Today I want us to sample our breakout groups in our check in. So I will ask 2 check-in questions, and we will give you a few minutes for your group to talk. Then when you get back together each group will have a spokes person to give an update on how your group was doing.
- What kind of day have you had so far today?
- What words would you use to describe where you head is?
Psalm 91 was originally intended for Israel in battle – and they are words that people have turned to time and time when hard times have come their way. I’ve heard some Nurses refer to this as their 91:1 – referring to Psalm 91 verse 1.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” “I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’
Last week we looked into a Psalm of lament. This is a major response that I have seen church leaders guide their congregations to in this time. One of the most powerful things we can do is remember how God’s word equips and encourages us to bring our honest feelings of pain, and our questions of ‘how long’ before God.
This Psalm focuses more on how God ultimately holds his people safe. For this reason, it has been used by not only nurses, but pastors and theologians during times of epidemics. Notably Martin Luther would keep this Psalm close to his heart as he continued his ministry. This enabled him to enter into his ministry with trust that all was in God’s hands.
The plague hit Wittenberg in Saxony on August 2, 1527. Just as universities are being shut down today, so it was then. The Elector of Saxony ordered Martin Luther to leave, but he stayed to minister to the sick and frightened people. His own family were sick. The wife of the mayor died almost in his arms. His house became a hospital, and he wrote about the spiritual and physical terror in a letter: “There are battles without and terrors within, and really grim ones . . . It is a comfort that we can confront Satan’s fury with the word of God, which we have and which saves souls even if that one should devour our bodies. Commend us to the brethren and yourself to pray for us that we may endure bravely under the hand of the Lord … be it through dying or living.”
His confidence was not that he had immunity – but the deeper trust that we see elsewhere like Romans 8 – that nothing can separate us from the Love of Christ. That ultimately – we are held by the one to whom this world belongs. This passage has meant much for the church in history and it continues to give comfort today. Lets listen in.
We will read the entire Psalm two times. After which you will be invited into your breakout groups.
1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”
Social Distancing Challenges
- For those who are lonely – in need of connecting with others.
- Particularly elderly who do not have children near by.
- For those with addictions that need support and rhythms in this time.
- For those with mental illness.
- care homes
- Spring break is done and teachers are exploring how to support the students the best ways they can. Many teachers are doing conference calls and trying to connect with each parent in their classroom.
- Educational assistants are also trying to figure out how to best support the children they were working with. This could provide an additional challenge as many of the children need additional attention that not every household is able to provide.
- Parents are trying their best to figure out how to manage time for school as well as the additional things placed on their plate.
- Students are having a difficult time trying to figure out how to finish their school year. I have a particular lament for those graduating this year who will not be able to celebrate in the ways they were planning.
- We have firefighters, police officers, nurses, and doctors, respiratory therapists and other healthcare workers represented in our church. Pray for courage for them as they seek to faithfully serve in this time.
- Prayer for their families. Many have to practice social distancing around their children or are concerned about exposing their children to the virus. There is also concern about childcare if those working get sick.
- Prayer for immune compromised and those who are waiting for surgeries that are experiencing delays. May they look to strength in Christ in the midst of patient endurance.
- Herman Veeneman, Ed Kornelius, Linda Lessard
- Creative ways to continue connecting and praying for one another
- Our leaders
A liturgy for missing someone
You created our hearts for unbroken fellowship. Yet the constraints of time and place, and the stuttering rhythms of life in a fallen world dictate that all fellowships in these days will at times be broken or incomplete.
Use even this sadness to carve our spaces in our souls where still greater repositories of holy affection might be held, unto the end that we might better love, in times of absence and times of presence alike. We now entrust all to your keeping. May our reunion be joyous, whether in this life or the life to come.
For those providing essential services
Heavenly Father, we worship you through our prayers. Our prayers glorify you, our God who hears his creation groan. Our prayers declare your Almighty hand as our only God, our only Savior, author of life. During the COVID crisis, as it changes plans around the world, we acknowledge our need for you.
What kept you on the cross, Lord? What made you stay?
Be near those in essential services keeping order for our most basic needs. Lord, provide for their basic needs and the needs of their families. God who moves mountains, protect them. Give them ears to hear your comfort and eyes to focus on you during the storm. Health care workers, mental health clinicians, pharmacists, first responders, essential supply and infrastructure manufacturers, the list of those bearing the weight of responsibility for others remains long. Thank you for their sacrifice. Our prayers bring offerings of praise for the willingness to love others in your name.
Lord, would you fill them with the same Spirit that held you on the cross? May your Spirit bring them peace in whispered comforts that the power of the resurrection brings new life.
For People Needing Care
Long term care supports, such as addictions rehabilitation centres and specialized care homes have released residents living in group homes this week to isolation at home. Some are vulnerable as they return to environments that may delay recovery or hinder healing.
Wonderful Counselor, be near those transitioning home and create new pathways to restoration and reconciliation. We pray for abundant new life for those hurting and healing and ask that you relieve isolation by blessing them with your palpable presence.
Prayers for the Body of Christ
Spirit of the Living God, you have called us to be the embodied community of the living Christ. Help us all take steps away from fear and hostility, bravado and self-righteousness, towards agape love. Towards a love that demonstrates your care to all who encounter us.
Help us to be good neighbors, locally and systematically, within our communities.
Draw us together in new bodies of worship, word and sacrament.
Open our eyes and ears to your Spirit’s movement during this time.
Surprise us and lead us to become communities that bring life to our cities, leaven in the bread.
Help us move through our own fears, naming them, and offering them to you.
Increase our trust in you and increase our love for our neighbors.
Even in a time of social distancing, may the resurrected Body of Christ be truly embodied, alive, pulsing with grace in our neighborhoods and keep doing your work in us in unexpected, subversive and life giving ways.
Give us new songs from this time, that we may sing of how you do not leave us or forsake us.