Daily Meditations - Apr 10-26

Saturday, Apr. 25

Saturday's Easter Word: Fear

Saturday's Gospel Reference: John 20: 19

It was still the first day of the week.  That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them.  He said, “Peace be with you.”  The disciples had just been through a harrowing week during which life as they knew it had been completely changed.  They had accompanied Jesus into Jerusalem as crowds welcomed him with shouts of “Hosanna”; yet those same crowds soon roared, “Crucify him” and the Jewish authorities ensured that he was killed.  No wonder they hid behind closed doors.

Two thousand years later, we are once again behind closed doors, with our lives completely changed. We cannot physically worship or visit or grieve with people we love; many of us are prevented from going to work; our children cannot go to school or play together.  As if that weren’t enough, the horror of the mass shootings in Nova Scotia makes us aware that living in Canada or in small, close communities doesn’t exempt us from atrocities.

This is in addition to all the ‘normal’ fears of life—money, health, relationships.  You all know the ones.  They nag at us, cause wrinkles and grey hairs and lost sleep. They can make us distracted and irritable.  But the Bible tells us not to be afraid.  How many times is this repeated?  I could find no definitive number, but the least number seemed to be 80 and it could have been as many as 145 or more.  What was more consistent was the fact that each time, Scripture reassured us that God would be with us, not necessarily saving us from trouble, but bringing us peace and strength.

The following song by Walter Farquharson (former moderator of UCC) was set to music by Ron Klusmeier. (Unfortunately there is no recording of his beautiful arrangement.)  It has brought me comfort many times.

God, help us when we’re frightened
and feel ourselves alone,
lead us to you who gives us
good bread and not cold stone. (Matthew 7:9)

By faith we see when darkness
hides meaning from our eyes.
By faith we walk with courage
when strength within us dies.

With hope we face tomorrow
and look beyond this day.
With hope we journey onward
when we can’t see our way.

In love we’re bound together
and freed from crippling fear.
The love that was in Jesus
shows us that you are near.

God, help us when we’re frightened
and feel ourselves alone,
lead us to you who gives us
good bread and not cold stone.

Copyright 1979 Musiklus Used with permission

Stephen has made a beautiful recording of Be Not Afraid, a popular hymn, and one which our choir has sung as an anthem.  An informative history of the writing of the hymn and how it has been used can be found here. https://www.americamagazine.org/arts-culture/2018/06/14/be-not-afraid-song-eases-biggest-transitions-and-out-life.

May these hymns bring you peace and comfort.

Linda Rodgers
Choir Director

 

Friday, Apr. 24

Friday's Easter Word: Forgiveness

Friday's Gospel Reference: John 20:19-31

Forgiveness is a tricky subject, especially when people have been hurt badly.  As Christians who regularly pray “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us”, I think there can be pressure to forgive people, even if we are not ready.  And what if someone doesn’t ask for forgiveness, and they don’t repent for what they did, or continue to cause pain?

I recently read the book “Forgiveness” by Mark Sakamoto, which won “Canada Reads” a few years ago.

It is mostly a memoir about his grandparents’ experiences in World War Two.  His grandfather spent many years as a prisoner of war, being horribly mistreated in a Japanese camp.  On the other side of his family, his grandparents, being Canadians of Japanese descent, had their property and livelihoods in Vancouver taken away from them by the Canadian government, and were forced to move to a work camp in Alberta.  The title of the book comes from the author recognizing that his grandparents’ forgiveness was a gift to him.  If they were not able to move past the injustices that happened to each of them, his parents wouldn’t have been able to meet and marry, and he would not have been born.  But another thread in the book had to do with the fractured relationship between the author and his deceased mother, and his need not only to forgive her, but to forgive himself.

What I saw in this book is that forgiveness is about trying to move forward. It may come because someone has apologized and expressed repentance, and there is an attempt to move forward and rebuild the relationship; but it may also come because someone has decided that, even without an apology and rebuilding of the relationship, they need to forgive in order to move forward in a better way, striving to not hurt others even though they have been hurt in the past.

