“From Mourning to Joy”

Two Meditations on Pandemic and Faith

Psalm 116:1-9 and Mark 8:27-38

September 12, 2021

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

From Mourning …

Psalm 116:1-9

I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my supplications.

Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.

Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, save my life!”

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful.

The Lord protects the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.

Return, O my soul, to your rest, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.

I walk before the Lord in the land of the living.

A Mournful Meditation

| Centering Prayer |

When faced with death,

when hell threatens,

while enduring suffering, distress, and anguish,

let us join with the Psalmist.

Call on the name of the Lord, saying

“O Lord, I pray, save my life!”

The world has suffered greatly the past 21 months.

More than 219,000,000 of the world’s population

have been infected with Covid-19, and

More than 4,550,000 have suffered and died.

Left behind are exhausted care partners, grieving families and friends, fear, anger, and division.

We’ve lost much.

Today, we pause to mourn,

to collectively grieve all the suffering, dying, and death we’ve endured.

Beloved,

name aloud

WHAT you have lost or

WHO you have lost due to the pandemic.

After each, let us collectively reply

“O Lord, I pray, save my life!”

[ What or Who you have lost … ]

Beloved,

take your pain, hurt, and suffering to the Lord.

Nail it to the cross of Jesus Christ.

When we take up our cross

we suffer together.

We become one with Christ,

one with each other, and

one in our faithful expectation

that joy will come in the morning.

Healing will spread across the land.

The tomb of this epidemic will soon be emptied.

“Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;”

the Psalmist reminds us.

“Our God is merciful.”

By God’s mercy

may you experience the healing touch of God.

Amen.

… to Joy!

Gospel Lesson                                  Mark 8:27-38 (NRSV)

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

A Joyful Meditation

| Centering Prayer |

The Good News is that Jesus is the Messiah,

sent by God

to save all God’s people.

Jesus is our Messiah, our Savior.

Jesus saves us from sin and death

by forgiving us,

healing our imperfections,

and by God’s amazing grace,

welcomes each of us into eternal life.

Jesus is our Companion.

Christ’s suffering upon the cross

is to us our gain.

When we deny ourselves,

take up our cross, and

follow Jesus,

we become as brothers and sisters,

sharing the journey of life,

facing all the trials, temptations, pain, and suffering

together, as one. 

As my son, Christian, wrote in sidewalk chalk on our driveway, “We are all in it together.”

Christ has remained steadfast by our side

throughout this terrible pandemic.

He has guided us to adapt to a changing world in new and creative ways.

It has not been easy.

But we’ve learned, we’ve loved, and

we’ve grown stronger

in our individual and collective faith

each and every day.

We have rethought Church, education, commerce, science, relationships.

Our family bubbles have redefined us.

Every aspect of our lives has changed.

We continue to dream,

to imagine,

to discern where Christ is leading us.

Unexpected joy has been found along the way.

Who knew?

Who knew a pandemic was coming?

Who knew sickness, illness, and disease

could also bring with it

the joy of discovery,

the joy of taking part in all things, all creation, being made new?

Who knew Covid and all it’s variants

could result in living in the joy of the Lord?

This joy is God’s gift,

the blessings of our faithful Companion, Jesus Christ, and

the benefits of abiding in the Holy Spirit.

What joy it is to be filled by the Spirit,

led by the Spirit,

strengthened by the Spirit,

loved by the Spirit!

When we name aloud our joys and blessings

we affirm God’s active presence in our lives

and our privilege to take an active role

in God’s emerging kingdom.

Beloved,

WHAT joy have you found

as a consequence of this pandemic?

Through WHOM have you witnessed God at work

to bring you joy?

[ Where have you found joy? ]

Who do we confess is Jesus?

He is our Messiah.

He is our Companion and friend.

Jesus is the source of living water,

the pathway

from sickness to health,

from sin to forgiveness,

from death to eternal life.

Be filled with joy, beloved followers of Jesus,

for he is the joy of our salvation.

Amen.  

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