Third Sunday Lord’s Table – May 2018

milada-vigerova-45368-unsplashAn Order for the Lord’s Supper

need-poverty’…or ‘want-poverty’?

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

 

Opening Words

Friends: This is the joyful feast offered to all the children of our God! And though our table itself is unconventional and probably raises a few questions, we approach it in order to celebrate the goodness and grace with which our Lord has blessed each one of us.  And as we do, we affirm that we will seek to accept the call to truly engage as a people who find it in their hearts to turn to the Lord as we turn away from riches and wealth in order to answer the gospel call to be truly one with the poor.  Oh Lord, give us the grace to see and to hear these souls in the byways and shadows of their residence amongst us, to listen for their honest and heartfelt cries and to act with determination, compassion and conviction, going to them and seeking there the unity of life that all God’s children must pursue as the brothers and sisters in Christ we 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 or separate us as your family begins to break down the inequity that exists between the uppermost levels of economic security and those with little to no means at all.  Give us courage and willingness to walk along this path of deep inner searching and perhaps even sacrifice as we allow your Spirit to guide us into solidarity as one people in witness against a world now filled with grave inequity and injustice.  Help us to be servants of love in searching out ways to go and to dwell in a place of needful dependence upon you…a place of true sharing and harmonious relationship…the place you yourself were not ashamed to call your home.  Help us to be a light that shines brightly and with hope in a world darkened with the plight of those most poor among us and throughout your good earth.

This morning’s altar truly is one of our Lord’s tables. It is meant to be a symbol of the cries that go unheard by most, even as they go straight to the heart of our GodThe hands reaching up from below, hoping against hope that even the crumbs that fall from the tables of the well-heeled and secure might drop near enough for them to grasp onto.  The placards, copies of those carried now around our nation in the Poor People’s Campaign marches and rallies remind us that this is a fight that cannot be engaged unless and until all those who call themselves followers of our Lord Jesus decide to speak as one voice and to act as one family.  This table of ‘need-poverty’ is meant to bother us and in fact to make us extremely uncomfortable in all that it represents.

It is meant to shock us into the realization that we are in fact a part of the problem just by not acknowledging that our own comfort and security comes from a blessing that was given to us in order that we might share it with those in need, that by our commanded love all might dwell in the safety and fullness of our Lord’s promised and sufficient provision.

And it is from this table that we will receive the bread and wine of our sacrament this day…a table of desperate need and often silenced or ignored cries for something, anything that might relieve the gnaw of hunger, the horrors of depression or desperation, or the pangs of thirst for the life-giving water we have so been entrusted to give and to share.  It is truly a table meant to challenge and discomfort…a table that most will probably look at only as long as they must…for the call it issues to each one of us is a call away from life as we know it…a call that echoes the words of Jesus in John Chapter 3 when he said, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’. 

This is the table to which our Lord desires we come today, that we might commit our lives to seeing and then traveling to that place of unity and harmony that can only be found in the purposefully lived-out ‘kindom’ of our Lord.  Oh Lord and our God, help us to be a light that refuses to hide in the darkness of ‘want-poverty’ and instead takes steps by your Spirit’s power and grace to bring low the mountains of the rich and powerful even as doing so raises up the valleys of those most poor among us, that all may dwell together on the level plain of your blessed community…indeed a place where all are free to come from the east and the west, and from the north and south.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus invites all those who trust in him to come and share this meal which he has prepared for us to receive even from this table of a ‘plea for life’.  Our Lord invites all, without exception, and beckons us as well towards ever greater awareness and willingness to be vessels of love in response to the Spirit’s every request…for the freedom Jesus offers waits upon our willingness here…

 

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 table of ‘need-poverty’ here before us this morning is holy because our Lord has made it so through our recognition of the faithful challenge it offers up before us…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 and clarity of discernment in all the ways we are led to become one with our every brother and sister in need, even and especially in ways not thought of before and perhaps not welcome as yet.  Give us the sensitivity, the wisdom, and the willingness of heart to let go of past understanding whenever your Spirit insists that only new wine skins can be filled with new wine

 

 And, as we receive this meal may our eyes be opened as well to the great need for love that knows no bounds when it comes to sharing our all, that everyone may know of your love and grace.  And in doing so, may we all come to know the freedom that can only come from trusting in your steadfast love and your cup that runneth over with grace. Amen

 

Sharing a story…The Gold-Crowned Jesus

Leader: ‘We are, as a people, not poor, not humble and certainly not meek. We are more often as Americans and specifically as American Christians, arrogant, manipulating and if we are dirty, our dirtiness lies in the fact that in comparison to much of the world, we are filthy rich.’

