Christian Education

Training Disciples Spring 2023 Week 1

Training Disciples

Spring series: Death, Grief, and Hope

April 26, 2023

For this contemplative service of readings and reflections, you may wish to have writing materials on hand to jot down your reflections.

Opening Litany
Loving God, you are the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. You are Lord of all the seasons; the earth’s cycles of death and rebirth are in your hand.
Be here among us as we pray.

You make new life to spring up after the long cold of winter. At your touch, the slumbering earth breaks forth and blooms with flowers and fruit.
Be with us in all the seasons of our hearts.

Your unfailing love sustains us through the shadows of the longest nights. Bring hope into the wintry places of our hearts. And just as green shoots rise up from dark soil in spring, renew our hope in life that rises after the winter of death and separation.
Be here among us as we pray. Let our hearts be green once more with the hope of new life in Christ. Amen.

Gathering song: Come to the Water
You said you’d come and share all my sorrows.
You said you’d be there for all my tomorrows.I came so close to sending you away, 
But just like you promised, you came here to stay.
I just had to pray.

And Jesus said, “Come to the water, stand by my side.
I know you are thirsty, you won’t be deni-i-ied.
I felt every tear drop when in darkness you cri-i-ied.
And I strove to remind you that for those tears I died.”

Your goodness so great I can’t understand,
And dear Lord I know that all this was planned.
I know you’re here now and always will be.
Your love burst my chains and in you I’m free.
But Jesus why me? (Chorus)

Jesus, I give you my heart and my soul.
I know without you I’d never be whole.
Savior, you’ve opened all the right doors.
I thank you and praise you from earth’s humble shores.
Take me I’m yours. (Chorus)

Reading: Isaiah 38:1-3, 9-20
1 In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord: Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord: “Remember now, O Lord, I implore you, how I have walked before you in faithfulness with a whole heart and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

A writing of King Hezekiah of Judah, after he had been sick and had recovered from his sickness:

I said: In the noontide of my days I must depart; I am consigned to the gates of Sheol for the rest of my years. 11 I said, I shall not see the Lord in the land of the living; I shall look upon mortals no more among the inhabitants of the world. 12 My dwelling is plucked up and removed from me  like a shepherd’s tent; like a weaver I have rolled up my life; he cuts me off from the loom; from day to night you bring me to an end; 13 I cry for help until morning; like a lion he breaks all my bones; from day to night you bring me to an end.

14 Like a swallow or a crane I clamor; I moan like a dove. My eyes are weary with looking upward. O Lord, I am oppressed; be my security! 15 But what can I say? For he has spoken to me, and he himself has done it. All my sleep has fled because of the bitterness of my soul.

16 O Lord, by these things people live, and in all these is the life of my spirit. Oh, restore me to health and make me live! 17 Surely it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness, but you have held back my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back. 18 For Sheol cannot thank you; death cannot praise you; those who go down to the Pit cannot hope for your faithfulness. 19 The living, the living, they thank you, as I do this day; fathers make known to children your faithfulness.20 The Lord will save me, and we will sing to stringed instruments all the days of our lives, at the house of the Lord.

Question for reflection: Who or what are you most afraid of losing in your life? Or what loss has been most painful for you? Invite God to sit with you in these feelings.

Reading: Romans 6:3-11
Do you not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, so we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Question for reflection: When you reflect on your own mortality and the reality of death, what does that do to your priorities? How does it impact your faith?

Reading: Revelation 21:1-6a
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

“See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and be their God; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.”

Question for reflection: Christians often talk about getting into heaven, but the writer of Revelation witnesses the new earth, the new Jerusalem, descending to earth. In a similar way, Jesus teaches us to pray, “thy kingdom come… on earth as it is in heaven.” The eternal life we are promised isn’t just about what happens after we die. Where do you see signs of resurrection and new life now? Where do you see Easter-like hope springing up?

O Lord, support us all the day long of this troubled life, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes and the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work is done.  Then, in your mercy, grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Closing song: Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my father;
there is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not;
as thou hast been, thou forever wilt be.

Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning, new mercies I see;
all I have needed, thy hand hath provided;
great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love. Refrain

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside. Refrain

God’s unfailing peace be with you all.
And also with you.

All may share signs of peace as they depart.

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