8 Ways to Worship During Holy Week, Easter, and the Coronavirus

By Joe LaGuardia

This is a first in history: Celebrating the Risen Savior via a digital Easter. I know its campy, but just consider that the tomb couldn’t hold Jesus, and a virus can’t hold him either!

Nor can a virus hinder God’s people from worship. Upon entering Jerusalem so long ago, Jesus said that if his followers can’t worship him, then the rocks will cry out (Lk. 19:40). So let us cry out to the Lord for deliverance, salvation, and revival.

Here are eight ways to worship this Holy Week:

Pray: Utilize family-friendly prayer strategies to help your family remember the meaning of Holy Week. Pray around the table; read devotionals together; do communion as a family. Take ownership of your spiritual life, and pray with gusto!

Give: Giving is an act of worship, but it is also beneficial to the bottom line. The recently-passed CARES Act created a temporary above-the-line charitable tax deduction for cash donations of $300 per individual or $600 for joint filers if you do not itemize. If you do itemize, the cap on deductions taken for annual contributions has been lifted from 60% to 100% of AGI for cash gifts to charities in 2020. Excess can be carried forward for up to five years. I know this is all legalese, but we feel it important to inform you of how this new legislation benefits all you and our church.

Crochet a baby blanket or facemask: Our Womens’ Ministry continues to deliver baby blankets to the maternity ward at our local hospital, which amounts to over 1,200 blankets a year.  Some started making face masks for local doctors’ offices.

Read the Gospel Story: In this time of closures, its never been a better time to read your Bible. Read one of the Gospels all the way through this week. This will help you “live the life of Jesus” as you venture from his birth to his death and resurrection.

Watch online content from other churches, not just your own:  This is a good opportunity for you to check out how other churches do worship and how other preachers preach.  I know that I’ve been taking advantage of worshiping with other communities during this time!  Its been a smorgasbord of preaching!  Start by checking out our homepage at First Baptist Church of Vero Beach!  We are releasing our mid-week Bible study on Jonah 2 today, which features Jonah’s song of God’s deliverance. On Good Friday, our children’s ministry is releasing a video slideshow for the Stations of the Cross!

Rent a faith-based movie: Faith-based movies are prevalent these days, and you can rent or stream the latest movies that inspire and bolster faith.  A general search at RedBox revealed that “Overcomer” is available, as well as the feel-good, “Its a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” Mr. Rogers’ movie starring Tom Hanks.

Bake: Bake bread and share it as a form of communion with others. Cupcakes, pies, and special cuisines also work. Our son has been baking (or frying?) home-made doughnuts these days. They’ve been a “sweet” escape from the coronavirus doldrums.

Give your testimony: We are praying about some new video content for our website, and we’d like to make a short video highlighting ways that God has provided for our church! Anyone can use Facebook or Youtube live.  Record your testimony, and share it with the world!

What ideas do you have to make Holy Week a sacred one? Let us know!

Awaken to the World

By Matt Sapp

During Lent at Central Baptist Church (the six weeks between Ash Wednesday and Easter) we’re focusing on the humanity of Jesus and the ways that Christ’s teaching “awakens” us to what it means to be fully human.

This spring as we remember that God has a hand in all of creation as it awakens from its winter slumber, we’re praying each week that God will awaken us, too–and in these five ways.

Awakening to Scripture
Last Sunday we looked at two potential responses when faced with temptation. One approach to temptation is to buttress yourself with the word of God. Jesus literally quoted scripture to turn back temptation (Matt 4). Adam and Eve, though, were easily convinced that God’s word wasn’t true—or that it didn’t apply to them—when they rather easily gave in to temptation (Genesis 3).

Let me challenge you to use Lent this year as a time of awakening to scripture—as a time to reflect on the role the word of God plays in your life. How familiar are you with scripture? How often do you read the Bible? What habits can you develop to help you both embody and believe the word of God?

Awakening to Curiosity
This week in worship we’ll explore the value of honest questioning and of acknowledging intellectual uncertainty as we look at the story of Nicodemus (John 3). It’s okay to have questions for God. It’s even okay to have real, lasting uncertainty about the full nature of our faith.

Let me challenge you to use Lent this year as a time of awakening to curiosity—and as a time to enter into conversations with God and with one another about real questions that may not have easy answers—or ANY answers—but that allow us to explore our faith more fully.

