Third Sunday Lord’s Table – April 2018

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Third Sunday – April 2018

Our latest installment of the Third Sunday Lord’s Table was held on April 15th during our worship service.  The theme chosen for this month’s celebration was, ‘…thief in the night…opioid addiction’ and sought to deal with this terrible epidemic impacting our homes, neighborhoods, and communities all across America.   We celebrate our Lord’s Table every third Sunday with an eye to revealing the truth that the Sacrament of our Lord’s Supper is at its very heart a call to action, a call to engage in some of the most pressing social issues and sources of injustice in our culture and society.  And in an era of increasing death and destruction caused by misuse of prescription and non-prescription drugs alike we felt that the time to turn and look the other way or to hide behind the misguided notion that, ‘It can’t happen to me or my family’ is over and the time for God-loving individuals of all faiths to step up and become engaged in battling back and seeking the salvation of our every brother and sister mired in the throes of addiction has come.

This theme was chosen to highlight this concern and to encourage those participating in our celebration to reflect and take a strong position regarding what our Lord is calling for in this radical call to truly open and expose ourselves to the fact that our brothers and sisters are dying all around us and unless and until good people step up and insist on change across the whole spectrum of the problem and related causes, that it will continue to ravage and destroy.  This is no easy task and not an especially safe road to travel, however it is a road we must take as believers in our God of love and compassion.

The morning’s altar was truly one of our Lord’s tables. It was intended to be a powerful and in fact deeply disturbing symbol of the way in which opiate addiction so often ends in death and destruction…wrenching apart families and loved ones as it mercilessly steals away those closest to us.  A simple pine coffin, the table was meant to bother us and in fact to make us extremely uncomfortable in all that it means.  It was meant to shock us into the realization that so often opiate addiction ends tragically and in the greatest of despair.  It also represents the point at which hope is often lost and guilt or self-blame begins to set in as those left behind wonder what else they might have done…or ‘if only they had…’

It is from this pine-box-coffin table that we called upon our Lord to bless and from which we received the sacrament.  And though it was painful and awkward to do so, for that moment we all were immersed in the true depth of the problem…along with the redeeming power of love that needs to carry forth in all our words and our deeds as we seek to engage and defeat this curse for which so many are responsible from the manufacturers on down to the distributors and even to the current deep malaise that infects the hearts of so many in our society languishing in despair for reasons far beyond their control.  For more insight of the day’s thoughts and concern please refer to the April 15th post of ‘The Pastor’s Pen’.

 

An Order for the Lord’s Supper

…thief in the night…opioid addiction

(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 and probably highly disturbing, we come to celebrate the goodness and grace with which you have blessed each one of us just as we accept the difficult and much needed call to truly become engaged as a people who intervene with love each time we see a brother or sister in distress due to the ravages of addiction, and of addiction to opiates in particular.  Give us the grace to see and to hear them, to listen for their cry and to act with determination, compassion and conviction, seeking release and healing from this scourge and lifting them up 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, separate, or injure us as your family begins to break cycles of addiction and dependence within our homes and the homes of our neighbors. Give us courage and willingness to walk along this path of deep darkness in seeking to find your lost and suffering children.  Help us be servants of love in searching out, finding, and leading these broken ones to your healing grace.  Help us to be a light that shines even in the black night of addiction so that truly all may begin to 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 powerful symbol of the ways in which, and the energy with which opiate addiction so often ends in death and destruction…wrenching apart relationships, families, and communities as it mercilessly steals away our friends and loved ones.  A simple pine coffin, our table is meant to bother us and in fact to make us extremely uncomfortable in all that it means.  It is meant to shock us into the realization that so often opiate addiction ends tragically and in the greatest of despair.  It is also the point at which hope is often lost and guilt or self-blame begins as those left behind wonder what else they might have done…if only they had…

And it is from this table that we will receive the bread and wine of our sacrament this day…a table of horror, of pain, and of the deep loss that so often accompanies that last pill, that last needle, that one last hit.

It is truly a table of fear and hurt…however perhaps a table not inappropriate following just days after our Lord hung and died on a brutal cross himself.  This is a table to which our Lord desires we come today, that we might recommit our lives to reaching out towards and intercepting those who are far too fast and far too early making their way closer to what this table represents.  Help us to be a light that refuses to hide in the darkness of apathy or ignorance so that truly all may begin to feel free to come from the east and the west, and from the north and the 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 sorrow and deep pain.  Our Lord invites all, without exception, and beckons us as well towards ever greater awareness and willingness to be vessels of love in all places of darkness and injury…for the freedom Jesus offers must be present even 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 ‘pine-box coffin table’ here before us this morning is holy because our Lord has made it so through our recognition of, and direct and faithful challenge to it…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 instances of dangerous and injurious substance abuse affecting any of our sisters or our brothers.  May we find the way to invite both the one held captive by addiction as well as all those who suffer alongside into the healing circle of your love and grace.  Give us the sensitivity, the wisdom, and the dogged persistence to serve as you would and, in your stead graciously caring just as you would by extending your unrelenting and undying love.

 

And, as we receive this meal may our eyes be opened as well to the great need for the deepest of compassion and action on behalf of these broken and wounded among us…that they might find release and healing in our Lord and feel the love and blessing of the fellowship that we share. Amen

 

Litany of Commitment

Leader:  In view of the tragic social impact of substance abuse, we accept the challenges of conscience and informed responsibility for ourselves and others in faith and in action.

 

All:  Let us prayerfully explore substance use behaviors and make decisions about personal substance use based upon our Lord’s teachings on love.

 

Leader:  Help us to faithfully share our faith decisions and reflections on substance abuse with others in relationships of trust and respect, for the elements of our Lord’s healing include honesty, confession, repentance, forgiveness and faithful action.

 

All:  Recognizing our responsibility to the wider community, we are prepared to confront, challenge and report substance abuse, manufacture, sale, purchase and possession.

 

Leader:  Let us continue to pray for all who are victims of addiction, both those addicted and those who suffer in support of them. Let us ask for guidance and direction as we review our own behavior.

 

All:  In honesty and humility we seek to respond to God’s love and wisdom for ourselves and for others regarding the use of alcohol, tobacco, opiates, and other substances in order to be a part of God’s healing love.  Let us ever seek to heal the injury of substance abuse…its pain, violence, alienation and despair.  Oh Lord, we pledge our help to speak aloud your words of grace. 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

 

 

 

 

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