Tuesday, March 31, 2020

DAY 35

Image by Katarina Stefanovic

Special devotions in response to COVID-19




A Greeting
Every day I call on you, O God;
I spread out my hands to you.
(Psalm 88:9)

A Reading
Once, when he was in one of the cities, there was a man covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground and begged him, "Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean. Then Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, "I do choose. Be made clean." Immediately the leprosy left him. And he ordered him to tell no one. "Go," he said, "and show yourself to the priest, and, as Moses commanded, make an offering for your cleansing, for a testimony to them." But now more than ever the word about Jesus spread abroad; many crowds would gather to hear him and to be cured of their diseases.
(Luke 5:12-15)

Music



Meditative Verse
At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.
(Mark 1:28)

A Reflection
I say to myself, go on seeking, be glad for being sensitive, be glad you're able to go beyond the resistance inside you. It is our resistance to what we experience that makes creativity possible. So don't get rid of resistance like that by going around it or trying to eliminate it. Our own limitations put up strong resistance, but it's because of that that we are creators.
- from Brother Roger of Taizé: Essential Writings by Brother Roger Schutz

Verse for the Day
Let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them, so that those who love your name may exult in you.
(Psalm 5:11)




A waymark for the Via Francigena pilgrim trail, in France



The Greek word ‘dierchomai’, found in today’s reading, is translated as ‘to spread’ and has the meaning of ‘to go through or pass through’ but with an energy of speed and force. In the story of Jesus’ healing of a man living with leprosy, it is used to describe how the miracle became well-known to others. But in our own time, the word ‘spread’ also holds the meaning of something which travels quickly in a way that is not healing. The COVID-19 virus has spread throughout the world with alarming speed. A meeting of an evangelical Christian community in Mulhouse, France for five days at the end of February, is believed to be responsible for more than half of the known cases of COVID19 in that country. Someone among the twenty five hundred people gathered that week had recently returned from Hubei province in China. Since no specific health advice existed at the time, and even though people had begun to be sick while the meeting was underway, the gathering continued welcoming new attendees each day. It can be challenging to believe that just a few individuals can have such a dramatic impact on the health and wellbeing of an entire nation. We have since understood that the Coronavirus can have 'community' transmission, moving between people quickly who have not themselves been in affected areas. In the time of Jesus, leprosy was such a disease. It stigmatized those it afflicted, forever. How can we reconcile the 'spread' of illness with the 'spreading' good news of Jesus in our own time? Two weeks ago, in another part of France, the Christian community of Taize closed its doors, to better protect the small ecumenical monastic community of brothers who live there, and the rotating groups of youth who regularly retreat with the community. In the video below, made on March 17th, the brothers explain the closure before inviting us virtually into their private gathering of worship. ‘To go, to walk, to journey through to different places’ are other meanings that 'dierchomai' holds in Scripture. The evangelical church in Mulhouse and the Taize community are less than three hundred kilometres apart in central and eastern France, and both are within easy reach of the ancient pilgrim route known as the Via Francigena. Once a Roman road, in the Middle Ages it served as a way of connecting the church at Canterbury, England, with Rome. In this way, the ‘distance journey’ of a pilgrim is connected to how we ‘pass through’ a time of confusion and illness. We are all walking together in God's loving desire for us all to be healed. “Let us keep watch over the treasure of human relationship,” we hear in the video below. And in today’s story, Jesus says to the man, “I do choose” to help. What are the ways that we ourselves can choose to help others within this crisis, so that the spread of disease can be met by ever multiplying acts of loving kindness?



A COVID-19 WORSHIP FROM TAIZE
Note: Video begins with a message from the leaders of the community
in both French and English.




LC† Reimagining Justice is a project of
Lutherans Connect / Lutheran Campus Ministry Toronto,

supported by the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
Join us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and on Twitter.

Monday, March 30, 2020

DAY 34

Image by Alan Wright

Special devotions in response to COVID-19



A Greeting
Let your face shine upon your servant; 

save me in your steadfast love.
(Psalm 31:16)

A Reading
For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
(Romans 8:25-27)

Music


Meditative Verse
When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart.
(Jeremiah 29:13)

A Reflection
In..times of emotional devastation, woundedness and fragmentation stand out, naked and exposed. The natural ease of rhythm seizes up. Each gesture, thought and action has to be deliberately willed. Everything becomes extremely difficult. What you would have accomplished without the slightest thought now becomes an action that seems impossible. Yet hope whispers that the tide always returns. Transfiguration graces you gradually. You stood exposed and atrophied, unable to move in the grip of pain; even the ground was naked and broken beneath you. Now gradually fluency returns. You recover your spontanaiety and new buoyancy raises you up and your heart is again relieved and glad as when the ocean returns along the shoreline and everything becomes subsumed in the play and dance of young waves. When I was traveling in Germany, I missed the West of Ireland and especially the wild callings of the ocean...Without knowing it, my body had been lonely for the sound, the sight and the effervescence of the ocean. The Irish word for the ocean is feminine: Fharraige. In the musical sequence of its syllables, you can almost hear the building up of a wave, and then it disperses in the 'ge', like the fall-away of an outward breath.
from Beauty: Rediscovering the True Sources of Compassion,
Serenity and Hope
, by John O'Donohue


