Morning Service for Lent 5 2023


Today, we begin the story of Jesus' death upon the cross. Why did he have to die? Perhaps if he had stayed in Galilee preaching he would not have had to die, but He chose to go to Jerusalem and to challenge the powers that be.

Morning Service for Lent 5 2023


HYMN – It is a thing most wonderful NEH 84 – Herongate 

1 It is a thing most wonderful,

Almost too wonderful to be,

That God’s own Son should come from heaven,

And die to save a child like me.

2 And yet I know that it is true:

He chose a poor and humble lot,

And wept, and toiled, and mourned, and died

For love of those who loved him not.

3 But even could I see him die,

I could but see a little part

Of that great love, which, like a fire,

Is always burning in his heart.

4 It is most wonderful to know

His love for me so free and sure;

But ’tis more wonderful to see

My love for him so faint and poor.

5 And yet I want to love thee, Lord;

O light the flame within my heart,

And I will love thee more and more,

Until I see thee as thou art.

Almighty God,  to whom all hearts are open,
all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden:
cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen

Our Lord Jesus Christ said: The first commandment is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is the only Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Amen. Lord, have mercy.

Father eternal, giver of light and grace,
we have sinned against you and against our neighbour,
in what we have thought, in what we have said and done,
through ignorance, through weakness,
through our own deliberate fault.
We have wounded your love and marred your image in us.
We are sorry and ashamed and repent of all our sins.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, who died for us,
forgive us all that is past and lead us out from darkness
to walk as children of light. Amen

May the God of love and power
forgive you and free you from your sins,
heal and strengthen you by his Spirit
and raise you to new life in Christ our Lord. Amen


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.  Amen

FIRST READING – Ezekiel 37.1-14

The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.”

So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act, says the LORD.”

SECOND READING – Romans 8.6-11

To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

HYMN – Drop, drop slow tears NEH 82 – Song 46

1 Drop, drop, slow tears,

And bathe those beauteous feet,

Which brought from heaven

The news and Prince of peace.

2 Cease not, wet eyes,

His mercies to entreat;

To cry for vengeance

Sin doth never cease.

3 In your deep floods

Drown all my faults and fears;

Nor let his eye

See sin, but through my tears.

GOSPEL – John 11.1-45

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 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.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” 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. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

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

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.” And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 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. 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.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 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 four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 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.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 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.”

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


Today, we begin the story of Jesus’ death upon the cross. Why did he have to die? Perhaps if he had stayed in Galilee preaching he would not have had to die, but He chose to go to Jerusalem and to challenge the powers that be. It is very different now, in this country, but in His day, the religious authorities had not just religious but what we would consider as political power too; however much we might offend against church rules we cannot be punished by the church authorities even by fines or community service, let alone the death penalty. By His preaching and His criticism of the religious leaders, Jesus had made Himself a target. Jesus had publicly rejected the prevailing official ideas of the religious establishment – the culture – of His day.

In the Old Testament, we find the prophets mistreated; I am rather fond of Jeremiah who suffered because of his preaching. He was ridiculed, hated by the people, rejected by his family, assaulted, tortured and put in a cistern to die. Less dramatically, the same rejection met other prophets. Sadly, we still see in some other countries, those who speak against, who challenge, the religious powers that be, suffer for their offence. 

Christians have suffered at the hands of other Christians, for example those who first translated the Bible into the language of the people, in our case, English. (Why did anyone think that services in Latin and the Bible in Latin were vital to their faith, when they were not the languages used either by Jesus or the first Christians? Was it because Jesus’ message would radically challenge what the powerful chose to do and so must be kept safely hidden away as a secret only to be shared by those who were in the religious establishment?) At our local Itchen Folk Group recently the Sidney Carter song “Sing John Ball” was included. It is a true story of a fourteenth century itinerant preacher who, because, among other beliefs, of his support for the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 in his preaching, was hung, drawn and quartered; his preaching included famously the lines:

 “When Adam dug and Eve spun, 

   who was then the gentleman”.

This was a serious challenge to society as it was then, where serfdom still existed; certainly, in general, his message was aligned to Jesus’ teaching. Now, there is a chapel over the porch in Thaxted Church in his honour.

Jesus did not compromise in his teaching, He showed no fear of offending the powerful. However, when the Roman Emperor Constantine chose to tolerate the practice of Christianity in the Empire, a sort of unspoken compromise began – the church was used by the powerful in return for that toleration. For the powerful in the church and state, the importance of the worldly success of the institution trumped the teachings of Jesus. Indeed, for centuries in Europe the institution of the church was both church and state rolled into one. I have just finished reading a book on the Anglo-Saxons. In their battles with the Vikings, with other Anglo-Saxon kings or between members of a royal family for a particular throne, the most horrific acts happened – I am thinking of mutilations, the details of which I shall not mention. It feels like this to me: those dreadful heathen Vikings are committing atrocities but we are good Anglo-Saxon Christians and we have won. Hooray! But the Christians were behaving in just the same way as the heathen Vikings. MacCulloch has a gentle, rather suggestive, idea that, instead of Rome becoming the headquarters of Christianity, it could easily have been Damascus and then Christianity would have been very different. Something to reflect on!

