Church Chat April 3, 2020

Palm Sunday

This Sunday is Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week as we lead up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday.       

Sunday Worship: We are currently gathering for online Services on Sundays at 10 am. This can be accessed on the Worship page of the church website. pentictonunitedchurch.com/worship/. Services will be recorded and posted on the website if you want to watch at a later time.

If you are joining the online service on Sunday (April 5), there are a couple of ways you can participate in the welcoming of Jesus during the service:

  • Cut a branch from a tree or plant that you can wave 
  • Make a palm branch using paper and a stick or wooden spoon 
  • Use something else that you can wave like a scarf or ribbon. 

For all the services, you can take part in the ritual of lighting the Christ candle. Have a candle nearby that you can turn on or light when we light the Christ candle at the start of the service, recognizing that where ever we are, Christ is with us.

We are going to create a photo montage of ‘signs of spring’ for an upcoming service. Take pictures of signs of spring that you see. Email your photos to Joanne by April 8 at noon.

Upcoming Services

April 910 amMaundy Thursday Taize Service
April 10  10 am                                                                    Good Friday Service              
April 12  7:30 am  Easter Sunday Sunrise Service  – The service will be followed by a time of fellowship in our virtual space. Bring your hot cross buns, cinnamon rolls, or breakfast goodies!                                                                                                          
April 1212 pmEaster Communion Service – Led by United Church of Canada’s Moderator the Right Rev. Dr. Richard Bott (* See link below) 
April 19                                        10 amFirst Sunday after Easter Guest speaker Rev. Donald Schmidt 

Sign on information for all services can be found on the PUC website: http://www.pentictonunitedchurch.com/worship/

* Easter Communion Service This service will be led by UCC’s Moderator. It is a chance to join in an Easter celebration with people from across Canada. “Bring bread (or crackers, or muffins, or tortilla, or more!) and juice (or wine, or water, or more!), a candle, and anyone in your household who wants to celebrate Easter with folks from across The United Church of Canada.”

The service can be found on the United Church of Canada’s youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/unitedchurchofcanada?fbclid=IwAR2Vd-WO3rKW9pFfLPLiUyiQCcg6muxnaAqnoVR8DXd1Dr18vRkCLsz015Q

We will be sending out information on these services during next week.

A written copy of the Service is available on the website on the Blog page. If you would like a hardcopy and can’t access the website, please let the office know.

Contacting the Church: Staff are regularly monitoring the church mail, email and phone messages. The best way to get in touch is via email:  

Church office: punitedc@telus.net
Joanne: joannescofield@telus.net

We will post updates on:
Website: pentictonunitedchurch.com/blog/
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PentictonUnitedChurch1/ 
(please note: we had to start a new Facebook page so be sure to go to the page and click “like” to see updates)

Study Group: the fourth and final session will meet on Tuesday, April 21 at 1:30 pm.

Don’t forget Coffee and Chat: Monday and Wednesday at 9 via Zoom.  Access this through the website under Covid19 Response/Virtual Coffee Break. This will be cancelled for Monday April 13 and Wednesday April 15.

Candle lighting Let’s join together in a ritual of pausing, lighting a candle and saying a prayer or meditation every day at 8 pm. It’s a way for us to connect as a community, in spirit. A number of congregations across the country have started this ritual so we can think of our own family and friends, the PUC family as well as the broader church. Here is a suggested prayer we can use:

You never sleep, God.
You are always awake, always willing the world and its people
towards wholeness and healing.
So tonight, will you comfort those who cannot sleep
because of illness
or worry,
or fear;
or for reasons they cannot understand.
And tonight will you be close to those who wait
patiently or impatiently
for a birth or death,
or for pieces of their life’s jigsaw to fit together.

And God, listen to us
as we share with you
whatever joys or sorrows,
discoveries of questions
we will take with us into the night…
Into your hands we commit ourselves –
our souls, our bodies our minds, our futures –
for all things are best kept in your care. Amen. (Iona Community Worship Book)

Offering

During this time when we don’t have our usual weekly offering, people are encouraged to continue their givings as you are able. Thank you to everyone who has dropped off cheques to the church and signed up for PAR. It is much appreciated to maintain the work of the church. There are a number of ways to make your offering:

• Going on PAR. This ensures that we are receiving money regularly. If you are interested please contact the office.

