A month ago, on Maundy Thursday, Sarah B. was our cantor and Michael T. our pianist for our first outdoor, in-person worship service since October of 2020. As Sarah sang and Michael played, the congregation gathered sat still, mesmerized by the sound. Night was falling around us, and the significance of hearing live singing sank into us. The song sounded fresh and real, and it added that extra meaning to a tender night in our church calendar…one focused around service to one another, care for the neighbor, and humble love.
Two weeks ago, on a Friday afternoon, as Ken P. and I finished filming worship, the center courtyard starting filling with the sound of string instruments warming up and tuning up. The San Jose Chamber Orchestra was rehearsing and preparing for a short performance outdoors. The beautiful sound of multiple instruments being played by people who clearly are professionally gifted (no offense to the sounds I hear from the neighborhood kids who are practicing their instruments in their yards/homes!) was overwhelming. I stood, transfixed, under the Redwoods in our meditation garden and without warning, I began to weep. Music (and all art) has the powerful ability to reveal emotions in our hearts, to stir ideas in our minds, and to connect us to one another unlike any other form of communication. All of you who worship with us know that we are gifted with an incredible music program and group of musicians curated by Barbara Day Turner. She, along with our choir, audio engineers and video producers have worked so hard this past year to bring recorded music to our worship services. I am so grateful for the pivots we have made and the people like Marc F., David L., Ken P., Mike H., Michael T., the PoP Band, and our choir and soloists who have learned new technology in order to bring this artful aspect to our worship (and I know, we have mentioned them all before with gratitude, but it bears repeating so often!).
So much of our world has shifted online, and I am grateful for the nimble reactions of our congregation and the people who work in theatre, music, and formed art. We also have, in our congregation, an incredibly gifted group of live theatre directors, performers, and singers. Many of you have seen people like Karen D., Ginger D., Sarah B., and Mike H. shine on stage at our local theatre. companies. Live acting, (and the folks mentioned above can articulate this better than I) can take us out of our own minds and put us in the heart and mind of others. Live acting increases our empathy, enlightens our thinking, and sometimes makes us uncomfortable in the best kinds of ways…in ways that remind us that we are deeply human and connected to one another. Like so many of you, I miss opportunities to experience theatre in person! I am convinced that theatre, art, music—in all of their forms are manifestations of the Holy Spirit. I believe that the imagination we foster when we listen, watch, observe, ponder and make art connects us to God in powerful ways. It gets us out of our task-oriented, machine-mind into the creative pieces of ourselves that is part of the imago dei (image of God) that is in each of us.
With that in mind, I would like to share a wonderful idea and opportunity that Ginger D. introduced to us... A theatre company out of Berkeley (the Shotgun Players) has moved online. They have a theatre piece that is available online (on demand, meaning you pay for it and can watch it when it works for you). The title of the production is Feel the Spirit, by Noelle Viñas and it is (ironically!) about a Queer pastor’s efforts to move her congregation online during covid-19. Ginger and I would love to host a conversation (for all who watch it). You are encouraged to follow the link to the show, watch it on your own time, and then we will have gather on Zoom Sunday May 2nd to discuss. Ginger will lead (and for any of you who don’t know Ginger, she’s an incredibly engaging leader as well as brilliant theater director). Let’s dig in together, enliven that creative part of our Spirits and minds, and create some space for the Holy Spirit to move our faith! Zoom link for the discussion of “Feel the Spirit” is forthcoming. You will need to purchase your online viewing of the play on your own. The link to the show is:
Discussion Meeting: Sunday, May 2, 7:00pm on ZOOM
Email Pastor Sara if you need help!
Hey there, Prince of Peace! Do you love abstract, theological terms? I sure do. But I know they aren’t for everyone.
If only there was a term that meant something to our daily lives.
If only we had an easily accessible shared experience to help explain it.
Well guess what: There is. We do.
Proleptic - endeavours for a convergence of theology and modern science by proclaiming that the world we discover is a world where creation is still going on.
That’s a big idea and we could spend hours breaking it down, but here’s one way to think about it. We are living now in the beginnings of Covid vaccine distribution in our country. And because of that we are all - whether we have the shot ourselves or not - getting glimpses of a future where everyone is vaccinated and we are free from any fear of this terrible disease.
God’s creation is still happening, and in our presence.
And now that we have learned the word proleptic, let’s make some proleptic announcements about how your loving staff is making plans, based on the glimpses we’ve had so far, for future plans at Prince of Peace.
