Devotional || Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

I take refuge in you, Lord.
    Please never let me be put to shame.
        Rescue me by your righteousness!
Listen closely to me!
    Deliver me quickly;
        be a rock that protects me;
        be a strong fortress that saves me!
You are definitely my rock and my fortress.
    Guide me and lead me for the sake of your good name!
Get me out of this net that’s been set for me
    because you are my protective fortress.
I entrust my spirit into your hands;
    you, Lord, God of faithfulness—
    you have saved me.

14 But me? I trust you, Lord!
    I affirm, “You are my God.”

15 My future is in your hands.
    Don’t hand me over to my enemies,
    to all who are out to get me!
16 Shine your face on your servant;
    save me by your faithful love!

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16, Common English Bible

In Psalm 31, David takes refuge in God. He depends on God for protection. He depends on God for guidance. He knows God hears him when he asks for help. He trusts that God will help him out of difficult situations. Jesus quoted from Psalm 31:5 on the cross- “Into thy hands I commit my spirit.” Even  in death we can trust in God.

Trust. Do we truly trust in the Lord? Do we give God our fear and anxiety? Do we trust our future to God?

In this time of pandemic COVID-19, we have reason to fear: we fear getting the virus and becoming very ill; we fear dying; we fear being an asymptomatic carrier and unknowingly spreading the virus to others; we fear getting medical attention; we fear that our retirement savings are being depleted in the stock market; we fear our businesses will go bankrupt; we fear we won’t be able to get what we need. We are expected to step up: to teach our children; to work from home; to go out to work and risk getting the virus; to stay home and be isolated; to change the way we do business.

David reminds us that God is with us, God loves us, and God wants to take away our fears and anxiety. God wants to lead us through this pandemic so that we can move forward. We can say “I trust you, Lord! You are my God. My future is in your hands.” We can ask God to “shine your face on your servant; save me by your faithful love!” If we truly mean it, our anxiety and depression can be relieved by the grace of God.

A Prayer from the Extended Cabinet

By Rev. Jill Colley Robinson, Vermont District Superintendent

Loving Christ,
You say to us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”
I guess our hearts are troubled, or you would not need to say it.
You say to us, “Believe …”
I guess we struggle to believe, or you would not need to remind us.
Tell us again that you go to prepare a place for us.
Tell us again.
Tell us you will take us to yourself —
that you will be with us no matter what,
that we get to be with you,
that your way will be made plain before our faces.
Love us the way you loved Thomas
who so often gave voice to everyone’s doubts.
Love us the way you loved Philip
who needed to be shown again and again.
Dwell in us so that we can be about your greater work
of finding your way,
of speaking your truth,
of honoring your gift of life,
even now …
especially now.
We ask all of this the way you teach us to ask — in your name,
believing that you will make it so. 
Amen.

Devotional || Psalm 100

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth!
    Serve the Lord with celebration!
    Come before him with shouts of joy!
Know that the Lord is God—
    he made us; we belong to him.[a]
    We are his people,
    the sheep of his own pasture.
Enter his gates with thanks;
    enter his courtyards with praise!
    Thank him! Bless his name!
Because the Lord is good,
    his loyal love lasts forever;
    his faithfulness lasts generation after generation.

Psalm 100, Common English Bible

Shout with joy to the Lord, or Make a joyful noise in some versions. Celebrate God’s goodness. If you play an instrument, even if it’s collecting dust in a closet, pull it out and play joyfully. If you sing, sing joyfully. If you can’t sing, listen to joyful music. Music calms the restless soul. Music brings back memories of times when you heard a particular song before.

God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good. God cares for us. God claims us and loves us and wants what is best for us. So, celebrate God. Celebrate the beautiful flowers and the budded trees. Celebrate the longer days and the stronger sun. Celebrate what you can do, even in isolation, rather than worrying about what you can’t do.

God’s home is not in the sanctuary, we can still find God when we can’t enter into the church building. God is everywhere around us. We can see God’s creation and call it good, just as God called it good on each day of the creation story in Genesis. We have so much- food and clean water and shelter which meet our basic needs. We also have so much more than we need. Thank God and bless God’s name.

Even on those days when we are frustrated and irritable, God still loves us. God’s loyal love lasts forever. No matter what we do, God forgives us and loves us.  And that is an incredible promise which we can celebrate joyfully.