• Mail your donations to the office 696 Main Street, Penticton, B.C. V2A 5C8

• By making a direct donation on the Canada Helps website: https://www.canadahelps.org/en/charities/penticton-united-church/

Prayer list so that you can include these people in your prayers. Please notify the office if we can remove anyone or add to it.

We pray for all who face health challenges and treatment including: Ann, Evan and Brook Brunellse, Dave and Teri Brunelle, Elsie Butler, Shelly Campbell, Patti Craig, Susan Davies, Carol French, Bob Ireland, Eleanor Jones, Kim MacDonald, Marj Notenboom, Fern Gibbard (sciatica), Shannon Oliver, Gwen Owen, Charlotte P., John Roberts, Ray Sommer and Shirley.

In our Pacific Mountain Region we pray for Northwood United Church, Surrey, BC

Lockdown                                                                                                                                                Yes there is fear.                                                                                                                                        Yes there is isolation.                                                                                                                                Yes there is panic buying.                                                                                                                        Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.
But,
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way
All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,
And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Sing.

Fr. Richard Hendrick, OFM
March 13th 2020

Fifth Sunday in Lent, March 29, 2020

Scripture Sentences
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. (Colossians 1:19)

Opening Prayer
One:   God who is our rock and our stronghold, 
All:     gathers us to worship today.
One:   Jesus, who is our teacher and guide,
All:     calls us to pay attention and pray.
One:   The Holy Spirit, who is our comforter,
All:     calls us to be in loving community with each other.
One:   Come, let us worship! (Phyllis Flemming, Gathering)

Gathering Prayer
One:   In the beauty of our world,
All:     we come to pray, to worship, and to receive healing and hope.
One:   We come from the struggles and triumphs of the week,
All:     needing to feel the soothing presence of God.
One:   Holy One, be with us today.
All:      Calm and soothe our souls.
One:   We rejoice in our time together,
All:      where we gather to talk
            of your presence and your love,
            to sing your praises and to be empowered
            to go forth to serve our community. Amen. (Heather Tober, Gathering(adapted))

Scripture: John 11:17-27 Jesus the Resurrection and the Life

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

Reading: The Source by Meister Eckhart
Just as the sun illumines the air and shines through it,
but keeps its source for itself, so You pour all pleasure
and every delight into every one of your creatures –
and into me – and yet You keep the root of pleasure
and guard delight’s essence in Yourself so that
I might seek You as the ever-giving source of
what gives true pleasure and lasting delight.

A New Creed 
We are not alone,
    we live in God’s world.

 We believe in God:
    who has created and is creating,
    who has come in Jesus,
       the Word made flesh,
       to reconcile and make new,
    who works in us and others
       by the Spirit.

We trust in God. 

We are called to be the Church:
    to celebrate God’s presence,
    to live with respect in Creation,
    to love and serve others,
    to seek justice and resist evil,
    to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
       our judge and our hope.

In life, in death, in life beyond death,
    God is with us.
We are not alone.

    Thanks be to God.

Pastoral Prayers
A prayer from the Indigenous Ministries and Justice Circle:
Creator, God,
We ask you to be with us.
We pray for those who are ill, and for those we cannot be with as closely as we wish.
When we are afraid, help us to remember and be grateful for:
Water, which gives life.
The land, which sustains us and restores us to health.
The wisdom of Elders, who guide us.
Our young people, who deserve a bright future.
Our strength and resilience, which will bring us to a new day.
Help our leaders respond appropriately to the specific needs of Indigenous
communities.
Help us to walk compassionately with all who are ill or afraid.
Help us to understand that we are all relatives.

And now we pray for those who we name in words and in the silence of our hearts 
and we hold them in the light of your love…

Help us to remember that 
you called us by name and 
hold us in unconditional love.  Amen.

Lord’s Prayer (Paraphrased by Sarah Dylan Breuer)
(Each Sunday in Lent we are reciting a different version of the Lord’s Prayer)

Loving Creator
we honor you, 
and we honor all that you have made. 
Renew the world 
in the image of your love. 
Give us what we need for today, 
and a hunger to see the whole world fed. 
Strengthen us for what lies ahead; 
heal us from the hurts of the past; 
give us courage to follow your call in this moment. 
For your love is the only power, 
the only home, the only honor we need,
in this world and in the world to come.    Amen. 

