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Up-to-the-minute jumping-off points for sermons, linking the reading to the latest news and global issues
Grieving with Jesus
Jesus meets us in our grief and leads us forwards with him (John 11:1-45).
Ideas for sermons or interactive talks
This week saw the third anniversary of the first lockdown due to the Covid pandemic. Cancer charity Marie Curie has organised events around the country to help people to mark and remember those who died during that time. That this is happening all around the country is an indicator that grief is not something that we process quickly. The loss of a loved one is a profound change in our lives and we find ourselves remembering them and grieving for them at unexpected moments months and years after they have gone. Today’s passage show’s Jesus’ compassion for his friends in their grief and that he shares it with them, weeping at the grave. Our faith reminds us that, not only is death not the end, but that Jesus is always there beside us in our grief.
Grief can be a powerful motivator for change. Both the family of Sarah Everard and the families that lost someone during the pandemic have taken their love for the person who has died and turned that into action for change. Boris Johnson has been consistently challenged by those who were restricted in their ability to see loved ones or to grieve with family under Covid restrictions who see his actions as betraying a double standard. The protests that followed Sarah Everard’s murder have led to this week’s report into failings at the Metropolitan police. Mary and Martha’s grief led them to greater clarity about who Jesus is and the power He holds. When we face grief we have the same opportunity to turn to Jesus and invite Him to lead us forwards in his ongoing work of bringing in God’s kingdom.
The series ‘Sort your life out’ sees BBC presenter Stacey Solomon meeting a family whose house is too full of things for them to live freely, emptying everything into a van and laying it out in a warehouse for the family to sort through. Each family is set the task of cutting the number of their possessions by at least half - either selling, donating or recycling the rest. With each family there is often a reason for their hoarding. It might be a childhood memory of being without which means that everything is saved and kept in case it is needed later. Other times it is because items carry emotional connection to someone who has passed away. In all cases, the possessions have become a weight in the family’s life, restricting what they can do and getting in the way of their time together. Jesus acknowledges the weight of Mary and Martha’s grief but doesn’t let them stay in that place of hopelessness and despair. He calls Lazarus back from the grave and then commands that the work of moving forwards ‘unbind him and let him go’ (v.44) begin immediately.
Questions for discussion
- What have you lost that caused you grief? This might be a bereavement or a relationship, job, possession etc.
- How long did your grief last?
- What helps a person who is grieving?
- How does someone’s grief affect the way that they respond to Jesus?
Steve Taylor is joint-vicar of St James Alperton CofE church, near Wembley. He shares the job with his wife, Ali, and shares his house with their two children, two cats and numerous fish.
Connecting faith with everyday, real-life issues for young people
There has been a lot of news recently about the Russian invasion of Ukraine:
- It was the first anniversary of the invasion.
- An arrest warrant was issued by the International Criminal Court against the Russian President Vladimir Putin for war crimes.
- President Putin himself visited Mariupol, a Ukrainian city occupied by the Russians.
These stories can be viewed in at least two ways: On the one hand, they reflect global politics – the impact of the actions of one major power and the reaction of the opposing country and its allies. However these stories are also about real individuals - those who have lost loved ones, homes and livelihoods; and children whom the arrest warrant alleges have been abducted.
The raising of Lazarus has both a personal and a global impact. Jesus describes himself as the Resurrection and the Life. How do you think he can bring new life to the whole world, especially to the people of Ukraine?
At the same time Jesus’ action affects Lazarus’ family personally and directly. In John 11:35 we read that Jesus wept. Why do you think he wept? Is that just an incident locked in history, or does it have relevance and meaning to us today?
Loving Lord who brought new life to Lazarus and his family,
please bring hope and encouragement to the people of Ukraine.
Revd Stuart Wild is the Superintendent Minister of the Blackpool and South Fylde Methodist Circuit.
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