It’s English-language service at the Latvian church today. It was a modest group of parishioners, about 25 or so, probably fewer than that. Macitajs Lazdinš began the service by requesting particular prayers for Venezuela, where he grew up, that the rioting could stop and the government listen to the people. He asked for us to pray for peace in the U.S. because of the polarization of political thought bringing out the worst in many of us. And, finally, he asked for the peace and safety of Latvia, one of the Baltic states. They aren’t large enough to fend for themselves against the possibility of Russian hooliganism.
The hymns we sang were Christ is Alive! Let Christians Sing (processional); Now the Green Blade Rises (sermon); What Feast of Love (communion); Thine is the Glory (recessional).
The prayers of intercession included the Church of Christ as a whole and our congregation in particular. We asked to be brought together in mission and able to speak His word clearly for the benefit of others. We included the Earth with its forests, gardens, vineyards, newly planted crops so that no one should be hungry; and clean water and clement weather for all. We prayed for the nations, that all be led by wise leaders for the good of all peoples, that fear and violence be abolished forever. We asked help for the grieving and those with hidden wounds, as well as healing the sick. Finally, we prayed for those who are looking for peace and comfort to enter a Godly church and be welcomed within.
During Communion we first received individual blessings from Macitajs followed by the bread and flesh of His body and ending with the wine and blood of His body.
My wife, Susan, read the scripture passages Acts 2:14a, 22-32 and 1 Peter 1:3-9. The sermon scripture was read by Macitajs. It was John 20:19-31.
The sermon centered on the disciples hiding in their room, behind locked doors after the crucifixion of Jesus. They were afraid of the Jewish leaders and what might happen to them if they were discovered. After all, Jesus was captured and crucified. Were they next? Despite the words of Mary stating Jesus had risen from the dead and Peter and John seeing the empty tomb, they still felt lost and afraid without their friend. Jesus then appeared to them as from nowhere and sat and talked to them. Thomas, the doubter, wasn’t there that day and refused to believe Jesus had visited them. He said unless he saw the holes in His hands and the tear in His side he would not believe (just as the rest of them did not believe, or were at least confused, when Mary said she saw Him or when they saw the empty tomb). When Jesus met up with Thomas the following week, He explained that those of us who have never seen the risen Christ but believe in Him are justly blessed. I believe in Jesus and I try my best to hold Him in my heart but there are times I want to see His face just to be sure. When disasters strike, such as tornadoes or floods it can be hard to see where Jesus is. It can be said that He is there among the affected when people come together to clean up the area, see to the health of the victims, and to help rebuild. When people or nations go hungry it can be said that Jesus is in those people who bring food, water and medicines to tend to the lame, poor and hungry. When any of us suffer the loss of a spouse, child, relative or dear friend, it can be said that Jesus is with the persons who gather to grieve our loss. Food is made, chores are taken care of, hands are extended to be held and prayers are uttered for the sake of the sorrowful.
But whereas we know what the right things to do are to help people, there are many times we might be afraid to reach out, especially in the name of Jesus. Just as the disciples hid in their room too frightened to unlock the door and be discovered as friends of Jesus, we also can be too afraid to ‘come out of our rooms’ and be identified as Christians. What will people say? Will it affect a promotion? What if my neighbor hates Christians? This is why Jesus urges all His followers to be in communion with each other, that we worship together, eat together, pray together and study the Bible together. He knows there is strength in numbers and we will feel more comfortable knowing we are sharing our faith together.