These are hard words and difficult to hear but if you have the ears to hear and the eyes to see, listen carefully as we read the following excerpt from Asian Faces of Jesus, edited by R.S. Sugertharharjah. The passage comes from Chapter 10, “Jesus and People” (Minjung) by Byung Mu Ahn and is a summary of a play written by Chi Ha Kim, a Korean poet.  The scene plays out in front of a Catholic church, where a statue of Jesus made out of cement is to be found. On his head he is wearing a golden crown. Below the statue there are beggars lying around. The time is early morning on a cold winter’s day…

As time passes, first a potbellied priest and then a fat man, looking like the boss of a company, walk by. The beggars ask for alms again and again but are refused with contempt and scorn. Eventually a policeman is seen on the scene. Far from wanting to help the beggars he immediately tries to drive them out of the place and demands a fine from them in return for his efforts.  After all of them are gone, one of the beggars starts to lament:

 

All – Left: ‘I have neither home nor grave to rest from all the exhaustion. I am abandoned in an endless cold, in a bottomless darkness. I cannot endure it any longer; this miserable time… it is unbearable, really unbearable. But where shall I go, where can I leave for, where, where’?

 

Leader:  As he so laments to himself in despair, his eyes filled with tears meet the cement statue of Jesus. For a moment a vague expectation flickers in his mind. Yet pulling himself together he – with a critical glance at the statue – grumbles in his mind:

 

All – Left:  ‘This Jesus might well be a savior to those who have enough to eat, who have a home and a family. But what has he to do with a beggar like me?’ And then he says in a loud voice: ‘Hey! How on earth can Jesus speak without a mouth? Can a lump of cement speak? Even if he were alive, he couldn’t open his cemented mouth. So what kind of relationship could there be with that lump of cement and me? – Hey, listen! They choose cement or concrete or bronze or gold to have a statue of Jesus made, so solid as to last for a 1,000 or 10,000 years.’

 

Leader:  Crying out loudly the beggar, overwhelmed with grief, begins to weep. Right at that moment he feels something wet, like small drops of rain falling on his head. Is it raining? No!  When he looks up he finds the cement Jesus weeping and dropping tears. The tears are falling right on him.

All – Left:  ‘How strange a thing! Really, there are tears dropping down from his eyes. I could never have imagined a thing like this. Could it be that this cement is made of some strange material?’ (Please turn page over)

Leader:  He watches Jesus intently, and only then does he realize that Jesus is wearing a golden crown. He begins to touch and feel the crown with his hands. Having found that it is real gold, the idea crosses his mind that if he sold the crown, he would have enough to eat and something to live on. Following an irresistible impulse he grasps the crown and takes it off.  At that very moment he hears a voice:

All – Right:  “Take it, please! For too long a time I have been imprisoned in this cement. Feeling choked in this dark and lonely prison of cement. I wish to talk with poor people like you and share your suffering. How eagerly I’ve been waiting for this day to come – the day of my liberation when I could once again flare up like a candle and bring light to your misery. Eventually you have come and made me open my mouth. It is you who saved me.’

 

Leader:  These are the words spoken by the gold crowned Jesus.

 

All – Left:  ‘Who is it that put Jesus in prison?’

 

Leader:  the startled and frightened beggar asks.

 

All – Left:  ‘Who were they?’

 

Leader:  The Jesus made of cement answers:

 

All – Right:  ‘People like the Pharisees did it, because they wanted to separate him from the poor in order to possess him exclusively’.

 

Leader:  Then the beggar asks:

 

All – Left:  ‘Lord, what is it that has to be done for you to be released, for you to live again and stay with us?’

 

Leader: Jesus answers:

 

All – Right:  “It is impossible to do so by my own strength. If people like you; the poor, the miserable, the persecuted but kind-hearted people are not going to liberate me, I will never become free again. Only kindhearted people will be able to do it. You opened my mouth! Right at that moment when you took the crown off my head, my mouth opened. It is you who liberated me! Now come to me, come very close! Like you made me open my mouth, you may now make my body become free. Remove the cement from my body. And remove the golden crown too. For my head, a crown of thorns will be just enough. I do not need gold. You need it much more. Take the gold and share it with your friends.”

 

Leader:  But at that very moment the pot-bellied priest, the fat boss of the company and the policemen reappear on the scene.  Immediately they snatch the crown from the beggar’s hands and put it back on the head of the Jesus statue. The beggar is arrested by the policemen and, charged with larceny, he is taken to the police station. And the Jesus, made of cement, returns to his former state – a blank, expressionless statue…dumb…nothing more than a lump of cement.  Perhaps Christianity in general has become so ineffective because we have petrified Jesus with our worship of authority, entertainment and plush structures full of glittering technology.

All – Left and Right:  ‘Perhaps we need to look for the poor, the miserable, and the outsiders to take the crown off of our own cement Jesus.’…amen

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

 

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

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