A Prayer from the Extended Cabinet

By Rev. We Hyun Chang, Metro-Boston Hope District Superintendent

Good morning, God,
Thank you for such a wonderful and warm day yesterday. 
Looks like today will also be nice. Thank you for making the beautiful sky, the shining sun, green grass, budding flowers, birds in the air, dogs and cats in our houses, and all toys we can play with and books we can read.
 
We have been home with our parents and family for so-o-o long. It is not easy and sometime very boring. But we know that there are people who are very sick and that we need to stay home and stay away from people to help one another. Help us remember that you are our best friend. We believe that we can tell you anything in prayer and you will do your best to answer our prayers.  
 
Our parents are doing their best. Help us remember their love for us even when we get little antsy and bored. Be with our teachers also. They are trying their best too! We pray for all who are helping people to stay safe and get better. Cheer them up every time they may feel tired. 
 
We miss our family and friends at the school and the church. Until we can see and play with one another, please keep them safe. We pray for many people who are hurting and sad all over the world, especially children who do not have homes or are very afraid. Please be their best friend too. 
 
Dear God, you’ve got the whole world in your hand. Please keep all the people in the world safe and healthy in your hand. We will make sure to wash our hands, wear our masks, and remember to pray to you always. Amen.

Devotional || Psalm 112

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

Praise the Lord!
    Those who honor the Lord,
    who adore God’s commandments, are truly happy!
Their descendants will be strong throughout the land.
    The offspring of those who do right will be blessed;
    wealth and riches will be in their houses.
    Their righteousness stands forever.
They shine in the dark for others who do right.
    They are merciful, compassionate, and righteous.
Those who lend generously are good people—
    as are those who conduct their affairs with justice.
Yes, these sorts of people will never be shaken;
    the righteous will be remembered forever!
They won’t be frightened at bad news.
    Their hearts are steady, trusting in the Lord.
Their hearts are firm; they aren’t afraid.
    In the end, they will witness their enemies’ defeat.
They give freely to those in need.
    Their righteousness stands forever.
    Their strength increases gloriously.
10 The wicked see all this and fume;
        they grind their teeth, but disappear to nothing.
    What the wicked want to see happen comes to nothing!

Psalm 112, Common English Bible

Psalm 112 is a praise song to God. Those who honor God are truly happy. Their children will be blessed. It begins to look like prosperity gospel- if we trust in God, we will be blessed with wealth and riches and all good things, but the wealth we accumulate may not be material wealth, it may be a wealth of reputation and happiness.

It reminds us that we are an example to others- we will shine in the dark for others. Our actions speak for us, as we give to the poor and show compassion to others.

The Psalm does not promise us that we will have perfect lives and perfect health. In verses 6–8,  the Psalmist tells us that the righteous will not be shaken, that we won’t be frightened when we hear bad news because our hearts are steady, trusting in God.  Because we can be free of fear, we can give freely to those in need. We don’t have to hoard what we have, because we trust that God will provide for us when we have needs.

In this season of the Coronavirus, hoarding is rampant. Because people are hoarding, shortages are a self-fulfilling prophecy. People who bought out stores, thinking that they could make a big profit reselling at exorbitant rates hurt everyone, and when they were shut down, they were left with products they couldn’t get rid of. The Psalm ends with, “The wicked see all this and fume, they grind their teeth, but disappear to nothing. What the wicked want to see happen comes to nothing.” So, for all those who are hoarding, scamming and trying to take advantage of those who trust too much in people, the Psalm offers a warning. Your attempts to hurt others will be thwarted.

For those who are righteous, God is with you. Trust in God and God will stand beside you and keep you firm and steady, even in the face of this virus.

A Prayer from the Extended Cabinet

By Rev. Rick McKinley, Director of Congregational Development

Life. Life! LIFE! 
This is your promise — your intention for us. 
“I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly,” Jesus said. 
Abundantly. 
Over the top.  
Excessively abundant. 
Disproportionately bountiful. 
Extravagantly exuberant.  
God, we really need some of that right now. 
When the thieves around us and within us 
   threaten to kill it, 
When worries and fear build to the point 
  they begin to strangle it, 
When our own tendencies toward selfishness and dark things 
   begin to smother, 
O God, call us. Call us again. And again. And again. 
Call us back to life. 
Call us to dwell in your words, the words of life. 
Call us to sit in silence, listening for the heartbeats of life all around us. 
Call us to love our neighbor, in whom you dwell. 
Call us to the table, where in the breaking of bread, you are to be found. 
Life. Life! LIFE! Abundant, extravagant, wonderfully, disproportionately full LIFE! 
Amen. 

