Yesterday in church we put away the Alleluias in a box and covered it with a purple cloth – our version of a medieval ritual carried out by the Church at the beginning of Lent (and other penitential seasons).
The individual Alleluias (printed on paper) which we collected up from the congregation will become one big Alleluia on Easter Sunday in the form of a printed banner.
Putting the Alleluia “away” for Lent is like putting away a favourite toy for a while …or a favourite books or pastime. We put it away so that we might appreciate it better later.
After we had done this (and before the young people left for Sunday School) we stopped just for a moment to remember the people of Japan. This is what I said, and the prayer that followed:
“I am sure many of us watched the unfolding story on TV… and viewed the pictures with horror and sadness. We have seen just how quickly ordinary lives can be turned upside down. We cannot begin to comprehend the scale of the devastation or the suffering. Disasters like this take our breath away… they leave us speechless before God. And silence is the only appropriate response.
So let’s take a moment of quiet to remember Japan and all its people… ordinary people like you and me who were at work …or in school… caring for their families… just living their lives when the earthquake and Tsunami struck.
God of all compassion… our hearts and bodies shake with the earth … and with all who dwell upon it.
We cry to you for help… for lives… roads… homes… and livelihoods lost… and coastal regions washed away in Japan.
We cry to you for help …for all who wait in fear today… for those hoping to be rescued… for those living near the nuclear power plants… for those on other coasts and islands on an ocean that betrays its name.
We cry to you for help…for all those who are in pain… for those who have died and the loved ones who mourn… for those who have survived and must find the strength to rebuild their shattered lives and communities.
God of all compassion… hear our cry …and have mercy on them… on us… and on all who wait for help to come.
We cry to you for help in the name of Jesus… who stilled the wind and waves … and who comforts the frightened and the lost… Amen.
(prayer adapted from this one from The Text this Week site)