Third Sunday Lord’s Table – February 2018

IMG_20180217_111532Third Sunday – February 2018

Our latest installment of the Third Sunday Lord’s Table was held on February 18th during our worship service.  The theme of this month’s celebration was, ‘…when I was a stranger’ and was based on portions of Matthew 25.   We celebrate our Lord’s Table every third Sunday with an eye towards reminding all that the Sacrament of Communion is in truth a call to action, a call to engage in some of the most pressing social issues and sources of injustice of the day.  In an era of great uncertainty regarding our commitment as a nation to continue to ‘welcome the stranger’ into our midst this theme was chosen to highlight those concerns and to encourage those participating to reflect and take a position regarding what our Lord is calling for in this radical call to truly welcome them all into the family and fellowship of our Lord.

The morning’s altar was truly one of our Lord’s tables. It was intended to be a simple yet powerful symbol reminiscent of some of the hot-button issues surrounding the immigration debate currently being waged in Congress.  A symbol of the ways in which, and the energy with which we seek to separate ourselves off from others…comprised of a small table surrounded by a high fence which even concealed the very bread and wine of the sacrament which Christians are called to share…as though only those on the ‘inside’ of the fence might be allowed to partake.  However it was also a sign of hope in that the table was covered with word-signs of welcome and inclusion that were used to mask over previously posted signs of unwelcome and division.

The ‘fenced’ or ‘walled off’ table’ set for the morning worship was holy because our Lord made it so, and because our Lord is always present in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the one cup…and also so on this day because in order to partake of the sacrament it was necessary to lift both of the elements up and out of the space in which they were held captive.  In this sacrament a call was issued to all present to take a stand on welcoming the stranger amongst us.  In particular, an appeal was made to never again objectively label those in our country without proper documentation as ‘illegals’ or ‘aliens’ as these terms are nothing other than nasty pejoratives and are not loving or welcoming by any stretch.

Rather, the congregation was asked, when referring to those without proper documentation…those still waiting on line as all of our ancestors once did…to refer to them as ‘undocumented’ if they must, although it would be far better to see them as just the latest wave of immigrants waiting to make our country stronger and more diverse, waiting to make our country into an even closer reflection of the multi-faceted image of God in which all of humankind was created…

For more insight refer to The Pastor’s Pen post for February 18th. 

Below is the ‘Order of Communion’

An Order for the Lord’s Supper

When I was a stranger

(Note: ‘Leader’ in regular print, ‘All’ please respond with print that is in bold)

Opening Words

Friends: This is the joyful feast offered for all the children of God! And though our table itself is unconventional, we come to celebrate the goodness and blessings you shower upon us just as we accept your call to truly become engaged as a people who welcome the stranger in our midst…who see them, embrace them, and advocate for them as the brothers and sisters in Christ they truly are…

People will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God.

 

Lord may it be increasingly so that our ministry of love and compassion in your name reaches more and more of your people in need as our awareness of, and engagement with all that would continue to divide and separate us as your family, begins to break down barriers of fear and prejudice so that truly all will feel free to come from the east and the west, and from the north and the south.

This morning’s altar truly is one of our Lord’s tables. It is a simple yet powerful symbol of the ways in which, and the energy with which we seek to separate ourselves off from others…it is a small table surrounded by a high fence which even conceals the very bread and wine we are called to share one with another…as though only those on the inside of the fence might partake.  However it is also a sign of hope in that the table has been covered with words of welcome and inclusion that have been used to mask over previously posted words of unwelcome and division.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus invites all those who trust in him to come and share the feast which he has prepared for us to receive from this now open and welcoming table.  Our Lord invites all, without exception, and beckons us as well towards ever greater openness, awareness, and compassion…for the freedom Jesus calls us to has been offered to every single one of his children…

According to Luke, when our risen Lord was at table with his disciples, he took bread, and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  And in that moment their eyes were opened and they recognized him.

The ‘fenced off and previously divisive table’ set before us this morning is holy because our Lord has made it so and because our Lord is always present in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the one cup.

Let us reverence this meal shared together in love, may it bless our bodies just as it moves us to greater compassion to care for, to lift up, and to insist that all of our actions become more directed towards reverencing the holiness and right of all people to drink from the cup of salvation in the full fellowship of one loving and welcoming community. May the grace of God’s persistent love find its way into the inner spaces of our hearts just as it calls us to greater trust in the one who came that we all might truly be set free.

And, as we receive it in turn, may our eyes be opened as well to the great need for compassion and understanding towards the strangers in our midst…that they might be welcomed into the rich blessing of fellowship that we share. Amen

 

Welcoming the Stranger

(a litany inspired by Deuteronomy 10:19)

One: God, help us welcome those who have come to dwell among us.

For all those who have come fleeing oppression and persecution – black, white, brown and yellow:

All: God, help us welcome those who have come to dwell among us.

One: For those who have come fleeing hardship and hunger:

All: God, help us welcome those who have come to dwell among us.

One: For those who have come to join loved ones already here:

All: God, help us welcome those who have come to dwell among us.

One: For those who have come seeking freedom and opportunity:

All: God, help us welcome those who have come to dwell among us.

One: Let us remember the words of Christ, who said, “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

All: When, Lord, were you a stranger that we welcomed among us?

One: “Truly, as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me”

All: When we welcomed the stranger, we welcomed you, Christ Jesus, in our midst!

One: Loving God, you call us to create hospitable communities.

Help us to overcome any fear and anxiety we may have of those

who come from other lands to live among us.

All: Give us the courage and wisdom

to create compassionate and just immigration policies.

Grant that we may all live together in peace and love.

Amen.

~ Adapted from Interfaith Worker Justice, “Immigration Litany,”www.iwj.org/pdf/imm-litany.pdf)  Posted on Acts of Faith. http://actsoffaith.org/resources/downloads/Year_A/09%20Immigration_final.pdf

The Thanksgiving

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them up to the Lord

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God

It is right to give God our thanks and praise

 

Prayer

It is right, it is good, it is joyful to be able to give thanks to you, oh our God of mystery and miracle.  When there was only darkness, you made light. When we cried out to you from captivity, you claimed us to be your own.  When we forgot our love for you, you did not forget us, but sent your prophets to turn us around. Over and over again you renewed your promises…with a bow in the sky, the parting of the sea, bread from heaven and your own beloved Son.  And so we praise you, turning our voices to the songs of the angels, joining all those who sing in heaven and on earth saying:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory, Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest.

 

(All please come forward and stand in a circle around the communion ‘table’)

 

The Lord Jesus, on the night of his arrest, took bread, and after giving thanks to God, broke it and said: “This is my body, which is for you; do this, remembering me.”

In the same way, he took the cup after supper, and said, “This cup is the new covenant sealed in my blood.  Whenever you drink it, do this, remembering me.”  Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord, until he comes.

(Distribution of the bread- all wait to be served before partaking)

 

Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Everyone who comes to me will never be hungry; all who believe in me will never thirst.” (Partake of the bread)

(Distribution of the cup-all wait to be served before partaking)

 

Jesus said: I am the vine, you are the branches. Cut off from me you can do nothing.  This then is the cup of our salvation. (Partake of the cup)

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Amen

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