Christian Education

Training Disciples Spring 2023 Week 2

Training Disciples

Spring series: Death, Grief, and Hope

May 3, 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: Jesus Loves Me, Alleluia
Jesus loves me, this I know, 
for the bible tells me so.
Little ones to him belong; 
they are weak, but he is strong, alleluia.

Alleluia, allelu; alleluia, alleluia
Alleluia, allelu; alleluia, allelu, alleluia

Jesus loves me, he who died,
Heaven’s gates will open wide.
He will wash away my sin,
let his little child come in, alleluia. (Refrain)

Jesus loves me when I’m good,
when I do the things I should.
Jesus loves me when I’m bad,
though it makes him very sad, alleluia. (Refrain)

Jesus loves me; he will stay
close beside me all the way.
He’s prepared a home for me
and someday his face I’ll see, alleluia. (Refrain)

Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14
1 The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you and will cause flesh to come upon you and cover you with skin and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

So I prophesied as I had been commanded, and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them, but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.

11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves and bring you up from your graves, O my people, and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the Lord when I open your graves and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.”

Question for reflection: What hopes feel “cut off” or lost for you right now? How can you pray for God to open the grave of that hope?

Reading: Romans 8:35-39
35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will affliction or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword? 36 As it is written, 

“For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”37 No, in all these things we are more than victorious through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Question for reflection: When in your life have you felt distant or separated from God? What was it that felt like it got in the way? 

Revisit that moment and reimagine it in your mind, knowing that God was holding you close in love the whole time.

Reading: Revelation 7:9-17
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne and to the Lamb!”

11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you are the one who knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

15 For this reason they are before the throne of God and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16 They will hunger no more and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them,  nor any scorching heat, 17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,  and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Question for reflection: Take a moment to imagine yourself in this scene, standing before the throne of God with all this multitude, dressed in white robes, palm branches in your hands. Look around and take note of the people around you – whose faces do you see standing beside you? 

 Hold these dear ones close in your heart and lift up a prayer of thanks to God for having given them to you to love. And with their faces in your mind, savor again these words:
“…the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat, for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

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: How Great Thou Art
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
consider all the works thy hand hath made,
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
thy pow’r throughout the universe displayed;

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee,
how great thou art! How great thou art! (x2)

When through the woods and forest glades I wander,
I hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
and hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze; (Refrain)

But when I think that God, his Son not sparing,
sent him to die, I scarce can take it in,
that on the cross, my burden gladly bearing
he bled and died to take away my sin; (Refrain)

When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!
Then I shall bow in humble adoration
and there proclaim, “My God, how great thou art!” (Refrain)

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

All may share signs of peace as they depart.

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