The pastor gave the final blessing over the congregation from an empty stage. He looked down at his guitar as he strummed a few soft chords and prayed. He was a gentle musician and an honest preacher.
“Love people and love God!” He’d say. Everybody knew he meant it. He lived it.
Her church wasn’t perfect, but her living room was no sanctuary either. She hated leaving like this. With a click. She wished he would have played one more hymn. She closed her laptop and swallowed hard.
She much rather have stood in the foyer for a while and shook a stranger’s hand. She would have loved to give her good friend a nod from afar as they said their good-byes with just a smile, while she finished the conversation with the new couple.
She headed toward the kitchen to make lunch.
She much rather have sat at the burger joint with her family and a few others who would have made their way there. They would have bantered between tables about things that didn’t matter much. But they did. All of it mattered. She just had never realized how much it did.
“Lord, help us not take our blessings for granted, especially your Body. Help us to encourage one another. Put us on each other’s hearts and minds. Teach us to pray … for one another. Help us to not take each other for granted. Lord, let us not go back without understanding fully, that we are your Body and you are the Head. Keep us one in love as you are One.”
1 Corinthians 12:27
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.
I grew up in a village in southwest Germany. My childhood was filled with Catholic traditions and celebrations. A small church, and the graveyard that surrounded it, were the center of the town in every way. After mass we stopped and prayed at the graves of loved ones. There were the graves of our great grandparents, grandparents, friends and children of friends. We took time to remember those who passed and our own mortality.
We tended those graves, planted flowers in the spring and pulled weeds and watered in the summer. We stuck small shrubs in the ground in fall and always lit a red grave candle and placed it on the stone.
There were other traditions. In June we picked wild flowers in the fields and made altars in front of our homes. We said our prayers there, too. We swept the streets and scrubbed the sidewalks. We cut the grass and trimmed the bushes, made everything presentable. Then we joined the procession with the priest leading. He walked under a cloth canopy and carried the body of Christ in a golden monstrance. He led the congregation to several outside altars. He was the only one allowed to walk on the flower-carpets, which the women had prepared. As a little girl, I remember wishing I could just walk once on that carpet and get close to such holiness.
When I was older, I left those traditions and altars, moved far away from the small town and fields, from the hills and the woods. I tried to find my own traditions. I questioned what I should remember and what to forget. I always looked for Jesus, and wondered if He ever escaped from under that canopy and came out of the monstrance.
I did find Him, but not in any traditions or in inapproachable holiness. Actually, He found me – in a dark room at the end of my rope and without a shred of hope. I was planning to end my life.
That’s how He finds many people. That’s how He found His friends over two thousand years ago. They were unable to celebrate and felt abandoned and alone. They had lost their hope, too. They were heading to His grave, trying to tend his decaying body.
If you are feeling sadness this Easter because so many things are different and you can’t celebrate like you did before, let Jesus find you. Let Him show you that He overcame death and the grave. He is as near as you need Him to be. He never leaves nor forsakes. He has power over death and victory over sin. Because … He is risen. He is risen indeed.
God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death,
because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
I read it in German first. It blew me away. Now it’s finally translated into English.
THE SOUND of LIFE’S UNSPEAKABLE BEAUTY
It is stunningly and elegantly written. Martin’s words touch the heart and soul deeply. His love for God, his talent in his craft and his way with words all come together in this hopeful parable about the search for the meaning of life.
I don’t think there is a better time for it than now!
While we feel trapped in our homes, help us to see that we are trapped by sins and free in Christ.
While we look at our screens and feel helpless, help us to look out the window and see your power in nature.
While we may have lost our day-jobs, show us the work of the Gospel and remind us that night is coming when no man can work.
While we distance ourselves and stand apart, fuse your Church tightly together and make it one as you are One.
While we wash our hands, remind us that our hearts were washed in the blood of Jesus.
While we listen to our governments and empty our streets of a virus, help us listen to you and empty them of violence and fill them with your loving kindness.
As our world is changing, Heaven remains the same.
As our worries increase, your love for us cannot.
As we face pressures, you press into us.
As we find solutions, you nailed yours to a cross.
Grant your workers knowledge and strength,
your people faith and hope,
your Church power, love and unity.
We will give you all the glory and honor.
In the name of your Son, Jesus
(pictures and prayer, Heidi Viars, 2020)
“Hi. My name is Heidi and I am a people junky!”
I love people (for most part mostly most of them). I love them like the books I read. I try to understand them and get their point. I love them them at the dining room table and in my living room. They intrigue me, make me wonder about their stories and what is hidden on the pages of their lives.
That’s why I greet new people at church. I don’t mind (even when they do). I leave conversations with friends because a new person just skipped by the corner of my eye. “Hang on! I’ll be right back!” (I try not to lie, but this one slips out every time!).
When I went to our Facebook church on Sunday and saw that our small congregation exploded with 2.6k views, I called my pastor and asked him, “How do you assimilate THAT?”
Here are few things I thought of as practical:
~Go to online church if you can. Hey, you can eat your breakfast and don’t even need to brush your teeth (ok, maybe for those sitting next to you on the couch).
~Now is the time to invite people. People from all over the world can make it to your church. Invite your missionary friends you only see once a year. We had our friends from Africa join. Their internet even held up for the time we were meeting.
~Hang out in groups after church and during the week for Bible studies. We have changed platforms a couple of times. That was annoying. But with patience you will figure out an app that works for you. Try to avoid those apps that have time limits. We didn’t realize how wonderful it was to meet and we were so sad when our feed cut after the time ran out. It made me realize how desperate we are for talking with one another.
~PRAY FOR YOUR PASTOR. This is not the time to let him know that he is clueless. Guess what … He is. Nobody knows how to deal with this. As the Body of our Lord, we can work this out. Jesus is still the head.
~Go through your church directory and get to know the elderly in your church. While we are so busy downloading our apps, they might benefit from a good ole call.
How are you doing church these days? What has worked for you?
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Hebrews 10:19-25 (ESV)
While I washed my hands today, I asked the Lord to bless the work of our hands.
I thought of an encounter at the store.
I wondered if each deed she’d done
Had left their mark in lines,
And if the names of those she touched
In gnarling I could find
I clearly saw her open palms,
Saw years of work and care,
Imagined hands which children calmed
Then folded tight in prayer.
I thought of Jesus and His hands –
His nail-pierced hands of love –
How He surrendered all His plans
Into the Hands above.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!
Psalm 90:17 (ESV)
(Poem and picture, Heidi Viars, 2020)
I just scratched off the last appointment on my calendar.
How about we get together here and pray?
IN THE COMMENT SECTION
My oldest son is a producer of a morning show for a news station a few hours away from here. I am thinking a lot about him these days. I know that he has to sort and prioritize through a barrage of news every night, cutting them into bitesize tidbits, so that we can easily digest them for breakfast. Many news don’t make it as far as the TV-screen or the phone app. There is not enough time in the world to cover it all. A few times, when I shared my concerns about what I’d seen on the news, he has said, “And that’s just the news you see, mom!”
This afternoon, an onslaught of news hit all within a few hours.
“Mom, I am sick. Can you pick me up?”
“Mom, school is cancelled for Monday,”
“Mom, college classes have been cancelled for next week.”
“Mom, school is out for all of next week.”
“Mom, I am coming home tomorrow. I will be home until April.”
“Honey, all the kids will be home for the next three weeks. Oh, and there is no toilet paper!”
A twenty-four-hour news cycle doesn’t sound that bad to me. At least it gives moms time to adjust and a break from the breaking news.