A Holy Grapes Solo Worship Experience
This morning, I am called to worship in my friend Josh’s garden, to seek out the fruits of a master gardener. I am called to be where soil has been tilled, seeds have been planted, and where life’s nutrients grow to feed us and sustain us in our journeys. Josh’s spring garden has kale, lettuce, greens, rosemary and oregano.
This vegetable garden is a metaphor for my approach to worship this Easter morn. I want to till and stir up my spirit, to plant new seeds and seek the nutrients to sustain my spirit in these times of suffering, upheaval and isolation.
He is not here. He was raised, just as he said. Come and look at the place where he was placed.Matthew 28:6, The Message Bible
Then he said, “Go into the world. Go everywhere and announce the Message of God’s good news to one and all.Mark 16:15, The Message Bible
Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.Ephesians 4:23, The Message Bible
IN GOD’S GARDEN
This morning, I feel joy, sitting here in the sunlight. The air crisp and clean. The early sun shines on my skin, soaking up rays and vitamin D.
“He is risen, he is risen indeed!” Lent has seemed like an endless journey the past few weeks – full of sadness, grief, fear and loss – as we’ve moved toward Easter. And now, Easter day is here. The resurrection has taken place, the tomb has been opened, and Christ has risen in spirit, bringing us hope, light and grace.
We can sing or shout “Alleluia” again and feel joy for Christ is resurrected – resurrected to be a bearer of joy and healing into the world, to bring peace to those spiritually and physically at war, and to be a shepherd for mercy and justice to those on the margins of our society and communities.
Later this morning, I plan to worship with my community online and greet one another during virtual coffee hour. I will see my friends, say hello to members of my community, and listen to the word of my pastors. We will rejoice, hear music and worship together. But for now, I’m in the garden. It’s quiet here, just the sounds of birds. I watch the light of the sun reflect and dance off Josh’s plants. The solitude is quite refreshing, renewing – and surprisingly – resurrecting my own spirit.
But the feeling of joy also bring concern within me. How is this joy to be experienced when there’s still so much going on? Hospitals are full to the capacity. Over 20,000 people have died in the U.S. so far. It’s been a grim week for those on the front lines. I feel an ache for all my brothers and sisters. I know I’m helping by staying home, but it doesn’t feel like it. I am so very privileged to use this time to renew my spirit and embrace my spiritual journey. But others are not. Others are suffering, others in survival mode to the fullest. Isn’t feeling joy somewhat extravagant and self-indulgent in these times?
A response, excerpted from The Book of Joy, Lasing Happiness in a Changing World, conversations with his Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Research suggests that cultivating your own joy and happiness has benefits now just for you, but also for others in your life. When we are able to move beyond our own pain and suffering, we are more available to others.
Still some might wonder what our own joy has to do with countering injustice and inequality. What does our happiness have to do with addressing the suffering of the world?
The more we turn toward others, the more joy we experience, and the more joy we experience, the more we can bring joy to others. The goal is not just to create joy for ourselves but, as the Archbishop poetically phrased it, “to be a reservoir of joy, an oasis of peace, a pool of serenity that can ripple out to all those around you.” As we will see, joy is in fact quite contagious. As is love, compassion, and generosity.
Being more joyful is not just about having more fun. We’re talking about a more empathic, more empowered, even more spiritual state of mind that is totally engaged in the world.
Oh Heavenly God, please hear our prayers:
For those of us within our communities facing surgeries and new diagnoses requiring medical treatments in hospitals and clinics, oh God, hear our prayers.
For activists and those working on behalf of children still separated from their parents at our borders, oh God, hear our prayers.
For our brothers and sisters experiencing incarceration, in need of medical attention and supplies, oh God, hear our prayers.
For new parents and new babies being born right now, oh God, hear our prayers.
For all those out of work, rethinking vocation and careers during these days, oh God, hear our prayers.
Continued prayers for all the first responders, doctors, nurses, paramedics, working tirelessly on the front lines, oh God, hear our prayers.
Continued prayers for our religious and spiritual leaders and pastors, working to meet the spiritual and physical needs of congregations while social distancing, oh God, hear our prayers.
Continued prayers for those with mental health issues in these days, oh God, hear our prayers.
Oh God, as we joyfully celebrate Christ’s resurrection this Easter morning, and embrace our church communities virtually, let us remember those in our world and community who are in need, who suffer, who mourn. As we welcome your return, let us remember that your presence in the world is also a call to action, to walk humbly with you, to seek justice, to give mercy, to love deeply, and to seek joy in order to help others.
In the name of Jesus – who chose to be born and live amidst us, to love us and to die for us – for these things and more we pray.
COMMUNION and HOLY GRAPES
I have no wine or bread. All I have are these grapes. They haven’t been blessed by the pastors, or prayed over before communion. I cannot consecrate the grapes myself, but I am in God’s Garden, and all that is here, including the grapes, are holy.
I think about my beloved community, my pastors and my friends. I long for the love and hugs that come with communion, but today, that longing is filled with gratitude and love.
May the peace of God be with you and yours this Easter. He has risen, he has risen indeed.
A note: Holy Grapes, a solo worship service will continue throughout this quarantine period, rain or shine, in God’s Garden wherever that may be. If you live in the Chapel Hill/Durham area, and want me to show case your own garden during my weekly worship time, please message me. With peace and love…