Sending Forth and Benediction:
May the Christ who walks with wounded feet
walk with you on the road.
May the Christ who serves with wounded hands
stretch out your hands to serve.
May the Christ who loves with a wounded heart 
open your hearts to love.
May you see the face of Christ in everyone you meet,
and may everyone you meet see the face of Christ in you. (VU 349)

Going Forth: MV #215
Peace be with you, peace forever, 
peace be with you my friends.  
Till we meet again, 
may God be with you. 
Peace, peace, peace. (Words and music Alison L Wesley (Slaats) 2000. Words and Music copyright Alison L. Wesley (Slaats). Used by Permission (©LicenSing #605256))

Prayer for Community in a Time of Pandemic

From Corrymeela Community, Ireland

God of the good news that spreads faster than fear,
God of the courage that comes from the heart:
Be with us as anxieties rise and with us as uncertainty grows.
Be with us when children ask difficult questions,
and with us when parents seem farther away.
Remind us that to be a community does not always mean
to be physically present beside those we know well.
It also can mean being spiritually present
with those who feel very alone;
and that you as our God, the God made flesh, 
are also the God who calls us from the tumult
and tells us to be still
and to know that you are God
with us. 
Amen. (Corrymeela Community, Ireland)

Congregational Letter ~ March 17

March 17, 2020

Dear PUC Congregation,

In consultation with Patti Skinner, Chair and Church Council, I want to update you on Penticton United Church’s plan in response to what is happening with the coronavirus (COVID-19). As you know, things are changing rapidly. We have been watching closely recommendations from federal and provincial public health and from the national and regional offices of the United Church of Canada. We want to ensure that we respond in a way that will help minimize risk for our congregation and wider community and, as they say, ‘flatten the curve.’

PUC is implementing the following changes:

Church gatherings:

We have decided to suspend all church gatherings including:

  • Worship
  • All small group gatherings
  • All non-essential meetings
  • Pastoral care volunteer visits, including healing touch visits

Alternative/Online Worship

We recognize that worship is an important part of many people’s spiritual practice. Here are some ways to continue to worship during this time:


Office:

  • The office will be closed. Staff will be working from home. We will be checking messages regularly. 
  • Joanne can be reached at joannescofield@telus.net or on her cell phone at 250-328-3800.

Shared space:

  • The building will be closed to all non-essential outside organizations who share space within the building as of Weds, March 18. NA/AA may continue to meet as required. 

Ways of keeping in touch:

  • We will keep in touch through updates on:
            – PUC website (https://pentictonunitedchurch.com/blog/)
            – PUC Facebook page
            – PUC e-mail list
            – Phone tree – members of Council will have a list of names of members      
              congregation and will check-in weekly.
  • Sunday morning prayers and check-in, Sundays at 9:30 – 10 am via Zoom. A link will be on the website for you to connect. (https://pentictonunitedchurch.com/worship/)

Our response is based on our commitment to honour and respect everyone who is part of our community.  This will be in effect until a new position by government is introduced. We will continue to monitor the situation and update you on procedures and practices as necessary. 

This can be an anxious time. We want to be cautious but also stay connected. This is a time when we can support each other as a church community. A reminder that we can all check in on friends and neighbours, by phone, email, Skype etc. If you, or anyone you know needs access to basic supplies and is unable to leave their home, please call the church office or let me know. 

If you have any questions or concerns or if you require pastoral support, please contact Joanne Scofield, Minister, at joannescofield@telus.net or on her cell phone at 250-328-3800. And as we move through this, let us remember, we are not alone, we live in the love of the Holy. 

Blessings,

Joanne Scofield
Minister

Congregational Letter ~ March 10, 2020

March 10, 2020    

Dear Penticton United Church Community,

I wanted to update you on Penticton United Church’s plan regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the steps we’re taking to make sure we minimize risk at the Church. 