Verse for the Day
For your steadfast love is higher than the heavens,
and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
(Psalm 108:4)




A waymark on the Kerry Camino, in County Wicklow, Ireland



How do we experience love in an empty space? With each new day, the proposed timelines seem to expand and we begin to get a clearer picture of the sacrifices we are making. Part of our own distance journey of soul will be to learn how to accept and manage those sustained sacrifices. During the Middle Ages, those who walked the pilgrim trails traveled alone, going days at a time without contact with others. This reflective walking emptied their spirits of distractions allowing greater room for God. How can we, confined to our homes, or taking neighbourhood walks, find a similar way to make space for God? How can we embrace emptiness? As faithful people, our sacred story includes moments when emptiness and separation are an act of profound love. When Mary finds the empty tomb of Jesus, she feels agonized by the separation from his physical body that she had anointed. When Jesus appears to her, he tells her not to cling to him but to run and share the news of his resurrection. Both of these examples show profound love amid empty spaces. One of the ways we can learn to accept emptiness is to see how others are managing to do so. Even though we are globally united right now by self-isolation and physical distancing, each culture and nation experiences it in a unique way. In the last three days, Ireland has seen a doubling of fatalaties, and of its nearly two thousand confirmed cases, one quarter of these are health care workers. (Recently, respiratory physicians and nurses in Northern Ireland made a powerful plea to people to stay home.) In the video below, a narrator shows us how Belfast has ground to a halt and invites us to consider the unnerving quiet as evidence of great caring. “Look into that emptiness and marvel at all of that love. Let it fill you,” we hear. It can be very hard to imagine letting the emptiness we see around us fill us with its signs of love, but it can help to remember that we ourselves, in our physical distancing, are also a part of that model of love. How can we find a spirit of sacrifice as we walk forward together in loving absence? How can we be reminded that Jesus clings to us always, even in our times of greatest isolation?

A VIDEO COVID-19 REFLECTION






LC† Reimagining Justice is a project of
Lutherans Connect / Lutheran Campus Ministry Toronto,

supported by the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
Join us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and on Twitter.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

DAY 33

Image Source


Sabbath Days in a Time of Pandemic:
Special devotions in response to COVID-19 (Continued)





A Greeting
Gladden the soul of your servant,
for to you, O God, I lift up my soul.
(Psalm 86:4)

A Reading
[Moses] put the lampstand in the tent of meeting, opposite the table on the south side of the tabernacle, and set up the lamps before the Lord; as the Lord had commanded Moses. He set up the court around the tabernacle and the altar, and put up the screen at the gate of the court. So Moses finished the work. Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled upon it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Whenever the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, the Israelites would set out on each stage of their journey; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, before the eyes of all the house of Israel at each stage of their journey.
(Exodus 40:24,33-38)

Music



Meditative Verse
‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are
carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
(Matthew 11:28)

A Poem
For me, at work in my studio,
where I scratch and scrawl and loop
letters into shapes so I can enter the Tabernacle
of their bodies and hear each foot, each syllable
sending its roots to a depth as great as that tree’s,
which has been standing and rooting and swaying
long before I came to memorize its plain mystery,
its wide-bodied hull open to stars at night,
each a point that I lengthen into a letter
and each letter into a word, and with the words
build a Tabernacle for the ten most broken
and the ten most resonant words. I will place them
in an inner sanctum enclosed by hanging carpets,
and outside it, another space enclosed by carpets,
and outside it, another, so that those who wish
to read the words, to say them out loud,
must first pull one curtain back and step inside,
and then another, and another until they arrive
in a hushed space, a soundproofed, heavy quiet
where they come to know that which makes all things
day after day,
and out of which the earth was made.
- from "Tabernacle" by Emily Warn

Verse for the Day
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you.
(Psalm 86:5)



Image by Nicolas Raymond



In the image at top, we see a small chapel lit up brightly. The light that pours out from its heart is invitational, offering a place of rest for a weary spirit. Chapels like these frequent the ancient paths of the pilgrim routes. Weary travelers, not yet at a destination for the day, can find a place to renew their faith. Over the past few weeks, we have been in our own wilderness, trying to go forward in our lives with little sense of the future. Like the medieval pilgrim traveling village to village, we have no sense of distance, except the number of steps between one day and another, one week to the next. In the biblical story, the Israelites traveled this way in hopes of a promised land. Most of us are journeying in the hope of having our normal lives back. In today’s reading, we hear how God goes before the Israelites in a cloud during the day and a fire in the cloud by night. God dwells among them and leads them in this way and as they travel onward, they carry with them the Tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting. How does God lead us in our own wilderness journey of self-isolation and quarantine? Today’s choir, Cantus, have recorded a series of songs in what they call the “COVID-19 Sessions”, recorded just a week ago. Standing at two metres from each other, they sing an African-American spiritual that describes both the memory of bondage and the feeling of hope that is experienced in journeying toward ‘home’. Today, as most of us are unable once again to attend church as normal, we too take our Tabernacle with us. We pray and sing around a family table. We watch a livestream of worship. We create the sacred in our own quiet corners, with candles and books. We are led by our own faith leaders, whose ingenuity and creativity go before us on our computer screens or in the preparations of resources they have caringly provided for us. We have found ourselves on an unchosen wandering, to a place we don’t know, for a length of time we can’t determine. But like the Israelites and the medieval pilgrims, we journey in the knowledge that God goes with us. Starting tomorrow, we will embark on a two-week path toward Easter in a time of pandemic, visiting ancient and newer trails of sacred journey, as we have in previous Lenten projects of 2014 and 2017. Knowing that ‘pilgrimage’ can be a challenging word for our Indigenous brothers and sisters, we will refer to it instead as the ‘soul journey’, going where others have traveled before us, and also learning from them. In the video at bottom, made before the pandemic, Dr. Vincent Adams, a PEI chiropractor, shares a dream of walking the Camino in Spain, carrying a fifty pound wooden Cross as a way of raising money and awareness for suicide prevention. The pandemic has forced Adams to postpone his three-hundred mile trek, but the publicity surrounding his project, called A Cross to Bear, has saved lives, as those who struggle with mental health feel encouraged by his passion. As we move forward in our own days, how can we carry our own crosses of pain and challenge amid the light of sacred space that travels with us? How can we offer each other solidarity and courage as we put one foot in front of the other, and as God leads us quietly and lovingly on?


