Dear Members and Friends of West Baptist Church,
I hope this letter finds you well and gracefully enduring the social distancing requirements designed to curtail the spread of COVID-19. Based on federal and state guidance and mandates, the West Baptist building will continue to be closed for activities for the present; however, we will be holding online services Sunday, April 5th for Palm Sunday and Sunday, April 12th for Easter (more details below). Those of you who do not have Internet access may also join us for audio via your telephone. The Church Council will be in touch about worship plans after Easter Sunday.
I have spoken to many of you already, but in case anyone has not received the news, I want to let you know that I have received and accepted an offer to serve as Associate Pastor at a congregation in Nashville, Tennessee. This new position is truly an answer to prayer as I will be able fulfill my ministerial calling while living in close proximity to my family. Nashville will also be an easier traveling distance to visit Adam’s family. While our precise moving plans are in flux due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, my last Sunday to lead worship will be Easter Sunday. The Church Council is planning a farewell party for a future date when we can gather once again in person. Adam and I are so very grateful to have shared life with you these last three years. My time as your interim pastor has affirmed my pastoral identity and bolstered my confidence for the next step in my professional journey. I can never say thank you enough for this gift.
Instructions for joining worship online:
If you would like to join a service online, I will email you the link you will need. Please send the email address where you would like to receive the invitation to email@example.com.
Please begin to gather by 9:35am and we will begin the service each Sunday at 10am. Gathering beginning at 9:35am will give Adam time to troubleshoot any issues you may have. We can also chat among ourselves informally before the service, which will serve as a kind of virtual “passing of the peace.”
I continue to be available via email for any needs that may arise: firstname.lastname@example.org
Blessings and Courage for the Living of these Days,
Scriptures and Reflections for Holy Week
How will you journey with Jesus this week?
Palm Sunday – Our celebration of Holy Week begins today as we remember and make present the triumphal entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, which is recorded in all four gospels. According to Mk 11:11 Jesus returned that evening to Bethany, a suburb of Jerusalem. Perhaps he stayed with his friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus.
Monday of Holy Week – According to Mt 21, Mk 11 and Lk 19, Jesus returns to Jerusalem today and overturns the tables of the money-changers in the Temple area, saying, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations?’ But you have made it a den of robbers.” Mk 11:19 records that he returned to Bethany that night. What courage Jesus had to stand up to those who would profit from those who sought to be faithful by offering sacrifices at the temple.
Tuesday of Holy Week – According to Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus again returns to Jerusalem where he is confronted by the Temple leadership for what he did yesterday. They question his authority. He also teaches extensively using parables and other forms. There is the parable of the vineyard (Mt 21:33-46), the parable of the wedding banquet, (Mt 22:1). Jesus offers instructions about paying taxes (Mt 22:15) and he rebukes the Sadducees who deny the resurrection (cf Mt 22:23). Jesus prophesies about the destruction of Jerusalem if the inhabitants do not come to faith. He warns that not one stone will be left on another (Mt 24).
Wednesday of Holy Week – Judas conspires to hand Jesus over. For this he was paid thirty pieces of silver (cf Mt. 26:14). Jesus likely spent the day In Bethany. In the evening Mary of Bethany anoints Jesus with costly perfumed oil. Judas objects but Jesus rebukes him and says Mary has anointed him for his burial! (Mt 26:6).
Maundy Thursday – Jesus instructs his disciples to prepare for this Passover meal (Mt 26:17). During this, Jesus’ last meal (Mt 26:17–30; Mk 14:12–26; Lk 22:7–39; Jn 13:1–17:26), he inaugurates the words of institution said each communion, “Take, eat; this is my body” (Mt 26:26) and “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt 26:27). Afterwards, the disciples and Jesus made a short journey to the Garden where he asks them to stay awake and pray with him (cf Mt 26:30). It was near Midnight that Jesus was betrayed by Judas, arrested and taken to the house of the High Priest (Mt. 26:47).
Good Friday Scripture Readings – Matthew 27; Mark 15:1–41; Luke 23:1–4; John 18:27–19:37
Prayer (Deborah Alberswerth Payden and Laura Loving) – God of hope and deliverance, we wait in the gloominess of Good Friday. All creation mourns this day. We cry for the cruel death of your child. We cry because the world is still filled with such pain and brokenness. Forgive us for adding to that pain and brokenness. Accept our tears this day. May our grief turn soon to gladness. Amen.
Holy Saturday Scripture Readings – Matthew 27:57–61; Mark 15:42–47; Luke 23:50–56; John 10:38–42 – Prayer (Adapted from Deborah Alberswerth Payden and Laura Loving) God of tomb and stillness, be with us this day in our waiting. We wait with anticipation the transformation of your child from death to life. We await our own renewal into life with Christ. Be with us this day in our preparations for the resurrection. In the name of the crucified and soon to be resurrected one, Jesus the Christ, Amen.