You may be aware of the recent statement issued by the Health Minister of BC and the federal health minister in which they made the recommendation: “There has been a notable transmission of COVID-19 at events, such as religious gatherings. As a result, we recommend social distancing and forgoing usual greetings. As an alternative, we recommend considering virtual online gatherings.”

The measures we’re adopting have been developed following best practices advice from health officials, the Pacific Mountain Region, and The United Church of Canada.

Penticton United is implementing the following changes, on an interim basis, to some of our practices and rituals in response.

Most important:

  • If you are not well, please stay home. 

Changes to Sunday Service:

  • Greeters and ushers will be instructed to welcome people with a warm greeting, yet will not be shaking hands or giving hugs. 
  • One of the popular rituals in our service is the closing circle. We will continue to do the circle, but will refrain from holding hands.
  • Pastoral care volunteer visits will be put on hold for the time being. 
  • We will be making changes to how we host fellowship, as needed.
  • A reminder: if you are using the dishwasher in the church kitchen, it needs to be run through once before loading, in order to bring the water to the correct temperature.
  • Hand sanitizers will be available throughout the building.
  • Signs have been installed in the washrooms with instructions on proper hand washing. 

Our response is based on our commitment to honor and respect everyone who is part of our community. You may need to make a judgement for yourself, based on your personal health needs, as to whether you come to activities at the church. We will continue to monitor the situation and update procedures and practices as necessary. 

If you have any questions or concerns or if you require pastoral support, please contact Joanne Scofield, Minister, at 250-492-2684.

With blessings,

Joanne Scofield

Resources

Shared Service ~ March 8, 2020

On March 8, 2020 Penticton United Church participated in a Shared Service at St. Saviour’s Anglican Church.

Keri Wehlander, Oasis United Church, Rev. Dr. Jason Byassee, Vancouver School of Theology, Joanne Scofield, Penticton United Church, Rev. Nick Pang, St. Saviour’s Anglican Church. Missing: Colin Cross, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church

Continue reading “Shared Service ~ March 8, 2020”

Lent Book Study: “Return of the Prodigal Son” by Henri Nouwen

Our Lent book study begins Tuesday, March 10. We will be discussing the book, “The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming” by Henri Nouwen. The group will meet for four Tuesdays, 1:30 – 3 pm ~ March 10, 17, 24, 31. You can choose to come to all sessions or drop in as you are able. Please sign up in the office or speak to Joanne. Please let Joanne know if you would like to order a book.

“Getting our Attention”May 5, 2019 – Easter 3 – Year C

“Getting our Attention”

May 5, 2019 – Easter 3 – Year C

            Are you able to hear Jesus asking each of us, “Do you love me?”

Rabbi Moshe-Leib tells the following story.  “What is love?  I feel I ought to tell the truth and confess that I learned its meaning from 2 drunkards.  Yes, drunkards.  I saw them sitting in an inn, drinking – silently.  But from time to time they would stop for a brief exchange. ‘Are you my friend, Alexei? Asked the younger one.  “Do you love me?”  “Yes, Ivan, I do.  I am your friend.”  They emptied another glass and dreamed their separate dreams in silence.  Again, the younger peasant turned to his companion: “Alexei, Alexei, are you really my friend?  Do you truly love me?”  “Yes, I am your friend,” said the older peasant.  They emptied another glass and another moment went by in silence.   Again, the younger peasant spoke up: “Tell me, Alexei, tell me the truth; are we friends?  Do you love me as a friend?”  Finally, Alexei got angry.  “How many times must I tell you, Ivan, that I do!?  Don’t you believe me?  Are you drunk?  You are my friend and I am yours; and my heart is full of brotherly love for you.  Must I go on repeating it all night?”  At that point, Ivan looked at Alexi and shook his head sadly.  “Alexei, Alexei,” he said, “If you are my friend, if you do love me, then how come you don’t know what is hurting me?”

I don’t know about you folk, but I can’t imagine the depth of the disciples’ loss.  These friends of Jesus shared their lives with him and experienced so much together.  And now it was over, from the ordinary daily routines to the extraordinary miracles and lessons.  They didn’t just want to see the risen Christ, the desperately needed to see him.

I must admit to a strange, subtle envy of the disciples.  At times, I feel as desperate as they must have been to have Jesus that near, and real.  How I would love to see him just once, and reach out to touch his face, not so much to squelch doubt but in some fumbling, inadequate way to simply thank him.

