Your Brother Will Rise: Gathering of the Good Shepherd Community with Rev. Judith Lee, RCWP, 4/2/22
On Saturday afternoon, April 2, 2022, twenty-two members and friends of the Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community in Fort Myers, Florida gathered to worship together and enjoy the family of God as they moved toward Easter joy. Our diverse and enthusiastic group ranged from those in their 20’s to our 93 year old senior member, several cultures and all genders and races and colors of the rainbow. As I looked at them I thought “oh, the beautiful face of Christ.”.
In the picture above, Pastor Judy Lee carries our Cross for the Altar table outside the homes of six members who live in the Goodwill Community for the physically disabled in East Fort Myers where we have met several times during the Covid 19 pandemic. Our Church Elder, Mr. Harry Lee Peter Gary (top left) opens his home for our setting up and our faithful member Pearl Cudjoe (top right) makes sure we have a meal for each one attending for our Fellowship Time after Church. Donna Girasi and Kathy Roddy and Stella Odie Ali (not pictured here) also brought wonderful food and desert for our meal time. Also in the picture are Donna Girasi (seated left) who read the Hebrew Scripture and Brenda Cummings (seated right) who read our New Testament Scripture. Next to her is our beloved Ellen McNally who always brings a table full of donated items for perusal after the service. Ellen, who is in her nineties has been doing this since we began our ministry of worship and a meal as Church in the Park in 2007. Mr. Gary and Brenda and Pearl have been with us faithfully since that time as well. Next to Ellen were Kathy Overby and Kathy Lauwagie, our snowbirds from Minnesota. We were so pleased to have them with us. This was a very hot day and all understood as we let them know that in the coming hot and rainy season we would no longer be able to meet outside. As one member said, God will provide a suitable worship space for another time.
We began by singing This is the Day Our God Has Made and asking God through song to Revive Us Again. To bring us back to full life.
Our worship theme this Fifth Sunday of Lent (using the Year A readings with the rising of Lazarus as the Gospel) was praying and interceding for our loved ones and assisting them to live. And, embracing resurrection, including our own rising up from the dead. With our care for others we, and they too, may rise from what keeps us from the fullness of life, now and forever-to rise from the dead. We also had special intentions for the people of the Ukraine and for peace there and everywhere, and for our member Joe Baker, who is currently hospitalized in ICU.
Our Readings were: Ezekiel 37:12-14 where God promises: “I will raise you from your graves, put my breath in you and you shall live.” ; Psalm 130 with the Response ” With You are kindness and plenteous redemption”; Romans 8:8-11 where we learn that the Spirit of Christ lives within us (and so we are empowered to serve one another); and the Gospel: John 11:1-45 where we see Jesus loving his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, and Mary and Martha pleading for their brother who dies, and Jesus weeps with the sisters and friends before raising Lazarus from the dead.
The homily by Pastor Judy was a mixture of interactive style and preaching. Members felt free to dialogue with Pastor Judy as she preached and to talk with one another on the themes. This interaction underlined the theme of our job of interceding for and helping one another even as Mary and Martha interceded for their brother. They were extremely upset and simply would not let Jesus go until he did something even after their brother died. The two things Jesus did, crying with them and then actually raising Lazarus from the dead demonstrates what we as a faith community can do for one another and for all who need intervention. When action is not easy we can simply be with one another in our pain. That in itself is a great gift that helps. We reflected together on those we pray for and those we help with our actions and with our prayers. When we feel that we cannot do something to help our loved ones, we can pray, and that too is doing something. As Mary and Martha plead with Jesus to help- and he did, we too can bring the needs of those we care about before our loving God. God, of course already knows the needs of our loved ones, but it is good for us to try to meet those needs and if we cannot to pray, even to plead, to let God know about the pain of our brothers and sisters. Mr. Gary made the point that Jesus asked the family members to take the funeral clothes off of Lazarus. He reflected on how we sometimes put grave clothes on others rather than take them off. He prayed that we may learn to watch what we say and do that puts funeral clothes on others. That we may learn not to judge others but to help them live.
We took time here to call out names of those in need of prayers in our immediate circles and throughout the world. While we will pray together again as we do our general intercessions, right now we can pray, we can always pray. Part of our work for and with others in Christian service, prayer is work as well. And here I reflect that the prayers of our people never fail to move me, and I know they move our loving God as well.
We reflected on the lives of two of our members who make sure that others are helped. We remembered our Grandma Jolinda Harmon who now intercedes for us from heaven, who would always seek prayer and help for those she loved especially if she felt that help was beyond her. And just this week Angie Glover worried about her neighbor, our brother Joe Baker who lives right where we are meeting. She bothered the landlord until they went in and found him in bed in a pool of blood. He was immediately sent to the hospital where he remains in ICU. We prayed for Joe and we thanked Sister Angie for getting him the help he needed and for then visiting him and following up on his care. We talked about the self centeredness that sometimes keeps us from seeing or responding to the needs of our neighbors and loved ones. We asked God’s help to overcome inherent selfishness this Lenten season. We prayed to become God centered and other centered more than self centered. We saw that helping others helps us to rise up and live and prayed to be able to do this so that we too may rise again.
Our prayers included in specific and in general the need to stop violence in our communities and in the world. We centered on the Ukraine but also added many other places in the world including our own community. We sang Thank You God during Holy Communion. And we thanked Jesus for the sacrifice of His life, His body and Blood for us, noting that now we receive His body and blood and we become the Body Of Christ, serving one another. We sang What A Friend we have in Jesus, and affirmed that once again we have Decided to Follow Jesus.
We affirmed that though the road for us , like Lazarus, will lead to death, through Christ there will be and is Rising Again. We thanked God that Easter is coming!
After church we continued our fellowship with a meal and with celebrating our March- April Birthdays including Joelle White,15, and Timothy Vanderwarf,48. We were so thankful that our church family had another chance to meet and worship, and to enjoy such good companionship on the road to Easter.
Below are some of our members enjoying fellowship and a meal.
Thanks Be to God!
Love and Blessings, Easter is coming! Rise Up and Live!
Pastor Judy Lee, Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP