In these days between Ascension and Pentecost, we gather with the disciples in the upper room, waiting for the Spirit to transform the church around the world. In today’s Gospel Jesus prays for his followers and for their mission in his name. Amid religious, social, and economic divisions, we seek the unity that Jesus had with his Father. Made one in Baptism, we go forth to live our faith in the World, eager for the unity that God intends for the whole human family.
FIRST READING: Acts 1: 6-14
Today’s reading is part of the introduction to the narrative of the outpouring of the Spirit on Pentecost. These verses tell of the risen Lord’s conversation with his disciples on the eve of his Ascension, in which he promises that they will receive the power of the Holy Spirit.
PSALM: Psalm 68: 1-10. 32-35
SECOND READING: 1st Peter 4: 12-14; 5:6-11
Our faith in Christ does not make us immune from the scorn of others. Nevertheless, we are to resist the designs of evil when we experience disparagement from others, because we trust God’s grace will strengthen and guide us.
GOSPEL: John 17: 1-11
On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus prays to his Heavenly Father, asking that those who continue his work in this World will live in unity.
HELP IS NEEDED FOR FIRST ENGLISH BREAKFAST
Jon is asking for people to email, call or text him if you would be interested in giving food for First English on that last weekend in May. He informed Pastor Sally that while it is a 5th Sunday, if the Synod approves services to begin that day then he intends to have worship at Zion that day. So, she has asked if Zion could still prepare 100 muffins, maybe some mini-doughnuts and cheese cubes that could be packaged. Jon will deliver them on Saturday, May 30th, for her volunteers to distribute Sunday on our behalf. What they ask isn’t really a lot, but he needs to know who is willing to help.
Due to the current dilemma caused by the COVID Pandemic, the food pantries have been under an increased stress to meet the demands being put upon them. Jon checked with the Food Pantry at Resurrection and found that its numbers had greatly increased in the number of people they are serving. In January thru March, they served 608 families/1,814 people. In April alone, they served 945/2,757 (this just in one month compared to the three months prior). All of the food pantries have been dealing with these kinds of increases. Please, if you can, remember these local food pantries during their time of need.
Good Samaritan Food Pantry
United Methodist Church
Resurrection Food Bank
Bread of Life Disciples
3500 Main Street
Hilliard, Oh 43026
All of the food pantries will appreciate any help that they receive.
TOP INTERFAITH PRIORITIES FOR NEXT COVID-19 RESPONSE
On May 1, the ELCA Advocacy office joined 34 other denominations and religious organizations in a letter to members of Congress. “As organizations representing a broad array of religious beliefs and faith traditions,” it reads, “we write to urge you to act with urgency to pass another COVID-19 response bill that first prioritizes vulnerable individuals and communities."
The letter goes on to share specific concerns, such as a request to collect and release federal demographic data so public health officials can begin to understand and address racial disparities in rate of infection and morbidity due to the coronavirus which are disproportionately higher in communities of color. Other concerns include domestic human needs, criminal justice, Native American issues, immigration, health care and more. “Interfaith Sign on Letter – COVID-19 Priorities (May 2020)” can be accessed at domestichumanneeds.com.
Are there priorities you would like to see reflected in the next response bill? An Action Alert at elca.org/advocacy/actioncenter can direct your message to your member of Congress.
“The witness of this church in society flows from its identity as a community that lives from and for the Gospel. Faith is active in love; love calls for justice in the relationships and structures of society. It is in grateful response to God’s grace in Jesus Christ that this church carries out its responsibility for the well-being of society and the environment” (from Church in Society: A Lutheran Perspective, pages 1-2).
Please keep these people in your prayers: Esther Mae Baker, Pastor Larry Baker, Al Bausch, Dortha Feddern, Michael Koch, Wesley and JoAnne Porter, DoraLee Wendel and all those suffering from COVID-19. Please remember all of our shut-ins and sick. (Also, pray for the families and caretakers of those on the prayer list.)
FUNDS FOR ZION
Please check the bulletin board behind the office door for all of the sign-up sheets for this year. Communion, birthday Sundays, and Worship Assistants/helpers. Thank you so much!
You can also remember special occasions or special people by contributing money that would normally be used for altar flowers. Instead the donation goes to our local food pantry.
VIRTUAL SERVICE TO MOURN LIVES LOST TO COVID-19
The National Council of Churches USA (NCC) will hold a public online memorial service on Sunday, May 24, 2020 at 6 p.m. ET to mourn the more than 300,000 people worldwide who have lost their lives to the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 90,000 of whom are in the United States. The NCC is comprised of 38 member communions ranging from mainline Protestant to historic African American and Orthodox churches.
This service, A Time to Mourn: An Ecumenical Memorial Service for Lives Lost to COVID-19, will be broadcast on YouTube and Facebook Live.