A MISSION






LC† Reimagining Justice is a project of
Lutherans Connect / Lutheran Campus Ministry Toronto,

supported by the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
Join us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and on Twitter.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

DAY 32

Image by Tee Cee

Sabbath Days in a Time of Pandemic:
Special devotions in response to COVID-19





A Greeting
Who has the right to enter your tent, O God, or to live on your holy mountain? Those who conduct themselves with integrity and work for justice, who speak the truth from their heart.
(Psalm 15:1-2 TIB)

A Reading
Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing.
(1 Peter 3:8-9)

Music



Meditative Verse
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
(Psalm 23:6)

A Reflection
Embracing his cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time, abandoning for a moment our eagerness for power and possessions in order to make room for the creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring. It means finding the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity. By his cross we have been saved in order to embrace hope and let it strengthen and sustain all measures and all possible avenues for helping us protect ourselves and others. Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope.
- from the homily portion of the "Urbi et Orbi Blessing"
by Pope Francis, delivered on March 27, 2020.


A Blessing
Dear brothers and sisters, from this place that tells of Peter’s rock-solid faith, I would like this evening to entrust all of you to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, Health of the People and Star of the stormy Sea. From this colonnade that embraces Rome and the whole world, may God’s blessing come down upon you as a consoling embrace. Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts. You ask us not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm. Tell us again: “Do not be afraid” (Mt 28:5). And we, together with Peter, “cast all our anxieties onto you,
for you care about us.”
- from the blessing portion of the "Urbi et Orbi Blessing"
by Pope Francis, delivered on March 27, 2020.




The figure of Pope Francis is visible on a special platform
in an empty St. Peter's Square in Rome on March 27, 2020.



Another week of these special pandemic days has passed and we once again find ourselves at the weekend, trying to differentiate between these and all other days. Trying to set aside ‘sabbath days’ in a time of pandemic requires a commitment of our hearts and minds and an intention of focus, perhaps more than we have known before. It has been a tough week. The full reality of the crisis we are in is settling down on all of us, without a clear sense of how long it will go on, or how we will do within it. Death tolls have risen, the full implications of how far and wide the disease is spreading faces us daily in graphics and headlines. On our own Lenten devotional journey, during this week we have tried to find solidarity with doctors and nurses, the housed and the homeless; we have dwelled in the caves of our separations from each other and tried to fathom the new geography of being ‘close’. And we have remembered journeys now and bygone, with Phoebe and Greta and the rough waters of storm tossed seas. Early last evening, at the end of the worst week for Italy since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Pope Francis walked quietly through the rain that was falling on St. Peter’s Square to a special platform to offer a unique blessing over the world, one that is normally reserved only for Christmas and Easter. His homily and blessing were framed by the Mark 4 version of the story of Jesus calming the storm at sea which appeared on Day 22 of this project. The image of this spiritual leader and head of the Roman Catholic church by himself in a square that is usually filled with people to hear him, was a stark image of the changed times. But from within this sad frame, what emerged were words of hope. Gently, he encouraged us to believe that the Spirit is always in the activity of being creative, always seeking to move in new ways. He exhorted us to reflect in the silence on how much the pandemic is revealing to us about ourselves and how we have been living and how we might find new life. He dwelled with us in fear and reminded us that Jesus is here to hold all of our anxieties and fears. And then he blessed the world. As he was finishing, he invoked Peter, whose ‘rock-solid faith’ was the inspiration for the church that stood behind him. We know from Scripture, however, that Peter did not always have rock-solid faith. On another storm-tossed sea, Peter tried to walk on water and sunk below the waves, only to be lifted again by the strong arms of Jesus. As we pray and reflect on where we are, how can we see ourselves in both the versions of Peter that we know? How can we feel comforted by Peter’s fear and anxiety and reassured by the endurance of a church that has lived on some two thousand years past those events? “There is nothing to fear,” we hear in today’s song, “for I am with you always”. Fear and hope are part of all of our days now. But the story of Jesus tells us that hope always wins. How will that hope live in your heart and life today?





