfield Cathedral … the contrast between light and dark is a theme throughout Saint John’s Gospel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 11: 1-45

1 ἦν δέ τις ἀσθενῶν, Λάζαρος ἀπὸ Βηθανίας, ἐκ τῆς κώμης Μαρίας καὶ Μάρθας τῆς ἀδελφῆς αὐτῆς. 2 ἦν δὲ Μαριὰμ ἡ ἀλείψασα τὸν κύριον μύρῳ καὶ ἐκμάξασα τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ ταῖς θριξὶν αὐτῆς, ἧς ὁ ἀδελφὸς Λάζαρος ἠσθένει. 3 ἀπέστειλαν οὖν αἱ ἀδελφαὶ πρὸς αὐτὸν λέγουσαι, Κύριε, ἴδε ὃν φιλεῖς ἀσθενεῖ. 4 ἀκούσας δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν, Αὕτη ἡ ἀσθένεια οὐκ ἔστιν πρὸς θάνατον ἀλλ' ὑπὲρ τῆς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ, ἵνα δοξασθῇ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ δι' αὐτῆς. 5 ἠγάπα δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς τὴν Μάρθαν καὶ τὴν ἀδελφὴν αὐτῆς καὶ τὸν Λάζαρον. 6 ὡς οὖν ἤκουσεν ὅτι ἀσθενεῖ, τότε μὲν ἔμεινεν ἐν ᾧ ἦν τόπῳ δύο ἡμέρας:

7 ἔπειτα μετὰ τοῦτο λέγει τοῖς μαθηταῖς, Ἄγωμεν εἰς τὴν Ἰουδαίαν πάλιν. 8 λέγουσιν αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταί, Ῥαββί, νῦν ἐζήτουν σε λιθάσαι οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι, καὶ πάλιν ὑπάγεις ἐκεῖ; 9 ἀπεκρίθη Ἰησοῦς, Οὐχὶ δώδεκα ὧραί εἰσιν τῆς ἡμέρας; ἐάν τις περιπατῇ ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ, οὐ προσκόπτει, ὅτι τὸ φῶς τοῦ κόσμου τούτου βλέπει: 10 ἐὰν δέ τις περιπατῇ ἐν τῇ νυκτί, προσκόπτει, ὅτι τὸ φῶς οὐκ ἔστιν ἐν αὐτῷ.11 ταῦτα εἶπεν, καὶ μετὰ τοῦτο λέγει αὐτοῖς, Λάζαρος ὁ φίλος ἡμῶν κεκοίμηται, ἀλλὰ πορεύομαι ἵνα ἐξυπνίσω αὐτόν. 12 εἶπαν οὖν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτῷ, Κύριε, εἰ κεκοίμηται σωθήσεται. 13 εἰρήκει δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς περὶ τοῦ θανάτου αὐτοῦ. ἐκεῖνοι δὲ ἔδοξαν ὅτι περὶ τῆς κοιμήσεως τοῦ ὕπνου λέγει. 14 τότε οὖν εἶπεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς παρρησίᾳ, Λάζαρος ἀπέθανεν, 15 καὶ χαίρω δι' ὑμᾶς, ἵνα πιστεύσητε, ὅτι οὐκ ἤμην ἐκεῖ: ἀλλὰ ἄγωμεν πρὸς αὐτόν. 16 εἶπεν οὖν Θωμᾶς ὁ λεγόμενος Δίδυμος τοῖς συμμαθηταῖς, Ἄγωμεν καὶ ἡμεῖς ἵνα ἀποθάνωμεν μετ' αὐτοῦ.

