What are you reading and listening to these days for learning and personal growth? I’d love to hear about it!
This is what I’ve been listening to and would love to chat about them with you!
Walking with you on Jesus’ Way of Love,
Attention families with children: Family Sunday School is now available! Click here for a 14-minute video with Bible story, prayer, song, and activity suggestions especially for families.
Service project to support our Muslim friends
The Muslim holy month of Ramadan began on Friday, April 24, and we would like to show support by sending cards to our Muslim friends as they fast and pray while social distancing. Would you be willing to make a card to wish them a “Ramadan Mubarak” (Happy Ramadan)? We will be sending some to our friends in the Turkish American Society and some to friends at Masjid Saad in Sylvania. If you would like to participate, please make a card and drop it off in the church mailbox before Thursday (April 30). Thank you!
A Sermon Meditation on the Third Sunday of Easter
By The Rev. Dr. J. Paul Board
April 26, 2020
Greetings. Happy Easter.
This is the third Sunday of Easter. I wish you all well and I miss you. I pray you are safe. Many of my colleagues are celebrating Eucharist in a live stream. We do not. It works for them. Not for me.
The Eucharist is fundamental to our spiritual expression. But we are not together. The word Eucharist is Greek. It means Thanksgiving. The root is charis. It means grace. Another expression for Eucharist is Holy Communion. The word Communion has the same root as community, meaning you can’t have communion unless you are in community. And we are not. We cannot break bread together during this COVID pandemic.
We need to find a new way to do church.
In the Gospel story, two followers of Jesus are walking on the road to Emmaus. This is still Easter Sunday. The 11 disciples are back in Jerusalem in the house and Jesus appears to them there. These two followers are walking and Jesus joins them. The don’t realize it is Jesus. Jesus asks them what are they discussing and they told him about the events in Jerusalem over the past several days. They talked about the crucifixion and the reports of Jesus being alive.
At the end of the walk the men asked Jesus to stay with them for supper. And he did. It was at the moment Jesus broke bread that they recognized who he was, and they were astonished. Then Jesus disappeared. The men said to themselves, were not our hearts burning while Jesus was amongst us?
This is a deeply fascinating story on many levels. Jesus is right there walking with them on the road and they don’t even recognize him, until they look back.
I ask you now: where is God in your life? Where is God with you, right now in this pandemic crisis, during the Stay at Home order? In the efforts you are making to protect yourself, while we cannot come to church and be together in the sanctuary, where is God in your life right now?
For those two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus, God was right there with them, and they didn’t even know it. Jesus the son of God was there with them, but they didn’t see. And yet their hearts were burning while he was there. Looking back, they saw him.
There is a wonderful story in Exodus when Moses experiences a similar thing. This is well after the Exodus event. After the burning bush. After the Ten Commandments. Moses is up on the mountain talking with God. This is in chapter 33. Moses asks God to see him, see God. God answers, “You may see me, but you may not see my face and live.” So God puts Moses in a cleft of the rock. And as God passes by, he covers Moses’ face with his hand. Then God allows Moses to see him after he has passed. Moses is permitted to see God’s back end, so to speak.
This is a metaphor. Moses was able to see that God had been there, with him. And this is typically the way I experience the divine. My heart burns during the moment, but I don’t necessarily recognize God is there with me. When I look back, sure enough, God was there.
Where is God with you now in this COVID environment?
We have to find a new way to do church. In the old way, when we talked about church, we talked about going to church. But we can’t go to church anymore, not for a while. Now we must ask ourselves: how can we do church?
In the early centuries, church began in the home. And during times of crisis when it wasn’t safe to be the church, especially during the persecutions, church thrived in the home.
How are we going to do church now that we cannot come together for Holy Communion?
The church has three main ministries. We have three functions that are crucial to the building of the kingdom of God. 1) the sacraments, 2) relationships, and 3) service.
We are a sacramental church, but the sacraments have been taken away from us. We recognize God in the breaking of the bread, like the two on the road to Emmaus. We cannot break bread together.
We must focus our energy on our relationships and service. We look to our relationship with God, with Christ, with one another, with our neighbor, and strangers, who are also neighbors. We can serve one another.
We have been doing our best at St. Paul’s, with interactive tools: emails, Zoom meetings, bible studies, recorded meditations, and music offerings. For everything we have done, with all its effectiveness, the youth group is non-existent. The kids are not engaged. There is no spiritual connection with our youth and the church. The youth group is not happening.
Formation happens in the home. Children learn their faith through their parents. If the parents don’t have faith, the kids don’t either. If the parents don’t express their faith, the kids don’t either. Yes, parents can take their kids to church. But if they do not exercise their faith in the home, the children do not grow with faith in their hearts. As Jennifer Vasquez is always touting, the church is a useful tool, but formation happens in the home.
When the church was in trouble, they went back to their homes. This is what we are doing now. Sheltering at home. The question I ask is if you are exercising your faith at home? Do our children have an experience with God, from you? At home? Because that is where we need to be right now.
I pray for you. I pray for your health and safety. I wish you well. And I ask you to pray for me. Together we can find a way to do church and be the church, starting from the home.