What do you think?  What does forgiveness mean to you?  Is it possible, even when there hasn’t been any apology or repentance?

Let us pray:

Loving God, we thank you for your mercy and forgiveness, which you freely offer to us when we ask for it.  Help us to be able to forgive ourselves, to truly feel your love and compassion for us, and to move forward uplifted and ready to walk a better way.  Help us also, O God, when we have been hurt, comfort us in our pain, and hold us gently in your love.  Help us when we struggle with whether to forgive, or with how to forgive, or how to move forward.  May we not repay hurt, or pay it forward to others, but may we, knowing you walk with us to guide us, always walk in your Way, showing love and compassion to all we meet.  Amen.

Blessings,
Kristin and Maureen

 

Thursday, Apr. 23

Today's Easter Word: 'Doubt'

I do believe that ‘doubt’ is an active part of ‘faith,’ and I have a hard time believing that anyone has the luxury of NEVER doubting.  See, right in that sentence I express doubt!

Below is a whimsical debate between a person who is full of doubt and cynicism; the other a person of faith with a more realistic outlook!

Words from the Doubter:

Doubt is today’s subject for debate
A subject I am sure on which we all relate.
In the midst of pandemics of sickness and of pain,
to say you’ve never doubted, puts us Doubters all to shame!

Do you have a secret, that maybe you could share?
To keep it to yourself, would really be unfair!
Tho’ I really don’t believe you, and I think it quite absurd,
and I Doubt from here on in, I’ll not believe a word!

We Doubters are just realists, who tell it like it is
Perhaps … your day begins indulging in 'buck's fizz'*
So live within your bubble and glasses tinted rose
You probably believed the Emperor walked the streets in his new clothes!

I could regale you with facts from history, of stories (I doubt are true)
Remember Thomas in the Bible? He was just like me and you
We like some facts, tangible proof that we can see
Everything always has a catch and nothing in life is free
I think I’ve made my point the world is full of Doubt!
But to show you I can be gracious, I think I’ll hear you out.

(* buck's fizz:  British name for Mimosa.)

Words from the ’Other’ point of view:

My dear friend ‘Doubt’…I know doubt visits every day
And we Christians sometimes struggle on the way
Yet I believe that Doubt is an important part of faith,
In fact it helps enrich this wonder known as Grace.

The world can fall around us, and from the ashes grows
The wonder of a garden and the perfume of a rose
So Doubt, get thee behind me and I will choose to see
God’s love is all around us, and God’s salvation it is free

A Midrash** from my dear Jewish friend, Carol Rose:

Perhaps, say the rabbis, one should imagine walking around with a small piece of paper in each of their pockets.

On one piece of paper is the phrase “we are created a little less than the angels - the whole world is created for our benefit”.

And on the other, “What is a human being that You should consider them, from dust were they created & to dust shall they return”.

In between, (add the sages,) is where humans can locate themselves.

So doubt is the place where we locate ourselves in the grand scheme of G-d.

It is an invitation to consider who & what we are - without exaggeration, & without false humility.

(**  A Midrash is a teaching on scripture or faith-related issues. It also asks questions of the text; sometimes it provides answers, sometimes it leaves the reader to ponder, and often ends with another question.)

Blessings,
Maureen and Kristin

 

Wednesday, Apr. 22

Today's Easter Word: 'Sent'

Today's Gospel Reference: John 20:21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 

If Jesus sends us “as the Father sent him”, what does that mean? How did God the Father, the Creator, send Jesus?

At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he was at synagogue, and he read these words from the scroll of Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” Luke 4:18-19

This is why Jesus was sent. To proclaim the Good News, to bring release, recovery, freedom and God’s favour. And the focus of Jesus’ mission is on those who are struggling: with financial or health concerns, with being oppressed, feeling captive or stuck or powerless and going through difficulties.

These are comforting words to us when we are struggling, because it means that Jesus’ mission is for us, that he has been sent to bring us God’s favour, love, compassion, and grace in this moment.