Perhaps not as much as we would like to think has changed today. The Russian Orthodox Church has supported the war in Ukraine and Churches from different countries were cheer leaders for wars in the 20th Century. I recently undertook the Church of England’s Safeguarding training – now required when the licence to preach as a LLM is renewed. It was clear that even recently an Archbishop had put protecting the institution of our church above the gospel message.

I am sure it is right today to focus on Jesus’ suffering because He was promoting God’s wishes for humanity. But today, our readings reflect hope – the dry bones live again, there is life through the Spirit, Lazarus is raised from the dead. After challenge and defeat there is victory, albeit not a victory of winners over losers. Today, as well as remembering the story of Jesus death upon the cross, we are very conscious of the resurrection story too.


Let us declare our faith in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures;
he was buried; he was raised to life on the third day
in accordance with the scriptures;
afterwards he appeared to his followers,
and to all the apostles: this we have received,
and this we believe.  Amen.
1 Corinthians 15.3-7

HYMN – Glory be to Jesus NEH 83 – Caswell (Wem in Leidenstagen)

1 Glory be to Jesus,

Who, in bitter pains,

Poured for me the life-blood

From his sacred veins.

2 Grace and life eternal

In that Blood I find;

Blest be his compassion,

Infinitely kind.

3 Blest through endless ages

Be the precious stream,

Which from endless torment

Doth the world redeem.

4 Abel’s blood for vengeance

Pleaded to the skies;

But the Blood of Jesus

For our pardon cries.

5 Oft as it is sprinkled

On our guilty hearts,

Satan in confusion

Terror-struck departs.

6 Oft as earth exulting

Wafts its praise on high,

Hell with terror trembles,

Heaven is filled with joy.

7 Lift ye then your voices;

Swell the mighty flood;

Louder still and louder

Praise the precious Blood.


Creator God, loving Saviour, living Spirit, we celebrate your generosity, we rejoice in your generosity, and we commit ourselves to reflecting your generosity in our lives, by giving the best of all we have, wherever there is need.

Lord, we pray for the nations around the world and for their dealings with one another, especially between Russia and Ukraine. We pray for the ongoing negotiations between the two nations and ask for a mutually acceptable outcome which brings a cessation to the hostilities. We hope and pray for peace and the opportunity for the people of Ukraine to be able to rebuild their lives. As many leave Ukraine in fear for their lives we give thanks for the generous actions of those trying to re-home them and we pray for the refugees’ safety wherever they may be.

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer. 

We pray for the communities of Compton, Hursley and Otterbourne. Help us to reflect your generosity by being generous with our time and our kindness whether at home, with our neighbours or in our workplace.  Give grace to all of us, our families and friends, and our neighbours, that we may serve Christ in one another, and love as he loves us.

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer. 

We pray for William, Warwick and all those who minister in this Benefice. We give thanks for the many people who give their time freely to support our churches and fulfil the many tasks needed to keep them up and running. Strengthen all your church in the service of Christ; that those who confess your name may be united in your truth, live together in your love and reveal your glory in the world.

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer. 

We pray for those who can’t be with us today, For the sick, at home or in hospital. We remember one of our community especially today, Hilary Venn, and pray that she can feel you by her side, supporting her and her family.  We pray for those on our Benefice prayer list…

Comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind or spirit, give them courage and hope in their troubles; and bring them the joy of your salvation.

We also pray for all those who are mourning a loved one, that they may feel your feel your presence. We remember those who have died, commending them to your safekeeping.

Lord in your mercy hear our prayer. 

Father, we bring our prayers, our hopes and fears and our worries to your table, knowing that you will welcome us and draw us closer to you. 

Merciful Father, 

accept these prayers, for the sake of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.


Christ crucified draw you to himself, to find in him a sure ground for faith, a firm support for hope, and the assurance of sins forgiven; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, be among and remain with you always. Amen

HYMN – There is a green hill far away NEH 92 – Horsley

1 There is a green hill far away,

Without a city wall,

Where the dear Lord was crucified

Who died to save us all.

2 We may not know, we cannot tell

What pains he had to bear,

But we believe it was for us

He hung and suffered there.

3 He died that we might be forgiven,

He died to make us good;

That we might go at last to heaven,

Saved by his precious blood.

4 There was no other good enough

To pay the price of sin;

He only could unlock the gate

Of heaven, and let us in.

5 O dearly, dearly has he loved,

And we must love him too,

And trust in his redeeming blood,

And try his works to do.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord

In the name of Christ. Amen

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