Awakening to Guiding Narratives
We all carry unconscious stories that guide our thinking about our lives—internal narratives that we tell ourselves about who we are. Many of us have mostly good internal narratives. Some of us can be pretty hard on ourselves. But no matter what your internal narrative is, the story that God would tell about you is far greater than the stories you are telling about yourself.

We’ll explore this idea as we talk about the Samaritan woman at the well in a few weeks (John 4). Let me challenge you to use Lent this year as a time of awakening to the internal narratives that guide your understanding of who you are.

Awakening to New Vision
The thing about blind spots is we don’t know we have them until someone else calls it to our attention. When Jesus heals a man who was born blind (John 9) the whole community—and especially the Pharisees—were forced to acknowledge blind spots in their thinking.

You may have some blind spots, too. Blind spots in your relationships. Blind spots in your behavior. Blind spots to things you don’t know or properly understand.

When we acknowledge our blind spots, we have the chance to gain new vision. Let me challenge you to use this Lent as a time of awakening to your blind spots and as an opportunity to increase your vision.

Awakening to God as a New Creator
On Palm Sunday (Matthew 21), the crowds were cheering the arrival of a king. And Jesus IS a king. But Christ is not the kind of king the crowds were expecting.  Jesus is not someone who comes simply to upgrade the talent on our team. Christ is not the All-Star who swoops in to help us win the big game. He’s not just a good guy here to help us defeat the bad guys.

When Christ comes, he comes to introduce us to a whole new game, governed by a whole new set of rules, and aiming for a whole different set of outcomes. If we’re looking for someone to step into our game and play by our rules and become our champion, then we have a grave misconception about what God is doing in Jesus Christ.

God is coming to create something completely new! Our job is to understand the new rules, to play the new game, and to get on God’s team—rather than expecting Christ to join our team.  Let me challenge you to use this Lent as a time of awakening to the full scope of what God is aiming to accomplish in Jesus Christ.

And, one more challenge: Be in church as often as you’re able between now and Easter. These weeks of preparation really are worth it. They help us wake up to all that Easter means for our lives and for our world.

The Reverend Matt Sapp is pastor of Central Baptist Church, Newnan, Georgia. This article was reprinted with the author’s permission.

Don’t Get Ahead of Christ!

Image result for walking with JesusBy Joe LaGuardia

We are but a few weeks away from Holy Week.  It is around this time that I am reminded of “watersheds” in the gospels, those little verses in which Jesus turns from local ministry in the northern country and begins his journey to the cross.

Sometimes a watershed verse is simple, such as the one in Luke 9:51, “And he set his face towards Jerusalem.”  Other times, it is a little more nuanced, such as Mark 10:32, “Jesus and his disciples were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus walked ahead of them; they were amazed and they were afraid.”

I appreciate Mark’s watershed for several reasons.  For one, Jesus walks ahead of his disciples.  He always goes before us, marking our way.  He leads us and guides us, and we are to follow him.  No one is ahead of him, and those who try to get ahead of him do so at their peril.

Jesus is adamant about going to the cross too; he knows that whatever needs to live must die first.  Even in the midst of death and darkness, Jesus goes before us– “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me!” (Ps. 23:4).

If you are anxious or uncertain, if you feel lost or can’t find your way, you may want to stop and pray.  Ask God, “Where am I getting ahead of you?  Where have I failed to follow you?  Where have I gotten off-course?”

Backtrack your steps, and remember that the deeper you go into sin, the more laborious getting out of it when you reverse your course.

Second, those who follow Jesus have mixed emotions.  Some disciples were amazed; others were fearful.  When we walk with Jesus we will be amazed; but fear is not absent–especially if we are unsure of Christ’s way.

It is scary to walk with Christ–it requires vulnerability and risk.  Sometimes he goes places where we do not want to go; of course, when we follow him, we are never alone!

The writing of F. W. Faber, cited by Arthur J. Gossip in the Interpreter’s Bible on the Gospel of John, hits the nail on the head and beautifully summarizes this lesson,

We must wait for God, long, meekly, in the wind and wet, in the thunder and lightning, in the cold and the dark.  Wait, and He will come.  he never comes to those that do not wait.  he does not go their road.  When He comes, go with Him, but go slowly, fall a little behind; when He quickens His pace, be sure of it, before you quicken yours.  But when He slackens, slacken at once: and do not be slow only, but silent, very silent, for He is God.

Be sure to follow Jesus today.  Don’t get ahead of him…or yourself!  It may just be a watershed in your own life.