At the end of the last week, I sat on a picnic blanket in my backyard with my two babies reading the Ascension from their new Sparkhouse Story Bible. (I discovered that Sparkhouse is offering a discount for Bibles to support families during this pandemic.) When I’ve preached on this passage from Acts, I’ve always been drawn to that bit about the disciples gazing up toward heaven.
I rather like how the Story Bible turned this around for me. It caught my attention and made me wonder what it was that I’m doing right now to carry on the love of Jesus especially for those that feel like God has abandoned us. In the Story Bible, the narrative doesn’t end with the question about staring up to heaven. It doesn’t end with any sort of claim about when Jesus will come back but picks up with a disciple daring to be brave enough to say, “Right! Meanwhile, we have some work to do. Let’s get going.”
These prayers pick up on that hope because it’s been eleven weeks and I’m tired. I’m riddled with doubt that any choice I make to stay home or wear a mask actually matters. I need to hear a bit more from scientists and God.
I really wanted to write something else about face masks but I’ll settle for the gorgeous art. Instead, I offer a simple responsive prayer to begin worship.
Welcoming the People of God
People of God, where is your hope?
Our hope is in God
who has blessed us
and given us great joy.
Why, then, do you worry?
We fear the unknown.
There is so much that is unknown.
Where do you look for hope?
We look to the scientists
eagerly working in labs
with more than 78 projects in process.
We marvel at what they have learned
in a mere five months
and we hope the healthcare workers
know how much we admire them
and appreciate them when
we are not banging pots and pans.
Where do you need God today?
We need God
to help us to understand this moment
as much as we might understand
We need God
to remind us there
is still work to do
and great joy to be found.
In the first church I served and the church of my childhood, there was no prayer of confession. There was something dubbed a unison prayer meaning that it was something we all shared together in one voice. Might I suggest something like this this Sunday even if you skip over the Ascension and find yourself in Easter 7A? Consider a Prayer for Medical Scientists or a Prayer for Chaplains and Healthcare Workers. There are surprisingly few of these out there.
Something for the Offering
I wanted to write something about wearing masks and staying home and socially distancing and how all of these things are the things we can do in this moment, but everything I came up with was garbage. (Yes, garbage.) This isn’t the perfect solution. It assumes a point of privilege and that’s not what I hope, but I did want to add something simple to celebrate our gifts to the church and beyond. It admittedly leans heavily on church. Oops.
I use Luke 4 in the second to last response but it could easily be adapted to include your church’s mission or vision. Remembering who we are and who we belong to in these days is critical. Use the words that your congregation has created. Remember. Celebrate. Adapt everything.
Invitation to the Offering
People of God, why do you stand
looking up toward heaven?
Christ has gone up with a shout,
but he will come again with trumpets and praise.
How then will you live?
We will live in hope
and be guided by peace.
We will dare to believe that
there are better days ahead
but we will do all that we can to protect
this earth and its people. We will love.
Who will you love?
We will love the forgotten and the ignored.
We will love the discarded, abandoned and abused.
We will love brown bodies, black bodies
immigrant and refuge bodies, fat bodies
and hollow bodies that feel they’ve nothing to give
but we will give.
How will you give?
We give with our whole hearts
with our bodies and souls
to support the things that matter most.
People of God, why do you give?
We give to bring good news to the poor;
to proclaim release to the captives and
recovery to the sight of the blind,
to let the oppressed go free
and allow all people to believe in hope.
How will you hope?
We will put our hope in our church.
We will believe in its mission
so much that it becomes an extension of ourselves.
We will hope that every dollar and every cent
is used to make Jesus Christ present
We will hope with out who hearts
and reach out to the world in love.
I may have had this song in my head while I was writing this particular prayer.
That’s all I’ve got for this week.
Dear pastors, liturgists and musicians, I’m praying for you, as always.