LC† Reimagining Justice is a project of
Lutherans Connect / Lutheran Campus Ministry Toronto,

supported by the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
Join us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and on Twitter.

Friday, March 27, 2020

DAY 31

Image Source

Special devotions in response to COVID-19




A Greeting
Answer me when I call, O God. You gave me room when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.
(Psalm 4:1)

A Reading
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard.
(Isaiah 58:6-8)

Music
Note: music starts out at a low volume

 

Meditative Verse
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young, at your altars, O God.
(Psalm 84:3)

A Prayer
In this time of COVID-19, we pray:
When we aren't sure, God,
help us be calm;
when information comes
from all sides, correct and not,
help us to discern;
when fear makes it hard to breathe,
and anxiety seems to be the order of the day,
slow us down, God;
help us to reach out with our hearts,
when we can't touch with our hands;
help us to be socially connected,
when we have to be socially distant;
help us to love as perfectly as we can,
knowing that "perfect love casts out all fear.”
- from "A Prayer during times of Covid-19",
published by The United Church of Canada


Verse for the Day
In peace I’ll lie down; in peace I will sleep:
for you alone, God, keep me perfectly safe.
(Psalm 4:8)




Image by Marc Cooper



In today’s Meditative Verse, we hear about the swallows who nest in the altar of the temple. In the biblical era, birds who had managed to make a home on the very altars where they might have been ritually sacrificed, were considered sacred. To be a bird in ancient times meant either frequenting the forgotten places where food was scarce, or living in communities and becoming sacrificial offerings, but those who nested in the altar eluded both harsh realities and were safe. As we continue to live into these days of pandemic, when we are being urged strongly to “stay home”, we may find ourselves developing a new and more appreciative sense of what that word means to us. Our homes are now the place where we spend most of our days. We may experience this as a confinement, feeling limited and hemmed in, or we may experience it as a way of curling up and drawing around us a sense of security. And, as the days unfold, we may feel both. For those who are unhoused, however, the time of pandemic is especially dangerous, as they find themselves more vulnerable to the ways that the disease is moving around. As shelters close to prevent spread of the disease, the unhoused have fewer options for safety. In response, many churches and faith-based organizations are finding new ways to continue to meet the needs of those whom they had been serving prior to the outbreak, by putting together care packages and leaving them outside the church, or working with restaurant partners no longer able to open their doors, to provide take out meals for those on the street. The threshold of life and death in a time of pandemic is outside of our homes, on the streets that we hurry through quickly to get what we need and get home again. We can protect ourselves and each other by staying in, but we can also find ways even from within our homes to uphold those providing assistance to those on the street. In the video below, which was made in 2018, we hear the voices of a mixed sheltered/non-sheltered San Diego choir singing Amazing Grace. Since the COVID crisis, the Voices of Our City choir has been unable to gather, but those choir members who are sheltered are nonetheless working to come alongside and support their non-sheltered friends in safe ways. How can we enfold those who are homeless in the altars of our own hearts? How can we offer prayers, food, encouragement and kindness to those living on our streets, so that all of us can survive in safety and health, and experience the abundance of God’s amazing grace?

A CHOIR







LC† Reimagining Justice is a project of
Lutherans Connect / Lutheran Campus Ministry Toronto,

supported by the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
Join us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and on Twitter.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

DAY 30

Image by Natalie Lucier


Special devotions in response to COVID-19 (Continued)




A Greeting
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
(Psalm 19:14)

A Reading
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims God's handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. There is no speech, nor are
there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
(Psalm 19:1-4a)

Music



Meditative Verse
Draw near to me, redeem me, set me free.
(Psalm 69:18)

A Poem
I go down to the edge of the sea.
How everything shines in the morning light!
The cusp of the whelk,
the broken cupboard of the clam,
the opened, blue mussels,
moon snails, pale pink and barnacle scarred—
and nothing at all whole or shut, but tattered, split,
dropped by the gulls onto the gray rocks and all the moisture gone.
It's like a schoolhouse
of little words,
thousands of words.
First you figure out what each one means by itself,
the jingle, the periwinkle, the scallop
full of moonlight.
Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.
- "Breakage" by Mary Oliver

Verses for the Day
May God, the source of all strength and encouragement, enable you to live in perfect harmony with one another according to the Spirit of Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and one voice, you may praise the God of our Savior Jesus Christ.
(Romans 15:5-6 TIB)




