PANDEMIC PRAYERS- LOSS AND GAIN
PANDEMIC - written by Lynn Ungar in San Francisco on 11th March 2020.
What if you thought of it as the Jews consider the Sabbath— the most sacred of times? Cease from travel. Cease from buying and selling. Give up, just for now, on trying to make the world different than it is. Sing.
Touch only those to whom you commit your life. Centre down.
And when your body has become still, reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected in ways that are terrifying and beautiful. (You could hardly deny it now.) Know that our lives are in one another’s hands. (Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands. Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words. Reach out all the tendrils of compassion that move, invisibly, where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love– for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, so long as we all shall live.
This Saturday’s second reading at Evensong (Anglican Lectionary) continues the account we have of Lazarus’s sickness and death, and of Jesus’ sadness at losing his close friend.
LAZARUS SATURDAY is a Christian feast celebrated by Eastern Orthodox Christians on the Saturday before Palm Sunday. This year it will be celebrated next Saturday, the fourth of April. It commemorates the resurrection of Lazarus of Bethany, as a foreshadowing of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “Great Lent”, the forty days of Lenten fasting, in the Orthodox tradition is formally brought to an end on Lazarus Saturday.
The account continues from yesterday:
JOHN 11:17-35. On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. ‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’
Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied, ‘I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’
After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
PRAYERS IN GRIEF
“Jesus - How remarkable it is that you weep with me in my loss!
Back when I was in school, I loved John 11:35 for its brevity. “Jesus wept.”
My friends and I would giggle, pleased that we had discovered the shortest verse in the New Testament. I didn’t pay much attention to the context of John 11: the story of how You were en route to the tomb of Your friend Lazarus, in the company of Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha, mere days after Lazarus’ death.
I didn’t dwell long on the significance of Your tears.
How different that verse looks to me today.
Today, as I see the casket topped with flowers that blur at the edges
because my eyes go damp every time I look in their direction.
Today, as the priest and friends and family members speak about my loved one
using the past tense instead of the present.
Today, as the words of the hymns catch in my throat and render me mute.
Today, as the hope I still hold to be true
collides with the waves of sorrow suffocating me.
Today, “Jesus wept” means everything to me.
Today, I remember that You wept because someone dear to You
and dear to people You loved had died.
Even though You already knew the end of the story—
even though You knew that death wouldn’t have the final word—
still You wept.
You didn’t stand aloof, offering textbook reassurances
and condescending pats on the head.
You heard the stories,
clutched the shaking hands,
walked to the tomb, and shed tears of your own.
You grieved the loss,
and You grieved with those who felt that same stinging loss.”
Today, Jesus, I am thankful to worship the God
who became human enough to weep with me.
Adapted from "A Funeral Prayer" by Gregory Coles.
“Faith in the resurrection helps us to live with an attitude of hope,
sharing in the joy of the victory of the risen Christ over sin and death.
It is because of the resurrection
that Christ is with me on all of my journeys through life.
Can I recognise his presence and open my heart to encounter him more fully?”
(Reflection on John 11 - “Sacred Space”)
Ever present God,
be with us in our isolation,
be close to us in our distancing,
be healing in our sickness,
be joy in our sadness,
be light in our darkness,
be wisdom in our confusion,
be all that is familiar when all is unfamiliar,
that when the doors reopen
we may with the zeal of Pentecost
inhabit our communities
and speak of your goodness
to an emerging world.
For Jesus’ sake.
The Dean of Southwark Cathedral
Come Lord, like the wind, move us, direct us.
Come as the breath, fill us, refresh us.
Come to your church which without you is dull and dry,
and fill us with your Spirit.
Call us out of death and darkness into life and light.
We pray for the renewal of your church in its devotion and mission,
for all who proclaim your life-giving powers
and share in your redeeming love.
Come, Lord, restore, renew,
revive your people.