Waiting for Resurrection in Coronatide

Easter will come just as it has every year before because resurrection is promised. It happens even when we cannot fully comprehend its possibility. Resurrection still happens.

I have been thinking a lot about hope this Lent. I’ve been thinking about its texture and its sensation. It can come to live inside us and it can feel as distant as the setting sun. Glorious but incomprehensible to the ordinariness of our lives — and our lives have been so ordinary in this pandemic. We have not traveled. We haven’t visited with those that we love most for fear of infection. Death has been so close.

Death is still too close but hope does not give up. It doesn’t sound like there will be widespread of the vaccines for COVID-19 until later this summer. There are other concerns in our world. Or there should be as we struggle against the powers of white supremacy and Christian nationalism and maybe Easter can be that grand celebration where we have overcome all of these terrors. Maybe. To me, it feels like we need to remember this year — and maybe every year — that hope is not always triumphant.

Sometimes hope is quiet and gentle. Hope is a flicker of creativity or.a hint of possibility.

It may not be apparent. It might not be something we all see or feel but something we have to believe into our own reality.

It might be something that actually requires witnesses where we need other people to be there to see and hear this thing. We don’t want to be alone in this moment. We need others to be there with us.

It is everything that I’ve ever felt in those early morning experiences of waiting for the sun to rise on Easter morning. I am not a morning person and this is a feat of God for me to even be at this service. It is even more miraculous if I am the one leading this service but there is something quiet and powerful about the hope that is felt in those services. It’s not the loudness of the festival worship that happens in the sanctuary later that morning.

It is an expectant kind of hope.

I wanted to create something like that for this year. Something that was full of expectation of what could be when we overcome the terrors of the present. Something that would invite us to watch and wait together. Easter Watch is that something. It is available to you here for free.

Unlike the bonfire experience I created for Ash Wednesday, I wanted something that could happen as a worship event outside. It would be masked. It would be possible to maintain six feet so that even those that are not vaccinated could watch and wait in community.

It is adapted from a service I created years ago while I was an interim pastor for a tiny church in rural Pennsylvania. They were used to a sunrise service in the graveyard behind their church but they knew that it couldn’t be that this year. The forecast wouldn’t make it safe for any of us to traverse that uneven ground. So much had already changed there anyway. This could change too so that there was an opportunity to gather and wait for the good news to come. It needed to be different because they were different than they were the year before.

That service had more of the familiar notes of an Easter Vigil but this one is really focused around quiet contemplation around a bonfire as the sun begins to rise. It’s a service to welcome the possibility without knowing really what will come next and I pray a worshipful experience that invites each participant to make hope come alive. As with Fire & Ashes, it is a simple pamphlet that can be shared among the worshipping community. It doesn’t require an ordained leader but invites a few voices to speak between the silences of personal meditation.

The one thing that it doesn’t include is music and I think there could be music. I just don’t think it should be music that requires lugging a laptop or a portable speaker to make it beautiful. It feels like the kinds of experience where a talented musician or soloist (or both) could offer some familiar Easter hymns to make this worshipful experience even more wonderful.

It does, however, require a few worship elements for this worship experience to happen including:

  • Firewood
  • Twigs and sticks
  • Matches, lighter or other tool to start fire
  • Large pitcher full of water
  • Large vessel like a bowl
  • Shovels

As with other things I offer, it is yours to adapt and imagine into new life. I hope it’s a blessing to you this Holy Week as you wait for the power of resurrection to become real.

May it be so.

Liturgical Lights for Sunday April 5, 2015

J A S M I N EAfter that last supper, after the disciples have deserted and one of them has betrayed all that he once believed to be true, after the one they had been following died the most horrible death one might have imagined then, it will be Sunday.

It will be Easter.

It’s what happens after — but it can’t come without those things happening. It doesn’t come without the hope and expectation of the procession into Jerusalem or the number of ways that the followers of this would-be Christ will screw up over the past week. All of that stuff happens first.

And then, there is resurrection.

Something changes — but perhaps not everything. There will still be the memory of the death and worry over what has come to pass in the past few weeks. Will it change everything? Will it change nothing Will we go on living as we always have? These seem to be the central questions of Easter. As much as we want the joy — as much as we want to sing and dance and shout “alleluia” — we have to also ask ourselves if we’re ready to be changed. Did we change? Have we changed? How will this cause us to live differently now that Easter has come?

The Narrative Lectionary on April 5, 2015 is Matthew’s version of the Resurrection. In Matthew 28:1-10, we follow Mary to the tomb to find that this message is for us. This message is for us — and so we try not to be afraid as find the courage to tell the story in our own words. What better than to find that courage than through the music of my colleague and friend Rob Leveridge. Rob recently came out with a wonderful album of progressive music for worship called Dancing on the Mountain.

For Easter, I’m particularly inspired by the ninth track Let it Live which I imagine being played just after the Call to Worship to set the tone for worship. No lyrics yet. Just the tune on guitar, piano or whatever you’ve got going on instrumentally this Sunday. This would then build up to when the congregation gets to sing along during dance party that happens somewhere after the sermon. (What?! You don’t have a dance party on Easter? You should.) For me, Easter is a dance party even when these three days haven’t healed everything that has come to pass. That stuff is still there — the sense of betrayal, loss and desertion is all still there. It’s not the only thing that’s there — but it hasn’t totally gone away as we try to allow ourselves in the resurrection.

It’s the first line of Rob’s song that says this so well:

I’m starting to see…

It is this line that inspires the only prayer I’ll offer this week.

Invocation

Let us pray:

Come into our fear.
Come into our questions.
Come into all of that we are still holding onto right now.
Because it is Easter, Lord.
It is Easter. And we need to be resurrected.
Come, Lord.

Come and help us remember that he was raised from the dead.
Come and help us see him ahead of us.
Come and help us see him before us.
Because you hoped that this would be a message for us.
So, come Lord. Come into our fear and our questions.
Come and separate us from the death we cling to.
Bring us out of the tombs we cling to.
Push us up from the grave.
Help us to begin to see.
Help us begin to see all that you see.
Come, Lord. Come on this Easter morning.
Come and resurrect us all. Come.

If you use the prayers I’ve written in your worship, and I hope you will, please do offer me credit with as follows:

The prayers in our worship this morning were written by/adapted from Liturgical Lights for Sunday April 5, 2015 by the Rev. Elsa Anders Peters. Elsa is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ who blogs at https://elsaacook.wordpress.com.

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