But what does it mean for us as disciples, who have been sent by Jesus? It means that our mission is also to care for those who are in need, those who the world may consider least important, but who Jesus names as members of his family (Matthew 25:40).

I’m so thankful to see the ways we have continued to live out this mission during a time when many of us are struggling. I’m thankful for those who are checking on people, connecting through phone calls, cards and letters, and offering help with shopping, outdoor work and other needs. I’m thankful for those who have donated food and funds to support the Springfield Food Bank and West Broadway Community Ministry, and who continue to support the mission of our own church, which looks a little different these days, but is still: “rooted in community, grounded in compassion, growing in faith, reaching out in generosity”.

Let us pray:

Loving Creator, we are thankful that you sent Jesus to us, to proclaim your Good News to all, and particularly to those in need. We pray for all who are struggling, whether because of Covid-19 or because of other reasons beyond this pandemic. We pray that you help us as a community of faith to live out our mission well, to allow ourselves to be sent by you to those who need us the most. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Blessings,
Kristin and Maureen

 

Tuesday, Apr. 21

Today’s Easter Word: Reach

Today’s Gospel Reference: John 20:19-31

That is the word Jesus said to Thomas, “Reach out your hand and place it in my side”.

What do you associate with the word ‘reach’? We height challenged people have to ask someone even in the grocery store to ‘reach' for something on the top shelf, which is difficult to do at present when you are alone in a one-way shopping aisle! Or perhaps to ‘reach’ inside, to discover what makes you tick, and how to tap more deeply into your spirit; social isolation might give us the opportunity to do just that.

Today like most of you I am sure, the only ‘reach’ on our minds is how we could possibly reach out to a hurting community so far away in Portapique, Nova Scotia. It is totally unimaginable for us to understand what or how a person could plan and execute such a crime. Our hearts hurt for the victims’ families. I also wonder if the murderer has a family and how must they be feeling as the investigation continues?

As Christ followers, our only recourse at this time is to turn to our God in prayer. As we discussed in our recent Lenten Study, perhaps we could utilize the tool the Psalmist used so effectively -- LAMENT. If there ever was a time when lament seems appropriate this is it, knowing that our God is big enough to take our rant and understand our frustrations and doubts. In so doing let us, as the Psalmist did at the end of our lament or rant, return our thanks to God for allowing us to vent our feelings of frustration, anger and cries of why. We may never get an answer, but as we lift our voices to God, know that in the mysterious power of prayer we are heard and held in the love of a tender, and I dare say at this time, hurting God. May God’s love reach down to each one of us and especially to the community of Portapique.

Let us pray,

Merciful God, in our hurt and disbelief, we come to you and words seem to tumble out in a confused way. May our prayers for the community in Nova Scotia descend on them like a healing warmth that holds and sustains them in this time of inexpressible grief. Help us also to hold on in this time of social isolation and through whatever way possible, reach out to one another till we can joyfully meet again.

Amen.

Enjoy this rendition of "Reach Out and Touch Somebody's Hand"

Blessings,
Maureen and Kristin

 

Monday, Apr. 20

Today’s Easter Word: Peace

It is Well with my Soul

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 20:19 It was still the first day of the week. That evening, while the disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.”

When peace like a river attendeth my soul,
When sorrow like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

Stephen has recorded a lovely version of It is Well with my Soul arranged by Mark Hayes (link: https://bit.ly/obuc_itiswellwithmysoul). Some of you will remember our choir singing it as an anthem a few years ago. At that time, I told you the background to the words. If your memory is at all like mine, you may have forgotten some of the details.

Horatio G. Spafford was a successful lawyer and businessman in Chicago with a lovely family - a wife, Anna, and five children. However, they were not strangers to tears and tragedy. Their three year old son died from scarlet fever in 1871, and in that same year, much of their business was lost in the great Chicago fire. With perseverance, Spafford was able to rebuild this business.

Two years later, Mrs. Spafford and their four daughters were crossing the Atlantic on a French ocean liner. About four days into the crossing of the Atlantic, the Ville du Harve collided with another ship and sank, carrying with it 226 of the passengers including the four Spafford children.

