Happy Holy Week, beloveds. I know this is not how any of us were hoping to spend the holiest week in the Christian liturgical calendar, yet here we are- apart together. Friends, what a week it has been. You have all been in our prayers for health, peace, and well-being. The corona virus has demanded each of our attention in different ways, but it does not get all of our attention. Especially not this week. I hope you will join us for our many services this week. Tonight, we will have a Maundy Thursday service at 5 pm, tomorrow we will gather for Good Friday at 12:30, and of course we will gather for an Easter celebration Sunday at 11 am. We hope you will join us for all our wonderful services.
This week we get the privilege of worshiping together multiple times as Jesus journeys to the cross. Tonight, we will talk about the touchstones that Jesus left us to remind each of us of his life and his work. Tomorrow we will gather together to remember the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus and his last earthly words to his community. And then on Easter we will celebrate Christ’s triumphant return.
It is a lot of church but in this time of isolation the more ways we can digitally gather together in community, the better. Gathering this week takes on a new meaning for me and I am wondering if it’s the same for you? Being in my home alone for this past month, I understand better the anxiety of the disciples trying to figure out what comes next. Reading the story of Jesus’s last words, I feel deeply for those who are experiencing death in this time and are not able to be with their loved ones. And I expect that on Easter Sunday, I will be filled with hope. Hope that is special to those that follow the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. Because this year, the newness that comes with the resurrection of Jesus will point the way for our own new life, once we too are done with our own Good Friday.
So, friends, in that spirit of hope, let us read together the story of Christ’s resurrection as found in the book of John.
1 Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance, 2 so she ran off to Simon Peter and the other disciple—the one Jesus loved—and told them, “The Rabbi has been taken from the tomb! We don’t know where they have put Jesus!”
3 At that, Peter and the other disciple started out toward the tomb. 4 They were running side by side, but then the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He didn’t enter, but bent down to peer in and saw the linen wrappings lying on the ground. 6 Then Simon Peter arrived and entered the tomb. He observed the linen wrappings on the ground, 7 and saw the piece of cloth that had covered Jesus’ head lying not with the wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the disciple who had arrived first at the tomb went in. He saw and believed. 9 As yet, they didn’t understand the scripture that Jesus was to rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.
11 Meanwhile, Mary stood weeping beside the tomb. Even as she wept, she stooped to peer inside, 12 and there she saw two angels in dazzling robes. One was seated at the head and the other at the foot of the place where Jesus’ body had lain.
13 They asked her, “Why are you weeping?”
She answered them, “Because they have taken away my Rabbi, and I don’t know where they have put the body.”
14 No sooner had she said this than she turned around and caught sight of Jesus standing there, but she didn’t know it was Jesus. 15 He asked her, “Why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?”
She supposed it was the gardener, so she said, “Please, if you’re the one who carried Jesus away, tell me where you’ve laid the body and I will take it away.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned to him and said, “Rabboni!”—which means “Teacher”.
17 Jesus then said, “Don’t hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to Abba God. Rather, go to the sisters and brothers and tell them, ‘I’m ascending to my Abba and to your Abba, my God and your God!’”
18 Mary of Magdala went to the disciples. “I have seen the Teacher!” she announced. Then she reported what the savior had said to her. (John 20:1-18)
Friends, this week-for many reasons-is an emotional one. Be gentle with yourself. Like Jesus on Maundy Thursday, look for the ways in which you can show love and grace to yourself and your community. Grieve deeply in your times of Good Friday loss. And then- come Easter-look for new spaces of resurrection in everyone and everything. For God is doing something new in you and with you right now. Have hope that we too will leave behind the dwelling places and tombs that have held us during this time- and resurrect into something new. It may be a new understanding of community, a new look on life, or new relationship with God. I don’t know what it will be for you, but I do know the resurrection is near for all of us- and Jesus is showing us the way this Sunday. And so, as I say every week- but it settles a little deeper in my bones today – what a gift it is to be God’s people and to get to love God in return.
A quick prayer for your week: God, Resurrect something new in me. Amen
Children and Youth Ministry Update
from The Rev. Francesca Fortunato
Dear Park People,
On Sunday April 5th, the Park Sunday school children, once again, gathered via Zoom, for children’s liturgy, scripture and prayer, plus all-important time for fellowship, and just catching up with each other. I asked the children to stretch and wiggle in their seats, and make some silly faces for each other, before we started the liturgy. That sort of thing seems to help “break the ice,” in a way that’s more necessary when we meet virtually, than it is when we’re in the children’s ministry space together.
Our scripture was, of course, the Palm Sunday story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. I showed the children the illustration of the scene, in the Complete Illustrated Children’s Bible, pointing out that there were children present, waving their palm branches, to welcome Jesus into their city. “Would we like to welcome Jesus, too?” “Yes!”
The children had all made paper palm fronds to wave (some of them using Rev. Stephanie Kendell’s video tutorial; other simply drawing pictures of palms, and cutting them out. ) I asked them to take out their palms, and got mine out as well (I had made one, following the video instructions) and we all waved them, singing together, call-and-response style: “Hosanna, blessed is the one who comes!/Hosanna, blessed is the one who comes!/Blessed is the one who comes./Who comes in the name of God!”
Before concluding our worship, I gave the children a “homework” assignment for Easter Sunday. I asked them to choose (or create) a special outfit to wear on the day, with the option of choosing something festive and fancy, or, alternatively, something goofy and silly, according to their preference. The plan for Easter festivity (in lieu of the egg hunt that we would be doing in the church building) will be a virtual Easter Parade/Fashion show, with the children taking turns showing off their special outfits, and telling why they chose them. (I will also be putting together a special, Easter Sunday Best, and will be much fancier than the way that the children are used to seeing me!)
And so, we carry on together, in faith, hope, and love, bringing the friendship and fun, as best we can, from our separate homes. I do love to see the children’s faces, even on a computer screen.
Blessings, WELL-wishes and Resurrection hopes for all of you!
Rev. Francesca Maria (Miriam) Fortunato: Children’s Minister
Classes are in English now but we are working on adding a Spanish speaking class soon.
Become a Telechaplaincy Volunteer
From the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education:
We are facing unprecedented times, and many of us are wondering how we can respond. We are receiving requests from institutions seeking additional spiritual care support, particularly through telechaplaincy. At the same time, we know some CPE students have been unable to complete units due to new restrictions for visitation. We hope telechaplaincy might provide them additional hours towards the completion of units.
We are seeking volunteers to meet these requests. If you would like to be considered for telechaplaincy support, please complete the volunteer form below. Your information will only be shared with institutional leadership working to meet the needs of those whom they serve. If you have questions or need more information, please email COVID19@acpe.edu.
You may also want to explore resources for spiritual care during this crisis, available here from our colleagues at the Chaplaincy Innovation Lab. Thank you for your dedication to our shared work.