Worship Online: We are moving to online-only worship from now until further notice. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding!
Online Worship Resources:
Digital Connection Card: https://forms.gle/dkkcQZKDmwcKfUmYA
Digital Prayer Request Card: https://forms.gle/ZeC88cNcSs684RQ37
Church Office Hours: The church office will be temporarily closing to drop-in traffic. Staff will still have access, but we are encouraging work from home at this time.
Pastoral Care: We are here for you. If you should need prayer or someone to talk through during this time, please do not hesitate to reach out via email or to call the church office. We will have access to our phones and answering services. You are loved.
Digital Meetings: Regularly scheduled team meetings (Church Council, Trustees, SPR, Finance, etc.) will all have meetings via video chat. Watch your email for further instructions!
Wednesday Night Live: Our midweek services will not be meeting in person for the next few weeks, at which time, we will re-evaluate. We will offer digital small groups and family resources during this time.
The Psalms – A Lament
5 Minute Theology
Beloved, it is okay to be human.
And I want you to know that to its core. We are human beings with complex emotions, yes, but sometimes, those emotions do not align with what societal pressures or internal pressures tell us are acceptable. This moment that we are living, this pandemic and quarantine, is unprescedented. Every single one of us are being asked to do things that are outside the realm of anything we have done before. Our daily lives look different than they did before. The world looks different than it did before. Everything has changed. For some of us, these may look like collassal changes that have disrupted our lives and left us scared and uncertain for the future on every level. For some of us, these changes may seem smaller, however the effects of these small changes have whittled away at us like small drops of water dripping down on drift wood. Eventually, those small drops eat away at the wood. Eventually, these small changes eat away at our spirit. Then we look at the world. And the overwhelming message is that we should be joyful and grateful and full of cheer for what we do have, and while that is lovely and good to feel cheerful and great to feel gratitude, so often times we are not feeling those emotions. Instead we feel fearful and and anxious, maybe even angry, and we look to the messages of toxic positivity splattered everywhere and then we feel deep shame for feeling something we deem a negative emotion. We may even hear that this is who we have been all along. Someone incapable of handling adversity or someone who crumbles in the face of fear, Beloved please hear this message, this is just not true. This entirely unprescendted moment that we find ourselves living daily is not a contest to win or lose in joy or fear. This moment is not here to separate the winners from the losers, nor is it here to show us what we are actually made of inside. In fact, any message that says we are to live in constant joy, especially since we are Christians and that is what we are made to do, is lying. It is absolutely beyond a shadow of any doubt okay for us to feel a spectrum of human emotion. Perhaps, right now we may find it helpful to recover the biblical tradition of lament. Lament is a huge spectrum of human emotion. Lament is anger, and confusion, and anxiety. Lament is praising God in the storm, but not always feeling cheerful in that praise. Lament is when we ask “Why?” and do not get an answer.
One of my favorite theological thinkers is a man by the name of N.T. Wright. He is a highly respected modern theologian, teacher, and author and recently he wrote an article that I found very helpful. In his article entitled, “Christianity Offers No Answers About the Coronavirus. It’s Not Supposed To” Wright says this,
“At this point the Psalms, the Bible’s own hymnbook, come back into their own, just when some churches seem to have given them up. “Be gracious to me, Lord,” prays the sixth Psalm, “for I am languishing; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror.” “Why do you stand far off, O Lord?” asks the 10th Psalm plaintively. “Why do you hide yourself in time of trouble?” And so it goes on: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?” (Psalm 13). And, all the more terrifying because Jesus himself quoted it in his agony on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22).”
Honestly, what we can glean from the Psalms is that not only is it okay to feel deep, human emotion with joy and sorrow colliding, perhaps all at once or far apart, but also God feels this deep emotion alongside of us. Your pain not a character flaw. Nothing is defective about you. You are not failing at this or life in general because you’re not getting a gold star in positivity (or false positivity). No, in fact, what we find in the Bible is that it is something that God experiences and is experiencing right beside of you.
Psalm 116 outlines all of this so beautifully. Verses 1-7 say this,
“I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
He heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
The cords of death entangled me,
The anguish of the grave came upon me;
I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
‘O Lord, save me!’
The Lord is gracious and righteous;
Our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the simplehearted;
When I was in great need, he saved me.
Be at rest once more, O my soul,
For the Lord has been good to you.”
