Lent 40 (Holy Saturday)

Let us be together
in the silence
of memories

. . .

I remember
the pleasure of his company
around a table with friends
bread crust crumbling
in our fingers

. . .

There was the day
I was sinking, overwhelmed
by the storm, but there he was —
as if catching me was
no big deal

. . .

We walked miles with him,
remember? God, how we walked!
The villages and the hills and the temples
and of course all those people all the time —
and Peter’s constant complaining, ha!

. . .

The last time I saw him
he was walking away from us
and he didn’t look back. He knew
what we couldn’t know. How I wish
that he had looked back.

Monday Muse: The Ten Commandments on World Communion Sunday

Come to the mountain.
Come to the table.
Come to life.

In a pillar of raging fire,
in a gift of holy precepts,
God is with you.
And also with you.
In a brother, in a stranger,
in a sister, in an enemy,
God is with you.
And also with you.

Give praise to God, who alone is holy.
It is right and good that there should be nothing above God, nothing in place of God.
Be full of joy in God, who alone is your worldview.
It is right and good that there should be nothing that limits our understanding of God’s presence in all the world: not race or gender, not creed or nationality, not family or class, not language or politics.

Most Holy God, just as you called stars and galaxies into being to glorify you, just as you taught them to sing and dance in ethereal choreography around you, so too you call us to center ourselves around you, to sing in our rest and dance in our work in such a way that you are glorified.

Most Holy Spirit, just as you swept across the wilderness and drew people toward your holy mountain, even now you stir among us with the invitation to gather at your table. And as we come to these holy places, you command us to be reconciled to one another and reconciled to you. Before you, no idols can stand. Before you, we dare not harm one another by word or deed.

Most Holy Christ, by the mystery of your flesh and blood, the fullness of life was demonstrated for our weary spirits in this broken world. By the manner of your living, you broke the divisions that define us. By the misery of your death, you overflowed with God’s lament for the world. By the miracle of your resurrection, you witnessed to the sufficiency of love. At the table today, we eat this bread and drink this cup in solidarity with your breaking, with your lamenting, with your loving.

By God’s grace and for Christ’s sake,
come to the table, for all is ready.
With humility before God and with love for all people, we come: setting down our idols and distractions, setting down our grievances and jealousies, setting down our working and our raging against the world, picking up a spirit of peace and fellowship and openness. We come to be with Christ. We come to be as Christ.

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.

Lent 3: The Dust’s Redemption

still looking for redemption in the dust

still sorting through these ashes for meaning

like spreading out puzzle pieces on a table or

kneeling down to draw on the ground,

tracing lines in the dirt that extend

back to the dust promised to Abraham,

who sat down and tried to count each particle

when God said his offspring would be so numerous

and here I am: a dusty offspring, grateful if mystified

that dust and ashes matter to the almighty God,

that a clump of dirt can be breathed into life;

I wonder if the scatteredness I feel

is the memory of my dust

recalling its fellowship with all dust

when we were spread out on the ground together

being pushed and shoved and counted

by the finger of Abraham;

if there is meaning in these ashes

perhaps it can be found not only in the Breath

but also in the camaraderie of dust to dust

and ashes to ashes.

Let us walk in the light

Here is my light.
Limited though it is,
I hold it up against the night.
Perhaps you will see it
and you will breathe in relief
to experience a needed warmth and
a lessening of shadows along your way.
Perhaps this little glow of mine
will encourage you
to show your own radiance:
each candle sharing its flame with another,
multiplying light in defiance of those
who prefer to live hidden
in deceit’s darkness
rather than braving to dance
with the shadows that play alongside
a community illuminated.
Here is my light:
a votive that flickers and bobs
in the invisible breeze.
If you add your smooth pillar candle
and if another friend calls out a star by name
and perhaps if a child shares a Buzz Lightyear nightlight
(plus we’ll count the streetlights for good measure),
then together we might really be something:
our fellowship
could be the ray of dawn
that interrupts this deep night.
And you with your candle and she with a star
and the little ones with their nightlights
and I with my modest votive
will be content
to live together in the dawn
while we wait for the fullness of Day
to arrive and to chase away all of the shadows
and lingering phantoms of night.
There in the presence of the fire that is called Day
our lights will be consumed
and we will see each other’s faces
truly for the first time
without mystery or suspicion.
Let the Day come! Let the Day come!
Wait and watch with me for the brightest Day
to burst upon us. Wait and watch with me.
Come and create dawn with me,
with our lights together
against the night.