Interesting times

In a normal, regular week, this blog might be about Sunday's Gospel reading and how our hymns and anthem enlighten the reading.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about favorite Bible verses and mentioned the shortest verse in the Bible, "Jesus wept," which actually shows up in this Sunday's Gospel reading.

Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus, after which he called, "Lazarus, come out!" Lazarus walked out of his tomb, a foreshadowing of Jesus' own Resurrection on Easter morning.

This Sunday the Parish Choir would have sung a poignant anthem text, set to music by Carl Schalk (b. 1929), an important 20th century American Lutheran composer whose is very much alive age 91 and whose daughter I knew during my Topeka Episcopal cathedral days. 

Another story for another day. And remember that I am easily star-struck.

Schalk's anthem text, "Blessed Are the Dead": 

And I heard a voice from heaven saying, "Write this:
Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth."

"Blessed indeed," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors,

for their deeds follow them." (Revelation 14:13 RSV)

Blessed are they who die in the Lord. Central to the Christian faith message. Death is not necessarily a scary word for Christians, a fact that I love.

And then the pandemic hit. And our world changes in a matter of days.

On Sunday, March 15, we had a handful of worshipers and a few Parish Choir members at church. On Sunday, March 22, we livestramed Sunday morning worship from the Children's Chapel with six staff singers. 

And for Sundays, March 22 and April 5, we will livestream again from the Children's Chapel with only a priest and a pianist, as the Mayor of Memphis has wisely asked us to self-quarantine at home for two weeks.

Needless to say, we have quickly regrouped worship and liturgy at Church of the Holy Communion, moving from Holy Eucharist to Morning Prayer on Sunday mornings and from Contemplative Eucharist to the Office of Compline on Sunday evenings. 

However, many blessings can be found even in the midst of a pandemic. We have livestreaming worship from our beautiful new Children's Chapel via our website, YouTube, and Facebook, complete with full-text PDF service leaflets to use at home.

When as a worshiping congregation did we last experience the historic office of Morning Prayer? With its deeply rich canticles and prayers, Morning Prayer is uniquely Anglican in the same way that Choral Evensong is. 

When as a larger worshiping congregation have we last experienced the beautiful imagery of Compline? My personal favorite is, "Keep us, O Lord, as the apple of your eye; hide us under the shadow of your wings."

This Sunday, we will hear the Gospel message of resurrection delivered from the tomb of Lazarus. We will say some of our favorite prayers in the Book of Common Prayer. We will read powerful canticles that are unique in the Anglican tradition. And we will remain in our homes to help confine the spread of this pandemic. 

God will keep us safe, and God will be praised, even though we are temporarily apart. 

Photo credit: Children's Chapel of Church of the Holy Communion by Cindy Putnam McMillion. 

Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at 8:05 PM
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