Hymn- Jesus Loves Me
We might be doing church like this for a little longer than we first expected. So, remember to keep in touch with one another! Staying connected is important for our mental and spiritual health. Calls, texts, emails, and Facebook messages are all great ways of checking in on each other.
If you feel led to continue making monetary contributions to Ada Chapel during this time that we are not meeting in person, checks can be mailed to our treasurer. The address is: 2418 Wilson Rd. Wilmington, OH 45177
All those who are sick, all across the world. Those who have lost loved ones. Wilmington Yearly Meeting. Our neighborhood and our community. All people who are feeling lonely, disconnected, and stir-crazy. Those in the recovery community who cannot go to their AA, NA, or Al-Anon meetings right now. Healthcare workers, grocery store workers, and others who are at a high risk of getting sick. Our leaders in all levels of the government, that they will make wise decisions for the greatest good. All those who are feeling tired, weary, and discouraged.
Hymn- His Eye is on The Sparrow
Meditative Moment (Followed by silent worship)
Wilmington Yearly Meeting Revised Queries #1– What steps am I taking to be sensitive and obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit?
The story that we traditionally read on Palm Sunday—where Jesus enters Jerusalem atop a donkey while His followers throw Him a makeshift parade—can be found in all four gospels. And like most stories that occur in all four gospels, each of the gospel writers tell the story a little differently. Matthew takes painstaking measures to ensure that the event is described as following the Old Testament prophecy to a T—carefully explaining how each part of the story correlates directly to a piece of scripture. Luke throws in an anecdote where a Pharisee attempts to shame Jesus’s followers for being so loud and raucous, and Jesus makes the Kingly declaration that if the Pharisee tries to shush the people, then even the stones will cry out. John blames the parade and Jesus’s popularity on the raising of Lazarus, and insinuates that the Pharisees want Jesus dead because of that particular miracle. And Mark—well, Mark provides readers with a whole lot of information about the donkey that Jesus rides in on. Like, a lot of information. In Mark 11, this story is only nine sentences long, and six of them are about the donkey. In these sentences, we learn where the disciples can find the donkey, how the donkey had previously never been ridden, what the disciples should say if they get caught taking the donkey, how Jesus plans to return the donkey once He is done with it, and how the disciples provide their cloaks to serve as a saddle for the donkey before Jesus gets on to ride it. There are so many details about the donkey, that it almost takes a person by surprise—especially seeing as how Mark is the gospel writer who is known for being short, sweet, and to the point. And I think that there might be something to that.
Donkeys, you see, are not actually stubborn animals, like we so often say that they are. They are simply cautious and thoughtful. Horses and other equine relatives of the donkey tend to be very submissive to humans. They will obey, and do things that they don’t want to do, or that are not in their best interest—simply because their handler told them to. Donkeys, however, will assess a situation before jumping into it. They will consider the options, and if the action doesn’t make sense, they just won’t do it. Donkeys—like people—take self-preservation very seriously. So seriously in fact, that experienced donkey handlers say that the key to having any sort of success with donkeys is trust. If a donkey trusts their handler, and trusts that their handler will not do them any harm, then they will perform a task. But this trust can take a very long time to build. Donkey handlers must prove themselves to their donkeys in order for the relationship to work.
I know that some of you grew up around farm animals or still have farm animals, so forgive me if you already knew that. But having that information about donkey behavior –or at least being reminded of it—adds to the story. That donkey had never been ridden before. So, it was not familiar with the task being set out before it. Not to mention that there was no real reason for the donkey to want to perform such a task. There was no benefit for the donkey to do it. Nor were there any grounds for persuasion. Like I said, a donkey will only be persuaded if it trusts its handler, and this donkey had never had Jesus as its handler before. There was no relationship built up between the two. And yet, the donkey chose to take Jesus into Jerusalem anyway. So, its safe to assume that the donkey must have decided to trust Jesus, despite the fact that it had no real reason to.
This year for Lent, one of the things that I decided to do was read through the book of Job. Lent isn’t a Quaker thing, so if you aren’t familiar with what it is—Lent is a 46 day church season that is supposed to prepare us for Easter. Before we can experience resurrection joy, there must be death, so Lent is about dying to one’s self. Its about choosing God. Its about living in the tension between what the world currently is and what it will be someday. Lent is about embracing the discomfort and being willing to be lost for a little while as we work on saying goodbye to things in our lives that come between us and our Creator. So, Job—a book about suffering and not understanding why—seemed perfect for the occasion.
About halfway through Lent, I started to regret my decision. If you’ve never read through Job before, its not an entertaining read. Job has these three friends who basically take turns throughout the book telling Job that he’s a terrible sinner and that all of his misfortune is completely his fault. Job will argue back, and then they will start back in again with heaping criticism onto Job. Its repetitive, and after a while, it gets super boring.
But on Friday morning, I finally got close to the end, and I was reminded of why I picked Job to read during Lent. In the last few chapters—after chapters and chapters of Job and his friends arguing back and forth—God decides to speak. One might think that God would use His monologue to explain why Job has experienced such great suffering, or why suffering happens in general. That’s what the entire book of Job has been about, after all—why do bad things happen, especially to bad people? But that’s not what God says. He says: Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! He says: Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, so that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it? And: Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young lions, when they crouch in their dens, or lie in wait in their covert? Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God, and wander about for lack of food? At first read, it might sound like a cruel or withholding way for God to respond to Job, or even an arrogant one. But really, at the root of what God is saying over the course of His monologue is: Trust me. Trust me, even when things seem dark. Trust me, even when nothing makes sense. Trust me, even when you feel like you have no reason to trust me. Trust that I have you in the palm of my hand. Trust that I am with you, even in the suffering. Its a good Lenten message. But I think its a good pandemic Palm Sunday message, too.
