March 29, 2020
March 29, 2020
Dear LCC Members and Friends,
Dear LCC Members and Friends -- Here we are after another week of COVID-19 crisis and the social distancing that goes with it. Whatever hardships this brings to you, I pray that you and your loved ones are safe and managing.
It looks like we'll be connecting via remote tools for some time to come, including Easter, though we will receive official word from the church council after it meets tomorrow.
We are experimenting with Zoom as a participatory platform for the congregation, and we will be in touch in the next few days with any plans. In the meantime, we would love to hear about your attraction (or not!) to this idea. In any case, we have received good feedback on these emailed "worship services," and so we will continue to send them as well.
As you navigate these difficult waters, please don't hesitate to reach out to me if you'd like to talk about how it's going (firstname.lastname@example.org, 413-427-1278). Peace and blessings -- Lee
Here is this week’s worship offering in lieu of in-person worship.
This “service” seeks to help open a door to the divine, as does all spiritual ritual. You might light a candle, put on some soft music, or take whatever other steps might help you gather a sense of holiness. May God bless you and keep you.
Take a moment to let your awareness drop down inside you, into the ocean of loving awareness that is within all of us.
Call to Worship
God is always with us in every moment, even when we wander.
God knows the depths of our hearts and shows us tender mercy.
God shows us Truth in our inward being, and leads us on paths of wisdom and love.
Let us sing songs of gladness in praise of God’s love.
Holy God, creator of us all, we come to you with hearts in need of your tender mercies. Help us to let go of whatever separates us from you. Open our hearts to know your presence within us and amongst us. Help us to feel your love. Amen.
Scripture: Psalm 130
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.
Scripture: John 1: 43-44 (click her for the full text of John 11:1-45)
"...he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him."
As the COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold, it strikes me that we can see our Easter story playing out all around the world.
We are more aware of death than ever, and yet everywhere life is being reborn. Death may be all around us, but it is never the end of the story, for death always succumbs to life.
We see the eternal surge of life in the fantastic commitment and devotion of medical workers.
We see life eternal in the countless acts of kindness being shared worldwide, like volunteers buying groceries for their neighbors and social-media sewing circles stitching masks from scraps of shower curtains and flowered fabric.
We see life’s beauty and power in the video shared yesterday by Beth Raffeld – of 74 students and young alumni from the Boston Conservatory at Berklee remotely performing and singing, “What the World Needs Now Is Love.” If you haven’t had a chance to see it, take five minutes to watch it today. It will lift you, and it might also bring you to tears, as it did me.
Closer to home, did you know that UMass Dining Services has teamed up with the USDA to provide children with a free grab-and-go breakfast and lunch every weekday? The "Baby Berk" food truck travels to seven neighborhoods in Amherst to deliver the meals.
Even when hope is hardest to muster, life springs forth. In our Gospel reading today, Jesus weeps when he hears of the death of his dear friend Lazarus. And then, when Jesus travels to the home of Lazarus, he shows us the miracle of life resurgent as he calls Lazarus from the tomb, and Lazarus walks out.
The story of Lazarus is a foreshadowing. of what's to come. In our Christian year, we are two weeks away from the events of Good Friday and Easter. Next week on Palm/Passion Sunday, we will celebrate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and, in the same breath, we will remember his arrest and scourging and crucifixion a few days later.
Our tradition is centered in the inevitability of life conquering death. And yet, it can be hard to translate this in our day-to-day lives. We are only human. Especially now, in the midst of this fearful crisis, we just want to feel better.
And so we seek protection from our feelings. When bad feelings come up, we naturally want to avoid them in favor of something that might distract us from them.
In moments like this, we forget that sometimes we have to face the “death” threatened by our scary feelings in order to find the life that lies deeper.
