Sunday Service 29th March. Video link and worship script

For a link to the video stream please click here.

29 March 2020 – Script


Welcome and opening prayer

Hello, and welcome to the second of our on-line worship sessions from Kilbrandon and Kilchattan Church and the Netherlorn Churches on this, the Fifth Sunday in Lent.  In these strange and scary times, when we’re all being forced to stay at home, separated from our churches and from so many of the other communal aspects of our lives which we’ve taken so much for granted, it’s good that thanks to modern technology we can communicate with each other in this way – and even more importantly, communicate with God.

In common with so many other churches throughout the world, when it comes to readings from the Bible, we’re following the Lectionary – a carefully selected collection of different Bible readings for each Sunday of the year.  And this Sunday, even although we’re in the season of Lent and there are still a few weeks to go until Easter, the Bible readings for today, as it happens, have an Easter message – a message about new life and new hope in the midst  of worry and despair – a resurrection message – and hopefully we’ll all recognise this as we proceed.

I don’t know if you recognised the music which was playing to introduce this video.  It’s the melody of Tim Hughes’ song “Light of the world” and the refrain has these words: “So here I am to worship, here I am to bow down, here I am to say that you’re my God.”  May that be our purpose, may that be our experience now, wherever we may be, however far apart we may feel ourselves to be from others.  Because even in these strange and scary times, God is still closer to us than we can possibly imagine.

Loving God, Creator and upholder of this world and of all of us who live in it, you have promised never to forget us or to abandon us.  Be with us all now by your Spirit, and help us to worship you, so that we may know, without any doubt, that even though we are physically separated from each other, we are united with our sisters and brothers in our local church and community, we are united with your church throughout the world and the church in heaven and, even more importantly, we are united with you.  We ask this through your Son Jesus Christ, our Saviour – amen.

Bible readings

 A reading from the Book of Ezekiel, chapter 37 – the Valley of Dry Bones.

I felt the powerful presence of the Lord, and his spirit took me and set me down in a valley where the ground was covered with bones.  He led me all round the valley, and I could see that there were very many bones and that they were very dry.  He said to me, “Mortal man, can these bones come back to life?”

I replied, “Sovereign Lord, only you can answer that!”

He said, “Prophesy to the bones.  Tell these dry bones to listen to the word of the Lord.  Tell them that I, the Sovereign Lord, am saying to them: I am going to put breath into you and bring you back to life.  I will give you sinews and muscles and cover you with skin.  I will put breath into you and bring you back to life.  Then you will know that I am the Lord.”

So I prophesied as I had been told.  While I was speaking, I heard a rattling noise, and the bones began to join together.  While I watched, the bones were covered with sinews and muscles, and then with skin.  But there was no breath in the bodies.

God said to me, “Mortal man, prophesy to the wind.  Tell the wind that the Sovereign Lord commands it to come from every direction, to breathe into these dead bodies and to bring them back to life.”

So I prophesied as I had been told.  Breath entered the bodies, and they came to life and stood up.  There were enough of them to form an army.

And now a reading from John’s Gospel, chapter 11 – the death and raising of Lazarus.

A man named Lazarus, who lived in Bethany, was ill.  Bethany was the town where Mary and her sister Martha lived.  The sisters sent Jesus a message: “Lord, your dear friend is ill.”

Jesus loved Mary and her sister and Lazarus.  Yet when he received the news that Lazarus was ill, he stayed where he was for two more days.  Then he said to the disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had been buried four days before.  Bethany was less than three kilometres from Jerusalem, and many Judeans had come to see Martha and Mary to comfort them over their brother’s death.

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed in the house.  Martha said to Jesus, “If you had been here, Lord, my brother would not have died!  But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask him for.”

“Your brother will rise to life,” Jesus told her.

“I know,” she replied, “that he will rise to life on the last day. 

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Those who believe in me will live, even though they die; and all those who live and believe in me will never die.  Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord!” she answered.  “I do believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

After Martha said this, she went back and called her sister privately.  “The Teacher is here,” she told her, “and is asking for you.”  When Mary heard this, she got up and hurried out to meet him. (Jesus had not yet arrived in the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him.)  The people who were in the house with Mary, comforting her, followed her when they saw her get up and hurry out.  They thought that she was going to the grave to weep there.

Mary arrived where Jesus was, and as soon as she saw him, she fell at his feet.  “Lord,” she said, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died!”

Jesus saw her weeping, and he saw how the people who were with her were also weeping; his heart was touched and he was deeply moved.  “Where have you buried him?” he asked them.

“Come and see, Lord,” they answered.

Jesus wept.  “See how much he loved him!” the people said.  But some of them said, “He gave sight to the blind man, didn’t he?  Could he not have kept Lazarus from dying?”

Deeply moved once more, Jesus went to the tomb, which was a cave with a stone placed at the entrance.  “Take the stone away!” Jesus ordered.

