Feeling confined? Home worship with Grace Lutheran

Editor’s note: Grace Lutheran Pastor Russ Glaser shared his home worship packet with us this week and we are sharing it with our readers who might want to worship at home. There are two attachments at the bottom for download or printing.


Dear Grace Friends,

In place of Sunday worship on the Grace Lutheran campus, I am offering three items to assist you in home worship this March 22, 2020, weekend.

They are:

Home Worship for Sunday, March 22, with message, see below.
Gospel reading of John 9 in large print, pdf below.
Wordsearch puzzle, pdf below.

The church building will be open 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Sunday if anyone wishes to stop by and spend any time in individual prayer.

As always, feel free to contact me or church leaders for any concerns or needs you have during this time. Again, we are doing our part with the community to address and slow down the effects of COVID-19.

In Christ’s love,

Pastor Russ Glaser
Grace Lutheran E.L.C.A.
210 Holliday St.
Osage City, KS 66523


From Pastor Russ:

“While acting to limit our exposure to the spread of the coronavirus, we may be separated in time and location. But we are united together in Jesus Christ.”

Please use the provided devotional and message as your home substitute this coming Sunday. It is based on two of the readings assigned for the Fourth Sunday of Lent. If there are two or more at home, take turn reading or speaking parts. Have fun with it!


Sunday March 22, 2020
For Home Worship

Breathing In

Declaration of Grace / Absolution

Once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light.
Everything exposed by the light becomes light.
You have brought your sin into the light of Christ.
Your sins are forgiven.
Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.

May our eyes be opened in new ways to God’s glory, God’s light and our place in God’s purposes as we worship this week.

Gospel Reading – John 9:1-41: Jesus heals a man who was born blind, and, because this was done on the Sabbath, the religious leaders start an investigation, calling in the man’s parents and ultimately throwing the man out of the synagogue. Then, Jesus teaches that he came to bring sight to the blind and to reveal the blindness of those who think they see.

Read from your Bible or download attachment “John 9”.


Message

Now I See

How quickly the world changes. In just the past week or so, schools and universities around the country are now closed. Many libraries, restaurants, cafes, and cultural centers are shutting their doors. It’s hard to find hand sanitizer, bathroom tissue, or other staples at the local grocery.

I am learning to maintain a six foot distance from every human being I encounter. Welcome to life in the shadow of Covid-19. Like I said, how quickly the world changes.

How do we respond to change? How do we respond when something challenges the way we are used to seeing or doing things? Are we quick to adapt ourselves to the change or do we stubbornly stand our ground?

In John’s Gospel, Jesus heals a “ruined” man on the Sabbath, a man who has been blind since birth. When Jesus sees him, he kneels down, spits on the ground, makes a muddy paste with his saliva, rubs the paste on the man’s eyes, and instructs him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. When the man obeys, his sight is restored.

Though this is a miracle story, the Gospel writer doesn’t spend too long on the healing itself. The focus of the lection is on the religious community’s response, both to the man’s blindness, and to his restored sight. In other words, one of the most barren and desolate places we can occupy as Christians is a place of smugness. Of rightness. Of certainty. The more convinced we are that we have full insight, comprehension, and knowledge, the less we will see and experience the truth.

We saw that in many of our nation’s leaders who dismissed COVID-19 as a partisan hoax. Some stubbornly felt it was just another flu and would be gone in a week. In their righteous smugness (which is often anti-science or any other thing which could challenge their strongly held positions) our nation lost precious time in preparing for and meeting the demands this coronavirus strain will have on us and the world. It is what it is.

And in our story, even the disciples of Jesus held their own strongly held lenses in viewing the blind man. The disciples assume that his blindness is his own fault somehow. So they ask Jesus who has sinned and incurred God’s displeasure – the man himself, or his parents. But Jesus rejects the entire premise of their question.

There is no relationship between the man’s condition and his sinfulness, Jesus says. God does not make people sick in order to punish them for wrongdoing. To step away from our brother or sister’s suffering because we assume it’s divinely ordained, is not righteous. It’s reprehensible.

In the story John tells, Jesus sees the blind man – a man whom no one else really sees. In the eyes of his peers, the man is contaminated, burdensome, and expendable. In his community’s calculus of human worth, the blind man barely registers – he’s not a human being; he’s Blindness. The condition itself, with all of its accumulated meanings.

Which is why, when the man’s sight is restored by Jesus, his own townspeople – the people he has lived and worshipped with for years – don’t recognize him. They don’t know how to see him without his disability. To do so would be to recognize a common humanity, a bond, a kinship. And that would be intolerable.

So, of course, when the man shows up at the Temple healed and whole, the community rallies to discredit him. To restore order, re-establish the social hierarchy, and reinforce the status quo.

But why? Why does the community feel such an urgent need to silence the healed man? I wonder if the core reason is fear. A fear so primal and so deep, it drives away all compassion, all empathy, all tenderness, all sense of kinship.

If the man’s blindness isn’t a punishment for sin, then what does that mean about how the world works? Anyone might get sick, or suffer from a disability, or face years of undeserved pain and suffering for no discernible reason whatsoever.

That wouldn’t be fair – would it? That would be a version of reality the good religious folks can’t control. A terrifying, destabilizing version. Who among us can bear to surrender the illusion of control?

Not only does the community’s legalistic approach to faith prevent them from seeing the healed man; it also prevents them from seeing God’s love and power at work in their midst.

