Hello & Goodbye

A spiritual exercise of discernment

Mary and Martha went through the experience of their brother, Lazarus, becoming ill and then dying. It was traumatic and difficult. As they were beginning to adjust to the "new normal" of the loss of their brother, Jesus - who has been mysteriously absent - suddenly arrives in the midst of their mourning. Their reaction is, naturally, "If you had been here...."

Find the story of the death and raising of Lazarus here.

During a time of pandemic, it is just as natural for us to ask the same question - to wonder: Where is God in all this? We are invited to turn back to that same story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Let your attention be drawn to Mary. At the beginning of the story, the narrator mentions that she had been the one who anointed Jesus' feet and wiped them with her hair. What is amazing about this is that in the overall narrative, this has not happened yet (find that story here). It happens later, and yet the narrator tells us about it now.

I think this calls us to a moment of reflection about how life changed for that family. To be sure, after the illness had passed, and after they had been reunited beyond death, their lives returned to a kind of normal. Yet, as the second half of the story tells us, their lives were fundamentally changed in profound and good ways - the kinds of ways that led Mary to find costly, expensive perfume and to praise and worship Jesus with it. They had a brand new normal. Their experience, and Jesus' mysterious absence and presence cause them to review their lives. They found things to say, "Hello" to and things to say, "Goodbye" to.

Take a moment and think about what your experience of Stay-At-Home, and the mysterious absence/presence of Jesus are calling you to say hello to and goodbye to. What have you learned in this difficult time that has been life-giving in spite of the difficulty? What have you discovered that you love that had been missing ? What costly perfume do you want to take with you to the other half of this story? What has been holding you back from abundant life? What is cluttering your life that keeps you from joy and a truly good life?

A printable version of the image above is available here. You may print it out and use it for your reflection. If you are unable to print, try drawing your own version. Then, begin your reflection by inviting God to be present and guide you in the process; then, take notes, color it in, or however you wish to reflect on what you are being called to say hello to and goodbye to. After you have finished, prayerfully rest with your thoughts in the presence of our loving God; and plan with God how to move into a new day in healthy, life-changing, and life giving ways -ways that will bring joyful celebration to the second half of our story.

Questions or comments? Email us

A special thanks to the Center for Parish Development for providing this resource.

Counting Our Loaves and Fishes

In all four Gospel accounts there is a story of Jesus feeding the multitudes. In every case, the disciples are worried that what they have is useless in the face of the problem - in their case, feeding the thousands of people with the small lunch that they have - five loves and two fish.

Our situation can also feel overwhelmed by the problems we face. We too might look at what we have and question whether or not it is enough to address the problems that we face. Like the disciples in those stories, this is an opportunity for us to take inventory of what we have. We too may be surprised by the miracle of what can happen with "so little" when it is handed over to Jesus. The reflection below provides such an opportunity for us.

Remembering and reflecting on our strengths.

There is a Google Form version of this reflection that you can use. It will walk through the questions and give you an opportunity to share your thoughts as the end of the reflection invites us to consider. You can click here to access that form.

A special thanks to the Center for Parish Development for providing this resource.

Take a moment to find a place to relax. You may wish to light a candle ('let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven') or incense ('let my prayer rise before you as incense'). Other religious symbols may be useful in helping you to center yourself in this moment: a bowl of water (baptism), or some salt (you are the salt of the earth') for example. If you do not intend to use the form, you may wish to have a journal or a piece of paper to keep your reflections.

Then, ask God to be with you as you reflect and pray - Ask the Spirit to guide your thoughts and imagination, so that this exercise might be of greater benefit than anything we could do on our own power.

Rest in God's loving presence and then begin.

1. Remembering your experience at your church, when were you most alive, most motivated and excited about your involvement? What made it exciting? Who else was involved? When did you feel most connected to God and to one another? What happened? What was your part?

2. Describe what you felt. What do you value most about the church? What activities or ingredients or ways of life are most important? What are the best features of this church?

3. Reflect on our current experience of this pandemic: what has been taken? What has not been taken? What have we / are we being given? Now turning to our shared stories, how do they offer perspective for what we face today? How do they impact how we think about the future?

4. How will you share your stories and thoughts with others in your church community?

Remain in God's gracious presence for a moment longer. Then you may wish to pray the Lord's Prayer.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen

Peace be with you.

Prayer Requests

We have a way of submitting prayer requests online now. You may click on the image or here to be sent to the form. Alternatively, you can also just email us.