Image by Timothy Neesam



During the COVID-19 pandemic, our sense of what it means to be “close” to someone is being deeply challenged. We often use the word ‘close’ to describe relationships even when not in physical proximity. We say we are ‘close’ to someone who lives miles away because of shared history and experience or because of family connections. On the other hand we may not know much about or feel a connection with the people next door. Now, however, we are acutely aware of our physical proximity and separation. Medically speaking, staying within the ‘six feet’ physical distancing that is being strongly encouraged will actually help us to remain close to each other longer, and in health. But these concepts are abstract. Human beings are by nature creatures of touch. As the silence settles around us and becomes a bit deafening, as we Zoom or skype our loved ones for the seventh time since the crisis began, the ‘nearness’ starts to feel like ‘distance’. It is our voices that manage to transcend the boundaries of time and space. Our voices unite us. On skype, on the phone, across the plexiglass barriers in the grocery store as our items are checked out, even when the picture becomes fuzzy or the electronic connection gaps out, our voices are the first thing that resume contact. In Psalm 19, the Psalmist encourages us to think of how God’s creation, its wonders and beauties, are the voice of God in the world speaking to us also. When we go for a walk in the woods, or stand by the edge of a lake, God ‘speaks’ to us. The ‘words’ of ‘God’s handiwork’ stretch out to the end of the world. And we, too, are also part of that Creation. We are learning to use our voices in new ways to reach across the boundaries imposed by disease. In her poem, Mary Oliver describes a strange wholeness that emerges out of brokenness: the pieces of shell at the edge of a sea come together to tell the ‘whole story’ of the shoreline. As we continue to dwell in our isolation, how can we use the voices God gave us as a way of offering solidarity and comfort, encouragement and new life to those near and far? How can we draw ‘close’ to others in heart and spirit, knowing that God dwells in all of the space that lies between us?

A VIRTUAL CHOIR







LC† Reimagining Justice is a project of
Lutherans Connect / Lutheran Campus Ministry Toronto,

supported by the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
Join us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and on Twitter.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

DAY 29

Image by Roman Boed


Special devotions in response to COVID-19 (Continued)

Note: Pope Francis and many ecumenical faith organizations invite us to pray the Lord's prayer at twelve noon local time wherever we are, as an expression of Christian faith in a time of pandemic. Consider starting your devotion this way.



A Greeting
"O God, be gracious to me; heal me.
(Psalm 41:4)

A Reading
Give physicians the respect due their services, for their place has been given by God. Their skill was given to them by God, and they are rewarded by great rulers. The knowledge of doctors brings them a place of honor, and earns them the respect of the great. God has created medicines from the earth, and those who are sensible will not reject them. Didn’t a branch once sweeten the water, thus revealing the power of God? God has given knowledge to mortals, so that by the use of the marvels of the earth, God may be praised. Through the properties of the earth, physicians relieve pain, and from them the apothecary mixes potions. There is no limit to the works of God, who increases the health of all the earth.
(Sirach 38:1-8 TIB)

Music


Meditative Verse
For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
(Romans 11:29)

A Prayer
O merciful God, who have wonderfully fashioned humankind in your own image, and have made our bodies to be a temple of the Holy Spirit. Sanctify, we pray you, our doctors and nurses and all those whom you have called to study and practice the arts of healing the sick and the prevention of disease and pain. Strengthen them in body and soul, and bless their work, that they may give comfort to those for whose salvation your Son became Man, lived on this earth, healed the sick, and suffered and died on the Cross. Amen.
adapted from "Prayer for Doctors and Nurses",
a resource providedby Catholics Online


Verse for the Day
Then give physicians their place, for the Lord created them;
do not let them leave you, for you need them.
(Sirach 38:12)




Image Source



In his tribute to physicians, Sirach considers how doctors are God’s hands in the world. In this sense, we hear that medical professionals are living out a calling, in which God’s deep desire for the healing of all people becomes embodied in them. During the COVID-19 crisis, health care professionals are having to endure many hardships unique to a pandemic. They go long hours without being able to leave the ward, change their clothes, go to the bathroom, and eat. They are at extreme risk of infection. They need to self-isolate in their homes, so as not to infect their families. They witness to the immediate suffering of the disease. They suffer the tremendous weight of defeat, in being unable to prevent loss of life. They are understaffed and under-provisioned. But we rely on them: in the words of Sirach, “we need them”. For the patient, the medical team are also the only people they will be allowed to see and have contact with in hospital. Doctors, nurses and technicians become brothers, sisters, mothers. “Will you be my refuge, my haven in the storm?” go the lyrics of today’s song. As we listen, can we imagine it being sung by a patient with COVID-19 to their medical team? We often in our normal lives have a complex relationship to reliance on others. We cherish our independence. We worry about the day when we will need continuing assistance. But God’s calling of individuals to provide care for us of any kind -- physical, mental or spiritual -- is a gift. Being dependent on another being, relying on them, is a blessing. When we are unwell, our whole being is more open and available to the way God’s love is flowing through others in our lives. We are forced to accept a sacred humility, which allows us to see more readily the presence of God in another human being. In a time in which we have been told to physically-distance and to isolate, the embrace that a caregiver gives a patient is the only space where human touch is allowed, outside of family ties. The threshold of life and death is right now also the cradle of all intimacy. Our medical professionals, however, are only human. They too require caring love. How can we uphold the medical professionals who put their own lives on hold to give and save the lives of others? How can we spiritually enfold their hands of healing in our own loving hands of prayer?