Notice that no one in the story rejoices when the man is healed. No one – not even the man’s parents – expresses joy, or wonder, or gratitude, or awe. No one says, “I am so happy for you!” or asks, “What is it like to see for the first time? Does the sunlight hurt your eyes? What are you excited to look at first?”

Instead, the community responds with contempt, its need to preserve its own sense of righteousness more important than celebrating a fellow human being’s restoration to life. Hard and cynical. Hard and suspicious. Hard and stingy.

This suggests to me that vulnerability, softness, curiosity, and openness are essential to real seeing. The Gospels tell us that Jesus’s true identity eludes just about everyone until after his Resurrection. Even his disciples struggle to understand who and what their Teacher is.

Most of the people who encounter Jesus are too busy seeing what they want to see – a magician, a heretic, a political and military leader, a carpenter’s son, a wise man, a phony, a clerical threat – to notice what the blind man, free of all such filters, discerns by the end of the story. The blind man alone sees Jesus as the Son of Man and calls him, “Lord.”

We might say, then, that this is one of the rare and beautiful moments in the Gospels when Jesus himself is truly seen. The blind man sees Jesus as wholly and purely as Jesus sees him; the gaze and the recognition in this story are mutual. Because the healed man has no bias or preconceptions(remember he was blind from birth), because the spiritual ground he stands on is soft and supple, he is able to see God as God is. This allows the whispers of God’s Spirit to bring forth new life.

Whether we want to or not over the coming weeks, we will face a choice – the choice to see or to turn away. Will we allow the ground we stand on to remain pliable, or will we harden our stance and refuse to grow and change?

During these hard days, who are the people we might render invisible with our cherished theologies, our dogmatic political views, our legalistic approaches to justice, fairness, generosity, and sympathy? Why are tests found for NBA athletes and not for the common person. Who might we deem expendable during this season of mass illness and fear? The homeless, the elderly? Whose joys will we be unwilling to celebrate, because we’re so busy hoarding our own?

Will we be flexible in the ways we extend love across distances, or will we hunker down in fear and suspicion? Will we dare to be the Church in new ways, even as we practice quarantines and social distancing – or will we forget that we are one body, connected and interdependent, incomplete without each other? Will we have eyes to see God in our neighbors, regardless of whether they are sick or healthy, insured or uninsured, citizen or foreigner, protected or vulnerable? Will we be brave enough to look our own vulnerability – our own mortality – in the eye, and trust that God is with us even in the valley of the shadow of death? Or will we yield to cynicism, panic, and despair?

I am in awe of the trust the healed man has in Jesus by the end of this week’s Gospel story – a trust deep enough to enable him to bear honest, radical witness to his experience, even at the risk of censure and excommunication from his religious community. In shedding his identity as “the man blind from birth,” the healed man becomes a disciple, a traveler, a pilgrim. He commits himself without looking back, straining forward instead of clinging to what others tell him is right and true. He is, in the truest sense, born again.

During this Lenten season, may we drop any sense of righteous smugness we might stand on. During this season, may we, too, confess our blindness and receive sight. May we also praise the one who kneels in the dirt and gets his hands dirty in order to heal us. May we also soften and prepare the ground we stand on, so that when new life appears in whatever surprising guise God chooses, we will embrace, cherish, celebrate, and share the good news, too!


Breathing Out
Go ahead and sing the hymn. You’re at home after all!

Amazing Grace
Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch; like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed!
The Lord hath promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.


A Prayer on Coronavirus

Jesus Christ, you traveled through towns and villages “curing every disease and illness.” At your command, the sick were made well. Come to our aid now, in the midst of the global spread of the coronavirus, that we may experience your healing love.

Heal those who are sick with the virus. May they regain their strength and health through quality medical care.

Heal us from our fear, which prevents nations from working together and neighbors from helping one another.

Heal us from our pride, which can make us claim invulnerability to a disease that knows no borders.

Jesus Christ, healer of all, stay by our side in this time of uncertainty and sorrow.

Be with those who have died from the virus. May they be at rest with you in your eternal peace.

Be with the families of those who are sick or have died. As they worry and grieve, defend them from illness and despair. May they know your peace.

Be with the doctors, nurses, researchers and all medical professionals who seek to heal and help those affected and who put themselves at risk in the process. May they know your protection and peace.

Be with the leaders of all nations. Give them the foresight to act with charity and true concern for the well-being of the people they are meant to serve. Give them the wisdom to invest in long-term solutions that will help prepare for or prevent future outbreaks. May they know your peace, as they work together to achieve it on earth.

Whether we are home or abroad, surrounded by many people suffering from this illness or only a few, Jesus Christ, stay with us as we endure and mourn, persist and prepare. In place of our anxiety, give us your peace.

Jesus Christ, heal us. Amen.

Source: Kerry Weber, Executive Editor of America: The Jesuit Review


Ephesians 5: 8-10

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.”

Sending

The kingdom of love is coming because:

somewhere someone is kind when others are unkind,
somewhere someone shares with another in need,
somewhere someone refuses to hate, while others hate,
somewhere someone is patient – and waits in love,
somewhere someone returns good for evil,
somewhere someone serves another, in love,
somewhere someone is calm in a storm,
somewhere someone is loving everybody.
Is that someone you?

Go in peace. Serve the Lord. Thanks be to God!


Gospel reading of John 9 in large print, pdf download or print.

Wordsearch puzzle 3-22-20, pdf download or print.

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