Beloved, our God is full of compassion. We can call upon his name of times of trouble and sorrow and he knows because he understands. It says the Lord protects the simplehearted. I don’t think this means a simple or unintelligent person, no, I think it means that the Lord sees our human emotion. Complex as they may be at times, often our myriad of emotions are tied to one. Often we lash out in anger or condemnation when what we are really feeling, is fear. God sees you. God understands you. God feels what you feel. Lean and and find rest in Him, but know that you can come to his throne and fall at his feet feeling whatever emotion you feel. God doesn’t ask us to clean ourselves up or make ourselves acceptable before we enter into his presence, in fact what he says is, “Come as you are.” Come in anger and fear. Come in joy and gratitude. Come in confusion and question. Beloved, you are all invited to come as you are, to find peace beside his still waters and be at rest once more.
Friends! Are you interested in an Easter Egg Hunt? Omaha has organized “The Great Omaha Easter Egg Hunt”! You can search for that title on Facebook to join the group, find resources, printable eggs, directions, and more! You can still register through Easter! #GreatOmahaEggHunt.
Is Omaha a little too far? No problem! The Fremont Middle School choir students are organizing something similar right here in our community! Print out and color fun pictures of eggs, bunnies, or crosses and hang them in your windows, garage doors, anywhere visible! No printer? No problem! Draw them on your driveways with sidewalk chalk! Then drive around Fremont and see how many you can find!
For more family resources, click here.
Small Group Resources
It is in uncertain times like these that our presence with one another offers a renewed sense of peace and comfort. Our already existing small groups will continue to connect virtually. If you are not yet part of a small group, but would like to join one:
Contact Jill Harman: Jill.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our virtual doors are open and hearts have plenty of room.
Small Group Discussion Guide
Week of April 12 – April 18, 2020
Preparing for Your Small Group
Central Question: How can we change our mindset from “Fear” to “Follow”?
Message Big Idea: That by believing you may have life in His name..
Note to Group Leaders: Feel free to skip around if the discussion is going in a different direction, and don’t feel like you need to get through everything! We will offer extra copies of this sheet in case anyone wants to take it home and continue studying if you don’t get through everything. You know your group best!
Opening Prayer and Icebreaker:
Open in prayer (either you or you can ask someone from the group)
Icebreaker: None this week!
Question: This year, we weren’t able to put on our Easter pastels and have churchwide Easter Egg Hunts and do all of the things we normally do for Easter…what can we connect with the Gospel story of the resurrection by not being able to enjoy our modern Easter traditions?
Scripture: John 20:11-16 (Version CEB)
“Mary stood outside near the tomb, crying. As she cried, she bent down to look into the tomb. She saw two angels dressed in white, seated where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and one at the foot. The angels asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” She replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.” As soon as she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabbouni” (which means Teacher ).”
Question: How did God not adhere to expectations in John’s version of the Gospel story? What can we learn from Him not meeting our expectations for our Easter story this year?
Leader Hint: A woman came and found Jesus (gasp!). And a woman without a great reputation. Jesus wasn’t ‘there’ where he was supposed to be, where he was expected to be.
Question: At the beginning of John’s Gospel, Jesus asks his Disciples to “follow him.” And they do, a big band of misfits of all the wrong people, think of the most divisive figure you can think of, yeah them too. And us. He asks us to follow him.
What happens when Jesus asks us to follow him into emptiness and difficulty and uncertainty? AND he asks us to follow him with different people with whom we would normally spend time?
Question: What happens when we’re following Jesus, but all of a sudden, He looks like
‘the gardener’ and we can’t tell if it’s him anymore?
Scripture: In John’s Gospel, there are Seven “Follow Statements” that are:
1:37–The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus
1:40–One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.
1:43–He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”
8:12–I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.
12:26–If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.
13:36–“Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.”
21:19–And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Question: How do these statements reinforce and reassure that we continue to Follow Jesus even when he looks like the Gardener and even when we follow him into emptiness?
Leaders: i.e. We continue to delve into scripture, we continue to pray, we continue to love our neighbor, we look for the hope, etc.)
Question: The question isn’t, What if Jesus is like God. But…What if God is like Jesus?
The Closing Prayer
As you did your son, drag us out of our tombs.
There is no virtue in the world, no lifestyle choices, no amount of social justice that can pull the sun up from the East each day, Lord.
So turn our heads, even if ever so slightly, toward the dawn, so that we may know that it is your grace that both raises the sun and raises the dead.
Even if we have given up, yank us out of our graves of choice.
Rescue us from despairing.
When we return to tombs that are no longer meant for us:
revive old resentments,
pick up a drink after years of sobriety;
again give pieces of our hearts to that which can never love us back,
remind us that you never tire of reaching into tombs and loving us back to life.
Comfort the dying, Lord.
Revive the faltering.
Grant us joy and make our song Alleluia…not because we aren’t paying attention, but because we are.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
For more small group resources, click here.