Week of: April 5, 2020
Scripture: Matthew 26:14 - 27:66
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, "I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me."
(Matthew 26:36-38, NRSV)
Back in January when I first wrote these devotions, little did we know how fast life would change or become interrupted. Little did we know that many of us would have to close our buildings to stop the spread of a new virus. Little did we know that we would have to find creative and new ways to be the church.
I don't know about you, but I feel a lot like Jesus right now as he goes to Gethsemane to pray, as there are times when I feel grief while not being able to worship together with my congregation or connect face to face.
This Sunday, Palm/Passion Sunday, was to be the beginning of one of the busiest weeks for us as clergy, musicians, worship artists, and others who play a key role in worship. Holy Week is akin to a championship sporting event for many of us in the worship arts, yet all of that is on hold for now.
Many of us may feel agitation while our lives and routines are on hold. At the same time, we are trying to let this pandemic pass by staying at home, only going out for essential activities. As I tell my congregation every week, this too will pass, maybe like a kidney stone, but it will pass. As we do a lot of our work from home, let us all pray without ceasing, seeking God's comfort, assurance, guidance, and wisdom during this time.
While our buildings might be closed for now, the church has not closed; we can be the church by checking in and caring for each other, gathering on Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime. We can offer to go shopping for anyone who can't, or make care packages to be dropped off on someone's porch. While many of us won't be worshiping together physically, we are still the church together as we worship virtually or however we worship. We are still the church together, even when life is interrupted.
Most Holy and Loving God, while life has been interrupted and our routines altered, we know you are still with us. We know you will assure us, comfort us, and help alleviate some of the loneliness we might feel when we come to you. We also know you take our fears, doubts, struggles, anger, cynicism, and grief when we give them to you. Continue to watch over us, O Lord. Continue to sustain us, keep us healthy, safe, and out of harm's way.
We give you thanks for all of those who are still working to keep us safe and fed, praying for their well-being and safety.
We know that as we approach the new life of Easter, we must go into the darkness. Remind us, O Lord that in the midst of darkness, we have new life and light to look forward to. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.
Community United Methodist Church
Photo: Stained glass windows inside Memorial Chapel at Lake Junaluska are illuminated by the sun. (Fellowship photo by Daniel Craig.)