Pastor's Notes for April 4, 2020
A Pastoral Letter for Holy Week 2020
God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. That is who He is. That is what He does for you and me, the children of Israel, the baptized, the Body of Christ.
But I'm not going to lie, this has been the hardest Lent I can remember. Harder than after 9/11. Harder than when I was on disability even for depression. Being separated from the ones I love, my congregation, my people, it is just killing me. I know that you all feel it, too. I long to see each one of you, to make sure you are okay, and that you are safe and well.
So it is that we enter into Holy Week in this strangest of all times. We are in exile. We are the children of Israel dispersed, scattered in the wilderness, and awaiting God's favor and mercy in such a strange and tragic time. I keep thinking of how I will describe this time in years to come. There is so much waiting, so much anticipation, and so much sadness, I can hardly stand it. I love you all so very much,and I know you feel the same for me, and for each other. That is what makes our separation so painful and hard.
But God IS merciful. He does not abandon us in our time of need. He is present with us even now. He is hidden, yes. We can't always see hear and hear Him in the ways in which we are accustomed. But hidden does not mean absent. The whole point of someone being hidden is to teach and show that they are really here, even if we cannot see them or perceive them as we would Iike or expect.
This Holy Week will be different for all of us. We are doing seven services, one for each day of the week, beginning on Palm Sunday. Each service will be a meditation upon God's Word, and a reflection of His Passion for us and for our salvation. God will be present in His Word, just as He promises. We will hear of our Lord's death and life again for the salvation of the world. It will be beautiful. It will be all of God's promises wrapped up into one week.
But it will not be the same.
We won't have our Lord's body and blood delivered to us in the Sacrament of the Altar. None of us will have it. And for us, a sacramental and liturgical church, that is both strange and deeply, deeply tragic. I have spent a lot of time and energy trying to make sense of it. How can we have Holy Week without the Holy Supper?
But this situation reminds me of several scenes from the Scriptures. The time in the wilderness after the giving of the Ten Commandments is the first. The time under the false kings is the second. And the time under the Babylonian Captivity is the third. In each of these cases, God's people were there. They'd suffered, they were uncertain and afraid, but they were there. And more importantly, God Himself was there. He never abandoned His people, and He has not abandoned you. Even if He is more hidden than usual, it is not as if God has disappeared, never to be seen again. Hidden does not mean gone. The point of something being hidden is that it is STILL THERE.
Several of my pastor friends have been posting the following prayer for a Holy Week without the Sacrament of the Altar. I hope you will take it to heart:
Lord God, on the day before He suffered, Your Son, in His unfailing mercy and love, graciously instituted for us His holy Supper. Although we cannot now receive in our mouths His true body and blood, still we beg You to stir up our minds and hearts to a salutary remembrance of His benefits. Grant that by faith we may spiritually partake of Him as we recall the Words of His new and eternal Testament. For He promised us: “This is my body, which is given for you” and “this cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins.” Grant us ever to rejoice in how Your Son once offered Himself upon the altar of the cross in our place—a Ransom pure, holy, and undefiled. Fill us now with His blood-bought forgiveness and pour every heavenly benediction and grace upon everyone who devoutly remembers this day His holy sacrifice. Gather us together from the ends of the earth to celebrate with all the faithful the marriage feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom which has no end.
God is with you. Yes, in your loneliness and heartache, God is with you. In your uncertainty and fear, God is with you. In your anger, God is with you. In whatever it is that you feel and experience during these gray and latter days, God is with you. Always, always, always. Do not give up hope. We will get through this, and by God's grace, we will be stronger on the other side.
(I feel like I should take an offering, but I can't see any of you! Grrrr…)
So you will find attached our schedule for Holy Week and Easter. I would urge you to participate in whatever way you can. On Facebook, on YouTube, or however it is that you can hear and receive it. If you are stuck and need help, reach out and we will try and get you setup. It isn't perfect. But it is what God has given us., and He knows what He is doing.
The Word of the Lord endures forever. that was the theme of the Reformation. It is our theme, too, especially in these strange times.
One thing is for sure, though. I can't wait to see the party we are going to have on the other side of all of this. Can you imagine what it will be like to come back to church after having it taken away for so long? It almost brings tears to my eyes, just thinking about it.
I can hardly wait.
From President Matthew Harrison
One of the things that I really like about President Harrison is that even though he holds a church office, he still behaves like a parish pastor. If you CLICK HERE you can see and hear a pastoral letter from him during these very strange days. Enjoy!
Schedule for Holy Week
You can find below a link to a poster with all of the times for the live stream of our various services. Look for a special Holy Week page on our web site for more information. I hope you can join us!
Events Remaining This Week
- SATURDAY, April 4 — BYOP (Bring Your Own Pancakes) for the Higher Things Youth, at 9:00 a.m. in Zoom (CLICK HERE for the link)
- PALM SUNDAY, April 5 — Service of the Word at 9:00 a.m., Live-streamed on Facebook
- Zoom Bible Class finishing Genesis 3 after church on Sunday as well.
Holy Cross at Prayer
For the YouTube Video, CLICK HERE
SATURDAY (April 4, 2020)
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
“Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”” (John 11:38–44)
I have always liked the picture of Jesus crying, “Lazarus, come out!” If He had not specified Lazarus, would the whole graveyard been raised? Never underestimate the power of the Word of God. And those same promises are yours in Christ Jesus. The glory of God lies in His Word, hidden for many ages but now revealed in Jesus Christ. Your cords are unbound. You are free in Him.
Prayer for Holy Cross Member
O Lord, in Holy Baptism you put your Name upon Courtney (Oschner). Bless her now with the forgiveness of sins and a firm trust in you. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Prayer of the Week (from Sunday)
Almighty God, by Your great goodness mercifully look upon Your people that we may be governed and preserved evermore in body and soul; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.