A sailor, rowing a small boat over the spot where the ship went down, spotted a woman floating on a piece of the wreckage. It was Anna, still alive. He pulled her into the boat and they were picked up by another large vessel which landed them in Cardiff, Wales. From there she wired her husband a message which began, “Saved alone, what shall I do?”  Mr. Spafford booked passage on the next available ship and left to join his grieving wife. With the ship about four days out, the captain called Spafford to his cabin and told him they were over the place where his children went down.

According to a daughter born after the tragedy, Spafford wrote “It Is Well With My Soul” while on this journey. The music, written by Philip Bliss, was named after the ship on which Spafford's daughters died, Ville du Havre.

Let us pray…

Creator God, there are times in life when we feel that stable land has been swept away and we are afloat on a tossing sea. We struggle to regain equilibrium, to feel safe and secure when everything that we are used to has been turned topsy-turvy and things are changing daily. Help us to view quiet and stillness as an opportunity for peace and serenity rather than as something to be endured. Give strength and good health to those whose lives are still busy and stressful. May your peace, which passes all understanding, guard our hearts and minds.

Amen.

Blessings,
Linda Rodgers
OBUC Choir Leader

 

Saturday, Apr. 18

Today’s Easter Word: "Tell"

Today’s Gospel Reference: Matthew 28: 1-10

“So Mary Magdalene and Mary left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.” (Matthew 28:8)

Not all the Gospel readings say that the women ran quickly to tell Jesus’ disciples that he had risen. Mark, the earliest Gospel, ends with the women running and saying nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (Mark 16:8) Which I think is a pretty understandable reaction to the very shocking experience of an angel appearing and saying that Jesus is risen!

However, whether they ran quickly to tell them or not, eventually the women did tell the disciples the Good News. And the disciples told other followers of Jesus. On the Day of Pentecost, which we celebrate at the end of the Season of Easter, the Holy Spirit gave the disciples the ability to speak different languages, so they could proclaim Jesus to people from many nations. On and on, Jesus’ message was passed on through the generations, to us today.

None of us were there that first Easter. We only know the story of Jesus because at some point someone told us. Can you remember who first told you: was it a parent, a Sunday School teacher, or a friend?

Today’s Easter Word “Tell” feels like both a gift and a challenge. Who could you tell about your faith? This may actually be a really good time to talk to people about your faith, if it’s helped you find meaning and strength in the midst of all the chaos and fear in the world, it may also be helpful to someone you know. Perhaps you could share one of our Daily Meditations or Sunday videos with a friend, pass along a favourite scripture passage or prayer, or, when this is all over, invite someone to come to church with you.

Let us pray:

Loving God, thank you for the people that have told me about Jesus, helped my faith deepen, and taught me about you and your great love for me. Keep me open, O God, for opportunities where I may tell someone else about you, and share this gift that I was given. Help me to not be so afraid that I say nothing, but give me courage to share the faith that gives me joy.

I pray in Jesus’ name,
Amen.

 

Friday, Apr. 17

Today's Easter Word: "Go".

Today's Gospel Reference: Matthew 28: 1-10  

The readings for Easter Sunday are full of the word "Go", sometimes accompanied by tomorrow's Easter Word, "Tell".

Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, saying: "Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me." (Matthew 28:10) 

I listen to a podcast called "Be Still and Go" (their seasons run in Advent and Lent, and last fall they had a Creation themed season, but all the episodes are available, only 5-10 minutes long, and worth a listen any time of the year!)  I love the name of the podcast, which is a twist on Psalm 46:10: "Be still and know that I am God".

We do need to be still, to listen for God's still, small voice, and to know that God is God.  Even as many of us are staying home, the world remains fast paced, and it can be hard to make the very necessary time and space to be still.  But… our faith is also about action, which is why the podcast is called "Be Still and GO!".  We also need to be willing to GO where that still small voice of God sends us.

