Monday Muse: World Communion Liturgy

World Communion Sunday (October 5th this year) is an annual ecumenical celebration in some mainline American denominations, originating from a time in history when the spirit of ecumenism in American Christianity was high and global concern was heightened by the World Wars. The event served to remind American churches of their unity around Christ’s table with Christians in neighboring churches, neighboring towns, neighboring countries, and all around the world.

Today, the celebration of World Communion Sunday has spread globally, although it is not a universal liturgical event. In past years and former ministry settings on World Communion Sunday, I’ve crafted liturgies that rejoice in the diverse unity of Christ’s Body across time zones and geographies. I’ve served naan and rice cakes, rye bread and corn muffins. I’ve poured Japanese sake and French wine. I’ve said, “In Christ, we are one!” And I’ve meant it.

In light of national and international events, however, this year I find myself wondering about the ability of the American Church — specifically the White American Church — to give witness to and authentically celebrate World Communion Sunday. If you read “Do White Christians Care Enough About Racial Justice to Make It an American Reality?” or any number of insightful critiques of the White American Church, you’re aware that the White Church isn’t exactly running toward racial justice and inclusivity with open arms. Can we proclaim truthfully on World Communion Sunday, “In Christ, we are one!” when we are unwilling to live this way?

With these wonderings in mind, I offer a confessional World Communion liturgy for the White American Church:

INVITATION

The table is set. The feast is ready.
We are here! We are ready!
Where are your sisters? Where are your brothers?
They have their own tables. Let us eat.
Our community is incomplete.
Christ will make us whole.
Christ our Lord is broken. Let us pray.

COMMUNION PRAYER

God be beyond you.
God be beyond us.
Make your hearts humble.
We are humble before God.
Let us confess to God Most High.
It is right to concede our sins to God.

You are beautiful, O Christ, in all your people and in all the world. But we have failed to affirm your beauty and presence in others, certain that we were good enough to be your Body by ourselves. We have neglected to welcome brothers and sisters at our table. We have neglected to meet you outside our church walls and social circles.

How we are missing out on the diversity of you! How we are missing out on the fullness of your love! How we are missing out on the depth of your grace in the work of listening to and understanding one another!

In the flesh of Jesus, a Middle Eastern man, a man born into poverty, a man who roamed with a gang, a man who inconvenienced the status quo with his protests against injustice, a man who welcomed the dirty and the sick and the foreign and the cast-out, in Jesus Christ you reveal to us the brokenness of your heart. In Jesus Christ, you reveal to us the brokenness of ourselves.

We are broken and torn, splintered and disjointed as we gather at your table. Our prayers of compassion lack commitment to reconciliation. Our songs of praise lack a diversity of voices. We dare not sing or pray before you, so entrenched are we in our sin. Instead we wait in silence, listening as “Holy, holy, holy” is sung by your people around the world. [silence is kept]

BLESSING OF ELEMENTS

We remember that Jesus’ closest friends did not know how to stand by him when violence and injustice threatened his life. Yet even as his allies failed him, Jesus invited them to sit at the table and to dine with him, saying: “Take, eat. This bread is my body, broken into pieces like you. Take, drink. This cup is my blood, spilled out on the earth. As often as you divide yourselves, remember me. As often as you kill one another, remember me.”

O God, by your grace, bless this naan and cornbread and pita to our bitter remembrance. Multiple this sake and wine and sparkling cider with our humble repentance. Do not withhold your Spirit from this bread and cup and each of us, but stir among us for the purpose of healing. Then while our hearts are still tender, change us to be more like your Body — beautifully diverse, willing to be pieced together in new ways alongside our sisters and brothers, until at last we bring glory to you. Amen.

Take, eat.
The bread of brokenness.

Take, drink.
The cup of reconciliation.

Sunday Prayer

Before and behind,
without and within
surround us, O God.
Stretch out your hand
to lift us up
to call us out.
Be our sanctuary
and our wilderness,
our foundation
and our trembling.

Before and behind,
without and within
overtake us, O God,
with a flood of grace.
In our worry
in our chaos,
be a mercy
and a judgment,
a proclamation
and a secret.

Before and behind,
without and within
lead us, O LORD.
Mark our ways
for love
for wonder.
Bless us to something new.
Bless us to relationships.
Free us to change.
Free us to life.

Amen.

A pastoral prayer reflecting upon the Narrative and Revised Common Lectionary readings for 9/14/2014.

70 x 7

Jesus said, “Not seven times
but seventy times seven times.

Forgive debt and
do no harm
seventy times seven times.

Love your enemy and
pray for those who rally against you
seventy times seven times.

Leave your boats,
leave your dead,
seventy times seven times.