17 Ἐλθὼν οὖν ὁ Ἰησοῦς εὗρεν αὐτὸν τέσσαρας ἤδη ἡμέρας ἔχοντα ἐν τῷ μνημείῳ.18 ἦν δὲ ἡ Βηθανία ἐγγὺς τῶν Ἱεροσολύμων ὡς ἀπὸ σταδίων δεκαπέντε. 19 πολλοὶ δὲ ἐκ τῶν Ἰουδαίων ἐληλύθεισαν πρὸς τὴν Μάρθαν καὶ Μαριὰμ ἵνα παραμυθήσωνται αὐτὰς περὶ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ. 20 ἡ οὖν Μάρθα ὡς ἤκουσεν ὅτι Ἰησοῦς ἔρχεται ὑπήντησεν αὐτῷ: Μαριὰμ δὲ ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ ἐκαθέζετο. 21 εἶπεν οὖν ἡ Μάρθα πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν, Κύριε, εἰ ἦς ὧδε οὐκ ἂν ἀπέθανεν ὁ ἀδελφός μου: 22 [ἀλλὰ] καὶ νῦν οἶδα ὅτι ὅσαἂν αἰτήσῃ τὸν θεὸν δώσει σοι ὁ θεός. 23 λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Ἀναστήσεται ὁ ἀδελφός σου. 24 λέγει αὐτῷ ἡ Μάρθα, Οἶδα ὅτι ἀναστήσεται ἐν τῇ ἀναστάσει ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ. 25 εἶπεν αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ἀνάστασις καὶ ἡ ζωή: ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμὲ κἂν ἀποθάνῃ ζήσεται, 26 καὶ πᾶς ὁ ζῶν καὶ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμὲ οὐ μὴ ἀποθάνῃ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα: πιστεύεις τοῦτο; 27 λέγει αὐτῷ, Ναί κύριε: ἐγὼ πεπίστευκα ὅτι σὺ εἶ ὁ Χριστὸς ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ ὁ εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἐρχόμενος.

28 Καὶ τοῦτο εἰποῦσα ἀπῆλθεν καὶ ἐφώνησεν Μαριὰμ τὴν ἀδελφὴν αὐτῆς λάθρᾳ εἰποῦσα, Ὁ διδάσκαλος πάρεστιν καὶ φωνεῖ σε. 29 ἐκείνη δὲ ὡς ἤκουσεν ἠγέρθη ταχὺ καὶ ἤρχετο πρὸς αὐτόν: 30 οὔπω δὲ ἐληλύθει ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἰς τὴν κώμην, ἀλλ' ἦν ἔτι ἐν τῷ τόπῳ ὅπου ὑπήντησεν αὐτῷ ἡ Μάρθα. 31 οἱ οὖν Ἰουδαῖοι οἱ ὄντες μετῇ αὐτῆς ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ καὶ παραμυθούμενοι αὐτήν, ἰδόντες τὴν Μαριὰμ ὅτι ταχέως ἀνέστη καὶ ἐξῆλθεν, ἠκολούθησαν αὐτῇ, δόξαντες ὅτι ὑπάγει εἰς τὸ μνημεῖον ἵνα κλαύσῃ ἐκεῖ. 32 ἡ οὖν Μαριὰμ ὡς ἦλθεν ὅπου ἦν Ἰησοῦς ἰδοῦσα αὐτὸν ἔπεσεν αὐτοῦ πρὸς τοὺς πόδας λέγουσα αὐτῷ, Κύριε, εἰ ἦς ὧδε οὐκ ἄν μου ἀπέθανεν ὁ ἀδελφός. 33 Ἰησοῦς οὖν ὡς εἶδεν αὐτὴν κλαίουσαν καὶ τοὺς συνελθόντας αὐτῇ Ἰουδαίους κλαίοντας, ἐνεβριμήσατο τῷ πνεύματι καὶ ἐτάραξεν ἑαυτόν, 34 καὶ εἶπεν, Ποῦ τεθείκατε αὐτόν; λέγουσιν αὐτῷ, Κύριε, ἔρχου καὶ ἴδε. 35 ἐδάκρυσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς. 36 ἔλεγον οὖν οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι, Ἴδε πῶς ἐφίλει αὐτόν. 37 τινὲς δὲ ἐξ αὐτῶν εἶπαν, Οὐκ ἐδύνατο οὗτος ὁ ἀνοίξας τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς τοῦ τυφλοῦ ποιῆσαι ἵνα καὶ οὗτος μὴ ἀποθάνῃ;

38 Ἰησοῦς οὖν πάλιν ἐμβριμώμενος ἐν ἑαυτῷ ἔρχεται εἰς τὸ μνημεῖον: ἦν δὲ σπήλαιον, καὶ λίθος ἐπέκειτο ἐπ' αὐτῷ. 39 λέγει ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Ἄρατε τὸν λίθον. λέγει αὐτῷ ἡ ἀδελφὴ τοῦ τετελευτηκότος Μάρθα, Κύριε, ἤδη ὄζει, τεταρταῖος γάρ ἐστιν. 40 λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Οὐκ εἶπόν σοι ὅτι ἐὰν πιστεύσῃς ὄψῃ τὴν δόξαν τοῦ θεοῦ; 41 ἦραν οὖν τὸν λίθον. ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἦρεν τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ἄνω καὶ εἶπεν, Πάτερ, εὐχαριστῶ σοι ὅτι ἤκουσάς μου. 42 ἐγὼ δὲ ᾔδειν ὅτι πάντοτέ μου ἀκούεις: ἀλλὰ διὰ τὸν ὄχλον τὸν περιεστῶτα εἶπον, ἵνα πιστεύσωσιν ὅτι σύ με ἀπέστειλας. 43 καὶ ταῦτα εἰπὼν φωνῇ μεγάλῃ ἐκραύγασεν, Λάζαρε, δεῦρο ἔξω. 44 ἐξῆλθεν ὁ τεθνηκὼς δεδεμένος τοὺς πόδας καὶ τὰς χεῖρας κειρίαις, καὶ ἡ ὄψις αὐτοῦ σουδαρίῳ περιεδέδετο. λέγει αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Λύσατε αὐτὸν καὶ ἄφετε αὐτὸν ὑπάγειν.