The plans grew out of a profound concern by faith leaders that, due to the lock-down and other restrictions surrounding the coronavirus, people have been unable to properly grieve the passing of loved ones. The nation has not had a public moment of collective grief to acknowledge and mourn the impact of losing so many lives in such a short period of time.
The memorial will include a sermon offered by the presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, the Right Reverend Michael B. Curry, known as the “Love Preacher” after he spoke at the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Many other clergy from a broad spectrum of Christian traditions, some of whom have been personally impacted by COVID-19, will offer prayers, readings and songs during the observance, including, among others:
Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, NCC Chair and President and General Minister of the United Church of Christ
Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Rev. Eddy Aleman, General Secretary, Reformed Church in America
Rev. Dr. Teresa Hord Owens, President and General Minister, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Rev. Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, Chair, Conference of National Black Churches
Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, NCC Vice Chair and Presiding Prelate, Fifth District, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Bishop Minerva Carcano, California-Nevada Conference, United Methodist Church
Father Nicholas Kazarian, Greek Orthodox Church.
The National Council of Churches planned the ceremony as a way for the country to join together to grieve the passing of family, friends, and even strangers we hear about in news reports. A list of names of those who have lost their lives to COVID-19 is being collected and will be scrolled during the service. Names may be added by clicking here.
Noting the pain and suffering felt by so many Americans whose loved ones died alone or were not able to conduct normal funeral services for them, church leaders offered the following statements:
“Religious rituals provide unique ways for us to express our feelings and close emotional wounds,” said Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer, leader of the United Church of Christ and chair of the NCC Governing Board. “There are gaping needs for this right now. Our hope is that by taking part together in this observance, healing will follow in the hearts and minds of those who are grieving.”
“We are all in need of consolation during this very distressing time,” stated Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). “We will gather together to give thanks for the lives that have been lost, to commend the deceased to the love and mercy of God, and to hear the proclamation of God’s victory over death in Jesus Christ.”
“Every life deserves to be remembered and properly acknowledged in the most meaningful way possible,” said Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary of the National Council of Churches. “Religious ritual is an incomparable way to do just that. We’ve planned a program we hope Christians of all traditions will feel comfortable joining in—as well as those of other religions and no religion at all. This is as much about human dignity as it is about faith.”
“I am honored to be a part of this service. It is a beautiful idea, as so many are grieving without the usual rituals and gatherings,” said Rev. Dr. Teresa Hord Owens, General Minister and President, Christian Church/Disciples of Christ. “Our prayer is that this service will minister to individuals, families, communities and the nation as a whole. Together, as the body of Christ, we will begin to meet some of this deeply felt need.”
A Time to Mourn: An Ecumenical Memorial Service for Lives Lost to COVID19
Sunday, May 24, 6:00 PM ET USA
Register for the event by visiting http://nationalcouncilofchurches.us
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Zion Lutheran Church
230 Cemetery Road (West Jefferson Community Center) w P.O. Box 4 w
West Jefferson, OH 43162 w 614-879-8107
Reaching in for the Holy Spirit, reaching up for God's grace, reaching out with Christ's love.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ and friends of Zion:
In the final scene of the classic film Citizen Kane, the camera moves forward to a single item within a furnace as the fire surrounds and engulfs it. One word is written at the top of that item, a sled, which reads “Rosebud.” The final word uttered by Charles Foster-Kane, the main character of the film, and that one simple word on a child’s sled provides a key to the understanding of his tragic yet World-changing life.
Last words have carried a rather unique importance to people throughout history. In movies and books, the person dying often makes profound statements about life and love, or perhaps imparts wisdom that has been accumulated throughout a life that is being shared for one last time. Whether one is famous or not, these words from loved ones can be important memories etched in our minds. No one plans for what will be said at those moments, because the reality is, none of us truly knows when our lives will end.
The same is not the case for Jesus. As we continue with chapter 17 from the book of John, Jesus knows he is about to die. Our Gospel reading is known as the Farewell Prayer, also known as the High Priestly Prayer. It comes as He addresses quite a big question that needs to be answered: How will the Good News of the Kingdom of God be passed if no one will be able to know Him personally? This is not a small question. A big part of the answer is community. This prayer is His intercession for the coming Church.
He begins by describing the very nature of His relationship with God. “You are in me and I am in You.” God and Jesus are mutually indwelling; they are “in” one another. There is distinction, yet they are not separate. They are one. He now prays that “may they also be in us.” He asks God to make room for the disciples, and for each of us. He invites us to participate in the very life and being of God. This is huge! The creator of all, the One to whom we all pray and for thousands of years everyone prays and Jesus asks that we may be one with God. And what needs to be remembered is not only the timing of this prayer (the evening of the last supper), but that He prays this knowing full well He looks around those with Him and looks into the eyes of those with doubt. He looks into the eyes of one who will deny him. He looks into the eyes of one who will betray Him. Yet He asks that they all, and we all, regardless of our sins and myriad of things we do wrong or to offend God, are made one with God anyway.