In the Easter Gospel readings, Jesus tells Mary and Mary to not be afraid, but GO!  I think those are good words for us, too. Do not be afraid -- GO-- and live out our faith! 

Now, these days, we can't exactly GO very much in a physical way, but we can still live our faith out in an active way. Perhaps we can do that by GOing outside our comfort zone to connect with people over technology, by phone, or in a letter, maybe reaching out to someone we haven’t talked to in awhile.  Or by GOing outside and interacting with nature (today’s a beautiful day for it!) and, from a safe distance, waving and greeting the people you see, even if you don’t know them!  Or maybe GO forward with something we’ve been meaning to do, like reading the Bible.

What are some ways you can think of, that we can GO and live our faith?

Let us pray:

God, we thank you for your Spirit, which, like a wind, pushes us into action, keeping us from growing stagnant, and for Jesus, who encourages us to not be afraid, but go.  In this time when many of us feel like we are stuck, help us to be creative to find ways to go forward, in faith, in hope, and in love.  And help us to remember that wherever we go, you are with us.

Thank you, God,
Amen.

 

Thursday, Apr. 16

Today's Easter Word: Greetings

Today's Gospel Reference: Matthew 28: 1-10 

Greetings to everyone reading this daily meditation!

Each week our Worship Committee recruits people to be ‘Greeters’, to welcome everyone to Sunday worship. I wonder what people would think if we started saying “Greetings” instead of “Hello” or our more usual “Hi, how are you?”

Our Indigenous Sisters and Brothers still ‘Greet’ one another.  I found eleven different Indigenous words for greeting, the only one I knew was “Tân’si”, which is in the Cree Language.

When I checked on line for greetings in other countries, the word is quickly changed to “How to say hello”.

How many times in scripture can you remember the word “Greeting’ being spoken?  Send in your answers and there will be a prize……just kidding!

The only time I actually remember the word being used in a sentence is when the Angel Gabriel visits Mary at her annunciation, “Greetings, favoured one…”, this account is only found in the Gospel of Luke.  In the scripture we read on Sunday from Matthew 28:v9, the word is spoken by Jesus himself to the women as they make a hasty retreat after their encounter with the angel who had announced Jesus was not there!  As with the story of Gabriel and Mary, this account is only to be found in the Gospel of Matthew .

I used to wonder why on earth didn’t the gospel writers collaborate with one another.  Couldn’t they have discussed whose memory was correct or who was going to tell which story?  What great discussions even arguments might have ensued, but that wasn’t of course how the gospels came about, was it?  Maybe having all these different versions are meant to make us look further into these ancient stories and use our imaginations, detective powers even, to look for evidence of the grace of God hidden in the text! 

The word ‘greet’ is used in both testaments, but particularly by Paul in his letters to the early church.  He uses the word ‘greet’ as a verb, giving instructions to do this action of greeting one another, passing on warm wishes and testimony and story of how God’s grace carried them through.

After this Pandemic, we also will have stories to tell.  I hope they will be stories filled with warm greetings and incidences of kindness and love - one for another.

The Bible says “Greet one another with a holy kiss”. For most of us, a hug will suffice and a simple greeting which says “I missed you, how are you?”

Bless you all as we come into our 1st Post Easter Week. Greetings in the name of the one who taught us to love and laugh!

Let us Pray:

Holy One, we greet this day you have given us!  We give thanks for the good prairie air and for the vastness of the prairie sky.  May we be reminded of the wideness of your ever embracing love for each one of us. Even in our isolation, we thank you for the privileges with which we are blessed.

In the name of the Risen one we pray.

Amen.

 

Wednesday, Apr. 15

Today's Easter Word: Confusion

Today's Gospel Reference: John 20: 14-16 

Mary turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.  He said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you looking for?"  Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away."  Jesus said to her, "Mary!"  She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher).

Mary's confusion over who Jesus is may sound strange to us. After all, she knew and loved him, how could she not recognize his face, his voice?  Maybe it was just that she didn't expect to see him alive.  Or he could have looked different somehow from what he looked like before.  But why of all people did she think he was the gardener?

