Sunday, April 26, 2020 || Worshipful Conversation & Fellowship

Join us for a time of Worshipful Conversation and Fellowship on Sunday, April 26, at 10am. You can join this service virtually through Google Meet by clicking this link (http://meet.google.com/ens-kcoq-bgg) or by calling 1-262-885-7027, the PIN is 172 874 072#.

You can view and download the bulletin for this service below. To add this event to your Google calendar, click here.

In order to best participate in this service, you will need access to a bible (bound or electronic), and some sort of food/snack and drink.  The Bible is for the discussion.  The food is for the love feast during which you will be invited to share some aspect of your hope, joy, or faith before you eat what you have with you. Prompts for our time of sharing are provided in the bulletin.

All are welcome.

Sunday, April 19, 2020 || Worshipful Conversation & Fellowship

Join us for a time of Worshipful Conversation and Fellowship on Sunday, April 19, at 10am. You can join this service virtually through Google Meet by clicking this link (http://meet.google.com/ens-kcoq-bgg) or by calling 1-262-885-7027, the PIN is 172 874 072#.

You can view and download the bulletin for this service below. To add this event to your Google calendar, click here.

In order to best participate in this service, you will need access to a bible (bound or electronic), and some sort of food/snack and drink.  The Bible is for the discussion.  The food is for the love feast during which you will be invited to share some aspect of your hope, joy, or faith before you eat what you have with you. Prompts for our time of sharing are provided in the bulletin.

All are welcome.

An Easter Proclamation || Matthew 28:1-10

Read Matthew 28:1-10 (CEB, NRSV, MSG, KJV, Compare)


A Hope in Hell

AN EASTER PROCLAMATION DURING A PANDEMIC

By Rev. Dr. Jacob W. Juncker

It was a hellish scene.
After being betrayed by Judas, denied by Peter, and condemned to death, Jesus hung on the cross alone.  The whole earth, records Matthew, was dark (Matthew 27:45). At about three o’clock, Jesus cried out in desperation, “My God, my God, why have you left me?”  It was a hellish scene.  Christ was isolated and alone.  Jesus felt like he’d been abandoned by God.

Some commentators have pointed out that Jesus in this moment quotes from Psalm 22 where the Psalmist declares: “My God! My God, why have you left me all alone?  Why are you so far from saving me—so far from my anguished groans?”  The commentators point out that Psalm 22 ends with God’s deliverance and a hymn a thanks.  So, as Jesus stands there and asks the question—my God, my God, why have you left me?—he must have known the outcome.  Afterall, these  commentators note, God “didn’t despise or detest the suffering of the one who suffered—he didn’t hide his face from me.  No, he listened when I cried out to him for help” (Psalm 22:24, Common English Bible).  What these commentators fail to recognize is the shear desperation of Jesus in that moment on the cross.

The cross is not a sign of victory, but a symbol of complete alienation.  Jesus, in that moment felt completely abandoned by God the Father.  And, the God-forsakenness of the Son plunges Jesus to the most solitary and lonely pits of Hell.

Mark Twain is attributed as saying that you “go to heaven for the climate, hell for the company.”  But, the truth of the matter is, hell is a solitary place.  It is a place of absolute abandonment and isolation.

It was Jesus’ experience on the cross.  It was the experience of the disciples as they cowered in fear behind locked doors after Jesus’ crucifixion.  And, to some extent it is our experience through this pandemic as we are asked to “social distance.”

Many of us are fearful to leave our homes for fear of passing the coronavirus.  While that fear is warranted; and, indeed, we should all be limiting our contact with those outside our immediate day-to-day social circles, it is still a hell of sorts as we sit at home isolated from personal contact with others.

We were not made to live life alone, isolated and secluded from others.  Indeed, one of the first observations God makes about humanity is that “it is not good for the human to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).  Sure, we have things like computers, phones, and mobile devices to keep us connected, but its not the same as personal, in-the-flesh, encounters with one another.

E.M. Forster—in his futuristic short story entitled “The Machine Stops,” writes in 1909: “I see something like you in this plate, but I do not see you.  I hear something like you through this telephone, but I do not hear you.”  While technology can give us glimpses of reality, its not the same as being together in person.  It works for now.  We need to be physically distant today (and, undoubtedly, for many more days to come in order to protect the most vulnerable around us); but, make no mistake, live-streaming and face-timing are nothing like being together in-person.

