This past Sunday marked a year since we have been in gathered worship in our Sanctuary. It's been a year since we did any of the normal things we used to do. Looking back, we never imagined it would take this long to get ahead of this tricky virus. Looking ahead, there are endless possibilities of all the new ways we have learned and are learning to be the Church together.
Thinking about how many ways we have pivoted our ministries in the past year is both inspiring and humbling. I have been inspired by the work of our church staff and volunteers who have kept some of our vital ministries going to help our community survive and be sustained in the midst of some very hard months. I have been humbled by the commitment of the Embry Hills UMC community to keep out virtual doors open, ministry happening, and connections strong. I've seen you at work around the church property. I've seen you checking on each other. I've seen you helping each other with food and home projects. I've seen reach out on the phone or with cards. I've seen you being there for each other in the midst of loss. I've seen you teaching children sign language, reading them books, and reminding them how much they are loved and cherished by God...ALL VIA ZOOM! I've seen you hard at work figuring out the administrative challenges of shutting down a church building while keeping the church running. Your faith has inspired me. Your commitment has humbled me. I am so grateful for the reminders you embody of God's never-failing love.
This past Sunday during the drive-in communion service, I had a deeply spiritual moment while saying the communion liturgy together with the small group of folks gathered for the sacrament. I asked the congregation to hold up their food and drink which they had brought and say the words of institution along with me: "Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and wine. Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world, the body of Christ redeemed by his blood." The words of institution are the invocation of the Spirit of God to fill the food and drink we consume during the Holy Sacrament. They are the moment when the real, mysterious presence of Christ overtakes the simple food items and turns the experience of eating those simple food items into a spiritual joining together with Christ and one another. For me, in that moment, there was a spiritual togetherness that is one of the things that signifies "church." I hope the same was true for all who were gathered.
And one more thing struck me: I remembered the words. I've been praying the prayer of Great Thanksgiving with congregations for 20 years. Those words hold many sacred memories for me stretching from my time as a seminary student to my pastoral role across 5 different congregations. The circumstances of our lives have changed--in some cases dramatically! But the circumstances of our salvation has not. The circumstances of our communion with God in Jesus Christ is steadfast. Praying those words again, with at least some of you, has brought new joy and light into my life. I look forward to the day when even more of us will gather, no matter where to say those words together again.
"By your Spirit, makes us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world, until Christ comes in final victory, and we feast at the heavenly banquet."
May it be.
Holy Week Worship:
Holy Thursday, April 1: 7:00 pm
Holy Communion in the front parking lot. Bring your chairs (socially distanced) or stay in your car and share and join in the telling of the story of Christ's last supper with the disciples. Bring your own bread and juice to consume during Holy Communion.
Good Friday, April 2:
Noon - 3 pm: Stations of the Cross
Drive-thru in the back parking lot, or walk-thru in the front parking lot. Seven stations remind us of the story of Christ's arrest, trial, and crucifixion.
7:00 pm: Telling The Crucifixion Story
Gather in the front parking lot for a reader's theatre - style experience of the Passion Story. Bring your chair (social distanced) or stay in your car to experience this re-telling of the story.
Easter Sunday, April 4: 10:00 am
Resurrection Celebration! Bring your chair (social distanced) or stay in your car for this celebration in Word, song, and prayer as we proclaim, "Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen, Indeed!"