I love these words on the subject from Terry Tempest Williams in a recent interview: “A good friend of mine said, ‘You are married to sorrow.’ And I looked to him and I said, ‘I am not married to sorrow. I just choose not to look away.’ I think there is deep beauty in not averting our gaze, no matter how hard it is, no matter how heartbreaking it can be. It is about presence, bearing witness. I used to think bearing witness was a passive act, but I don’t believe that anymore. When we are present, when we do not divert our gaze, something is revealed. The very marrow of life. We change. A transformation occurs… a consciousness shift.” (1)
When I try to fight my fear, it grows. But when I allow the fear to come up… when I inhabit the fear… inevitably my consciousness does shift. This morning I was struck by a general sense of deep anxiety, and as I sought to allow it in, I saw the sun’s first kiss of the trees out back, and I was flooded by awareness of the miracle of life. The fear was gone… for then. It returns regularly, and the same rule applies… if I can trust there is a deeper truth… if I am willing to “lean into it the sharp points” (as Pema Chodron puts it), I will be embraced by that deeper truth.
We call that deeper truth by many names. God. Love. Light. It is our source and substance. It is Life, and no matter how much death—or fear of death—we find ourselves witnessing, Life will overcome it.
May it be so for each and every one of us. Amen.
Oh God, we thank you for all the blessings of this life, and especially for the ways you make yourself known to us. As Jesus taught his disciples to heal, we pray for all those who need healing today. We pray for those on our prayer list. We pray for those who are ill… for those in pain or loneliness or fear… for those who grieve… We pray for all who suffer from the tragedies of war and all kinds of violence against each other and our earth… We pray for all who are defenseless... From the depths of our current crisis, we pray that you help us and all people in the world to know that you are in us and we are in you, and to bring us your peace and comfort and strength and hope. We pray for all beings. Finally, we pray for those whose names we lift up to you now in our hearts…
Creator of all there is, we thank you for the miracle of life you have given us. God, you seek to know us and to be known by us. Help us to recognize you in all the ways you reveal yourself so that we might follow your constant calling into your heart of love and grace. Strengthen us when we are reluctant to confront our own inner lack of vision. Give us the humility to see ourselves and our actions in the light of your will. We ask these things so that we find the strength to pass on your love and strength to others. We ask all this in the name of Jesus, who taught us to pray to you, saying,
The Lord's Prayer
Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Unison Response: “O Lord, Hear My Prayer”
O Lord, hear my prayer,
O Lord, hear my prayer.
When I call answer me.
O Lord, hear my prayer,
O Lord, hear my prayer.
Come and listen to me.
As we navigate these frightening waters, may we also find moments to rest in the unchanging peace in the depths of the ocean of loving reality in which we swim.
God bless you all,
The family and friends of Deb Blakeney-Howard, Kim Mohlar’s
Donna, Nick Grabbe’s friend
Joan E., friend of Mary Hankinson
Irene Estes, Fred Bashour’s sister
John Field, Alice Field’s son
Chip Fonsh, friend of Steve Woodard
Dorothy Goldstone, Eve Marko’s friend
Alice Guthrie, friend of Lee Barstow
Liz H., Mary Hankinson’s sister
Victoria Hubbs, friend of Fred Bashour
Pam Jones, Sue Alward’s friend
Stasi Kanyuck, daughter of Marg and Jack Kruse, granddaughter
of Betty Wilson
Udi Kaplan, friend of John Kealy
Mary Kealy, John Kealy’s sister
Andy Lindsay, friend of Lee Barstow
Jim McGuinness, close friend of Ralph Tiner
Julia O’Kelly, Mary Ryan’s niece
Todd Philbrick, contributed by John Kealy
Leslie Scott, daughter of Kay Scott and wife of John Root
Julia Elly Shannon, Betty Wilson’s niece’s daughter
Don & Linda Shaw, friends of Rich Connelly
Prayers for Gladys Siqueira and family on the death of her father
The family and friends of Jean Tripp, friend of Tracey Field
Janet Winternitz, mother of Michèle Smith’s partner, Rob
Migrant families separated at our borders and those who help them
Victims of injustice & violence everywhere
Victims of natural disasters and their families
All those affected by hate & hate crimes
God bless you all,