Devotional || Psalm 23

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

Psalm 23 is so familiar to all of us, even for those who are not regular church-goers. It is read at funerals so frequently that we sometimes think it is about dying. In fact, it is about God’s care for all of God’s children throughout our lives. The shepherd metaphor is also used by Jesus as he speaks of being the Good Shepherd who cares for his sheep.

Consider the words:

The Lord is my shepherd.
    I lack nothing.
He lets me rest in grassy meadows;
    he leads me to restful waters;
        he keeps me alive.
He guides me in proper paths
    for the sake of his good name.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley,
    I fear no danger because you are with me.
Your rod and your staff—
    they protect me.

You set a table for me
    right in front of my enemies.
You bathe my head in oil;
    my cup is so full it spills over!
Yes, goodness and faithful love
    will pursue me all the days of my life,
    and I will live in the Lord’s house
    as long as I live.

Psalm 23, Common English Bible

God promises to provide food for the sheep in the green meadows, he promises to provide water and shelter. We lack for nothing. He guides us along the safe path and protects us from danger. Even in the face of the enemy, we can relax and eat, because we are in God’s hands. In our darkest moments, God is there.

This Psalm is a comfort to us throughout the difficult moments of life. God promises to love and care for us during times when our enemies are out to get us. Right now, our biggest enemy is the Coronavirus. Some are extremely ill, and many have died. God is with those in hospitals and nursing homes when their families can’t be present. God is with the dying as they enter into life eternal. God is at gravesites when families are burying their dead with no opportunity to celebrate the life of the one who died, because they can’t gather in groups. God is with those who are sick in their homes, not sick enough to be in the hospital, but fearing that they may get sicker. God is with those isolating at home and feeling lonely. God is in the stores providing for the workers and providing for our basic needs, even among the shortages.  

In your dark moments, remember that God is our shepherd, and that Jesus, our shepherd, came to live among us to care for us and to bring us hope and healing and a promise of eternal life. 

A Prayer from the Extended Cabinet

By Rev. Megan Stowe Central Massachusetts District Superintendent (based on John 10:1-10 and Psalm 23)

O Good Shepherd,
We seek and listen for your voice.
We are thankful that you guide and protect us.
Be with us these days when we are literally walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Restore all of us who are struggling body, mind and spirit.
Lead us alongside the still waters.
We look forward to the day when we can feast at the table you have prepared for us.
Your mercy comforts us.
All of our days, we are reminded that you are with us. Amen.

Devotional || Psalm 134

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

Psalm 134 is a traveling Psalm, one of 15 beginning with Psalm 120 and ending with Psalm 134. This series of Psalms were sung by pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover. Picture the travelers, whole communities walking together to get to the holy city of Jerusalem, to the holy temple- set apart for the worship of God. As they traveled, they sang these Psalms. Picture the child Jesus, traveling with Mary and Joseph for Passover at age 12, in a group with his friends. As they traveled, they sang of the mountains, and of God’s glory and as they neared the city, they sang this Psalm.

Come bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord!

Lift up your hands to the holy place, and bless the Lord!

May the Lord, maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Zion.

They expected a blessing from worship. It was a joy to be there in the Lord’s house. Imagine what it will be like for us as we return to worship in person in our own church. What a joy it will be when we can all  be together in God’s house.

But while we wait, create a holy worship space in your own home, as we come together to celebrate God’s love for us through this time of the pandemic. I have my cross and my candle near me when we worship. We sing or say praises to God with the Doxology and the Psalm for the evening. We may not be making a pilgrimage to the holy land, or even driving down the street to our local church, but the time we set aside to worship God together is a holy time, set apart for God.

Devotional || Psalm 15

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

Psalm 15 is probably an entry Psalm, for the beginning or worship. Who can come into God’s temple?  Right now, no one can.  The Psalm lists the qualities that we need to be God’s people. We are God’s people when we are worshipping at home.