45 Πολλοὶ οὖν ἐκ τῶν Ἰουδαίων, οἱ ἐλθόντες πρὸς τὴν Μαριὰμ καὶ θεασάμενοι ἃ ἐποίησεν, ἐπίστευσαν εἰς αὐτόν.

Translation (NRSV):

1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ 4 But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ 5 Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, 6 after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

7 Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ 8 The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’ 9 Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10 But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’ 11 After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’ 12 The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ 13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. 15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ 16 Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ 23 Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ 24 Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ 25 Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ 27 She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’

28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ 37 But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’

38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’ 40 Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew 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.’ 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This sermon was prepared for Sunday 2 April 2017.

Praying in Lent 2017 with USPG,
(36) Sunday 2 April 2017

Bishop Margaret Vertue of False Bay … ‘For me, discipleship means being anchored in the love of Christ, committed to God’s mission, and transformed by the Holy Spirit’

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Fifth Sunday in Lent, sometimes known as Passion Sunday, and these last two weeks in Lent are known as Passiontide.

This morning [2 April 2017] I am presiding at and preaching at the Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Church in Askeaton, Co Limerick, and Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, in Tarbert, Co Kerry. The lectionary readings are: Ezekiel: 37: 1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8: 6-11; John 11: 1-45.

I plan to reflect on the Gospel reading on the Raising of Lazarus from the dead and what it means as we move towards Good Friday next week and the joys of the Resurrection on Easter Day.

The Lent 2017 edition of the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) follows the theme of the USPG Lent study course, ‘Living an Authentic Life.’

I am using this Prayer Diary for my prayers and reflections each morning throughout Lent. Why not join me in these prayers and reflections, for just a few moments each morning?

In the articles and prayers in the prayer diary, USPG invites us to investigate what it means to be a disciple of Christ. The Lent study course, ‘Living an Authentic Life’ (available online or to order at www.uspg.org.uk/lent), explores the idea that discipleship and authenticity are connected.

This week, from today (2 April) until Saturday (8 April), the USPG Lent Prayer Diary is following the topic ‘Counting the Cost.’ The topic is introduced this morning in an article in the Prayer Diary by the Right Revd Margaret B Vertue, Bishop of False Bay Diocese, South Africa.

She writes:

Discipleship in South Africa is costly. We are called in the power of the Holy Spirit to proclaim Christ and the love of God for all people – black and white together – rich and poor together – straight and gay together – young and old together. We continue a long and painful struggle against oppression. We speak out strongly against those who abuse or misuse authority.

Violence and unemployment increase daily. We witness a growing discontent and anger among our young people. We hear the cries of children and mothers who are vulnerable to the evils of poverty and abuse.

In this context, the church endeavours to speak truth to power, provide a moral compass, and encourage the disheartened and marginalised. Our leaders seek truth, justice and fairness. Even when darkness and tragedy overwhelms us, we remember the joy of serving the Lord – we don’t give up hope, we pray that the light will shine again.

It is our prayer that the physical, psychological and spiritual needs of all people will be fulfilled every day. And we thank God for giving us a dignity that no-one can take away. For me, discipleship means being anchored in the love of Christ, committed to God’s mission, and transformed by the Holy Spirit.

Sunday 2 April 2017,

The Fifth Sunday in Lent :

Holy God, as we enter Passiontide today,
help us to walk alongside our brothers and sisters
who are marginalised, and work with them
to transform unjust structures of society
.

Collect:

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 our Lord.

Post Communion Prayer:

God of hope,
in this Eucharist we have tasted
the promise of your heavenly banquet
and the richness of eternal life.
May we who bear witness to the death of your Son,
also proclaim the glory of his resurrection,
for he is Lord for ever and ever.

Continued tomorrow.

Yesterday’s reflection.