AN IMAGE

Nurses hug one another at a hospital in Lombardy, Italy. (Image Source)
 


 
LC† Reimagining Justice is a project of
Lutherans Connect / Lutheran Campus Ministry Toronto,

supported by the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
Join us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and on Twitter.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

DAY 28

Image by André Nieto Porras

Special devotions in response to COVID-19




A Greeting
Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by.
(Psalm 57:1)

A Reading
[Then the word of the Lord] said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’
(1 Kings 19:11-14)

Music



Meditative Verse

Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt,
and everyone who was discontented gathered to him.
(1 Samuel 22:2)

A Poem
Time does go on —
I tell it gay to those who suffer now —
They shall survive —
There is a sun —
They don't believe it now —
- "Time does go on" by Emily Dickinson

Verse for the Day
God will send forth steadfast love and faithfulness.
(Psalm 57:3b)



Andrés Nieto Porras



Psalm 57 is one of three psalms that are attributed to David when he was hiding in a cave from King Saul. Biblical scholars estimate that he likely stayed in the cave three to six months. In 1 Samuel 22, we hear that at the end of this time, people began to seek him out and to surround him, mostly those who were also on the margins of the society. In today’s reading, Elijah has also been alone, but in the desert. He is ready to give up, when an angel convinces him to eat and to journey to Mount Horeb. There he seeks God in all the ways he might expect God to appear, only to find God in the ‘sound of sheer silence’, at the mouth of a cave. We may be feeling these days like we too are stuck in a cave, unable to move, for fear of our very lives. Although we are not being ‘hunted’, we are feeling the pressures of ever-limiting freedoms and separations from those we love but cannot be with. In today’s music, we hear Vikingur Ólafsson, an Icelandic virtuoso pianist renowned for his own ‘reworks’ of Bach compositions. More than just an interpretation, these performances offer a way of both hearing the original work and also a new vision of it. Here, Ólafsson and a collaborator have reworked Bach’s C-minor prelude as a tribute to a friend, another pianist, who had recently died. The C-minor prelude is normally played much faster than we hear in this version. Instead, this version creates for us a mood that is hard to describe, but which may capture the feeling of a slowed-down life, held in abeyance and waiting. It may offer a feeling that is not quite boredom and not quite fear or anxiety and not quite dread or doubt or sadness, and perhaps, at the same time, all of these. Yet it ends on an uplifting note. The image that the youtube creator gives us, is a tilted horizon with the sea appearing to move both uphill and downhill simultaneously. It leaves us with the feeling of being ‘held up’. 'Held up', as in an interrupted life, and also ‘held up’ as in held up to God and in God’s love. When we talk of how someone is prayed over for healing, we often describe it as lifting or holding that person up. We are offering them into the light of God’s healing love. As we begin to settle into our ‘caves’ of waiting, knowing that it might be for much longer than we first thought, how can we use this slowed-down time to gather around us in our prayers (or on skype or Facetime) the vulnerable and alienated in our communities? How might we ourselves find a taste of freedom and joy, in the moment of praying God’s shining light on them?

A QUARANTINE VISIT






LC† Reimagining Justice is a project of
Lutherans Connect / Lutheran Campus Ministry Toronto,

supported by the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
Join us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and on Twitter.

Monday, March 23, 2020

DAY 27

Image by Malcolm Carlaw

Special devotions in response to COVID-19 (Continued)




A Greeting
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in God's word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
(Psalm 130:5-6)

A Reading
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church at Cenchreae, so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
(Romans 16:1-2; 16)

Music
During the COVID-19 crisis, this father and daugther
established their own youtube channel to help offer encouragement to others in song.



Meditative Verses
I urge you now to keep up your courage.
(Acts 27:22)

A Reflection
It is something not seen, something we don't get to feel directly.
On the contrary, it is something entirely improbable and incredible,
according to which we judge what we experience here. It speaks of
an event beyond all worlds and wants to draw us away from our own
world to another. A dark abyss opens up, and a voice commands:
Jump across. I will catch you and hold you fast. I am stretching out
my hand. Now bet your life on it, and rely on me and on nothing
else. My grace is sufficient for you. I am love.
"I have called you by name, you are mine."
- from I Want to Live These Days With You: A Year of Daily Devotions
by Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Verse for the Day
You set the earth on its foundations,
so that it shall never be shaken.
(Psalm 104:5)



Image Source



One of the most interesting female figures of the New Testament only appears in one line of Scripture: Paul’s friend, patroness, and deacon of the church at Cenchrae, Phoebe. Phoebe was chosen to bear the letter to the Romans and her journey from Corinth to Rome likely began on foot and continued at sea, where she would be traveling in secret, in dangerous conditions and subject to the added challenges of being a woman on her own. Her commitment is hard to fathom: not only must she survive her months-long journey, but she must also be ready to recite the entire letter, and then make the journey back with a new message in return. In our own times, our own personal discipleship is rarely put to this kind of test. But as the pandemic crisis unfolds, within our church communities many of us may be struggling with fear about the days ahead. Operating on thin budgets already, we may worry that some of our parishes will not make it through these times and be forced to close. Pastors and priests may be concerned as they watch the dwindling resources of their congregations become taxed to the limit by the absence of regular weekly income from the pews. And then there are concerns about the more relational aspects: how to stay connected with those whom we can't visit in person. We are all on our own storm-tossed journeys and feeling in our own ways very much at sea. How will we survive? In the video below, we hear an excerpt from an ocean voyage in our own times. In November, 2019, climate activist Greta Thunberg found herself on the wrong side of the world when the COP25 climate conference was moved from Santiago Chile to Madrid Spain, as a result of social unrest in Chile. Since Greta and her family do not fly, an Australian couple who have been sailing around the world on their catamaran offered to bring Greta and her father back to Europe so that Greta could attend the climate conference. The journey was made at the wrong time of year for such travel and the crossing was very rough. In the video excerpt, we see the variety of moods that accompany such a risky journey: the urgency of sudden, frightening weather, the adrenaline rush of facing the storm, the giddiness and reflection when danger has passed, and the quiet serenity of realizing that an important goal has been achieved. As we make our way through our own unnerving days ahead in this pandemic, we too are likely to have our own shifting moods about how well we are doing. How can we make use of these moments to deepen our discipleship? One way might be to hold fast to the psalmist's reassurance that in the midst of our deepest fears, God never deserts us. When we acknowledge our fears and changing moods, we are lifting them to God's loving care. How can we hold fast to the sacred story of Jesus as our compass and our guide, knowing Jesus journeys with us?

