Homily – Palm Sunday in the Time of Pandemic – 2020

Dear Friends, once again, we are separated and we must wrap our hearts and minds around the notion that in order to keep each other safe, we must not be together! We begin tomorrow the holiest week of our Church Year–may it be a good one for you as we all continue to be “church” in new ways.  Who might you reach out to this week from the safety of your home? By telephone–email–snail mail…What group either in our local community, our country, or, our world might you share your bounty with? All of this friends, is being church.  During this time of pandemic when we can’t receive the Eucharistic bread, we are instead called to be “bread” to others in our world.  I invite your prayers for all those who have died around this good earth and for their families who grieve them as a result of this terrible virus. Please pray too for all healthcare workers that they can remain safe. Pray for leadership in our country that all that must be done to combat this enemy will be. And finally, let us pray for each other–that we will all stay safe and grow in the ways that God may be calling us,  in this time of crisis.

Peace and love to all–Pastor Kathy


Hopefully, you have the readings that I included with the mailing from this past week.  Also, after the homily, which follows next, you will find the Prayers of the Faithful and other responses for your use.


HOMILY

My friends, as we begin Holy Week, just a few thoughts. Let’s reflect a bit on the emotional side of what this day, Palm Sunday brings us.  We could spend time describing the significance of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and of how he did everything as the prophets foretold, but when all is said and done, it is really all about love—love first for the God who sent him and then love for those who awaited a Messiah.  He, of course was a different manifestation from what the people thought they needed and wanted, a King to conquer the Romans—instead of a humble man of character and a servant—this was who they needed and only later would they discover, it was who they wanted as well.

In this strange time as our world is trying to live with and conquer a silent and unseen virus that is ravaging our planet as a whole and our own country in a most significant way—we are called to be “church” in new and significant ways, different than before, but “church” just the same.

We may feel ill-equipped for this “new normal,” looking to others to lead us out of this crisis, but as Clarissa Pinkola Estes of Women Who Run with the Wolves fame has said so well, “We are exactly the leaders that we have been waiting for—we were made for these times!”

We each must do what we can.  I read this morning that Oprah Winfrey has given $10,000,000 to organizations in our country to feed those in need. Leonardo DiCaprio, among others, has joined her.  Here in Winona, many are working to keep fed and housed 8 homeless folks who are sheltering-in-place at a local motel.  And our city will need to do more as this crisis continues. Others are financially supporting these efforts through donations to Catholic Charities and the Winona Community Foundation.  Yes, we must be the leaders in absence of others.

Paul, in his beautiful treatise on Jesus to the Philippians says it simply, “His state was divine, yet he did not cling to it…but became as all people are.”  Jesus in his image as slave and servant showed us the way to go—not as this world sees greatness, but as God does. That is perhaps part of it, my friends, trying to see into the problems that others face that are not our own.  Each of us must respond to the grace of our baptisms, to the strength of the Spirit that lives within us due to our confirmations in the faith.

We saw these images, especially of “servant” throughout Lent in the form of the Good Shepherd, the Samaritan woman at the well to whom Jesus gave, ‘living water,” the man—born blind,  to whom Jesus gave much more than physical sight.  Each of us is called today to continue Jesus’ work through our hands, our eyes and our hearts.

This week will zero in on three very significant days—the Triduum—remembering first, on Holy Thursday—the institution of the Eucharist and the formal institution of the priesthood—ideally intended to be a calling to service.  Within this first day’s service Jesus demonstrates what being a servant means when he washes the feet of his apostles—not about him—but about others.  In this time of a “new normal,” we are being asked, perhaps, to humble ourselves, to “wash feet” in a new way.

The “feet washing” in a new way came to me in a very poignant story Thursday evening on the PBS Evening News.  The story shared was that of a black, woman doctor in New York.   I name the ethnicity of this doctor and her gender because both are at the heart of this story.  Amna Nawaz, interviewed this black, woman doctor as a human interest story of someone on the frontlines and what this crisis is calling forth from her.

This female doctor made it very clear that those in this country who are poor, black and brown and already compromised because of their poverty with heart disease, diabetes and the stigma of race which is built into the fabric of our society, are unfortunately put at greater risk in this pandemic.

This is something my friends, that we as a country must wrap our hearts and minds around—we can ignore it no longer!  My hope is that one good that might come from this terrible pandemic in our country would be that we, as a nation, could come to terms with the deep inequality that there is between the rich and the poor and finally, finally, do something about it!  And racism—our original sin, as someone has said of it, must be addressed as well.

Amna Nawaz finished her interview with this brave, black, woman doctor by asking her how this pandemic is affecting her own family.  This woman, in her personal life is married, has two small children and is worried, literally, about what her work could do to her family.  She said that she had a frank discussion with her husband telling him that she might not come through this and if that should happen; he must be sure to tell their children that their mother always loved them!