I don’t know about you; but, I find myself on this Easter morning yearning to be gathered together with you and others.  I long for the day when we can safely gather again.  Those feelings of wanting to be together, but not being able to be together, must have laid heavy over that first Easter morning.

After the Sabbath, around dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb of Jesus.  In Matthew’s telling of the story, they were not carrying spices.  They were not preparing to bury Jesus’ body.  In Matthew’s gospel, the women come simply to look.  I tend to think that they came because the hell of isolation was too much.  In their grief, they had to see.

Just as we visit the graves of our loved ones in order to find some sort of connection with them, so too these women came looking for a connection that had been lost to death.  They were grieving, feeling disconnected from their friend, the one they’d come to believe was the Messiah.  All that they had believed in seemed lost.  With all they had hoped in buried in a tomb, they found themselves wandering in hell.

As they approached the tomb, the ground began to shake.  The guards ordered to protect the tomb from thieves ran away in fear as the stone sealing the tomb rolled away.  As the women approached they saw an angel, he told them not to be afraid, but how could they not.  Matthew records that “with great fear and excitement, they hurried away from the tomb.”

Jesus intercepted them.  He “met them and greeted them. They came and grabbed his feet and worshipped him.  Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid.”

And therein lies the good news for us on the Easter as we sit in isolation, separated from one another, and those we love—Don’t be afraid.  Jesus meets us behind our closed door.  He comes to us in whatever hell we may find ourselves in.

The good news of Easter, the promise we bear witness to in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is that when all else seems dark, when we feel alone, when we’re isolated and estranged, God comes to us.  For “nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created” (Romans 8:38-39, Common English Bible).  “God’s steadfast love lasts forever” (see Psalm 136, Common English Bible).

Indeed, it comes to us even when we’re socially distant.  So do not be afraid.  God does not abandon us or leave us as orphans.  Indeed, Christ will go to hell and back, he will traverse death and God-forsakenness, to remind us just how much we are loved.

So hear the good news, dear friends, Christ is risen!  He is here.  We are not alone.  Do not be afraid.

Amen.

Sunday, April 12, 2020 || Easter Celebration

Join us for an Easter Celebration and Love Feast on Sunday, April 12, at 10am. You can join this service virtually through Google Hangouts by clicking this link (http://meet.google.com/ens-kcoq-bgg) or by calling 1-262-885-7027, the PIN is 172 874 072#.

You can be view and download the bulletin for this service below. To add this event to your Google calendar, click here.

In order to participate in the Love Feast, you are encouraged to “bring with you” to worship some sort of bread (a piece of bread, a roll, crackers, a cupcake, anything really) and some water or other beverage. During the Love Feast, you will be invited to share your hope and/or a word of encouragement with the gathered community. What gives you hope in these uncertain times? What do you hope for? What encourages you? What might encourage others? I hope you’ll consider sharing your hope and experience as part of our shared Feast.

All are welcome.

Holy Week Shadows || Friday Evening, April 10, 2020

Use this video to guide you through tonight’s devotion and/or use the liturgy below. To do this liturgy on your own, you will need an unadorned candle. Light the candle, then begin the liturgy. If you do not have a candle, you can simple follow along with the video or read the liturgy to yourself. The music at the end of this post is not included in the devotional video so as to abide by proper copyright usage.


Liturgy for Home Devotions

As we continue through Holy Week, shadows lengthen. As we count down the days till the breaking dawn of resurrection morning, we pause to remember Christ’s passion and bear witness to the growing darkness around us.

As the shadows grow around us, may we have courage to never lose hope and to not be afraid of the dark.

May we with the Psalmist declare:

The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Should I fear anyone?
The Lord is a fortress protecting my life.
Should I be frightened of anything?
(Psalm 27:1, Common English Bible)

Today we face the shadow of burial.