The hymn, “We Are the Church,” says:

I am the church
you are the church,
we are the church together.
All who follow Jesus,
all around the world,
we are the church together.

The church is not a building,
the church is not a steeple,
the church is not a resting place,
the church is the people.

No. 558, v. 1., “We Are the Church,” The United Methodist Hymnal (1989). Words & Music by Richard K. Avery and Donald S. Marsh, 1972.

We are God’s people in our homes, in our neighborhoods and in the world. The people form the church.  What qualities do we need to show?

Integrity– doing what’s right when no one is looking.

Truth-telling– not spreading bad information, or tweeting gossip.

Kindness– not insulting one another, not speaking ill of one another.

Being with people who do good things– not hanging around with people who are bullies or doing or saying evil things.

Keeping promises– doing what you say you will do even if it hurts or is hard.

Avoiding usury– lending money at high interest which will push people into debt that they can never fully  pay.

Avoiding bribery.

During this time, as we are all locked down in our homes, it is hard to be the church. We can’t come together, but we still can be kingdom people, following God’s laws.  Be kind to your family members when you are sheltering together. Remember those who are sheltering alone. Give what you can, whether it is sewing masks, or making phone calls to check on neighbors, or donating to organizations which are helping others with less, or thanking a medical provider a nurse,  a first responder, a grocery clerk or pharmacy technician. There are many ways to show kindness. We can smile, though they may not see our mouths through our masks, our eyes can express a smile as well.

Whoever does all these things will never stumble. Bring God’s kingdom to this time and circumstance. Be kind. Praise God! Hallelujah!

Devotional || Psalm 116:1-4, 10-19

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

Psalm 116 is a Psalm of gratitude. God loves us and walks beside us throughout our lives in sickness and in health. God loves us and walks with us when our loved ones are ill or struggling. God loves us and walks with us when we mourn. In return we give thanks to the Lord for all that God has done.

How do we show gratitude when we are struggling to just survive? For me, I think about what good is in a situation. Because I have ALS, I have had several losses. When I first went to my support group, I thought everyone there must not like it when I come walking in when most of the others are in wheelchairs. I can physically care for myself when others are dependent on caregivers to bathe and dress them. I have come to realize though, that they all fear the loss of speech and swallowing which is what I first lost. Each of us sits there and says, at least I can still … whatever they haven’t lost. I am grateful that I can walk and care for myself. I am grateful that my left arm is growing weak and not my dominant right arm.

I am thankful that I live alone and not in a care facility where COVID-19 can run through all the patients very quickly. Whatever it is that you have lost through this virus, be thankful for what you still have. If your needs are financial, be thankful for unemployment checks and food pantries that can help you. If you are a healthcare worker, be thankful that you are well enough to work. If you are a parent and trying to become a teacher too, be thankful for this time with your children, to watch them grow and develop. If you are graduating from high school, be thankful for your education, even if you have to miss out on graduation ceremonies and all the excitement that brings.

So, whatever you’re feeling sad about, or grieving, or worrying about, take a moment to give a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord.

Praise the Lord!

Devotional || Psalm 114

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

Psalm 114 recalls the Exodus, the time when God rescued God’s people from their difficulties. It is a celebration of God’s grace and mercy when life becomes difficult. When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, God sent Moses to bring them out. When they needed to cross the Red Sea, God, held back the water to allow them to pass. Then years later God stopped the waters of the Jordon River to allow the Israelites to cross into the promised land. When they were hungry, God sent manna in the morning and quails at night to feed them- enough for everyone. When they were thirsty, God allowed spring water to burst forth when Moses struck the rock. At every turn, God provided for the people.

And so, the mountains and hills leaped in the air.

This is a time of trouble for us, as we continue to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic. We know people are dying, people are desperately ill. Families can’t visit with their sick relatives. There are shortages of medical supplies and essential medication. Grocery stores are empty of some essentials. And yet, we see medical and nursing staff stepping up to care for very sick patients putting their own lives at risk. Factories are changing their manufacturing process to create personal protective equipment. Breweries are making hand sanitizer. People are making masks in their homes. People are caring for their neighbors.  Others are donating money to emergency relief funds. God always provides; and, God provides by using humans.

And so, we to join the earth in singing praise for God’s mercy and provisions in times of need.