A SEA VOYAGE
The six people making the journey on the catamaran La Vagabonde, are the owners of the boat, Riley and Elayna with their son Lenny; world-class English champion sailor Nikki Henderson, and Greta Thunberg and her father Svante.





LC† Reimagining Justice is a project of
Lutherans Connect / Lutheran Campus Ministry Toronto,

supported by the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
Join us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and on Twitter.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

DAY 26

Image by Markus Trienke

Sabbath days in a time of pandemic:
Special devotions in response to COVID-19 (Continued)




A Greeting
Let your steadfast love become my comfort
according to your promise to your servant.
(Psalm 119:76)

A Reading
O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it. For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
(Psalm 139:1-6;13-14)

Music



Meditative Verse
This is my comfort in my distress, that your promise gives me life.
(Psalm 119:50)

A Prayer
God our rock, we give you thanks for gathering us as living stones into your church. We pray for our church and for all churches and places of worship. We pray for our communities as they are unable to gather. Bind us together in love. Strengthen our deacons, pastors and bishops and all the baptized as we try to find new ways of ministering to your people. Keep us faithful and give us your peace. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
- from the March 20th installment of daily hymns and prayers being offered during the COVID-19 crisis
by ELCIC National Bishop Susan Johnson. For more, see this ELCIC page.


Verse for the Day
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them
in every good work and word.
(2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)




Image by Markus Trienke



In a time of global pandemic each day brings a new set of adjustments. As new restrictions and recommendations seem to impede ever more on our freedoms, we may find ourselves in a cycle of daily ups and downs. On the one hand, we believe in the necessary requirements for stopping the spread of disease. On the other hand, we miss the face to face encounters that nourish our spirit. Sundays bring their own challenges. For some, there is sadness at not being able to go to church for regular worship. Others may be nervous about new ventures in livestreaming or podcasting, worried about the technology or wary about whether anyone is really there listening on the other side of the camera. Our social distancing can feel most acute when we are in fact trying to communicate with each other. Paul especially understood this reality. Imprisoned in Rome, his only way of being connected to the churches of the Mediterranean was through writing and receiving letters. This very basic technology became a way for him to express his frustrations and concerns, his encouragements and hopes for the communities of the growing church. His letters always begin and end with loving greetings, often on behalf of specific friends and colleagues he remembers, and with thanksgivings for the couriers and hosts who helped ensure that his letters arrived and were read in safety. He cannot see them, and there is a delay of several weeks as the letters make their way, but he is trying in his own way to maintain a sense of spiritual intimacy with his friends over time and space. So much of how we are going to be living as faith communities in the coming weeks will rely on our deep faith in God and trust in each other. Our common ground is always our love for Jesus and our faith in a restorative and redeeming God. Trying to stay connected however we can is a gesture we make toward our commitment to faith community. When we pick up the phone to check in with someone, we are church. When we bring someone groceries or leave prepared meals, we are church. When we look into a camera and talk to those we can’t see, while sitting alone in an empty space, we are connected through the centuries back to Paul, and we are living into the faith and hope that others will, somehow, hear us. Throughout the past week, popular artists of all kinds have been offering free online concerts to help lift the spirits of people. In the moment, they too are performing to a blank screen — reaching out beyond the walls of their homes. These offerings, like the one below from Yo-Yo Ma, are a way of expressing our enduring faith in humanity. What will be the ways you express your faith commitment today? How will you push the boundaries of comfort, in order that you might be comforted yourselves and comfort others?

A VIRTUAL CELLO CONCERT






 
LC† Reimagining Justice is a project of
Lutherans Connect / Lutheran Campus Ministry Toronto,

supported by the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
Join us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and on Twitter.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

DAY 25


Image by A_Peach

Sabbath Days in a time of pandemic:
Special devotions in response to COVID-19 (Continued)





A Greeting
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
(Psalm 146:2)

A Reading
And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.’ So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’ And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day.
(Genesis 1:20-23)

Music


Meditative Verse
They shall carry the curtains of the tabernacle
and the tent of meeting with its covering and the covering
of porpoise skin that is on top of it.
(Numbers 4:25)

A Poem
God will enter into your night,
as the ray of sun enters
into the dark, hard earth,
driving right down
to the roots of the tree,
and there, unseen, unknown,
unfelt in the darkness,
filling the tree with life,
a sap of fire
will suddenly break out,
high above that darkness,
into living leaf and flame.
- by Caryll Houselander,
found in Little Pieces of Light: Darkness and Personal Growth,
by Joyce Rupp, OSM


