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April 6, 2020

Dear friends,


It is hard to believe that this is Holy Week. We are we losing track of time due to the practice of isolation and staying home. I saw a meme recently that said, “For those who have lost track, today is Blursday, the fortyteenth day of Maprilay.” It is very hard for us to keep up with the day of the week much less the arrival of the holiest days of the Christian year.


Yet, here we are. This is the week we remember the Last Supper, the arrest and trial of Jesus, the crucifixion, his burial, and the victory of Christ being raised from the dead. In normal circumstances, this would be a very busy time at church. In the school calendar, this would be Spring Break, so many of you might have been away on a long-planned and anticipated vacation. Whatever your plans were for this week in the calendar, they have changed. And it has taken us by surprise. Nothing is what we thought it would be right now. We are counting loss after loss. It is so hard.


I find resonance with those feelings in the Lenten study I have been using: A Clearing Season by Sarah Parsons. A passage from this week’s chapter really called me to try and look at it all a little differently:


“We endure Lent’s process of subtraction because it opens us wider; the process of subtraction brings us closer to God, where true life is to be found. This is the true purpose behind any small sacrifices we have made this season. We muster all the faith that we can and lose what we feel called to lose, trusting beyond reason, beyond our sense, that God is working powerfully in and through us.” (p.85)


Even in the midst of all the things that have been subtracted from our lives, God is will with us. We are not alone. We are not abandoned. God is present in the loss, in the vigil for what is next, in the fear, and in the questions, we are experiencing about this strange time. And at the end of this week, a new light will shine. The light of resurrection will dawn. The promise of eternal life for those whom we have lost and for all of us will rise again out of the dark night in which we find ourselves now. Our feelings of despair, loss, grief, and pain are real and substantiated. God continues to speak hope into those feelings, into our lives. In a matter of days, we will seek that promise again. We will celebrate life and resurrection.


Where are the places you are seeing hope and light right now? The news is hard to hear, but it is not all bad. Where are you beginning to see glimpses of resurrection hope? I encourage you to look for signs of life around you: neighbors and strangers helping one another, children laughing and playing, the most beautiful blue skies I can remember on our sunny days, the stories of places like Venice where the earth is having a chance to heal itself while we are taking a break from polluting it. What stories of resurrection in your life can you see or recall? I will miss being with you on Easter. I will miss the lilies and mums, the live music, the faces of all the people gathered, the children, and our voices raised in song and prayer. I will never again take for granted the opportunity to gather with the Body of Christ in real time and face-to-face. Thank you for watching and participating in virtual worship. It is just like Sunday mornings: without you, it does not come to life in the same way. The same goes for the rest of our life in ministry: without all of us there together, it is not as rich, not as meaningful. Without all the gifts we each bring, our life together is not as full. Your gifts of time and attention to the video calls and worship services have encouraged the staff in our work. Our financial gifts are helping to keep all the necessary parts of our life together going. The gift of God’s grace is what grounds and sustains it all, and we have that in abundance no matter the place or time.


We will be together again one day. We will be able to sing and pray, to celebrate Holy Communion, to baptize, to teach, to embrace, and to share the love of God among us and out into the world. We will do this, and it will be a great celebration. And in the meantime, look for new ways to see and experience God’s light in the world. During these holy nights, read through the liturgies for home worship included with this letter. Set aside an offering that you can send to the church for Easter. Schedule prayer time for the same time every day so you can speak and listen to God. Call someone or send a note letting them know you love them and are thinking of them. All of these things share light in the darkness and bring resurrection to our dying souls.


I look forward to being with you again. And until that time, I thank you for your support, your love for God and each other and our community, and your commitment to continuing to grow in your faith during this time when life is so hard. Easter will come, friends. No matter where we are on April 12, 2020, Easter will come. New life will come. We will say once again, “Christ is risen, he is risen indeed! Alleluia!”


Thanks be to God. Peace,

Susan


Resources for Home Worship during Holy Week:

Stations of the Cross

Home Worship for Monday - Wednesday of Holy Week

Home Worship for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, & Easter Vigil

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Embry Hills United Methodist Church

3304 Henderson Mill Road, Atlanta, GA 30341

(770) 938-0661

office@embryhillsumc.org