The Worship & Liturgy committee has formed a series of conversations in June and plan to have the next set in August. The discussion material can be downloaded below:
May the peace of the risen Jesus be with you, my sisters and brothers in Christ!
In times like this when we have to face social distancing and empty churches how can we preach to the empty pews the message of the empty tomb? This question brings me back to the text of John 20. It begins with the story of the empty tomb. Mary Magdalene first discovered the tomb empty and reported it to Simon Peter who also went to the empty tomb with John. But they did not understand “the scripture, that he must rise from the dead” (John 20:9).
Jesus appeared to Mary first, and later in the evening of the Easter he came to his disciples who were forced to ‘social distance’ behind the locked doors of the house for fear of the Jews. Jesus stood among them and said, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). Jesus’ ‘Shalom!’ on Easter evening resonates with his last words on the cross: “It is finished” (John 19:30). Thus, peace of reconciliation and life is fulfilled in Jesus’ victory over sin and death. Jesus’ ‘Shalom!’ is not so much a greeting of everyday life but the most merciful and consoling invitation for those who have the sickness unto death. We are ‘the patients’ who must willingly acknowledge our disease/sin and to receive with joy the healing/salvation from the one who surely “took our infirmities and carried our sorrows”, and the punishment upon him “brought us peace and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).
We remember that Jesus’ second ‘Shalom!’ for his disciples was when he said to them, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). This is rather a frightening call of the Lord for his servants to leave the private space of beautiful solaces and to face again the public sphere torn down by the empire of mammon. However, before they are called to be ‘the agents’ for the Kingdom of God, i.e., the peacemakers or the ambassadors of Christ for reconciliation, they ought to
be poured on by the power of the Holy Spirit.
As Jesus sent his disciples “he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ (John 20:22). Jesus breathes into each of us the breath of life to become a new creature. At the same time, Jesus breathes into us all, as if we were those slain in Ezekiel 37. As the Jewish people in Exile whose lands had turned into the graves, returned to their own by the quickening of the Spirit, we are called by the authority of the Holy Spirit to be the Church, the body of Christ in the public sphere of our times.
Surely, I am not the only one who has been shocked by a recent photo of the inside of a refrigerated truck full of the bags of the dead Americans. Indeed, we are now passing through the dark valley of death in these trying times. Recollecting the tragic image of the corpses in my mind, I overhear the challenging question of God: “Son of man, can these bones live” (Ezekiel 37:3a)? The prophet’s answer, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” (Ezekiel 37:3b), leads me into a profound insight that the hope of the resurrection of body and life everlasting is not the inner-worldly possibility of evolutionary process, but solely the eschatological grace of God’s sovereignty and His eternally faithful love. Therefore, Paul boldly proclaims: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you” (Romans 8:11).
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Do not be afraid of facing the rebellious world estranged from the origin of life, our triune God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. First and foremost, we need to recover the fundamental sense of fear of God in the form of ‘public vigilance’ over the idolatry of money in the name of free market which has thrown our healthcare system into shambles. Let’s “lay the sick in the marketplaces” where the living Christ is present (Mark 6:56). We should be part of ‘a Great Reset’ after the storm of pandemic has passed in order to celebrate Easter in the public sphere of our life.
Ironically, human social distancing has allowed birds to thrive and brought people together in love, though separately clapping, singing, and dancing. Let’s repent our sins of self-interest, privatizing every corner of public lives and services, as well as destroying the precious habitat of wild animals which might have caused the spread of viruses unheard of previously. Resist cold xenophobia and hot racism blaming the innocent for the pandemic. Instead, let’s be in cool solidarity and remain with warm human bond in taking global ethical responsibility to stop the vicious cycle of pandemic spread from the global North to the global South and again to the global North and so on.
Finally, people called Methodists from everywhere to everywhere, do not forget the risen Christ’s empowering admonition: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:22b-23). If you believe that Jesus’ resurrection restores a dead person to life, take sin in deadly earnest and commit yourselves to the evangelical ministry of forgiveness with all your heart and might for “a dead person can only be raised, resurrected, and grave sin can only be forgiven.” (Karl Barth) Let’s praise God “for as by a man came death, by a man also has come resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).
Therefore, I solemnly ask you on behalf of the almighty God who raised Jesus from the dead to witness to all people in fear and trembling: “Come from the four winds, spirit of life, and breathe on these slain so that they come to life again” (Ezekiel 37:9). Let them come back to life and rise to their feet, a mighty host.
Jesus is risen! Happy Easter!
The Liturgy to this link follows the pattern of the Mass, Holy Communion, Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, Eucharist, and allows for the absence of consecrated bread and wine/juice – while retaining familiar foundations, in uncertain times…
This is not a replacement for Gathering as God’s People, embodied in community, but provides a way of people gathering around stories of hope from despair and resurrection after death.
It is envisaged this material could be used for people in homes, possibly connected digitally or across distances. Some planned gathering in Australia will use the material over internet, by phone or from balconies across courtyards.
This liturgy is offered, as a gift of prayer and solidarity from God’s People in Australia to the rest of an anxious and hurting world. Together, may we be God’s Humanity.
Any or all of the following symbols may be added from week to week, or you may build these up to a collection over time:
A Call to Worship for a Dispersed Community – © Craig Mitchell, 2020, Used with permission.