But I wasn’t the one who lived his earthly life with him.  I never laid down beside him after a long day, looked up at the starry night and said, “Good Night rabbi” before drifting off to sleep.  Still, every now and then, in my prayers I ask Jesus to come and reveal the truth of his presence in our absurd human condition.  By God’s grace and by the Spirit’s whisper, Jesus responds, “I did that.  Now it is your turn.”

Are you able to hear Jesus asking each of us, “Do you love me?”

Oh, so comfortably we respond with a “yes.”  And yet, we live in a world starved for love.  We see around us folk hanging out in our church’s stairwells, stoned and lonely.  We see the long lineup at the Soupateria every noon hour.  Do we donate food or money?  We experience the long list of people requesting prayer.  Do we keep them in our daily prayers?  But, with all this said, we hear Jesus asking, “Do you love me?”

When God extends a hand and says, “Will you dance with me?  We have the opportunity to transform our world by saying “Yes”.  It is a dance of liberation for our tired spirits.  It is a dance of comfort for our grieving spirits.  It is a dance of jubilation for our buoyed spirits.

All we have to do is look to the story of Saul’s conversion and we find ourselves also transformed.  Saul probably thought he had a pretty good job.  Bounty hunting has certain advantages, after all.  Being the hunter is a good way to ensure that you won’t be mistaken for the hunted.  So, Saul sets out on the Damascus road to hunt down some followers of the Way – and in the twinkling of an eye his life is turned upside down.

He is an interesting person, is he not?  One day a bounty hunter and the next an evangelist.  One day he is a person determined to destroy the lives of followers of Christ Jesus.  The next he is a zealous proclaimer of the Good News of the risen Christ.  Sure, Saul – now named Paul – had his struggles.  He was a stubborn, impatient, ill, follower of Christ.  He had his baggage.  But that is part of the reason we so love him.  He was so very human.  He responded faithfully to Jesus’ question, “Do you love me?”

It was out of that deep love that Paul responded with a determination that we can’t help but admire.  He is that same person who penned, “love is patient and kind, love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.  Love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.”

So, are we open enough to receive the gracious love poured out in the very life of Christ?  Are we vulnerable enough to break open our hearts to the transformative way of love?  Will we follow Paul along the path of vulnerability?  You see, serving Jesus means we may have to go to places we would rather not go to.   Sometimes it is to the bedside at the hospital.  Occasionally it is to coffee shop to listen to a troubled soul.  Frequently it is right here in our day by day lives that we are called to venture faithfully.

Perhaps a story best illustrates what I am trying to say.  “An old pencil maker took his newest pencil aside, just before he was about to pack it into a box, Imagining the little fellow as a person he recalled a few things about the pencil.

“There are 5 things you need to know,” he said to his pencil, before I send you out into the world.  “Always remember these 5 things – never forget them – and you will become the best pencil you can be!

The 1st thing is to remember that you will be able to do many great things, but only if you put yourself in someone else’s hands.

From time to time you will experience a painful sharpening, but, remember that this will make you a better pencil.

Also, keep in mind that you will be able to correct any mistakes you might make along the way.

And the most important part of you is what’s on the inside.

And remember this, as well, upon every surface that you are used, you must leave your mark.  No matter what else happens, you must continue to write.”

It seemed the pencil listened to him and promised he would remember these 5 things so that he could live his life with heart and purpose.”

So, we come back to Jesus’ question:  Are you able to hear Jesus asking each of us, “Do you love me?”  Amen.

“The Funeral that Wouldn’t Be”April 21, 2019 – Easter Sunday – Year C

“The Funeral that Wouldn’t Be”

April 21, 2019 – Easter Sunday – Year C

 

On Good Friday many of us stood at the foot of the cross and tearfully watched Jesus be crucified.  It was a time of pain and sorrow.  We felt helpless.  There, on a plain wooden cross hung our Redeemer.  And there was nothing we could do.  The day was dark.  So were our spirits.

Here we are.  It is Sunday.  Join with me and let’s walk to the tomb where Jesus was laid.

