What Is the “Heart of the Matter”? Worshipping Online in the Easter Season

April 7th, 2020
This article is featured in the Sustaining Worship issue of Ministry During The Pandemic

This is an extraordinary time for humanity. Many of us never imagined we would be doing ministry in these types of ways, trying to stay connected while isolated. Things are changing and unfolding to such an extent that we don’t know how to imagine the next few weeks. In my role of supporting churches in their worship, I began to look through worship series I had prepared over the years for the Easter season. Would there be anything that could address these unprecedented times?

Well, of course, there was—the heart of Easter itself! The Easter season message of resurrection in the midst of death seems to be at the essence of what it is to be on this human journey. Certainly not all times are as intense or poignant as this one seems to be, but over time and history, we have seen this story play out again and again. Here is the synopsis from Easter in the series “Heart of the Matter” that I developed six years ago that has now found a new form for online worship:

“After the events of Holy Week, the disciples are devastated. They are in the midst of full-blown grief and disbelief. Into the heart of that grief came a stunning revelationlife had overcome death. Love had won out over violence. God’s faithfulness would build them up once again—will bind them together. Is this possible in our lives? Today’s worship will say, Yes, it can! Come and see! Live and Love! This is the heart of the matter!”

It may feel odd to be moving into the season of Easter, a season of celebration, in the midst of these difficult times. Perhaps it is an opportunity to challenge ourselves to feel deeply what it means that, at the heart of our Christian faith, we are called to live our lives in the belief that death is not the final word. This is why Christians are called “Easter People.” The tomb becomes the womb of new life. We cannot wait for everything to be all right to proclaim our Easter faith of resurrection hope. And so we, like so many Christians under duress since those first disciples, are invited to worship our everlasting God and do what we can to help people continue to worship wherever they are.

“Heart of the Matter” moves through the weeks from Easter to Pentecost. Thank God Easter is an entire season, not just a day. We will need these words of ongoing comfort and hope. This fully scripted series invites people to gather around a meal, drawing inspiration from the early church as described in the Acts of the Apostles:

“Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.”

The “temple” we create is the one in our hearts across the distance. The worship invites us to break bread and break open the Word, our lives, and our hearts in readings, discussion, and prayer. It invites folks to praise God with an invitation to a post-dinner opportunity to “dance it out” and then discern and plan for post-worship service to others, “having the goodwill of all the people” in our hearts and actions. The materials include many intergenerational ways to participate.

A wonderful book that could serve as a small group study alongside this worship series is Tom Berlin’s Reckless Love. Tom’s book amplifies the message of worship by showing that learning to love our neighbor as Jesus taught will lead us to loving God more deeply (“reckless” has never been so imaginative and transforming!). Dig into this study to learn how to “BE LOVE” and to initiate loving acts born out of our difficult times, such as distancing and seeking ways to support one another.

I am honored to be in ministry alongside you. My prayers, and my heart, are with you.

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Download free materials at: www.worshipdesignstudio.com/easter2020

Get Reckless Love materials, including leader guide and video lessons, from Cokesbury at: Reckless Love

For additional helps from Marcia McFee in planning and presenting online worship, visit her video teaching sessions at:

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