A Call to Worship for an Online Community – © Amelia Koh-Butler, 2020, Used with permission.
Sections of the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving (Sharing and Invocation) – Claire Wright, based on Uniting in Worship 2, Used with permission.
Suggested Song – Peace, Salaam, Shalom https://youtu.be/lBQ-KsGo_BI
(Emma’s Revolution. Note: several versions can be sourced on Youtube)
Scripture texts are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, © 1989, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
Yarta Wandatha (The Land is Speaking. The People are Speaking), © 2014, Denise Champion and Rosemary Dewerse
Remaining Sections – © Amelia Koh-Butler, 2020, Used with permission.
These resources are able to be used for Worship and Devotion, with appropriate acknowledgement.
Some communities may choose to reduce the test of the provided Prayer of Thanksgiving. It may be suitable to substitute the inclusion of the Nicene Creed as a way of proclaiming the Gospel story in words familiar to those who are then connecting with other faithful of many times and places.
These attached guidelines and liturgies for worship and prayer during the pandemic are offered by a group of scholars, teachers, and worship leaders in The United Methodist Church. Click on the following link:
Discover the resources regarding the JDDJ signing celebration by reading the following join letter: Joint letter Liturgy resources 20 Anniversary
Rev. Dr. James Hal Cone, renowned founder of Black Liberation Theology, award-winning author and Bill & Judith Moyers Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, died on April 28, 2018. He was 79.
“In so many ways, James Cone has been Union Theological Seminary for the past 50 years,” said Union president Serene Jones. “To say his death leaves a void is a staggering understatement. His prophetic voice, deep kindness, and fierce commitment to black liberation embodied not just the very best of our seminary, but of theological field as a whole and of American prophetic thought and action.”
Cone is best known as the father of black liberation theology. In his ground-breaking works, Black Theology & Black Power (1969); A Black Theology of Liberation (1970); and God of the Oppressed (1975), Cone upended the theological establishment with his vigorous articulation of God’s radical identification with black people in the United States. His eloquent portrayal of Christ’s blackness shattered dominant white theological paradigms, and ignited a wave of subsequent American liberation theologies.
Through his published works, and in the classroom, Cone shaped generations of scholars, professors, pastors, and activists, kindling in countless people the fire for dismantling white supremacy. Upon news of his passing, Professor Cornel West remarked about his colleague and friend, “James Cone was the theological giant and genius in our midst! He was the greatest liberation theologian to emerge in the American empire—and he never ever sold out.”
As Cone, himself, explained in 1997 in the introduction to an updated and expanded edition of the classic work Black Theology and Black Power, “I wanted to speak on behalf of the voiceless black masses in the name of Jesus, whose gospel I believed had been greatly distorted by the preaching theology of white churches.” The degree to which this witness called white churches and theologians to task cannot be overstated. Don Shriver, President Emeritus of Union, remarked that Cone’s “lifework was a distinguished contribution to the integrity of Christian witness worldwide.”
Cone’s most recent book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree earned Cone the 2018 Grawemeyer Award in Religion, jointly awarded by Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the University of Louisville.
“The crucifixion was clearly a first-century lynching,” wrote Cone. “Both are symbols of the death of the innocent, mob hysteria, humiliation, and terror. They both also reveal a thirst for life that refuses to let the worst determine our final meaning and demonstrate that God can transform ugliness into beauty, into God’s liberating presence.”
Cone completed his final book, a memoir, just a few months before his passing. Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell Nobody will be published later this year. His longtime editor, Robert Ellsberg of Orbis Books, shared these words written by Cone for the conclusion of the memoir: “I write because writing is the way I fight. Teaching is the way I resist, doing what I can to subvert white supremacy.”
Born in Fordyce, Ark., Cone did his undergraduate study at Shorter College and Philander Smith College (B.A., 1958) in Little Rock. He graduated from Garrett Theological Seminary with a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1961 and received his M.A. from Northwestern University 1963. Two years later, the Ph.D. was conferred on him by Northwestern.
Cone joined Union’s faculty in 1969 and was promoted to full professor of theology in 1973. He was named the Bill & Judith Moyers Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology in 2017. At Union, he researched and taught Christian theology, with special attention to black liberation theology and the liberation theologies of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. He also taught 19th and 20th-century European-American theologies.
On April 18, Cone was elected to the 2018 class of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Among other numerous awards he received are the American Black Achievement Award in religion given by Ebony Magazine (November 1992); the Fund for Theological Education Award for contributions to theological education and scholarship (November 1999); the Martin E. Marty Award for the Public Understanding of Religion (2009); the Eliza Garrett Distinguished Service Award in recognition of seminal theological scholarship from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (2010). He received 13 honorary degrees, including an honoris causa from the Institut Protestant de Théologie in Paris, France.
Cone, an ordained itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, was listed in the Directory of American Scholars, Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in American Religion, Who’s Who among African Americans, and Who’s Who in the World. He was the author of 12 books and over 150 articles and lectured at many universities and community organizations throughout the United States, Europe, Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. He was an active member of numerous professional societies, including the Society for the Study of Black Religion, the American Academy of Religion, and the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWOT) in the Philippines. He was a founding member of the Society of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion (SRER).
He is survived by his sons Michael and Charles, daughters Robynn and Krystal, and two grandchildren, Jolei and Miles.
This article was originally published at www.thechristianrecorder.com. It has been re-posted with permission.