Bradenton-Sarasota Online Worship
August 2, 2020
Invitation to worship: How Can I Keep from Singing by Audrey Assad
I hope the song prepares you for worship, but I also hope the images of snow capped mountains bring a stillness and refreshing comfort to your heart and soul.
Prayer for Peace
God of Grace and Compassion,
As we come to You we ask to be comforted. We pray that the time is at hand, or not far distant, when we will no longer be influenced by the things of this world that oppress or divide. Our struggles to this end have not been as effective as we would hope, yet we trust there remains a worthwhile struggle to be made—one that by Your grace, by Your guiding wisdom, will bring about the peace for which we long.
Therefore, we lift up our heads, and rejoice, and put our trust in You, God—the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; the God of peace. Amen.
—Based on Mosiah 5:27-28
Communion Message by Priest Sherry Lindgren
The theme for today, “Embrace the Struggle”, comes from the scripture from Genesis 32:22-31 which tells a story about Jacob wrestling with God all night. To summarize, Jacob held fast to God and refused to let Him go until He bestowed a blessing upon Jacob. Genesis is full of stories that are very mythic in nature and this is one of them. My takeaway from this story is that humans must go through struggles, but God is always with us so we should focus on and be grateful for the blessings they provide.
I get it, but for me, if I’m to be honest, it’s aspirational. It is not human nature to embrace the struggle, and any blessings that come out of a difficult situation are usually in seen most clearly in hindsight.
Right now, most of the people I know are worried about someone they care about getting Covid-19 or getting it themselves. One of the hardest parts of the current struggle is that while we are all going through this together and have a lot of feelings and experiences in common, it’s also a very isolated and isolating struggle. People in the nursing homes, hospitals, and prisons are not allowed to have visitors.
One of the ways that we have always shared and received God is through human connection. Looking someone in the eye, smiling, holding someone’s hand, hugging someone, tells them that we care about them. Being there for them, even if we don’t say anything, shows them that they aren’t alone. There is an “aloneness” to this disease that makes it scarier than anything I’ve ever gone through. Melinda Creel and her family and friends are going through this right now with her son and his car accident. There is nothing a mother wants more than to be with her son when he is pain and afraid and she’s not allowed to visit him and comfort him unless he gets worse, so she is remaining thankful that she can’t visit him. I admire that mindset and that faith very much.
This pandemic struggle is even tough for those that aren’t alone. A couple of weeks ago, when Rick got really sick, we didn’t know for sure whether it was Covid-19 or not. He is high risk because of his age. I have the age factor plus the concern over the respiratory aspects of the disease since I only have one lung. He got a Covid-19 test on day 4 of his illness and it took 11 days to get the results, which were negative. He needed to be cared about and for. But I needed to protect myself as much as possible at the same time, and try to help where I could and distance myself where I could. There was nowhere he could go and nowhere I could go and all we could do was wait, worry, and pray. We didn’t know what we were going to do if he got worse. We didn’t know what we were going to do if I started getting sick, and there was very little good advice to go on.
The hardest part was, in order to protect me, we couldn’t show affection in conventional ways. Not only could I not touch him, I tried not to touch anything he touched. I’ve never been such a “clean freak” in my life. Then he started feeling better. Once that happens, the soul crushing guilt sets in. This is the person that means more to me than life itself (or so I thought) and I wouldn’t get near him because I thought getting near him could kill me.
I found out I had more self-preservation in my DNA than I thought and I wasn’t particularly proud of it. I certainly didn’t think about “embracing the struggle”, and am not yet to where I can see what we went through as a blessing. Since he tested negative eventually, we could be potentially go through the cycle all over again in the months to come. I did learn some things from what we went through, though. It certainly held a mirror up to some things about me that I didn’t like and felt I needed to be forgiven for and hope I will handle better if there is a “next time”. I hope, with God’s grace to be stronger as new struggles come my way and try to face them with a clearer head, more patience and less fear. Only time will tell.
Based on the mindset I was in when I was looking for the music for this service, I came across a song that really spoke to me. I hope to sing it someday when we find ourselves back in a brick and mortar church. It’s a song written by the same artist that sang the Invitation to Worship, Audrey Assad, and it’s based on what’s called “The Litany of Humility” written by Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val. You can click on the link if you want to read it. It is a song asking God to deliver us from those things that we’ve realized as a human are holding us back. It’s a great song to prepare one’s soul to take the sacrament of communion.
I Shall Not Want by Audrey Assad
All are welcome at Christ’s table. The Lord’s Supper, or Communion, is a sacrament in which we remember the life, death, resurrection, and continuing presence of Jesus Christ. In Community of Christ, we also experience Communion as an opportunity to renew our baptismal covenant and to be formed as disciples who live Christ’s mission. Others may have different or added understandings within their faith traditions. We invite all who participate in the Lord’s Supper to do so in the love and peace of Jesus Christ.
Disciples Generous Response:
As you share your mission tithes or if you give regularly through eTithing, use this time to express gratitude for God’s many gifts in your life and to reflect on how we respond faithfully to those blessings. When we understand God’s love and grace are given freely to us, we respond out of gratitude and are liberated to share freely in return.
To close out the service I chose a hopeful song again by Audrey Assad where she commits to God to love Him with every breath “even unto death,” bringing us full circle to the theme “Embrace the Struggle.”
Even Unto Death by Audrey Assad
This service was prepared by Sherry Lindgren.