We are several weeks into living with a pandemic breathing down our necks now, and things aren’t getting any easier. The panic buying seems to have dropped off—so most of us have been able to buy groceries and toilet paper now—but other difficulties are arising. We are still working our way up the epidemic curve, so more people are getting sick and dying daily. Some people are not doing well with the loneliness and monotony of being stuck at home, all day, every day. Many of my friends have young children—and God bless them—they sound like they are going insane. Being cooped up with rambunctious kids who just want to go about their normal routines but can’t, is no walk in the park. Folks are getting laid off—in some cases permanently—as businesses realize that “getting back to normal” isn’t going to happen as soon as they had hoped. High school seniors aren’t going to get to have their graduations, or their proms. People in the recovery communities are struggling without getting to physically go to their meetings every week. There is lots of anxiety about virus prevention and healthcare, and what to do if you are sick. Easter is going to be really weird next week without physically having church, and I have to admit that I had a moment this week where I just really started grieving about the fact that church might look like blog posts and phone calls for longer than I initially thought it would. I really miss all of you, a lot. So in other words, this is the Lent-iest Lent ever, and it kind of feels like we are stuck deep down in the tunnel somewhere, and there is no light to be found.
But as Christians, we know that tunnels without light do not actually exist. Easter isn’t here yet, but I think we all know the Easter story, so I’m not spoiling it for anyone by saying this—we worship a God who was murdered, and then rose from the dead. There is always hope. There is always light. There is always life. But there’s that pesky time of death, and of hanging out in the grave first. And the only way to get through that part is to have trust.
Trust changes everything, Friends. Its not a cure-all. It doesn’t magically make things better. But having trust in God gives us choices. And those choices help to keep us buoyant. Like our Palm Sunday donkey, we can either have trust in Jesus and choose to do something useful for the sake of the Kingdom with the time that we are given—to follow our calling—or to press our feet into the ground and do whatever seems less risky instead. We can choose to overwhelm ourselves with panic about things that we have no control over, or we can trust that God is with us in our fear, and hand it over to Him. We can fret about the fact that we might be waiting it out in our homes longer than we had expected, or we can trust that God will give us the strength that we need to make it through, and take things one day at a time. We can allow disappointment to permeate our lives, or we can trust that each day is a gift from God, and that we will find something wonderful and beautiful that will excite us again. We can make ourselves crazy over concerns of getting sick, or we can take the best precautions that we can, and simply trust that God will be with us, even if we get the coronavirus. We can’t trust that things will work out exactly the way that we want them to. We can’t trust that we will receive perfect explanations for the darkness and for suffering. We can’t trust that we won’t have moments where it all seems too hard. But we can trust that the God who created this world, who has never forsaken or abandoned us, and who loves us more than anything—even to the point at dying at our own hands and still choosing us—is trustworthy. If a simple donkey can see that, then certainly we can.
Trust takes practice. Like many things in life, trust does not come easily. Especially in a crisis. I have had a bit of a wild ride in own life when it comes to trusting God, and even though I have been knocked on my butt a few times and reminded that there are some things in life that are too big for me, I still struggle with trust. As a helper and a fixer, my first instinct is always to try do it myself—and fail rather hard at it—rather than to give it to God and trust that He will do what He sees fit to do. Maybe you’re like me in this way. Or maybe trusting in God just sounds plain nuts when the world is in such a state that it is in. Or, maybe you’re doing pretty darn good with trust right now. Wherever you’re at, I’d like to invite you to actively practice trust with me this Holy Week.
Make time to pray each day. I don’t care when, where, or for how long. Just pray. Talk to God about what’s on your mind. Hand your cares over to Him. Surrender your fears. He can take them on. Try to be attentive to God, and listen for what He might have to say to you. God is always at work—always calling us to work alongside Him in the restoration of this world. He might be calling you to a specific task in this moment. Practice trust by hearing Him out, and by trusting Him enough to say yes. Before jumping into a decision, or deciding that you are going to fix something your way, pause. Is your way the best way? Or should you be doing it God’s way instead? When you find yourself falling into a light-less tunnel—into a place of despair and uncertainty—cry out to Jesus. Trust that He will sit with you as you sort things out, and that His presence will provide comfort to you through the process. Read your Bible or a devotional. Psalms or Philippians might be a good place to start. Sing a favorite hymn. Listen to praise music. Whatever you need to do to make trusting God a habit in your life, do it. Do it for as long as you need to.
Trust in God is what is going to help sustain us, Friends, for however long that this goes on. May we look upon the loving, kind face of Jesus and see a God who even a donkey can trust—a God who laid the foundations of the earth and who has faithfully been with us ever since—and draw strength from that.
Hymn- Open the Eyes of My Heart
Ada Chapel Prayer
Father, we thank thee for the night; and for the blessed morning light. For rest and food, and loving care; and all that makes the world so fair. Help us do the things we should; to be to others kind and good. In all we do, and all we say; to grow more loving every day. Amen.