Saturday, May 9, 2020

Practicing Christ's Compassion During Eastertide in the Midst of Coronavirus Pandemic in Worcester, Mass. May 3-9

A Liturgy (i.e. Work of the People) for Eastertide During the Novel Coronavirus Pandemic Week of May 3-9 in Worcester, Massachusetts 

Below is a "liturgy or work of the people for the second week of Eastertide 2020" (here are links to weeks March 8-14March 15-21March 22-28March 29-April 4Holy Week April 5-11Eastertide Week 1 April 12-18Eastertide Week 2 April 19-25, and Eastertide Week 3 April 26-May 2) including encouragement, connection points, prayer focuses, discipleship practices, articles, videos, quotes, and more. 

We can't overcome this desert of disease on our own. We can't overcome the distress on our own. But we can die with Christ to our fears, and by His Spirit, surrender to the Deliverer who overcomes and resurrects.

+ ECC Facebook Live 4th Eastertide Weekend Message + Liturgy: Power, Participation, Pressing On that's Only Possible w/ the Person of Jesus Christ

Mass featured call to worship from Psalm 139:7-8, song suggestions including Living Hope, The Anthem, Abide in Me, and Resurrecting, confession and assurance prayers based on Romans 5:20-6:7 + ECC Facebook Live 4:30 p.m. message on Philippians 3:10-14: Power, Participation, and Pressing On that's Only Possible w/ the Person of Jesus Christ, Lament + Passing the Peace, Eucharist, and Benediction

+ Blessings Sung Over Us by Jesus' Church

" ... May the Lord bless you and protect you. May He smile on you and be gracious to you. May He show you His favor and give you His peace. ... " I pray this for you all this week, and I join the chorus of Jesus' family in the UK in singing this over you all today:

+ The UK Blessing Video + Song (6:46 minutes)

+ The Biblically Quarantined Life + The Great Physician for COVID-19

" ... In this pandemic, rather than jumping to Revelation 13 conclusions, consider Leviticus 13 obligations prompted by a 1 Corinthians 13 motivation. ... " :) Intriguing quote. Thoughtful article.

+ CT: The Biblically Quarantined Life

Also, this other article is from one of my favorite authors, Joshua Ryan Butler (The Skeletons in God's Closet, The Pursuing God) features the story of the bleeding woman (this passage also featured in the last sermon I preached in public on Sunday, March 15 w/ Pleasant Street CRC: "Joining with Jesus to Welcome Unexpected Interruptions"). " ... Jesus knew how contagious our condition was, yet came knowing that absorbing our affliction was actually the only cure. ... "

+ TGC: The Great Physician for COVID-19

+ Helpful Book Readings + Potential Discussions

There have been five books that have helped shape my passions, prayers, perspective, and practices during this pandemic.

+ A Beautiful Disaster: Finding Hope in the Midst of Brokenness by Marlena Graves 
+ Glorious Weakness: Discovering God in All We Lack by Alia Joy  
+ The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction by Justin Whitmel Earley  
+ Reappearing Church: The Hope for Renewal by Mark Sayers  
+ Longing for Revival: From Holy Discontent to Breakthrough Faith by James Choung & Ryan Pfeiffer

+ Grieving the Murder of Ahmaud Arbery & Singing Through the Tears

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. How long, Lord?! Not again. Mourning with all our beloved sisters and brothers of color, particularly the mothers on this Mother's Day weekend who have already shed so many tears and suffered excruciating loss, who are crying out, "Why?!" again. " ... Let justice roll like a river, like a river let it roll (to the pavement where the blood of Ahmaud Arbery cries out from the concrete) ... " I encourage you to listen to and sing "Rose Petals" with all those who are grieving over the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, and longing for justice ... " ... I'm asking you to look at all these roses with petals on the ground, they call this one Ahmaud Arbery. ... " And as a question and a cry for justice, consider the words and passion of "How Much Longer?" alongside the beloved Ike Ndolo and Common Hymnal to complement "Rose Petals" as a cry through the tears.

+ A Mother's Day Weekend Lament for Ahmaud Arbery Saturday, May 9, 2020

Many of you all will recognize this lament from previous times when we have cried out to God in the face of murder and injustice among those who are prejudiced againt and/or marginalized with destructive violence. I will be leading us and any who join us through this lament again before the passing of the peace on Facebook Live this afternoon near the beginning of the video message.

+ A Mother's Day Weekend Lament for Ahmaud Arbery along with Remembering the Murders of Mother Emanuel A.M.E., Pulse Club, and Philando Castile

Promises + Take Me Back + Communion Songs of Reconciliation + Restoration by Maverick City Music | TRBL

I also needed to listen to and be led in these songs yesterday by our sisters and brothers of color in the midst of the tears to remind me of how God is and will continue to keep His promises. He loves us, is with us, and is for us, and He is still faithfully bringing His Gospel ministry of reconciliation and restoration to bear in our broken world. May the lyrics and harmonies encourage you today in your walk with Jesus as well.