Jesus asks this on our behalf. That we be drawn to God who makes room for us. He prays that our relationships with one another be modeled with His relationship with God, “so that they may be one, as we are one.” The purest and most perfect definition of community. Just as He and God are one. That is how we are to live. That is how the good news is to live on and spread throughout the entire World. That we extend God’s love in our living together, in community with one another, as one, and take this love to everyone.
I’m not entirely certain that we’ve all done a great job of oneness among one another (and this goes far beyond the walls of Zion and the community of West Jefferson). The hymn states “they will know we are Christians by our love.” Is that what they, the World, see within Christians as Jesus calls us to be, as He prays for us? Are we one? Do they know we are Christians, by our oneness? Moral issues seem to divide at every turn, pulling, if not tearing, that oneness apart. Moral issues aren’t just a modern thing. There were still moral issues in the time of the prayer Jesus prayed. There were still rampant sinful behaviors that were reprehensible. There was still a Roman government abusing and killing people without thought or care. In fact, in this week’s reading from Acts at the day of the Ascension of Jesus, He has just told the disciples that “you will be baptized by the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Their response? “Will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Their minds, like many of ours would, circling the focus back on themselves, on their own well-being, on issues that pervaded their lives at that time. The response Jesus gives is “it is not for you to know…you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the Earth.” They seemed to still be missing the point.
But the message of Jesus in the book of John and even His response to the disciples in the reading from Acts wasn’t about Earthly kingdoms and current problems. It wasn’t about theological oneness, it wasn’t for political agreement. It didn’t necessarily address any moral issues or speak to curing those who were ill. It was that we would live in unity with one another. It was that we would experience the kind of life that Jesus had with the Father. He prayed for the kind of unity and oneness and community that can only flow from a deep expression of the love of God. Like He lived and loved God.
And here we are today. Living as one, one as Lutherans, one as Catholics, Methodists, Baptists… We live as one as Americans, one as Germans, Russians… We even live as one as Ohioans, ones as Texans, Floridians… Numerous other non-geographic designations can be made as well. Not exactly “one,” is it? Father Richard Rohr discusses this point in the following statement. “We worshiped Jesus instead of following Him on His same path. We made Jesus into a mere religion instead of a journey toward union with God and everything else. This shift made us into a religion of “belonging and believing” instead of a religion of transformation.”
Just as the disciples seemed to have missed the point, we too, miss the point many times. We have (and continue) to put our focus on things that take us from the true meaning and calling He has for us. We love Jesus with all our hearts and then go about doing what we feel is right, rather than what He tells us we should do. Not with bad intentions or division in mind, but not following His path just the same.
The good news is that no matter where we find ourselves right now, no matter how divided we may find ourselves along the lines of political discord, national or international disputes, moral judgments of one another or even denominational differences in forms of worship of the same God, we are all made one in Him. God loves us no matter what, with no strings attached. The love of God is much more powerful than any of our faults, our sins, or our shames. We are all made worthy and His prayer is that each of us are welcome in God just as He is. We can be as one as He has shown by His own example.
May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. May we each experience the love of God within our own lives. May we feel and live His oneness as He prayed for us this prayer. May we be the community we are called to be, for His sake, not our own. My continued prayers for each of you to maintain good health, a positive spirit, and most of all, hope, as we look forward to gathering again next week.
Zion Lutheran Church Covid-19 Response
In response to the ELCA Southern Ohio Synod Guidelines, the church council has met to prepare for re-opening the church for regular worship meetings on Sundays. Many thanks go to Jon Meister for coordinating with the Synod on these measures.
As you might guess, things will be very different for the foreseeable future with regard to our worship practices until effective treatment for the pandemic is found. The news is full of wildly different public reactions to the restrictive measures of government in controlling the pandemic, and, it is human nature to disagree on these things. So, it is the position of our council, as an extension of the Synod, to enact measures designed to err on the side of caution. The Synod and members of Zion’s council feel that the health and well-being of the congregation is most important.
That being said, the Synod recommends that we follow the Ohio Department of Health guidelines which have been established. Council agrees. Church should not only be safe, it should feel safe, and we will appreciate your forbearance until things can return to normal.
As it stands now, we are planning to have our first service on May 31st. This is by no means set in stone given the uncertain nature of this pandemic, but the Synod has suggested this date as a good starting point. Any changes will be communicated to all. We will generally be following the Synod on all Covid response measures.
These changes are as follows;
Changes for the congregation:
Please attend Sunday worship services only if you are feeling well. If you are not, please do not risk your health or that of others during this time.