Nadia Bolz-Weber wrote a reflection this Easter where she said Mary confusing Jesus for the gardener was an easy mistake to make. 

https://nadiabolzweber.substack.com/p/its-actually-pretty-easy-to-mistake  

She thinks Jesus had the look of a gardener about him - perhaps instead of being bright and shiny like we think of the Risen Christ, he still had the dirt of the tomb under his fingernails.

In our Lent Study this week, we talked about what it meant that the tomb where Jesus laid was in a garden, and the resurrection took place in a garden.  Our study book suggested a connection with the original garden, the Garden of Eden.  In general, gardens bring forth new life, plants grow, blossom, and bear fruit in gardens.  Gardeners tend the soil, plant and bring new life to the garden, and nurture the living things that are growing.  In order to do that, they have to get their hands dirty.  Even the most beautiful and lush garden, after all, is full of dirt.

So perhaps Bolz-Weber is right, and Jesus was a little dirty this side of the resurrection. This may be confusing for us if our image of Jesus, especially at Easter, is bright and shiny, wearing brilliant white robes.  But I like the image of Jesus as a gardener.  On one hand, it makes Jesus feel more down to earth, more connected with us here on earth.  I also think Gardener is a good name for the One who made new life blossom in the world in a way it never had before.  If Jesus is like a gardener, then it makes me think: what are the seeds he is planting in my life; where are the places he is working, hands in the dirt, alongside me; and what is the growth he is trying to coax out of me? 

Let us pray:

Creator God, thank you for the new life you have brought into this world, not only at Easter, with the resurrection of Jesus, but each day, you make all things new. Holy Gardener, thank you for all the work you do to nurture growth in this world, alongside me, and in me.  In this time of great confusion, ground me in you and help me be rooted in your love that will not let me go. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Risen and at work in the world today.

Amen.

 

Tuesday, Apr. 14

Our Easter Word and Gospel Reading today on which to ponder and reflect during this Easter Season is “Question”, passage from John 20: 1-18.  

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word ‘question’ as, "A Sentence so worded or expressed to seek information, doubt or dispute.…”

It goes on for a fairly lengthy column!  As Christians we don’t have any questions, right?  For most of you!

I hope that statement is untrue.  We must question...for when we do, we can deepen our faith.

The scripture passage for the rest of this week is about ‘Resurrection and Recognition’.

After Mary runs to inform the disciples what she has seen, Peter and John run to the garden and enter the tomb; they find the grave clothes, but no body!  Do you think they had a total clear picture in their heads?

I think not! I am sure they looked at one another with quizzical expressions on their faces and hardly dared speak out loud the questions buzzing around in their heads!  What on earth is going on, what did we miss about this picture?

For Mary, her question is more a heart question; she asks the ‘Gardener’ to tell her first if he moved Jesus, and secondly where he might have laid him?  Even though scripture tells us she talked with the two angels inside the tomb and just answers ‘their’ question with a statement, saying she doesn’t know what has happened to her Lord.  It is only when she encounters the ‘Gardener’, that without even looking at him, she blurts out her question to the effect if he had moved Jesus, where had he placed him’?  Or did she look at him?

We will never know the answer to that question. Perhaps she did look at this figure and it just didn’t sink in what or whom she was seeing!

It is voice recognition that jolts her back to reality and opens her eyes to the person of the Resurrected Jesus.  This same beloved Jesus of Nazareth she had watched die a brutal death; stood, probably in disbelief while two virtual strangers, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus (the one who came to Jesus by night) took down the body of her dead Lord; not one of the twelve in sight; watched the two men hastily prepare his body for burial before the sun sank and Sabbath began.  Surely those images must have flashed before her eyes and when she hears her name spoken, she can only say one word “Rabbouni!”, which means teacher.  Once on her own again, can you just imagine all the unspoken questions she might have wished she had asked!

What would have been your question to the Resurrected Jesus?