“Shout to the Lord” by Hillsong (feat. Darlene Zschech)

A Prayer from the Extended Cabinet

By Rev. Taesung Kang, New Hampshire District Superintendent

Who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Who saw the pain of the people of Israel and redeemed them from slavery, 
Who heard the mourning of the captives and ransomed them from their lonely exile, 
Who watched Your Son Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and raised him up from the dead. 

We were so grateful for the celebration of this Easter Sunday that was like no other;
Singing Hallelujah at home, at the top of our lungs, along with a virtual choir, 
Watching the powerful story of the empty tomb from the couch, 
Sharing a Love Feast with family members, 
Recognizing how greatly we needed the spirit of Easter and living it out as Easter people. 

Now, only five days later, after being filled with the great joy of Jesus’ triumph over death,  
We feel like those Israelites who were in captivity, 
We feel like Thomas who doubted your real presence, 
We find our daily life compromised by anxiety, fear, and doubt. 

There are times when we wonder, “Where is God in this pandemic?” 
There are times when we feel that God seems so far away, 
There are times when we think God is absent from our midst, 
There are times when we ask, “How long, O God, do we need to endure?” 

So continue to have mercy upon us, O Lord, 
And redeem us from the doubt and despair that is within us and around us, 
Deepen our faith so that we may remain pure and genuine through this trial, 
Grant us your peace and restore our true Easter joy, 
Help us to understand that “Blessed are those who believe without seeing me” 
Help us to love you, O Lord, “even though we do not see you now.” 

Risen Savior, 
We choose to trust in your ever-present love, 
Our faith will remain “strong through many trials” 
For “it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” 
Amen. Hallelujah! 

Devotional || Psalm 90

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

I was deciding what Psalm to write about today and opened the bible to the Psalms looking for inspiration. I opened to Psalm 90 and decided that writing about God’s time versus our time was very appropriate for this season of waiting.

God has been here since the beginning. God is the creator of all that we see, and God will be here until the end of time. God is forever. The Psalm tells us that “a thousand years is like a day that has just gone by in the sight of the Lord.”  The older we get, the more quickly time passes. We have seen a lot of changes in our lives, and lived many days, but none can compare to the time of God.

And here we wait, our days are passing by as we sit separated from one another, many of our lives on hold. We watch the numbers- how many are infected with Covid-19, how many are hospitalized, how many in ICU, and how many have died. We wait. We pray to you that the numbers will begin to decrease. We pray that the death toll will not increase much more.

We pray for the families who wait for their loved ones to begin to improve. We wait for a vaccine or a proven treatment to help. We wait for 14 days of improvement so that some gatherings can begin. We pray that it will happen soon.

We pray for those who are missing the rites of passage- baptisms, weddings, funeral services and graduations. Time continues to pass while we wait.

The Psalm says our lives are 70 years or 80 if we’re strong. We see many people living 90 and 100 years now, but this virus threatens the oldest among us. And so, to protect them, we wait.

The Psalmist says, “Come back to us, Lord!  Please, quick! Have some compassion for your servants. Fill us full every morning with your faithful love so we can rejoice and celebrate our whole life long… Let the kindness of the Lord our God be over us.”

And we say, “ Quickly Lord, let this pass by so that we can find our new normal lives.”


A Prayer from the Massachusetts Council of Churches

The Massachusetts Council of Churches along with many interfaith and civic partners invites all people to a daily, intentional, universal common prayer over your town and the Commonwealth at 4:15pm each afternoon. This prayer was written for Christians with broad interfaith participation.

Holy One, Your people know You by many names, we call to You in many languages, hear our common cry:

We praise You that we have breath left to pray and praise. We give thanks that there is reasonable portion of health in our mind and body this day. You wake us up and put us to sleep, and for this day, we give thanks. We pray especially for all who are sick. We pray for all who have no one to pray for them. We pray for those whose names are known to You alone. Heal us, O God: Let this plague pass over, for Your will is health and wholeness, and You long for us to be one.

We pray for our (city/town), and every city and town in this Commonwealth and every place in-between. Cover us, O God. Let this plague pass over, for Your will is health and wholeness, and You long for us to be one.

