Eternal God, we come to you in prayer today over the empty chairs. We pray with longing for the friends and family who cannot come to the table today and while we give thanks for Zoom and text and phones it's not the same as passing the rolls and hugging them tight. We pray with grief for the chairs that will not be filled when this pandemic is over. We pray for all whom we have lost, 250,000 loved ones in this country, and over a million worldwide. We rage and cry at the unfairness of it all. We stare at empty chairs, and wonder where you are. Remind us, Lord, that you are in the empty chairs, sitting with us in our loneliness, our grief, and our exhaustion. Remind us that you laugh at our jokes, and like our cooking even when it's burned. Remind us that you are with us even now, even today, pouring as much love and strength into us as we can consume. You fill our empty chairs, and you fill our empty hearts. So, holding onto gratitude with our fingernails, we give you thanks, and thanks, and thanks. Amen.
You never expected this. You never expected to be an epidemiologist, televangelist, crisis counselor, and innovation architect all rolled into one. Yet you've piled all those hats on your head, washed your hands and masked your face, and sallied forth into God's hurting world. Well done, good and faithful servant. You never expected this. You never expected to close your sanctuary doors, and learn how to edit videos, and keep your distance from those who mourn. Yet you've still shown up, on screen and by phone and in words of comfort, and been there for your hurting people. Well done, good and faithful servant. You never expected this. You never expected to lay awake every night, weighing worship as a matter of life and death, hoping your people will remember your love, wondering how many tears the fabric of your own faith can sustain. Yet still you've prayed, and you've believed, and you've been the goodness of God for others. Well done, good and faithful servant. You never expected this. Yet you were created for this. To hold the flame of faith in the raging storm. Well done, good and faithful pastor. Well done.
Jesus, our friend, we are going back to school but not like we remember. We are full of feelings—mad, worried, scared, confused. We don’t know what will happen. We don’t know how to do this. So remind us that you are with us every day, with us whether we are in a school building or at home, with us as we study, as we read, as we solve problems, with us when our teachers are far away, with us when our parents are having to fill in, with us when we’re having fun, and with us when we’re not. Help us to be open to whatever this year will bring, and to be extra kind to our teachers, our classmates, our siblings, our parents and caretakers, and ourselves, because this is hard for everyone. But you have given us the strength to love and to be kind so we will try our best. And when things get crazy, and it all seems too much, help us to simply sit and be still and know that you are God. Amen.
Great Physician, Giver of All Life, may this mask I wear show your true face: a face of mercy and compassion a face that loves others above myself a face that protects the vulnerable and weak. As I wear this mask, save and protect me from danger that may come my way. As I wear this mask, save and protect others from danger I may send their way, even without meaning to. As once you hid your face from Moses, in order to reveal the glory of your presence, teach us to hide our outward faces, to reveal our inward love for the world, and the glory of your presence in us. Amen.
When Jesus returned to that dark and locked room where the disciples huddled in fear he demanded no apologies, no account of ministry tasks performed in his absence, no statistics of new disciples engaged, but simply spoke peace, and breathed his Spirit. As we sit in our locked rooms, or stream from empty sanctuaries, give us again the gift of your peace, not as reward for services rendered, but a free gift of grace simply because we are yours and always have been. Give us breath in these exhausting days, your new life to carry us through until it is time to go forth again. But for now, let us simply sit with you, and breathe in your Spirit.