Martha, the dead man’s sister, answered, “There will be a bad smell, Lord.  He has been buried four days!”

Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believed?”  They took the stone away.  Jesus looked up and said, “I thank you, Father, that you listen to me.  I know that you always listen to me, but I say this for the sake of the people here, so that they will believe that you sent me.”  After he had said this, he called out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  Lazarus came out, his hands and feet wrapped in grave clothes and with a cloth round his face.  “Untie him,” Jesus told them, “and let him go.”

This is the word of the Lord – thanks be to God.

Psalm 130

One of the other Bible passages for today from the Lectionary is a Psalm – Psalm 130, a plea to God for mercy and help in times of darkness – very appropriate for us all today.  I’m going to sing a version of this Psalm which we have in our Church of Scotland hymnbook – we’ve sung it together a few times in church, so you may be familiar with it, and hopefully be able to join in.

Up from the depths I cry to God:

O listen, Lord, to me;

O hear my voice in this distress,

this mire of misery.

I wait for God with all my heart,

my hope is in his word;

and more than watchmen for the dawn

I’m longing for the Lord.

If you, my God, should measure guilt

who then stands free from blame?

But true forgiveness comes from you;

we trust and fear your name.


I wait for God with all my heart,

my hope is in his word;

and more than watchmen for the dawn

I’m longing for the Lord.


O Israel, set your hope on God,

whose mercy is supreme:

the nation mourning for its sin

he surely will redeem.


I wait for God with all my heart,

my hope is in his word;

and more than watchmen for the dawn

I’m longing for the Lord.



Now, I don’t know what you made of our two Bible readings today – one from the Old Testament and one from the New – but each in its own way gives a picture of hopelessness and grief – one of them, a picture of hopelessness affecting a whole nation, and the other a much more personal picture, of a particular kind of hopelessness and grief affecting a very specific group of individuals, a very specific family.

Ezekiel was a prophet who lived many of thousands of years ago, at a time when the Kingdom of Judah – a nation which was supposed to be God’s own chosen people – had simply ceased to exist.  Judah had been invaded by the Babylonian Empire, and had been completely overwhelmed.  Jerusalem the capital city had been looted and sacked and the Temple had been completely destroyed.  And the people themselves – those who had survived the attack – had been carted off to Babylon as prisoners, slaves and exiles.  For them, things were hopeless – they were in complete despair.

Except that things weren’t hopeless.  Because God started sending messengers to them – prophets like Ezekiel – who told them that their terrible predicament wouldn’t last for ever, and that they would be able to go back home again.  There was hope after all.

In our Ezekiel reading, God gives Ezekiel a very special, and at first a very scary, vision.  A vision of a valley full of bones – human bones, human bodies that have been left there for so long that the bones are all that are left.  And in the vision, God asks Ezekiel, “What do you think, Ezekiel – can these dry bones live again?”  Ezekiel answers, “Lord, only you can answer that” – I’ve always been tempted to think that Ezekiel was perhaps a bit too polite to say what he must really have thought – “Don’t be daft, Lord, these are dead, dry bones, how on earth can they be brought back to life?”  And God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones, to proclaim to these dead bones the message that yes indeed, God is going to bring them back to life.  He’s going to rebuild them as full human bodies, as living human beings.  So Ezekiel does as he’s been told, and it happens – the bones come together as proper skeletons, and then muscle and flesh and skin start forming, and they become proper human bodies once again.  And then God tells Ezekiel to go further, and to prophesy, to proclaim to the wind, so that these human bodies might be filled with breath and come back fully to life.  So Ezekiel does as he’s been told, and it happens – the bodies are fully brought back to life.

Now, that was a particular vision, a particular message, which God gave to Ezekiel, so that he could pass it on to the people of Judah, in exile in Babylon, to give them hope that their particular situation would be resolved.  But ever since then, lots of other people, lots of Christians, have taken encouragement from this dramatic vision, taking it as a message of hope to them as well.  Can’t we do the same in our situation today – this terrible pandemic which has forced us to change the way we live so dramatically, forcing us to live apart from our friends and neighbours, giving us all sorts of anxieties about the future, not just for ourselves and those we know and love, but for our communities, our nation, the whole world?  This message of hope which God gave to Ezekiel – it wasn’t just a one-off.  There are so many other stories like that in the Bible, so many other stories like that in human history, stories of God coming into hopeless situations with messages of hope and promises of new life.