Verses for the Day
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever.
(Psalm 146:5-6)




Image source



A whole week has passed since these special pages for the pandemic began and we are once again at the sabbath weekend days. As the routine of self-isolation and social-distancing begins to set in, ’sabbath days’ may start to feel not much different from all of the other days of the week. When there is much less for us to do than usual, how can we find ways to make the days of rest distinct and therefore sacred? One way might be to intentionally look for how God’s Creation is always preparing itself to be renewed. As we pass over the first days of spring, we might find ourselves looking forward to the ways in which we can safely take part in nature again, through a walk in the woods or sitting quietly by a river or lake. During the time that some European and Asian countries have been locked down, Creation itself has been experiencing a momentary sabbath from the onslaught of human activity; it has had a sliver of a chance to breathe. Into that ‘breath’ in some places has come new life. In the video below, we see how the canals of Venice have begun to teem with tiny schools of fish, and how along the port shores in the island of Sardegna, dolphins have come. These signs of life emerge even as Italy experiences the worst devastation of COVID-19 of any country in the world. This tension between life and death has always been a part of our biblical story. In the despair of the desert, there are manna and quails. After weeks at sea, a dove returns an olive branch into cradling human hands. Even dolphins have been a part of that story. ‘Porpoises’ appear a dozen times in the Old Testament, most often in relation to the way in which their skins were used in the making of a covering for the holy tabernacle in Exodus and Numbers. In the New Revised Standard Version of the bible it is most often translated as “fine leather”, so those porpoises disappear under the veils of language, but many other bible translations refer to ‘badgers’ or ‘porpoise’ skins. Dolphins and porpoises were known to populate the waters of the Sinai peninsula: the Hebrew word ‘tachash’ refers to a sea creature whose leathery skin was both durable and light for transport. Even in the wilderness days of worship, the hides of animals, including creatures of the sea, formed a boundary between the secular and the sacred. How can we, in our self-isolation, trust that God’s abundant life is always waiting in the shadows of despair and fear for a moment to surface in our lives? From the backyard birdfeeder to the small pots of seeds that have been lying in winter and are now gently producing sprouts, where is it in our own lives? As we make space for sabbath rest today, where will you see God's promise of new life to come?

A STORY OF LIFE RETURNING






LC† Reimagining Justice is a project of
Lutherans Connect / Lutheran Campus Ministry Toronto,

supported by the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
Join us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and on Twitter.

Friday, March 20, 2020

DAY 24

Image by Keith Polya

Special devotions in response to COVID-19 (Continued)




A Greeting
O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
(Psalm 71:17)

A Reading
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 4:6-7)

Music


Meditative Verse
I have written to you, young women and men, because you are strong,
and the Word of God remains in you.
(1 John 2:14 TIB)

A Prayer
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures. You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty. Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one...Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light. We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.
- from "Encyclical Letter of the Holy Father on Care of our Common Home"
by Pope Francis


Verse for the Day
Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct,
love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.
(1 Timothy 4:12 NASB)




Image Source




In his letter to the community at Philippi, Paul encourages the new followers “not to worry about anything,” and says that prayer to God will allow them to find the peace of heart that passes all understanding. The new mission had been experiencing some internal friction about their direction and purpose and Paul, writing from prison, wants to unify them and give them a purpose. Sometimes, in our own time, being told “not to worry” feels like an extraordinary task. One of the most challenging aspects of journeying forward in a crisis like COVID-19 is the constantly shifting landscape of information. As scientists and medical professionals gain new understandings, each new day brings revelations that we struggle to take in and orient ourselves to. Data from Europe, considered now to be the epicentre of the pandemic, is revealing increasing numbers of youth being affected: and in the United States, twelve percent of those in ICU with COVID-19 are young people. Contemporary youth are no strangers to crisis. For the past year and a half, youth around the world have been striking from school on Fridays to raise global awareness to the profound threats of climate emergency. Now, with the prohibitions against large gatherings put in place by many nations to limit the spread of COVID-19, the youth climate movement has had to move their message and presence — online. Today they will protest as they did last week, using the hashtag #climatestrikeonline, posting pictures of themselves with their signs. While some gains have been made on climate since the lockdowns, as Marshall Islands climate activist Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner writes, “I'm uncomfortable celebrating the lower emissions, cleaner canals etc [because it comes] at the high cost of the lives of elders, sick and disabled folks, the most vulnerable of our societies. Climate action isn't about leaving anybody behind it's about taking everyone with us.” (Source) Peace of mind and heart in troubled times comes when we work together to uphold our mutual concerns for the earth and for each other. Pope Francis urges us to realize that we are “profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light.” As we travel down the paths of uncertainty together, how can we teach each other to “pray with thanksgiving”, knowing that God’s healing abiding love is stirring in all of us to make change? How can we as faithful people help to uphold youth by listening to them with open minds and hearts, and with gratitude for how they call us into the future with courage?

A VIRTUAL PROTEST






LC† Reimagining Justice is a project of
Lutherans Connect / Lutheran Campus Ministry Toronto,

supported by the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
Join us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and on Twitter.