RSCP is going to be growing in the near future and expanding into more community creation activities, which may also help us stake a claim as a larger community gathering place as new residences are developed nearby.
Indoor worship is scheduled to begin Sunday, July 4th; this will depend entirely upon county opening protocols and worship safety.
Even when indoor worship starts, we will continue to be an online worship community also. So, for those of you who have been joining us from across the country, you will still have access to our services - and so will anyone using our sanctuary for their sacred event. If you are interested in helping that team of volunteers, please contact Pastor Sara.
Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia! On Easter this year, we heard the story of the Markan resurrection in which everyone fled the tomb “in terror and amazement, saying nothing to anyone.” It is a curious ending, so curious in fact, that a later transcriber of the gospel added an alternative ending with a much more elaborate and comfortable ending.
But all of us who have lived through this past year of tumult (and the many other harsh realities of life: loss, death, life changes, bigotry, racism, and/or other hardships) know well that days and weeks rarely have neat and orderly endings. And Jesus, who walked in our shoes and suffered a violent death for his challenging of the status quo, shows us that our God is not a God of easy answers either. Our God is instead the kind of God who yearns for us all to take part in bearing witness to the promises that life always overcomes death and that God is consistently trying to make good out of hard situations.
The Resurrection was not a singular event that we celebrate once a year, but is instead a universal reality that calls us to the empty tombs of our own lives to look for the living, to seek how God is alive and well even when we feel lonely or afraid or troubled. The Resurrection and the ending that Mark provides reminds us that we are characters in the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. We now get to bear witness, or as the book of Acts shows again and again through the stories of the early apostles and church planters, we get to stand up and share how we have changed because of Christ’s actions in our world and life.
One tangible way we want you all to do that is to send your “revelations” to Pastor Sara. Let us know who you are, “chipotle lady.” Tell us who you are, person who left awesome Easter tree stuff, etc. And if you have a wondering about the source of any of your shenanigans, let us know. In addition, we would love your thoughts, ponderings, and understanding of how the joyful shenanigans of Lent added to your Easter amazement. You can send emails, texts, pictures revealing who you are. Email Pastor Sara or comment on our Facebook page.
In addition, as not all of us were part of the shenanigans, we would also love to hear how this year of pandemic life has brought you to new life or new understanding.
We’ll be working these ideas and “testimonies” into our worship throughout the Easter season. When we next meet in person for worship we’ll utilize this theme as well. It is our hope that by sharing how Christ has revealed Christ’s self to us that we might grow in our Easter faith and Easter hope.
They fled with terror and amazement.
They fell down and worshiped him.
They said nothing to no one
Mary stood there and wept.
These are paraphrases of the 4 initial responses to the empty tomb--one from each of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. As you look over the responses it is obvious that the first Resurrection was not the instantaneous party that it is in these days. There was hesitancy, uncertainty, confusion, and terror. Oh, and lots of running.
It seems to me that we are having similar responses to the good news of vaccinations and a hopeful end to this pandemic. Some of us are running as fast as we can to hug our loved ones. Some of us are cautiously tiptoeing back into the world, some of us are still waiting to get a vaccine, and some of us are unsure if this is real.
In our culture of instant gratification---superfast delivery, answers at our fingertips, and products designed to meet our every need--we can forget that not everything is instant. The Resurrection morning of so long ago left those who loved Jesus with more questions than answers. And, it took numerous appearances of the Crucified Christ for it to begin to sink in just what the ramifications were of that empty tomb. It took decades for the gospels to be written, years for Paul’s witness and teachings to take root and become the mass movement that we call Christianity. Resurrection takes time. True transformation usually requires a certain amount of patience and discipline.
Likewise, as a faith community, while we may be eager to hug one another, sing loudly together inside, and linger over coffee while catching up on the past year of one another’s lives, We know that we must take the “slow emergence route”. Over the next weeks and months we will continue to offer hybrid community options, gathering outdoors when safe, worshiping on the lawn regularly, and providing space for fellowship opportunities that welcome all. We long for normalcy in human interactions, but even more so, we long for a safe and welcoming church that honors all of the reactions to this pandemic.
I wish we were celebrating with huge fanfare this Easter…but I take heart that perhaps this Easter is more like the first Easter than any I have been part of. No matter what, we can shout “He is Risen, He is Risen Indeed”…and trust that God is weaving, working and bringing us together through the wonder of screens, social distancing, serving our neighbors, and phone calls.