Reading: John 19:38-42

38 After this Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate if he could take away the body of Jesus. Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but a secret one because he feared the Jewish authorities. Pilate gave him permission, so he came and took the body away. 39 Nicodemus, the one who at first had come to Jesus at night, was there too. He brought a mixture of myrrh and aloe, nearly seventy-five pounds in all. 40 Following Jewish burial customs, they took Jesus’ body and wrapped it, with the spices, in linen cloths. 41 There was a garden in the place where Jesus was crucified, and in the garden was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid.42 Because it was the Jewish Preparation Day and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus in it.

Silence
Extinguish Candle
Amen
Hymn: “Were You There”
Andrea Thomas, vocalist

Holy Week Shadows || Friday 3pm, April 10, 2020

Use this video to guide you through tonight’s devotion and/or use the liturgy below. To do this liturgy on your own, you will need an unadorned candle. Light the candle, then begin the liturgy. If you do not have a candle, you can simple follow along with the video or read the liturgy to yourself. The music at the end of this post is not included in the devotional video so as to abide by proper copyright usage.


Liturgy for Home Devotions

As we continue through Holy Week, shadows lengthen. As we count down the days till the breaking dawn of resurrection morning, we pause to remember Christ’s passion and bear witness to the growing darkness around us.

As the shadows grow around us, may we have courage to never lose hope and to not be afraid of the dark.

May we with the Psalmist declare:

The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Should I fear anyone?
The Lord is a fortress protecting my life.
Should I be frightened of anything?
(Psalm 27:1, Common English Bible)

Today we face the shadow of death.

Reading: Luke 23:44-49

44 It was now about noon, and darkness covered the whole earth until about three o’clock, 45 while the sun stopped shining. Then the curtain in the sanctuary tore down the middle.46 Crying out in a loud voice, Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I entrust my life.” After he said this, he breathed for the last time.

47 When the centurion saw what happened, he praised God, saying, “It’s really true: this man was righteous.” 48 All the crowds who had come together to see this event returned to their homes beating their chests after seeing what had happened. 49 And everyone who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance observing these things.

Prayer

Dearest Jesus, 
even in death, you are there. When we mourn, when we are afraid, when we come to our own end, you have been there, too. Come alongside us in the darkness, and carry us through death to life.

Silence
Extinguish Candle
Amen
Hymn: “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”
Cornet Solo with Piano, arranged by Timothy Johnson

Holy Week Shadows || Friday Mid-Day, April 10, 2020

Use this video to guide you through tonight’s devotion and/or use the liturgy below. To do this liturgy on your own, you will need an unadorned candle. Light the candle, then begin the liturgy. If you do not have a candle, you can simple follow along with the video or read the liturgy to yourself. The music at the end of this post is not included in the devotional video so as to abide by proper copyright usage.


Liturgy for Home Devotions

As we continue through Holy Week, shadows lengthen. As we count down the days till the breaking dawn of resurrection morning, we pause to remember Christ’s passion and bear witness to the growing darkness around us.

As the shadows grow around us, may we have courage to never lose hope and to not be afraid of the dark.

May we with the Psalmist declare:

The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Should I fear anyone?
The Lord is a fortress protecting my life.
Should I be frightened of anything?
(Psalm 27:1, Common English Bible)

Today we face the shadow of suffering.

Reading: John 19:28-30

28 After this, knowing that everything was already completed, in order to fulfill the scripture, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar full of sour wine was nearby, so the soldiers soaked a sponge in it, placed it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips.30 When he had received the sour wine, Jesus said, “It is completed.”Bowing his head, he gave up his life.

Prayer

Suffering Savior, 
in all our thirst, in all our sickness, in all our longing, in all our pain, you are there. Come alongside us in the darkness, and walk with us through all our suffering.

Silence
Extinguish Candle
Amen
Hymn: “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen”
Erich Overhultz, piano

Holy Week Shadows || Thursday, April 9, 2020

Use this video to guide you through tonight’s devotion and/or use the liturgy below. To do this liturgy on your own, you will need an unadorned candle. Light the candle, then begin the liturgy. If you do not have a candle, you can simple follow along with the video or read the liturgy to yourself. The music at the end of this post is not included in the devotional video so as to abide by proper copyright usage.


