From: Rev. Betsy Jay


Date: March 29, 2020


Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and the Lord Jesus Christ.


Below are readings, prayers, and a link to hymns for this Fifth Sunday in Lent as you might wish to use them. Please feel free to share with others as well. Probably few of us do not know of someone who has had or been exposed to coronavirus. The United States is now the epicenter for this dread disease, and New York the epicenter for the United States. One poet,  though, and probably more than one individual sees in this time Sabbath. Lynn Unger has written that poem, entitled Pandemic:


 What if you thought of it

as the Jews consider the Sabbath —

the most sacred of times?

Cease from travel.

Cease from buying and selling.

Give up, just for now,

on trying to make the world

different than it is.

Sing. Pray. Touch only those

to whom you commit your life.

Center down.


And when your body has become still,

reach out with your heart.

Know that we are connected

in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.

(You could hardly deny it now.)

Know that our lives

are in one another’s hands.

(Surely, that has come clear.)

Do not reach out your hands.

Reach out your heart.

Reach out your words.

Reach out all the tendrils

of compassion that move, invisibly,

where we cannot touch.


Promise this world your love —

for better or for worse,

in sickness and in health,

so long as we all shall live.

In addition to the hymn site Sing for Joy from St. Olaf College, check out two other hymns on YouTube which reflect both the lectionary readings and the time.      The National Youth Choir of Scotland singing Here I Am, Lord          Oasis Chorale singing We Are Not Alone     Sing for Joy, St Olaf College



Before reading the Scriptures for today, consider offering this prayer:

      God of compassion, we come before you in our vulnerability, with our fears and uncertainties. We stand alongside our sisters and brothers in our nation and throughout the world, in places we rarely hear of, to face a common enemy. Send your Holy Spirit to quiet our hearts and fill us with your peace that we may be better equipped to amplify the voices of those whose suffering will be increased by the current crisis. Inspires us with the love and tenderness of your son, Jesus Christ, and May his glory be shown in all the Earth (Tim Livesey, Embrace the Middle East, adapted).

The readings for today are:

       Ezekiel 37:1-14, the Valley of Dry Bones. Ponder what it is that causes us to live for God asks Ezekiel, Can these bones live? Ezekiel responds that only God knows that answer. God makes it happen. “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.”

         Psalm 130.

               A psalm-prayer to offer after reading the psalm: God of compassion, you sent your Word into the world to announce the dawn of salvation. Do not leave us in the depths of our sins, but give to us the fullness of your redeeming grace, through Christ our Lord. Amen.


           Romans 8:6-11.   To set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

           John 11:1-45.      The raising of Lazarus, the last of seven signs in the gospel of John that help us to see who Jesus is, if we would open our hearts. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. Where do you meet Jesus? And how do you address him, what do you say?

Remember the old riddle, What is the shortest verse in the Bible? If you use the King James Version, you might answer, John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” The Greek suggests that he sheds tears, a quiet grieving. Mary, Martha, those with them wail and cry loudly in their sorrow. But for what is Jesus weeping? Is it simply so we can be reminded of his humanness? Is it because of personal grief for a friend? Or, out of frustration because disciples, friends, the faithful really do not get it? Perhaps, it is the deep grieving distress of anticipating his own death, so soon to come.

This is not the only time Jesus weeps, according to the Scripture. Luke writes that as Jesus approached Jerusalem for the last time, he paused, and wept the falling tear, the tear of compassion, the tear of mercy. Pope Francis has said, Jesus weeps from the heart, with love, always. He could not look at people and not feel compassion, whether overlooking the city or seeing 5000 gathered, hungry, at on a field. Wherever God’s children are suffering, alone, afraid, ill, dying, unloved, unwanted, mourning, forgotten, frustrated, despairing, Jesus weeps for them and with them. He weeps for us. For whom will we weep? For whom, then, will we offer the hope and the breath of life?

“There must be always remaining in every life, some place for the singing of angels, some place for that which is itself breathlessly beautiful” (Howard Thurman).

Next Sunday is Palm or Passion Sunday. In some Slavic traditions, pussy willow branches are given in place of palms. Are there are any pussy willows near you? The daffodils are up, perhaps forsythia too. Keep your eyes open not only for the signs of hope that come with Spring, but also for the signs of need that others have. Look for ways to share the love, the compassion, the peace of Christ. 

May the love of God be the passion in your heart, the Spirit of God your strength and joy when times are hard. The presence of God a peace that overflows. The Word of God the seed that you might sow.

In peace,

Rev. Betsy Jay