Good Friday, then, we must remember, is about the height and length and depth of our God’s love for us.  To be about love—to wear it as a breastplate as Christians means that as Jesus did, love is always the response to what we as humans can come up with by way of injustice, even if we must stand alone.  Jesus would not compromise this principle and he knew what the consequences were for that stance, much like the doctor who cannot leave her patients, knowing what it could do to her family.

The Easter Vigil concludes the Triduum as we remember and reflect on our salvation history—a story that delineates God’s over-the-top love for us—always directing the prophets of Old and New to keep us as a people on-track until the message of love could be given to us in perfect form—in the person of Jesus.

This, my friends is a wonderful week that we are beginning—one not to be taken lightly, one not to miss.  Let our prayer for each other be, that our God’s over-the-top loving for us, then, be something that we can give back as we respond to our world. And in that, we can all sing the Easter alleluias! Amen? Amen!


Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

Loving, Ever-Living God, you have given the human race Jesus Christ, our Savior, as a model of humility.  He fulfilled your desire by becoming human, giving his entire life as a servant, out of love, even to accepting the death of the cross.  Help us to bear witness to you by following his example of total giving and make us worthy to share in his resurrection.  We ask this in Jesus’ wonderful name, in our loving Creator and with the Spirit, one God, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen.

Let Us Pray

Prayer after Communion

Jesus, you have satisfied our hunger with this Eucharistic food.  May your life, death, and resurrection give us hope and perseverance in this life and one day bring us home to you.  We ask this in your loving name, Amen.

Again we remember that our call during this time is that WE MUST BE THE BREAD!


Prayers of the Faithful

Response:   “Merciful God, hear us.”

 

  1. Loving Jesus, as we conclude our journey through the holy season of Lent, in this time of a “new normal,” be with us, teach us to live lives of loving service and never be afraid to choose justice for all as the way to go, especially during this time of pandemic, we pray—Response: “Merciful God, hear us.”

 2.  Loving God, help us to love the poor, the downtrodden, the present-day lepers

in our midst and to see them through your loving eyes, we pray—

Response:  “Merciful God, hear us.”

  1. Loving Jesus, as we remember your sufferings this week, help us to hold them

in perspective with your resurrection, we pray—

Response:  “Merciful God, hear us.”

  1. Loving God, be with our nation’s leaders enabling them to speak the truth that is so needed during these times, we pray,

Response:  “Merciful God, hear us.”

 5.  O God, help us strive to be people of peace, not war—let our tools be justice, love,  mercy, gentleness, and understanding, we pray—

Response: “Merciful God, hear us.”

  1. For our community, All Are One, give us welcoming, open hearts that can

invite any and all people to be part of us, always taking our lead from Jesus

who prayed that all would be one, we pray—

Response: “Merciful God, hear us.”

  1. Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this

week,—especially all the families who have lost due to Covid 19, give them

your peace, and help them to find their way through their grief, we pray—

Response: “Merciful God, hear us.”

***Let us pray for your particular needs—you may say them aloud, we pray, then response

***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—pause—

we pray, then response 

Let Us Pray 

Loving God, be with us each and every day—we thank you for the blessings of this Lent.  Teach us to be true servant leaders in our world—give us courage, strength and patience, but most of all, give us love—the force strong enough that allowed you to make the wonderful choices that you made so long ago for all of us.  Teach us to graciously love those who we find most hard to love—help us to realize that each person, ourselves included, is greatly loved by you.  Be with all those suffering so terribly now due to the corona virus, those who have died and their families who are left behind. Be with all the brave and dedicated health care workers on the front lines working for all of us.  Assist our national leaders to lead our people well—let them not allow any of what they do to be about themselves, but only the good of our nation.  We ask this of you who are our Creator, Savior and the Spirit of the Living God—with us now and loving us forever and ever, Amen.


 

 

 

 

 

Bulletin – Palm Sunday

Dear Friends,

NO MASS ONCE AGAIN THIS SUNDAY!!!–additionally, there will be no masses until further notice due to the corona virus and the need to “shelter-in-place.” 


For your information–our board has agreed to send $300 to the Advocacy Center (formerly the Women’s Resource Center of Winona) because they had to cancel their Spring Gala Event due to the corona virus.  This event is a huge fund-raiser for them each year.  It has been documented that domestic violence has gone up during this time of “sheltering-in-place,” thus the need to support their efforts.


We have come to Holy Week in this “new normal” of being “church” during this time of pandemic due to the corona virus.  Each day’s news brings unbelievable almost, numbers of sick people and likewise, deaths from this silent enemy.  Except for maybe since, World War II, our nation has not been so galvanized to fight an enemy and trying to remain sane and human as we do it.