Liturgy for Home Devotions

As we continue through Holy Week, shadows lengthen. As we count down the days till the breaking dawn of resurrection morning, we pause to remember Christ’s passion and bear witness to the growing darkness around us.

As the shadows grow around us, may we have courage to never lose hope and to not be afraid of the dark.

May we with the Psalmist declare:

The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Should I fear anyone?
The Lord is a fortress protecting my life.
Should I be frightened of anything?
(Psalm 27:1, Common English Bible)

Tonight we face the shadow of despair.

Reading: Mark 15:33-34

33 From noon until three in the afternoon the whole earth was dark.34 At three, Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani,”which means, “My God, my God, why have you left me?”

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ, 
you know what it is to feel that God is far away. You know what it is to call out for God’s presence. Come alongside us in the darkness, and help us call out for God.

Silence
Extinguish Candle
Amen
Hymn: “Why Stand So Far Way, My God”

Holy Week Shadows || Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Use this video to guide you through tonight’s devotion and/or use the liturgy below. To do this liturgy on your own, you will need an unadorned candle. Light the candle, then begin the liturgy. If you do not have a candle, you can simple follow along with the video or read the liturgy to yourself. The music at the end of this post is not included in the devotional video so as to abide by proper copyright usage.


Liturgy for Home Devotions

As we enter Holy Week, shadows lengthen. As we count down the days till the breaking dawn of resurrection morning, we pause to bear witness to the growing darkness around us as we read of Jesus’ persecution, execution, and death.

Tonight we face the shadows, some of us alone. May we have courage, never lose hope, and not be afraid of the dark.

May we with the Psalmist declare:

The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Should I fear anyone?
The Lord is a fortress protecting my life.
Should I be frightened of anything?
(Psalm 27:1, Common English Bible)

Tonight we face the shadow of sorrow.

Reading: John 19:25-27

25 Jesus’ mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene stood near the cross.26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother,“Woman, here is your son.” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

Prayer

Loving Jesus, 
we carry the weight of the people we love, concern for their sorrows and suffering. Our care for them is deep, and sometimes there is not much we can do. Come alongside us in the darkness, and cradle the ones we love in your strong hands.

Silence
Extinguish Candle
Amen
Hymn: “What Wondrous Love is This”
Dan Cunningham, Guitar

Holy Week Shadows || Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Use this video to guide you through tonight’s devotion and/or use the liturgy below. To do this liturgy on your own, you will need an unadorned candle. Light the candle, then begin the liturgy. If you do not have a candle, you can simple follow along with the video or read the liturgy to yourself. The music at the end of this post is not included in the devotional video so as to abide by proper copyright usage.


Liturgy for Home Devotions

As we continue through Holy Week, shadows lengthen. As we count down the days till the breaking dawn of resurrection morning, we pause to remember Christ’s passion and bear witness to the growing darkness around us.

As the shadows grow around us, may we have courage to never lose hope and to not be afraid of the dark.

May we with the Psalmist declare:

The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Should I fear anyone?
The Lord is a fortress protecting my life.
Should I be frightened of anything?
(Psalm 27:1, Common English Bible)

Tonight we face the shadow of separation.

Reading: Luke 23:35-43

35 The people were standing around watching, but the leaders sneered at him, saying, “He saved others. Let him save himself if he really is the Christ sent from God, the chosen one.”

36 The soldiers also mocked him. They came up to him, offering him sour wine37 and saying, “If you really are the king of the Jews, save yourself.”38 Above his head was a notice of the formal charge against him. It read “This is the king of the Jews.”

39 One of the criminals hanging next to Jesus insulted him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!”

40 Responding, the other criminal spoke harshly to him, “Don’t you fear God, seeing that you’ve also been sentenced to die? 41 We are rightly condemned, for we are receiving the appropriate sentence for what we did. But this man has done nothing wrong.”42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

43 Jesus replied, “I assure you that today you will be with me in paradise.”

Prayer

Reconciling Christ, 
we are weighed down by sin and separation, a world that is not at peace, people who are not whole. You reached out to the thief, you welcomed him to God’s side. Come alongside us in the darkness, and bring grace and peace to everything that is broken.

Silence
Extinguish Candle
Amen
Hymn: “Jesus, Remember Me”
Wouter Harbers, piano