During a Spiritual crisis in my life, the United church gave me a place to bring my doubts and my questions.  I had become disillusioned with my more Evangelic Baptist faith and I found myself constantly questioning and feeling I was losing all the faith I ever had.  My questions were not being answered and my doubting I felt, was being judged!  That might have just been how I perceived it.  I longed for a place that would allow me to ask the questions and struggle with them.

What I discovered at John Black Memorial United Church was a ministry team that accepted me and let me ‘just be’ until I could even formulate the questions I wanted to ask.  I also found a congregation who eventually embraced me and walked with me.  The most important thing I learned was, there is beauty in asking the question, and the joy may not come in a definitive answer, but in the struggle with the possibilities the question presents.

May each of you never be afraid to ask the questions you need to speak out, trusting that we your sisters and brothers in Christ at OBUC, will walk with you and enjoy the journey, and may they lead us all to a deeper and richer experience of the Risen Christ.

Blessings.

Maureen

 

Monday, Apr. 13

Our Easter Word for today is “Empty”.  It has to do with the empty tomb, which is a cause for joy, but these days, the word also reminds us of our empty church building.

The following Daily Meditation is from Linda Rodgers and speaks to the contradictions of this Easter.

This Easter Celebration
(sung to the tune of The Church’s One Foundation - VU #331)
Text: Copyright © 2020 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette
Carolyn Winfrey Gillette is a part-time parish associate at First Presbyterian Union Church in Owego, New York, a small town in the Finger Lakes. She grants free use of the hymn to everyone, including streaming online.

 

This Easter celebration is not like ones we’ve known.
We pray in isolation, we sing the hymns alone.
We’re distant from our neighbors— from worship leaders, too.
No flowers grace the chancel to set a festive mood.

No gathered choirs are singing; no banners lead the way.
O God of love and promise, where’s joy this Easter Day?
With sanctuaries empty, may homes become the place
we ponder resurrection and celebrate your grace.

Our joy won’t come from worship that’s in a crowded room
but from the news of women who saw the empty tomb.
Our joy comes from disciples who ran with haste to see—
who heard that Christ is risen, and then, by grace, believed.

In all the grief and suffering, may we remember well:
Christ suffered crucifixion and faced the powers of hell.
Each Easter bears the promise: Christ rose that glorious day!
Now nothing in creation can keep your love away.

We thank you that on Easter, your church is blessed to be
a scattered, faithful body that’s doing ministry.
In homes and in the places of help and healing, too,
we live the Easter message by gladly serving you.

Watch here to hear Rev. Casey Carbone give this hymn a contemporary swing.

I’m writing this during Holy Week on April 6th.  Yesterday Kristin, Maureen, Stephen, and I met by ZOOM to discuss how we would mark the special days of this week—days when we usually meet in person to share a supper on Maundy Thursday, to grieve on Good Friday, and to rejoice on Easter.  Life as we know it has been put on hold and we are adjusting to this ‘new normal’.  We are excited to wave at each other on ZOOM meetings and to hear each others’ voices.  We miss the physical hugs and send virtual ones.  We yearn to be outside working and playing with family and friends, and if we pass someone when on a walk, we avoid contact ‘like the plague’.

It seems so sad that we can’t celebrate Easter joyously as in the past.  And yet, I know that families are making alternate plans.  As in the TV commercials, some will eat together by virtue of technology.  Some will go outside in their own yards for Easter sunrise.  And it’s my belief that by the time you read this, you will look back on this past Holy Week as one of the most meaningful, certainly one of the most memorable in your lives; that it will have been a time when you looked inward and contemplated more deeply the meaning of the Easter story and offered gratitude for the blessings we still have. 

Let us pray…

God of all times, we are grateful for creativity, ingenuity, and technology, and for the amazing gifts of Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, who can put into words our feelings and concerns during this time.  We are grateful for workers who continue to put their lives at risk to keep society functioning.  We are grateful for those who find ways small and large to help both friends and strangers.  Help us to keep on finding new ways to appreciate this time and what it offers to us.  And guide us to be the best selves we can be.

Amen.

Linda Rodgers
OBUC Choir Leader