I hope and pray that you have this Sunday off. I hope that you are enjoying rest and renewal after proclaiming the good news with such love and joy.
I hope that you have found some way to curate worship that doesn’t involve you having to edit videos this week together to create a worship experience for your good people but that extended time of rest that you so need might not have come yet. It might be in the days ahead and even if you are off caring for your soul, the people of God will still gather to worship so here are some prayers for that low Sunday following Easter joy.
Call to Worship Inspired by 1 John 1:1-2:2 From the very beginning when the world was still without shape there was joy. There was the light of love that shone through the expectation of what could be and what we dared to believe would be. What we have heard, what we have seen, what we have looked at and touched with our hands has revealed that possibility. It is this beginning in which we find ourselves where still so much could happen and so much could be possible. It is in this wonder that we worship and praise. We come together again to find our joy complete.
I wrote a Call to Worship based on Psalm 133 last summer that might be an option if this prayer doesn’t strike the right note fro what you are imagining. It might need some slight tweaking since the world has changed some since then. Thanks be to God.
Gathering Prayer Inspired by Acts 4:32-35 and 1 John 1:1-2:2 O God, there is so much that we don't know. We have doubted. We haven't been sure that there would be good news or that joy could ever be complete. We haven't believed with one heart and soul. We weren't even sure we had anything to share but we believe that resurrection changes us all. We are not yet complete. Our joy is not yet complete and this is good news. There is more, O God, that you will show us. We pray for your wisdom and grace in this time of rebirth. Amen.
There is only one line here that hints at the Gospel Lesson for this week. It’s a text I’ve preached often after the Senior Pastor proclaimed the important stuff on Easter. Ahem. It is not that it is not worthy of focus but I think that we know this story well. We know doubt and especially now as we live into this liminal space where some are vaccinated and others are not, it is hard not to doubt when this crisis will end. If you are looking not to preach this Sunday, you might share this award winning short animation film which is about the same length as a sermon after hearing the Gospel Lesson.
It seems so many of the videos that are out there focus on self doubt. After showing this film, I would encourage discussion in breakout rooms in a Zoom format or if you are streaming worship you might provide questions for quiet contemplation that appear on screen with background music. Questions might include:
- Where or when does your hedgehog show up?
- What do you imagine was the moment behind Thomas’ hedgehog? What is the moment behind yours?
- Where is there a hedgehog in our community or even in our congregation right now?
- What surprises await us in this season of resurrection?
You know your people well enough to know what can get them talking and thinking. I offer these to get you thinking. They are far from perfect. I hope that this conversation pushes beyond self doubt and allows for some naming of the pandemic doubts we are all carrying right now.
As you look ahead, or even for this week, I cooked up this recipe Pandemic Easter Affirmations during Lent. The pastor of my sweet Texas church used it to write a lovely affirmation for Easter Sunday and I encouraged her to recruit the elders — who already post weekly prayers in our congregation’s Facebook group — to write their own affirmations to carry us all through the season. I don’t know if it will happen but I offer the same encouragement to you. I am certain there are some wise souls in your church that have a gentle way of reminding the gathered community what matters and I’m sure they would love to offer the blessing of their words especially so that you, dear pastor, do not always have to be the one with words.
You might also encourage getting out of the house even among the unvaccinated with this recipe for Resurrection Awe Strolls. Easter is, after all, a season. Not just one day.
That’s all I have for you, dear pastors. I am praying for you. I am praying for you, as always.