April 16, 2021

Dear Prairie Avenue Family,

Another Easter Sunday (2 of 7) has passed, and it was blessed with the baptism of Patrick Wayne Butterick at the 9:30 am service. We rejoiced in one who has expressed his intention and belief in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as Lord and God in human flesh.

As I write this e-note this morning, it has been 24 hours since my 2nd Moderna COVID-19 shot. Other than a little pain in my arm, no other side effects present. If our most fervent desire is to gather safely and consistently, we must be vaccinated. Thankfully, anyone over the age of 16 may now receive one, as supplies are well within demand. Despite recent news stories involving some poor reactions and health conditions being investigated relating to the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, as well as production errors, these are the exception, not the rule. Hence, they are the "top news story" of our ever-distracted 24/7 news cycles. There is no news in so many getting vaccinated without complications or mild side effects. Planes safely land every day; it is the crash that gets attention.

While we have seen yet another rise in cases and hospitalizations, as well as several new variants of COVID-19 be discovered in the county, I believe that these disheartening and concerning trends will begin to fade later this month, and as mentioned in this e-note, we can begin to see our regular scheduled programming and groups resume their work and activity.

The weather for Saturday's Adopt-A-Street clean-up project has drifted from isolated showers to a chance. We plan to go ahead short of steady buckets of rain falling at 10 am. I look forward to seeing you help pick up the debris that weeks of winter weather have left behind!

Worship This Weekend:
Witness: Living in a Postresurrection World
Got Fish?

One of the central message of the Christian faith that is most often overlooked is that Christ is present in and through all things, which means that everything is sacred and every moment is holy. From Easter (April 4) to Pentecost (May 23), we will explore the good news that Christ is risen--not just physically from the grave some two thousand years ago but in every aspect of our lives and world--and how to live in awe of the mundane moments of our ordinary lives.

This weekend we once again encounter the risen Jesus among his disbelieving/believing disciples. Our scene is just after two followers traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus encounter him as a fellow traveler who seems uninformed about the latest news: the death and strange women's tales of resurrection just this morning. Then their uninformed fellow traveler revealed the scriptures of Moses and the prophets with how all of these events were part of God's plan of redemption. When they invited him to stay with them, for it seemed he was going to continue his journey, Jesus (still unrecognized) shared a meal and was suddenly recognized. Then Jesus vanished.

Upon rushing back to Jerusalem at night (with no streetlamps), the group trying to gather all of these bizarre stories now encounters Jesus among them in their discussion. Yet again he invites them to examine and touch. In Luke 24 verse 41 there is the best summation of the disciples' emotional and mental health: while in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.

The risen Jesus wants to eat.

Spirits and ghosts don't eat. This act of eating with a resurrected body, still bearing scars and wounds, yet able to touch and examine. Encountering the risen Jesus on the first evening of Easter eating among his disciples likely confronts yet another conspiracy: appearing to suffer, appearing to die, appearing to live again.

Our reading marks a turning point. Once again, as he revealed the scriptures to the followers on the way to Emmaus, so he reveals again the scriptures to the gathered disbelieving and still wondering disciples. Yet neither time Luke shares with us the specific passages, just the types of writings: for Emmaus, it was Moses and all the prophets; for Jerusalem evening group, it was Moses, the prophets, and the psalms (the only time psalms is mentioned as equal in the New Testament).

We tend to pay attention to a conversation when we have eaten with someone. It is much harder to ignore someone's thoughts, ideas, or opinions after sharing a meal with them. Around a table, we see each other not as ideologies or enemies, but as humans. Around the table, we share radical hospitality and grace. Around a table, we are quals, partaking of the same food and the same drink. And after rising from the table, we are more likely to be open and inclusive of those whom we might not have been so willing to accept before we sat down and supped together.

Table talk changes things. I think it is good that Luke never included what specific scriptures Jesus referred to in his table talk that evening. We would be more than tempted to focus on those specifics rather than the greater story: the Bible reveals God to offer radical hospitality, repentance, and forgiveness of sins. We don't need to be so worried about our scholarship of scriptures (although it is helpful!). Maybe the best witness to the resurrected Christ is an open, inviting table rather than scripture quotes. Maybe the best news is received when we share our silverware rather than our opinions.

Worship Leaders Needed
Our in-person services need worship leaders to assist in speaking the call to worship, invocation prayer, and the call to worship for each of our services: Saturday at 5 pm or Sundays at 8 am or 9:30 am. These materials are prepared each week by Tuesday afternoon, so you do not have to create your own! You can sign up a particular Sunday of the month, a particular time, or which service you already (or will eventually) attend in person. Contact Barb Hodges at 217-620-3268 if you would like to sign up or have questions.

Parking Lot Attendants / Greeters Needed
We need smiling faces and joyful hearts in greeting and security. I need two parking lot attendants to greet our guests and assist them with their entrance. Once service begins, these parking lot attendants will secure all entrances to the building, locking the doors, closing the garage about 15 minutes into the worship services. I would like to have attendants for each service -Saturdays at 5 pm and Sundays at 8 am & 9:30 am. Contact the church office (217-428-3327) if you are interested in helping assist in guest/welcome services.

Music Ensembles To Resume Wednesday, May 5, 7 pm
As we look towards in-person hospitality and activity, we need additional assistants at each of our worship services. I would like to have a music ensemble for each worship service: Saturdays at 5 pm and Sunday mornings at 8 am and 9:30 am. These groups are tentatively called Meadowlands 1, 2, & 3. You will lead the congregation in singing the hymns and leading our expanding list of familiar praise songs and choruses. While the ability to read music is helpful, and holding a musical pitch (no matter what size bucket) is expected, all those willing and able are welcome to join these small ensembles.

Adopt-A-Street Clean Up TOMORROW, Saturday, April 17, 10 am
Prairie Avenue is responsible for regular pick-ups of the boulevards and parkways of East Main & East Prairie (about three blocks) as part of the city's Adopt-A-Street program. While some yard maintenance has happened in the last couple of weeks, some raking and debris removal is needed around the landscape of our yard. If you can assist in the clean-up of our yards, please come and help next Saturday. The Clokey Park Neighborhood Association will be cleaning East Main & East Prairie next Saturday as well.

Livestream Updates
I would like to thank Patrick Butterick and Allison Sutman for being the Audio-Visual technicians of our broadcasting ministries these last couple of weeks. We have been training them, and we still wait to get our slide presentations incorporated to be controlled from the balcony along with the cameras and sound equipment. Some finishing work will be completed when the last of our equipment arrives and is set up.

See you this weekend online or in person,

Blessings to you all,
As a church family, we care for and pray for one another.

As a matter of online privacy, we will only disclose public sympathy to a church friend or family member whose passing has also been publicly disclosed.

If you would like prayer, please submit your prayer request online, and Pastor Jason and prayer team members will pray for you.
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