Pandemic Prayers for Easter Sunday

Since it all began in Ukraine, I have been thinking about this poster.

I’ve been thinking about it as my husband works longer hours trying to bring peace to the world.

I’ve been thinking about it as I try to figure out how to share these new stressors and worries to my young girls. Do I bring them to the protests here in Germany? How do I explain why we are protesting?

I’ve been thinking a lot but I don’t have many answers.

I’ve been thinking about the vulnerability of all living things and the bold claim that resurrection makes for every precious being. And then, I read this article from the Smithsonian about why sunflowers are the national flower of Ukraine. There are farmers in Vermont planting fields of sunflowers now and I can’t help but think differently about the fields of daffodils that currently flood the green space all around our home here in Germany. I wonder who planted them beside the roadside and byways. I wonder what act of resistance was in this defiant act to create beauty or if it was something that was taught to them as it was for Miss Rumphius.

Years ago, there was an Easter Sunday when I was pastor at the United Churches in Olympia, Washington when there were no flowers on Easter. I cannot remember why but we couldn’t get the usual tulips and lilacs delivered. (The lead women of this task were both allergic to lilies and so this wasn’t even considered.) For whatever reason, there would be no flowers that year but we are loaves and fishes kinda people, right? There would always be wonder and reason for celebration. When the community gathers, there is always enough.

I remembered a flower communion, as it was called then, in our seminary chapel. It was led by some of the Unitarian Universalists as an adapted version of the familiar flower ceremony from their tradition. I wondered if we couldn’t do something similar by asking people to bring cut flowers to worship. There were some available in vases in the back of the sanctuary if anyone forgot and on the altar space was an assortment of vases with water. I wondered about some version of this for Easter this year because I can’t stop thinking about that woman, telling Russian soldiers, “Take these seeds so sunflowers grow here when you die.”

I’ve adapted the liturgy I created so many years ago for this moment. It originally was more of a meditation on the beauty of the flower itself and maybe that still works. You can find inspiration for that in the UU liturgy linked above. I’ve rewritten it thinking about that famous proverb, “They tried to bury us but they didn’t know we were seeds.”

This first bit is offered an an invitation to invite the community to bring forward their flowers.

Gathering of the Flowers

We are witnesses to these new heavens and this new earth. 
We have felt buried and hope has been lost but this not 
what we will remember. It begins today.
Joy will grow from sorrow.
Delight will bloom from despair.
This resurrection will blossom in our hearts. 
The former things will pass away.
We will rejoice and be glad. 
We will create it.
We will rejoice in the world we are making.
We are witnesses to the peace that is possible
and the amazing things that can happen 
in each resistance against the powers that might otherwise bury us.
We will pick flowers sprouted from tiny seeds of possibility.
We will witness to the beauty of God’s creation.
With these blossoms picked from roadsides and gardens, from wild places and cultivated gardens, picked along the way or by the door, we will witness to what could be. We will take hold of resurrection and believe with all our hearts and minds that God is doing a new thing.
Come and place your bud in one of the vases on the table.
We come to witness to hope come alive again.

With this invitation, folx were invited to come forward with music. I recall a standard Easter hymn but I might opt for something more like this. Or this. When I first did this, there was a prayer that followed this movement that invited every heart to be joined together in voice and hope. This has again been adapted to the point that it’s barely recognizable from what it once was.

With spirited songs like this, it could be that people just return to their seats and percussion is added with a wee bit of dancing. (There will maybe have been a few brave souls that sauntered down the aisles with their flowers.) That would be enough to conclude this movement of prayer but I’ll include the prayer if that’s preferred.

Unison Prayer
O God, create with us a world full of beauty and hope.
May these blossoms inspire us to witness your presence with joy.
Let these tiny buds call to our minds your presence in times of war. 
Plant in us a hope that does not die but only comes more alive
so that these colors and smells remind us of the cries heard on the first Easter morning and make us bold enough to create that joy in our world today. Amen.

I had offered a couple of ideas in my most recent newsletter for Easter Sunday but when this finally came together, I kept coming up with more ideas. It reminded me of this poem by Julia Esquivel and even in places where gardens lay dormant, I wonder about how we plant hope right now when it feels like hope is still buried so far underground. I wonder about using this litany earlier in worship or maybe what this act of flowering prayer leads to an affirmation of faith like this one or maybe inviting folx to write an affirmation of their own using this recipe for ministry. I rather like this prayer from Work to the People too.

And obviously, there is this more familiar hymn that is now stuck in my head.

I know many of you already have your bulletins ready to go. The slide decks are prepared and you’re trying to be present to all of the other things that Holy Week requires but if you’re still looking for inspiration, I pray this find you where you need to be. I’m praying for you, dear pastor.

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