Share bread and cup
in remembrance of me
seventy times seven times.

Give the people
something to eat
seventy times seven times.

Pray without ceasing
and be not afraid
seventy times seven times.”

on Matthew 18:22

Monday Muse: Parables for the White Church

A parable on Matthew 18:21-35. Let all who have ears listen well:

The kingdom of God may be compared to the United Nations, which called the United States to account for its systemic and unrelenting racism. In response the United States — from its politicians to its CEOs, from its prison industries to its defense industries — fell to its knees in contrition. “Have patience with us. We’re improving incrementally, we promise. Please don’t take away our global prestige or our military conquests or our easy avenues to wealth for the already-wealthy or our superiority complex.”

The United Nations relented, saying, “Thank you for being such a team player.”

Then the United States left its meeting with the UN, going directly to its citizens of color. “How dare you make us look bad in front of the UN and the world?! We almost lost our self-image as Generous American Savior. Now repay us for the cost of this near-disgrace.” But the people of color cried out: “You have already built this nation on our blood. What more can we give?”

But the United States replied, “Your protests deface our self-image, therefore we will hide you so that we do not have to see you as us: behind prison walls and stereotypes, in war zones and ill-equipped schools. And we will shield our own eyes with gated communities and open carry privileges and Euro-centric myths of beauty.”

When the UN heard this, its anger boiled over. It summoned the United States and said, “You wicked, deceitful nation! You promised compassion and justice, but you have acted out of self-interest. Now then your corporations will be sold for pennies and your laws will be overturned, to be rebuilt and rewritten by those you have tormented for so long. And you will be cast out and ridiculed, left to gnaw on your ego.”

A parable on Exodus 14:19-31. Let all who have hearts be converted:

It came to pass that the White American Church looked around itself, looked within itself, looked under pews and over steeples, and noticed that God was nowhere to be found. Stung by this absence, the White Church began looking for God.

The White Church applied its best resources to the search. It poured its endowments and its political goodwill into the effort, purchasing many curricula, holding many forums, and surveying the community.

Finally, the White church drove long and hard into the wilderness, and there at last in the distance, it saw God: glorious and awe-inspiring, pillared high as a cloud, blazing brightly as a fire. “At last, O God!” said the White Church. “We found you! What are you doing here? Did you draw us here to show us a good cause? Are you calling us to war against the infidel? Are you calling us to help the black and brown children of the world? Who can we save here in the wilderness? Is that them, on the other side of the cloud?”

The plume of God stretched high and the fire of God flickered dangerously. “You will leave these people alone. Where I taking them, you may not follow, for I will not hesitate to make your way difficult, to overtake you and flood you, to twist you about and send you running home.

“You cannot come with me unless you dare to become a refugee, unless you are prepared to wander without security for generations, unless you are willing to be hungry and thirsty, unless you would finally put your life in the hands of those you’ve cast out for generations.”

And the White Church turned back to Egypt sadly, because it would not do these things.

The Exodus 14:19-31 and Matthew 18:21-35 readings are part of the Revised Common Lectionary for this coming Sunday, September 14.

Sunday Prayer

Endless and unfathomable God,

Step by step we measure
Tear by tear we count
the heartaches
the injuries
the faults
the losses
the days, months
and years of dire straits
like the ancient Israelites in Egypt
enslaved for too many generations,
like Noah & family with pairs of animals
bobbing for forty days and nights.

We measure our weariness, our fears,
our regrets, our sacrifices,
like sand under our feet
like dust poured out on the earth
like waves pounding, pounding against us.
We count everything in the world to satisfy our anxious hearts,
yet you, O God, are That Which Cannot Be Counted
you are The Immeasurable Encompassing All.

In this space of prayer,
we dare to stop counting.
[silence]

We dare to stop measuring.
[silence]

We find ourselves in your immeasurable love.
[silence]

We locate ourselves in your eternal presence.
[silence]

We listen to your song of grace.
[silence]

Sing to us, we pray,
through seasons of conflict,
through days of struggle,
through pain, through death.
Sing to us of illogical metrics:
of floods yielding to new earth
of oppression bowing to justice
of death’s dust bursting with life.

Paint rainbows in the sky
that we might be distracted
by the beauty of your love
and convinced, at last,
to set love above all else
in our relationships with one another
and our relationship with you.

A pastoral prayer based on the lectionary readings for September 7, 2014: Revised Common Lectionary (Exodus 12:1-14 & Psalm 149 or Ezekiel 33:7-11 & Psalm 119:33-40, Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 18:15-20) and Narrative Lectionary (Genesis 6:16-22, 9:8-15). Another version of this prayer is posted at RevGalBlogPals