And this message of hope is given even more strongly in our other reading, from John’s Gospel.  A kind of hopelessness and grief in that story which is much more up close and personal.  Two sisters, Martha and Mary, living in Bethany with their much-loved brother Lazarus.  And Lazarus falls ill – dangerously ill.  But Martha, Mary and Lazarus have a friend – none other than Jesus himself.  So the two sisters send a message to Jesus, telling him that Lazarus is dangerously ill, obviously hoping that Jesus will come at once and heal him, as he has healed so many others.  But what does Jesus do?  He stays put where he is for several days, and then starts making his way to Bethany, by which time it’s too late – Lazarus has succumbed to his illness.  So when Jesus arrives in Bethany, he is met with grief and sadness – and more besides.  He is met with reproach and even blame – “Lord,” say both sisters, “if you had been here our brother wouldn’t have died.  Why didn’t you come here sooner – didn’t you care that Lazarus was so ill, didn’t you care about us?”  And even the crowd of onlookers are muttering to each other: “Think of all the tremendous things this man is supposed to have done – couldn’t he have stopped this terrible thing from happening?”

But what happens?  Jesus shows clearly that he does care – he himself is affected by Lazarus’ death and by Martha and Mary’s terrible grief – he himself weeps over Lazarus’ death.  And Jesus also shows clearly that, even in the most terrible circumstances of grief and loss, there is still hope – he brings Lazarus back to life, and promises that even in the face of death, there is hope of a better future, hope of life that conquers death and outlasts it.  What a message for us all just now, as we try to come to terms with the way in which coronavirus has made us change the way we live, made us think about our immediate future – our own health and well-being, the health and well-being of our families and friends, our jobs and finances, our food and shopping.  We don’t know yet how long this situation will last, or what long-term effects it will have on us all.  But God hasn’t forgotten or abandoned us.  Jesus himself is with us, God himself is with us.  Jesus cares about us, he shares our pain and sorrow and fears and worries.  And so, in spite of everything, as Julian of Norwich once said, many hundreds of years ago, “All will be well, and all will well, and all manner of thing will be well.”

We began this on-line worship with the melody of a wonderful song about being here to worship God.  We will end shortly with another melody which you might recognise – a melody which is used in our hymnbook for John Bell’s wonderful setting of Psalm 34 – “I will always bless the Lord, praise his name and love his word.  Humble folk will fill with joy, as in God I glory.  When I prayed, God answered me, from my fears he set me free: none who trust God’s faithful love will be disappointed.  Taste and see that God is good, know your yearnings understood, find your true security, be God’s holy people.  Even lions suffer need, hunger when they long to feed; yet for those who wait on God, good will not be lacking.”

Prayers for Others


And now we bring our prayers of concern for other people to God.

Loving God, we thank and praise you that you are our God, that you love us and care for us, that you are always with us and that you hear and answer our prayers.  In times of danger, we find refuge in you; in times of sorrow, we find comfort in you; in times of trouble, we find peace in you; in times of gladness, we find even more joy in you.  Hear us now as we come to you with our prayers for others.

We begin by praying for our families and friends, our church and our community during this terrible coronavirus crisis.  As we pray, we call to mind specific people whom we know and love, and about whom we are concerned – we name them before you in our hearts and minds.  We remember family members, close friends and others whom we know and love … be near to them and keep them safe and well.  We remember people who have actually been afflicted with coronavirus … be near to them, and bring them back to health.  We remember people in our community who are especially lonely and especially vulnerable during this time when we are all supposed to keep ourselves isolated and apart from each other … those who are elderly … those who live alone … those with other serious health problems … those who have had their medical treatment postponed or cancelled … those who are worried about their jobs and their finances … children and young people whose education has been halted and their plans for the summer turned upside down … be near to all these and keep them safe and well.  We remember those in our community who provide us with services on which we find ourselves depending more than ever before … for our wonderful GPs, nurses, receptionists and other staff at the Easdale Medical Practice .. for all those, including folk in our own church and community, who work at the hospital in Oban … for those at the Balvicar Stores, working hard to support those who need extra help with food deliveries … for staff in supermarkets and other necessary shops in Oban .. for postal workers and others delivering supplies and services to our homes … for police, fire and other emergency workers … be near to all these, keep them safe and well, and may they not be overwhelmed.  Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for those who govern us, at local level and at Holyrood and Westminster – so many heavy responsibilities, so many difficult decisions to make … keep them safe and well and give them the wisdom and compassion that they need to fulfil their responsibilities.  We pray for people in other countries where the present crisis seems to be even more threatening that it is here at present … for people we know in America … for people we know in Spain, Italy and other afflicted countries … for our sisters and brothers in Bemvu in Malawi; thankfully no recorded cases yet in that country, but for how long, and how will they cope without the kind of medical services which we take so much for granted?  Be near to them and keep them safe and well.  Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.

We pray for our Netherlorn Churches – for our Session Clerks, our Treasurers, our property conveners, our elders and worship leaders, for Alison our Interim Moderator, and for all others who are working so hard to keep our congregational life going during this difficult time.  And in a few last moments of silence, we pray for ourselves, bringing our own particular anxieties and concerns to you, and of course our gratitude and love to you, our most kind, loving God … Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer – amen.



May the Lord bless you; may the Lord keep you.  May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and give you his peace – amen.