All members are asked to take their temperatures prior to leaving their homes. If over 100, we are asking that person to remain safely at home for the safety and health of themselves and others. Currently, Zion LC does not have the ability to measure the temperatures of church attendees.
All members and guests will be required to wear a mask. We will have masks at the church available for use, but ask that everyone come prepared beforehand.
Masks must be worn throughout the services. Again, this is for the safety of each person in attendance and is not intended to be a restriction of any sort.
Please also bring hand sanitizer for yourself to use as you may come in contact with chairs, bulletins, etc. This will also be useful if usage of the restroom is necessary. Again, the church will have bottles for everyone’s use, but it will still be a best practice to carry your own.
Cleaning each week before and after each service will be increased greatly. That includes the restrooms. We ask that the actual “men’s” and “women’s” restrooms are not used. Rather, use the facility on the left across from the men’s room only should the need occur (cleaning is addressed later).
Changes within the Sunday service itself:
Both the front and back doors will be propped open to avoid repeated contact with door handles for those in attendance. The sanctuary door will also remain open.
Seating within the sanctuary will be different. In accordance with the present social distancing guidelines, we will maintain 6 feet of separation between seats. What has been discussed has been a small “arc” seating arrangement that would allow us to use both sides of the worship space, as opposed to the seating most recently on one side of the sanctuary only. (Note: Household members who reside in the same home will not be required to be 6 feet apart. But, the household group will be required to be 6 feet from others.)
Bulletins used to follow the service and hymns will be placed on each seat prior to the service by the setup team (discussed later). We will be using large print bulletins only.
Our hymns will bring about two changes.
* We will still use our masks during the hymns. The
health studies completed to determine the 6 foot social
distancing standard applies to normal breathing and
speaking situations only. Singing without a mask
increases that required distance greatly. Therefore, for
the safety of everyone attending, we will use the masks
at all times of our worship together.
* All hymns will be limited to 3 verses each. Again, this is
solely a safety standard which was determined in
consideration of the guidelines mentioned above.
Due to the social distancing guidelines, there will not be a worship assistant at the front (with Jon). We may have volunteers each week to help with readings of the scripture and prayers of intercession. That person/those persons will read standing from their seat to avoid any common spacing issues we may encounter. Those volunteers for reading will be seated as close to the center of the “arc” as possible to maintain proper hearing of the message for all.
Preaching by Jon (or alternate when necessary) will be done only in the altar and pulpit area. There will not be times at which it will be done from the “main floor” area. This will allow a distance greater than 6 feet to be maintained at all times. As such, a mask will not be required for the person presiding given the distance involved. As the service progresses, though, hymns being sung, walking in and out of the sanctuary, etc. the mask must be worn.
Alter accoutrements will be minimized to two candles, one small parament on the alter and the processional cross in the back. These will be placed by the worship area team.
Sharing of the peace will not be with handshakes and hugs (unless direct family within the same household). As we share the peace, it will be in body language only, bows, nods, smiles (even under a mask we can still smile), along with “God’s peace” or “Peace be with you” only.
Communion will be less frequent and a bit different. We will not come to the altar area for communion as it will not be given directly by Jon or assistants. Instead, we will be trying to use pre-packaged wafer and cups (grape juice) to avoid close contact with one another. These cups will either be placed at each chair prior to the service or on the table as you enter the sanctuary by the setup team. They are to be thrown away when leaving. As it stands now, communion will be the first Sunday of the month with the exception that both May 31st and the first Sunday in June will have communion.
The offering plate will not be passed around or walked around by Tim. The setup team will instead have the plate on the table as you enter the sanctuary. Place your tithe in the plate as you enter or leave.
After the service, we will not have coffee or any snacks being offered. We do understand that fellowship is still a very important part of worshipping, so there will be tables in the lobby configured in a square that will allow for social conversation while maintaining social distancing (masks still required).
Cleaning before and after services:
In order to promote the safest worship space we can, cleaning will be done prior to people arriving and after each service.
Two-person setup teams have been created to cover the various areas of both the building and the service itself. We have determined these small teams to share the duties, but still keep to a small number of people involved in each task. These teams will be observing recommended safety protocol. Cleaning team areas have been determined in the following areas:
* Sanctuary: Chairs and piano (placing of bulletins and
* Worship area: Altar, pulpit, candles.
Because of the small space, the church office room will only be occupied by one person at a time and limited to those teams needing access.
Anyone who would like to help with these teams in the event that current team members may be absent please let council or other team members know.
These are only our beginning efforts to return to worship. You may expect some changes as we go along should we find that these measures are lacking or unworkable. The Synod will also be making changes as the country moves forward through the various phases of returning to normal. We will keep everyone informed as these changes occur. We are eagerly looking forward to worshipping with our church family again. But, please understand that while we are anxious to see everyone; do not feel hesitant to stay home if you feel insecure about the risks.