Holy Week and its message of life, death and resurrection seem a fitting meditation for our present time.  Let us bring all our worries, our faltering faith and strength to our brother Jesus in the mystery of the cross.  Let us not lose sight though of the Resurrection–let each of us do our part as we, “shelter-in-place” for the good of us all.

Peace and much love,

Pastor Kathy

P.S.  I will send out sets of readings for each of the days of the Triduum–Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and of course, Easter Sunday–watch for those too!


Readings:  

Procession with the palms:  Matthew 21: 1-11

Readings for Mass:  

  • Isaiah 50: 4-7 Psalm Response:  “My God, my God, why have you deserted me?” Psalm 22: 8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24
  • Philippians 2: 5-11
  • Passion from Matthew 26: 14–27: 66

 

5th Sunday of Lent–Materials, Homily and Prayers

Dear Friends, 

Once again, we can’t be together, but we can pray with each other at our “regular” time!  Here I have included my homily, the readings for the day and the prayers of the Mass that we would pray if we were together. 

I have asked the board and they agreed that we suspend our Masses until further notice to keep all of us safe–this pandemic is indeed calling us to new ways of being “church.” May Jesus’ Spirit be with you all. 

I am attempting to be in contact with each of you in the Winona area during this time–please know that I continue to pray for each of you and ask your prayers for me as well. If there is anything that any of you are needing and no one to ask, please know that you can ask me–truly! 

Blessings to each of you, 

Pastor Kathy


Readings for the day: 

  • Ezekiel 37: 12-14
  • Romans 8: 8-11
  • John 11: 1-45

Homily

My friends, as a newscaster, or perhaps a doctor—or both, said recently; our country has not experienced such a time since the Second World War, that has so mobilized our nation, in so many ways—from civic organizations to church groups—all are being called on to do our part—to be our best selves, caring for ourselves, our families and others.  And in many ways, it seems strange that the BEST way to care for others is to stay physically away from them!

That, of course, excludes our immediate family members.  But, because “social distancing” is in place, please don’t, “heart and mind” distance! Reach out in many and wonderful ways to family, friends, church members—maybe a neighbor you don’t talk to that much—check to see if they are OK, from a distance, of course! You might find it surprising how much a person is cheered by your call—loneliness and alone-ness are terrible burdens along with physical illness.  I made several calls to church members this week and that was the over-all feeling—one of gratitude.

The Scriptures for this 5th Sunday of Lent are filled with the commands and prompts to do that “heart and mind” reaching out that is so important these days.  Ezekiel speaks of a God who, in modern parlance, truly “has our backs.”  The psalm response from 130 today says, “With you [God] is kindness and plenteous redemption—I trust in God—my soul waits for you” [!]  Paul to the Romans reminds us that the Spirit, (if we listen) “brings justice, allowing us to move above our selfishness.”

The beautiful gospel from John relating the raising of Lazarus reminds us of the words that Jesus, our brother, heard, in going to his friend—“the one you love is sick.”  Jesus often in his earthly life had to balance his personal and public life with a focus toward the greater mission he was called to.  We see this dilemma in his decision not to go to Lazarus immediately.  We also see his agony coming out in his human response to the death of his friend—“Jesus wept.”

This pandemic brings for each of us a reality that “breaks open our hearts.”  A good reflection for each of us today and through this next week might be to ask, “What is it that breaks open your heart?”

A story that I heard this week did in fact, break my heart open:  It was of a 40 something year-old doctor in New York who contracted the coronavirus while caring for his patients and once he became ill, he died within a week!  Now what does this story tell us?  We know from reparable sources out of New York that with cases skyrocketing and not enough staff and equipment to protect them in the way that they should be, some will lose their lives.

The stories abound of those in hospital and nursing homes who can have no visitors in order that we can protect them from an enemy that can’t be seen and with no real means to stop, other than measures that keep us physically apart at a time when “closeness” would be such a comfort to so many.

So again, the palpable need that we not distance, emotionally and spiritually!

This came across the “airways” yesterday from the executive director of United Church Camps Outdoor Ministry:

“God is still here…stepping in with love…stepping in through you…your hands, your feet…your words, your actions…You! Go be love!

Our Scriptures today, especially through Jesus, my friends, tell us convincingly that our God will always be crying with us in our sadness, will always be with each of us to reach out in safe, but profound ways, to assist, through Jesus’ Spirit within us, those most vulnerable in our midst.

Within our Winona community, through the advocacy of our Interfaith Council of Churches, 8 homeless people have been given motel rooms at a local establishment to provide a dignified place for them to “shelter-in-place” as our governor has asked us to do for two weeks to stem the tide of the virus-spread.

Others in town are providing food for these individuals. If you are reading this and would like to assist in any way, please be in contact and I will tell you how.  If you are reading this outside of the Winona area, listen to what your own communities, through charitable groups are doing and assist in ways that you can.

