by Ellen Sims
texts: Exodus 17: 1-7, John 4:5-42

On the third Sunday of each month we offer a contemplative service of sung prayers, scripture, silence, enacted prayers, and sharing of prayer concerns. Below are a few excerpts from today’s contemplative service including a description of today’s prayer stations.

HEBREW BIBLE READING Exodus 17:1-7
PREPARATION FOR DISCUSSION
There may be, in the weeks ahead, difficult, painful experiences that will cause us to ask the Israelites’ question: “Is the Lord among us or not?” In the harrowing journey Moses and his people took to freedom, they experienced great deprivation, which led to heated quarreling, which raised great doubts about God’s presence.

Our world is likewise journeying through a perilous time. Our nation, our state, and our city will be increasingly affected and infected by COVID-19. Let’s push back against the Moses story just a bit in order to distinguish between expressing our needs and whining, between seeking justice and quarreling. This Hebrew Bible text prepares us for a time when we should speak of our mutual concerns before God, especially as this global health crisis reaches our community. As this pandemic invades our nation, how will we answer the question, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Let us pray God will show us how we can BE God’s presence to others. Let us BE THE CHURCH, as our newest t-shirts insist, so that we: “Protect the environment. Care for the poor. Forgive often. Reject racism. Fight for the powerless. Share earthly and spiritual resources. Embrace diversity. Love God. Enjoy this life.” Let us recall what Mr. (Fred) Roger’s said: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Helpers are sitting right here among us. Thanks be to God.

Ironically, helpful actions in this situation might be the things we refrain from doing: NOT hugging, NOT being out and about. But there are ways to be with one another virtually. And there are ways for most of us to take care of our health. And there are ways to be self-sufficient enough not to endanger others. May God give us wisdom for the challenges ahead.

*GOSPEL READING John 4:5-42

PRAYER STATIONS

Prayer Station 1
This photograph, “The Public Fountain” by Manuel Alvarez Bravo, captures a Mexican boy, not a Samaritan woman, at a well. This child has different needs from the Samaritan woman, and the community that comes to his fountain differs from hers. And here you have come with your own needs to our baptismal font. Notice now the needs welling up within your heart and offer a silent prayer for all the parched places in your life.

Prayer Station 2
The Samaritan woman and Jesus (and the religious traditions they represented) differed on whether worship should take place on the mountain or in the Temple. To this day “worship wars” erupt even within denominations, even within churches where people disagree about worship practices. Prayerfully explore what worship means to you. Then choose a marker and write on the flipchart your response to one of these questions: What are the essential elements of a worship experience for you? What would you like your future pastor to know about your worship preferences? What is your favorite part of a worship service? What would you like us to do more (or less) often in worship? What is a good memory you have of worship here or elsewhere? How has worship shaped the way you live your life?

Prayer Station 3
Our word “worship” is related to the word “worthy.” Worship is an act or process by which we determine and express what is worthy, what truly demands our attention, love, devotion. Most cultures practice ways grateful people give to that which is worthy of their lives. This morning we show gratitude to God and share our resources with those in need by giving our offerings. May we do so with serious reflection and joyful thanksgiving.

SHARING FROM OUR PRAYER STATIONS

BENEDICTION “Prayer of Good Courage”

SENDING FORTH
Pandemic ~ Lynn Ungar 3/11/20

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.”

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