We pray for our leaders: for ______ our Mayor, Charlie our Governor, the President, our elected and appointed leaders, for all positions of enormous responsibility. Equip and sustain them, Holy One, for the healing of this nation. Guide us, O God: Let this plague pass over, for Your will is health and wholeness, and You long for us to be one.

We pray for all on the front lines, wherever those lines are: in grocery stores, emergency rooms, on our roads and behind our screens. We pray for all who are weary and worried and weep this day. Guard Us, O God: Let this plague pass over, for Your will is health and wholeness, and You long for us to be one.

We pray for ourselves and our people, each community and neighborhood and home, and those without safe place to lay their head. Cover us, with a blessing and protection beyond our comprehension. Hear Us, O God: Let this plague pass over, for Your will is health and wholeness, and You long for us to be one.

Make us One with You and one another, for there is no other way. Make us one city, one Commonwealth, one people. Make us so mindful of the most vulnerable among us that there is no need that we do not bear together. Repair us, O God: Let this plague pass over, for Your will is health and wholeness, and you long for us to be one.

Grant us courage for the living of these days. Give us patience to endure what cannot be avoided. Make us resilient and make us one. Oh God, we long for resurrection. Redeem us, O God: Let this plague pass over, for Your will is health and wholeness, and You long for us to be one.

We know you by many names. I pray in the name of the Great Physician, Jesus the Christ. Alleluia, Amen.

Devotional || Psalm 16

By Beth Ferguson, Lay Leader and Member to the Annual Conference.

In Psalm 16, David celebrates God’s goodness and everlasting love. When we put all our trust in God, God stands with us through the difficult days of our lives and we receive good gifts from God. Those who put their trust in other gods, do not experience the amazing joy of those who put their trust in the one true God.

We may work hard and think that we have achieved great success in our lives, providing our own security, amassing material possessions, yet this Psalm reminds us that we can’t succeed without God, that joy comes from love for the Lord and that the Lord provides for our abundance. Being in the presence of God brings us joy in any circumstance.

In this time of isolation and working from home, we can depend on God to bring us joy. We can celebrate more family time, more time to relax and rest, away from the rat-race we have been accustomed to. When we lie awake at night worrying about how we will pay bills, or whether we will get sick, or whether our friends and relatives will get sick, we can call on the Lord, who is ever present with us, in the night as well as the day.

When we grieve the loss of loved ones, we know that the Lord is with us throughout our lives and to life eternal.  God is with us and our loved ones are with God. Jesus showed us the way to eternal life as he walked on the earth in his human body and he promised us eternal life with him. So, when we grieve, we remember that our loved ones are with God and we will see them again when it is our time. We live with memories of our lives with those we loved, when they no longer walk with us.

Say to the Lord, “You are my Lord.  Apart from you, I have nothing good.” God will provide. God will be with you. God will bring joy.  Beautiful things are  always in God’s right hand and are meant for us.


A Prayer from the Extended Cabinet

By Rev. Taesung Kang, New Hampshire District Superintendent (based on 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31)

Everlasting and eternal God,  Who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  Who saw the pain of the people of Israel and redeemed them from slavery, Who heard the mourning of the captives and ransomed them from their lonely exile, Who watched Your Son Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and raised him up from the dead.

We were so grateful for the celebration of this Easter Sunday that was like no other; Singing Hallelujah at home, at the top of our lungs, along with a virtual choir, Watching the powerful story of the empty tomb from the couch, Sharing a Love Feast with family members, Recognizing how greatly we needed the spirit of Easter and living it out as Easter people.

Now, only five days later, after being filled with the great joy of Jesus’ triumph over death,  We feel like those Israelites who were in captivity, We feel like Thomas who doubted your real presence, We find our daily life compromised by anxiety, fear, and doubt.

There are times when we wonder, “Where is God in this pandemic?” There are times when we feel that God seems so far away, There are times when we think God is absent from our midst, There are times when we ask, “How long, O God, do we need to endure?”

So continue to have mercy upon us, O Lord, And redeem us from the doubt and despair that is within us and around us, Deepen our faith so that we may remain pure and genuine through this trial, Grant us your peace and restore our true Easter joy, Help us to understand that “Blessed are those who believe without seeing me” Help us to love you, O Lord, “even though we do not see you now.”

Risen Savior, We choose to trust in your ever-present love, Our faith will remain “strong through many trials” For “it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” Amen. Hallelujah!