We need to walk carefully for the ground is rocky.  We follow Mary Magdalene.  She is carrying spices to anoint Jesus’ body.  She reaches the tomb first.  She is taken aback.  The air is sucked out of her.  She is ready to faint.  The tomb stone has been removed from the cave.  Not even stopping to get her breath, Mary runs to Simon Peter and the other disciple – the one whom Jesus loved.  They too run to the tomb.  All the stuff associated with death is there – but no Jesus.

You would think that at such a scene these followers of Jesus would understand what is going on.  Surely, they have an idea of what has happened to their friend and leader.  But, instead, they reach into the darkness and believe.

Mary stands outside the tomb and weeps.  Me too.  In all her grief and hurt she is mystified and uncertain what is happening around her.  It seems too much to take in.  What is she to say to all the questions that we ask?  With blurry eyes clouded with tears Mary doesn’t recognize the man with whom he is speaking.  Even with all the tenderness shown to her, she fails to recognize the Great Teacher.

A few minutes pass.  Jesus whispers to her.  “Woman, why are you weeping?”  She thinks that it is the gardener who is speaking to her.  More time passes.  “Mary,” the voice whispers.  Mary recognizes the Beloved.  Do we?

The light of dawn caresses our face.  Along with Mary, we too have seen the Risen Christ.  Alleluia!  Christ is Risen.  He is risen, indeed.  Alleluia!

All of us have experienced the death of someone close to us.  We know the pain and sadness that goes along with death.  We so wish that we too could hear our name spoken, one more time.  Oh, how we wish that our loved one could utter our name.  Our hearts would turn cartwheels!  I am sure that Mary’s heart did.  “Mary” the risen Christ utters.  “Laura” the risen Christ whispers.

Maggie was in the darkened hallway of the hospital, bending over in pain.  She waited there for the 5 minutes each hour she was allowed to go in to be with her husband.

They had never been apart.  In the 55 years they had been married, they had never spent a night apart.  Through all the years on the farm, the births and raising of their children, through illnesses they had both suffered, they had never been apart.

Now he was dying.  The nurse tells her that Harold could not last the night.  “Why don’t you go home,” I suggested.  “I’ll sit here for a while.”

“I can’t go,” she said.

The nurse told us that we could have our 5 minutes.  “Don’t forget the gowns and masks,” she commanded.  “We don’t want the infection to spread.”

Harold didn’t seem to recognize the 2 green-shrouded figures that came to his bed.  At least, not until Maggie took his hand, moved her mask and touched her lips to his cheek.  I said a prayer out loud, but all the time she was whispering to him.  She kept her head right alongside his on the pillow.  She talked to him like she belonged there.

Later, in the hallway, she was weeping.  “What did you say to Harold?” I asked – more to cover the silence than to get information.

“I told him that I loved him and that I would stay with him.

“You know he’s very ill.  He may not be with us in the morning.”

She stared at the floor for a long time.  “I know,” she said.  “He knows he’s dying too.  He’s afraid a little.  I can tell by the way he holds my hand.  But it’s all right.  I know he’s all right now.  I told him that it will be Easter in the morning.”

I didn’t know what to say.  It was November.  Had she forgotten?

“Um.  It’s not really Easter,” I offered.  “I know, Reverend,” she said patiently.  “But it is for us.  We’ve practiced celebrating Eater together for all of our years.  Now for Harold and me, tomorrow is our Easter.”

On Easter morning the church door opens and Sharon walks in.  She’s 20 years old and hasn’t seen her family for a year.  They are standing in the front row.  The usher knows this is a big moment.  He grabs her and holds her and pulls her all the way to the front row.  Her father sees her, peering around the edge of the pew.  It is such an incredible moment.  The whole family, all 5 of them, just collapse on each other.

Danielle is 12 and her mother died this year.  It was the first time she had been back in church.  We sang “Amazing Grace”.  When I saw her,  I thought, this is going to be hard for her.  During the service, people kept reaching out to touch her.

I’m in complete awe of the courage these people come with.

Such are the Easter experiences in your life and in mine.  Together we witness the Risen Christ.  It is a holy mystery, to be sure.  But, with faith we are assured that Christ’s Spirit dwells within us.  May we too be open to the Risen Christ.  Alleluia!  Amen.