+ Promises: " ... God from age to age, though the earth may pass away, Your Word remains the same. Your history can prove there’s nothing You can’t do, You’re faithful and true. Though the storms may come and the winds may blow, I’ll remain steadfast. And let my heart learn when You speak a word it will come to pass ... Great is Your faithfulness to me! Great is Your faithfulness to me! From the rising sun, to the setting same, I will praise Your name. Great is Your faithfulness to me! I put my faith in Jesus, my anchor to the ground. He's my hope and firm foundation, He’ll never let me down! ... " 
+ Take Me Back: " ... I remember when I was afraid, Oh, the hand I felt lead the way. For the first time in my life, I felt safe. Now that I’m older, would You lead me again? When the storm is out on the ocean and the violent wind get’s to blowing, Oh, take me back, back, all the way back. Oh, take me back to my first love. ... You are near to me. I’ve never been too far. And in the in between, You brought Heaven to my heart. ... "  
+ Communion: " ... You are closer, closer than my skin. You are in the air I'm breathing in. Here's where the dead things come back to living! I feel my heart beating again, feels so good to know You are my Friend. This is the garden here in the place I find You close. This is communion here in the place I'm fully known. ... "

+ Persevering in Step w/ the Spirit and the Great Cloud of Witnesses as We Look to Jesus Again

A U.S. story: Imagine you were born in 1900. On your 14th birthday, World War I starts, and ends when you are 18. Later in the year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until your 20th birthday. On your 29th birthday, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%, the World GDP drops 27%. That runs until you are 33. The country nearly collapses along with the world economy. When you turn 39, World War II starts, and on your 41st birthday, the United States is fully pulled into WWII until you are 45. At 50, the Korean War starts. At 55 the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War both reveal devastating and destructive broken systems alive and well in the nation. Then, when you are 62 the Cuban Missile Crisis threatens to end life on our planet as we know it. When you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends. Faithful and intentional Kingdom citizen responsibility with Jesus continues to be needed by you and the next generation as selfish individualism and indifference; personal, political, and corporate greed; systemic racism, injustice, and abuses of power; abortion on demand; potential nuclear war, etc., continue to impact vulnerable people here and around the world ... the proclamation and invitation to believe that Jesus has risen holds fast, and the next generation is invited to be born again to a living hope through the power of His resurrection ...

As we walk in step with the Spirit, let's give glory to Jesus for how He has not only been faithful in the previous century's generations of people in our city, state, and nation, but that the Father of our Lord Jesus who held them and carried them is the same God who is with us, holding us, leading us and never forsaking us in the face of unknowns, injustices, laments, as well as in His promise of renewal ... Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? ... Start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how He did it. Because He never lost sight of where He was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—He could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame ... And now He’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility He persevered through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! + Hebrews 12:1-3 paraphrase by Eugene Peterson

+ Mother's Day Reminder from a Mother
Happy Mother's Day weekend to all our beloved mothers near and far! We are celebrating mothers of the born and unborn, as well as humbly offering compassion for the mothers of those who have lost their children as well as for those who have felt forced to abort their children. We love you. Here is a brief quote from a mother to help disciple us in looking to Jesus this weekend ...

... I’m no longer the little girl who loved to sing about her light. I’m a woman who follows Jesus, the Light of the world (John 8:12), and I’m gonna let my light shine. Yes, darkness abounds. But even the tiniest flickering dispels the dark. And we don’t just flicker, we shine Christ’s light into the dark and behold His mercy toward sinners. Do you see the effect your local church can have by letting your light shine brightly? And how church-planting churches can further spread the light? Let’s courageously shine forth gospel grace, remembering that the darkness can never overcome the light (John 1:5). 
+ Christy Britton, content editor of Acts 29, discipleship coordinator of Imago Dei Church, from "This Little Church of Mine, I'm Going to Let it Shine"

+ Prayer: A Liturgy for Those Who Feel Stuck

King Jesus, we have placed the weight of the world’s suffering upon our shoulders instead of Yours, O Deliverer. We are mired in hesitation, overwhelmed by stagnancy. Our city groans with need, suffering multiplies by the hour, and it is not the call of your children to ignore our neighbors’ cries. 
But, O Savior, how do we wash another’s feet when we cannot touch? Where our understanding falters, where our knowledge dwindles, where our expertise ends, O Lord, You meet us there. Your Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path when we cannot see the next right step. O Loving God, You have said this is Your will: to be joyful always, to pray continually, to give thanks, to do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly with You. Our portion is You and Your redemptive work.  
Show us how to be Your ambassadors to this hurting world. Teach us how to use our hands and resources when words fall short. Define your ministry of reconciliation for each of us, Jesus. Bless those who have not the time or privilege of feeling stuck: those on medical frontlines, those stocking shelves, those teaching their children, those caring for the vulnerable, those turning the gears of our beloved city.  
O Author and Perfecter of our faith, You use us to write a beautiful story amid crisis. As parts of Your body, appointed by the same Spirit, we do not receive Your grace in vain, and trust we have everything we need to abound in every good work.  

Next post: Practicing Christ's Compassion During Eastertide in the Midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic in Worcester, Mass. May 10-May 16

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan

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