One final thought in closing: This pandemic is teaching us many things; chief among them is how much better we can care for those in our lives who live with so little.  In better times, we can perhaps, set aside this knowledge, even ignore the problems of homelessness, the injustice of people trying to survive with less than a living wage while others have so much that they don’t know how to use it all.

But now, when an invisible enemy threatens us all—no matter our status or position, it would behoove us to balance the world’s goods.  Along with the dire statistics each day, I choose to concentrate on all the good “heart work” being done,

the generous giving, and I dream of after this pandemic is over, making the temporary housing arrangements in Winona, permanent ones.  In other places where this has been tried, getting people off our streets, the homeless have proved worthy of this second chance and done well afterward.  Any of us friends, with a little bad luck, could find ourselves on the streets. Let one of the lessons of this dire time be the “breaking open of our hearts,” to be Jesus’ true followers!  Amen? Amen!


Entrance Antiphon

Give us justice O God, and defend our cause against the wicked; rescue us from deceitful and unjust people.  You, O God are our refuge.


Let Us Pray

Opening Prayer

Loving God in heaven, the love of Jesus led him to accept the human condition, complete with life in all its goodness and the cruel death of the cross that we might glory one day in new life.  Change our selfishness into self-giving.  Help us to embrace the world you have given us, that we may transform the darkness of its pain into the life and joy of Easter.  We ask this in Jesus’ wonderful name who lives with You and the Spirit, One God, loving us forever and ever, Amen.


Let Us Pray

Prayer after Communion

Loving God, may the power of these holy gifts free us from all that keeps us from You and help us to always please You in our daily lives. We ask this through Jesus, our brother and friend, Amen.

(Being that we can’t these days receive communion physically, I invite you to remember that our God in Jesus is ALWAYS with us!)


Prayers of the Faithful

Response:   “Compassionate Jesus, hear us.”

  1. Loving God, as we continue our journey through the holy season of

Lent, give us eyes to see, ears to hear and the strength to do your

work of love in our world, especially now during this pandemic,

we pray—Response:  “Compassionate Jesus, hear us.”

 2. Loving God, help us to love those that society has cast aside,

we pray—Response:  “Compassionate Jesus, hear us.”

  1. Loving God, help us to remember this Lent how much you love us

and help us to love you and your people in return,  we pray—

Response:  “Compassionate Jesus, hear us.”

4Loving God, be with your people through us, who most need you

today, we pray—Response:  “Compassionate Jesus, hear us.”

  1. O God, help us strive to be people of peace, not war—let our

tools be justice, love, mercy, gentleness, and understanding,

we pray—Response: “Compassionate Jesus, hear us.”

  1. For our community, All Are One, give us welcoming, open hearts

that can invite any and all people to be part of us, always taking our

lead from Jesus who prayed that all would be one, we pray—

Response: “Compassionate Jesus, hear us.”

  1. Loving Jesus, be with all families who have lost loved ones this week,—give them your peace, and help them to find their way through their grief, we pray—Response: “Compassionate Jesus, hear us.”

***Let us pray for your particular needs—you may say them aloud, we pray, then response

***Let us pray for the silent petitions on our hearts—pause—we pray,

then response


Let Us Pray

Good and merciful God, you are our light and our love.  You have written your promises of love on our hearts—help us to remember and never forget your covenant with us and enable us to do our part in loving response.  As Lent draws to a close soon, continue to lead us in your path helping us to realize that our hour is upon us too—that now is the time to be your people and act as we say we believe.  Help us to remember that we are your hands, eyes, ears and heart for our world—help us to be generous with your love. All this we ask of you, in Jesus’ loving name and with the Spirit— one God, living and loving us forever and ever, Amen.


 

Bulletin – 5th Sunday of Lent

Dear Friends,

NO MASS AGAIN THIS SUNDAY!!! –Watch for future announcements concerning next week and beyond!


We continue in this time of a “new normal,” discerning each day, what that in fact, means, as many of us struggle to find the ways to reach out to others when we are being instructed to stay home.

This time calls for great reserves of strength, of faith–that is, believing in what we can’t always see, prayer–a lifting up of our hearts and minds to the God we recognize.  Let us continue to be a community, my friends, in new ways.

Peace and love,

Pastor Kathy


Readings: 

  • Ezekiel 37: 12-14
  • Romans 8: 8-11
  • John 11: 1-45

 

Sharing – March 24, 2020

Dear Friends,

We all need to have some inspiration these days–the following poem was shared with me this morning and I wanted to send it your way too! Be safe and well–Pastor Kathy

Pandemic
—Lynn Ungar 3/11/20
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
(Lynn Ungar is a Unitarian Minister in San Francisco)