5th Sunday in Lent: Journey from death to new life

Lectionary 1st Reading Psalm 2nd Reading Gospel
Anglican lectionary:
Ezekiel 37: 1 - 14
Romans 8: 6 - 11
John 11: 1 - 45
Catholic lectionary:
Ezekiel 37: 12 - 14
Romans 8: 8 - 11

Journey from Death to New Life 

As our Lenten experience deepens, and we move into Passiontide, the readings for this fifth Sunday in the season give us a foretaste of the promise of this costly journey from death to new life.

The dis-membered bones in the valley the Lord shows to Ezekiel are ‘very dry’ – yebeyshot in the Hebrew – the same verb that is used to describe the dry ground in Genesis 1:9, a site of creation and transformation.

Following the devastating bushfires in East Gippsland of 2019/20, and the global pandemic which subsequently stifled our bushfire response and recovery efforts, one of our diocesan centres has become a focus for hope and rebirth. 

The Abbey at Raymond Island is a centre for hospitality, spirituality, and the environment.  Over the last three years an extensive revegetation project has been undertaken by the Abbey Priest and a host of volunteers from within and beyond the church (see the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures below, and a photograph of my family standing in front of a patch of seedlings we planted just a few short years ago).

Abbey Priest, Edie Ashley, reflected in The Gippsland Anglican (March 2023) thus:  “There is a sense of urgency to seek the wellbeing of the land – the earth beneath us. There has been a strong, deep and heartfelt imperative to enjoy and treasure the trees, shrubs and grasses that give presence and distinction to Abbey land.

These plants have breathed and cleared the air for us to breathe, offered stability and protection for the soil and in their own right have become guardians of the future: self-seeding, self-generating – ensuring the continuity of this environment for the next generation to enjoy.”


Perhaps this is an ecological equivalent of the more anthropocentric parable Ezekiel narrates of the animation of those dry bones.



Lazarus is summoned by the word of Christ from death to life.  With him, the whole creation is summoned to new life by the Word that is Christ, through whom all things were made.

For us, that summons is first heard and responded to in baptism where, as St Paul describes it in Romans, the pattern of Christ’s dying and living is re-membered in us, starting with the question, ‘Do you turn to Christ?’

If you have seen Jacob Epstein’s sculpture of a still tightly bound Lazarus in the Chapel of New College, Oxford, you will no doubt have been struck by the man’s head which, despite the winding cloths of the grave, is turning towards a summons that seems to be coming from behind him in the direction of the altar and the great lectern.

In the dryness of these late Lenten days, may we remain a people of hope: expectantly open to Holy Spirit’s animating and re-animating breath in our world; preparing the dry yet fertile ground of our hearts for the vidi aquam of that great Easter antiphon – the water Ezekiel saw flowing from the side of the Temple (47:1) – to bubble up baptismally in us and through us from the wounded side of Christ; ready and waiting to turn again to him when summoned on Easter Day.

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The Rt. Revd Dr. Richard Treloar

Richard Treloar has been the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Gippsland in south-eastern Australia since 2018.  He is a member of the Liturgy Commission of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia, and served for over a decade on the Faith & Order Standing Commission of the World Council of Churches.  Richard’s PhD in Hebrew biblical narrative was published in 2008: Esther and the End of Final Solutions.  He has overseen the formation of a new working group in his Diocese – ACTinG – Acting on Climate Change Together in Gippsland https://www.gippslandanglicans.org.au/acting/acting-group)

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