Long Green Valley
Church of the Brethren
The Work of Jesus
Quiet Meditation (You might read Ephesians 2:8-22,
prayerfully pondering the work of Christ.
Take time to read through the Preparation prayer below)
Preparation Prayer (Unison) 781
How can we discern our errors, O God?
Clear us from hidden faults.
Let the words of our mouths
and the meditations of our hearts
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, our rock and redeemer.
Look graciously on our remorse;
help us to turn from evil.
We offer you ourselves,
body and soul, to be cleansed.
As we drink the cup,
give us the assurance of forgiveness
through the blood of Christ.
Accept our promise to be true to you
and give us power to fulfill it.
Let us find strength in the breaking of bread
to live and to die,
for Jesusí sake. AMEN
(from from Hymnal: A Worship Book, Brethren Press, 1992)
(Take your hymnal and move to the Feetwashing Circles) *(see below)
Scripture - John 13:1-17
"Would that you knew the things that make for peace," Jesus sadly spoke as he looked from a distance at Jerusalem. What are the things that make for peace, my friends? Is peace something given or taken? Is it received or achieved? When Jesus bent down to wash the feet of his disciples, that act fit his mission. He had come, like a washerwoman, to cleanse the world of its sin. Remember his beginning statement, taken from Isaiah, fulfilled in him (he said):
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19)
Jesus came to give. His very life was a gift from God. Bending to wash Peterís feet was a gift to be received. Peter could not take it, nor could he achieve it. Godís peace is like that. Just sit and receive. Thatís not easy to do, is it? I often think that is the most disturbing aspect of feetwashing for people new to it. The same is true for Godís peace. We donít so much construct peace as we remove obstacles to it. Sometimes the biggest obstacle is our own pride.
Washing feet is a matter of receiving a gift, just like our salvation. We donít earn it, we receive it. We allow the Lord to cleanse us, through the hands of another. But, then, Jesus shifts us from our seats to our knees. Godís peace does not end with us. It continues on. It is passed along. We become the hands of Christ for another. We give what we have received. It is as simple as that. Jesus calls us to do it, and we do it - here in this upper room, and then in every room of our lives. This is the way of peace.
Prayer (Adapts 783)
Lord Jesus, we kneel before each other as you once knelt before your disciples, washing anotherís feet. We do what words stammer to express. Accept this gesture of peace as a pledge of how we mean to live our lives. Bless us, as you promised, with joy and perseverance in the way of the cross. Amen.
Feetwashing (Hymns sung as needed)
"When I survey the wondrous cross"
|"Will you let me be your servant"||
|"Have thine own way"||
|"When peace, like a river"||
|"Lord, I want to be a Christian"||
Scripture - Matthew 6:25-33
This is not a very fancy meal which is spread before us just now. In fact, itís missing some items that might make for a more complete diet, like vegetables - though my children might disagree with me on that. Thereís a time for fancy, and a time for simple. This is one of the latter. The problem with a big meal is that the arrangements and the cuisine can take over. We can miss some of the important things. Ask any mother (run ragged around the supper table by the needs of her children) if she actually enjoyed the meal, and you know the response. "Why did I even bother?!" she may say.
Well, even at the meals where things go right, we can lose track of whatís really real. The "Martha" in us all (a good trait, mind you - not to be disparaged) can get in the way, constantly thinking of what comes next. I confess to you that I struggle with that even here at Love Feast (big surprise, right?). I find myself not fully here because Iím trying to think two steps ahead. What happens next? What will I say?
I wonder if Jesus had the same problem in the upper room. He knew what lay ahead. The disciples seemed oblivious to it all. They were just enjoying the moment, probably puzzled by all the inferences Jesus was making to the road just around the next bend. As I read the text, however, I see Jesus fully there with his followers. Perhaps it was because it was just that simple. No, I donít mean simplistic. I mean focused on what is most important.
What is most important as we eat together around these tables? When was the last time you told the persons your sitting with how much you have appreciated them, even though you have, perhaps, not seen eye to eye on everything? You care deeply about these persons, donít you? How do you say that, though, without sounding silly? So, we talk about the weather, or the ball game, or...
encouragement, as we fellowship together, amid the small talk, that somehow we
not lose track of the bigger picture. Jesus has pulled together this cast of
characters, a collection as full of ornery cussís as that original band of
disciples. And yet, "see how they love one another." Amazing, isnít
it? Letís not lose that sense of amazing grace as we eat and talk together.
Shall we pray?
Bless, O Lord, this food,
may it sustain our body.
Bless, O Lord, this time,
may it help us seek first your kingdom.
Bless, O Lord, these persons around us,
may they know how much we care for them.
In Jesusí name, we pray. Amen.
Scripture - 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
A favorite hymn of many is the one in which we sing, "I come to the garden alone." The words of this song reveal a depth of intimacy between each of us and our Lord which is only possible because of what Jesus did upon the cross. The "garden" image reminds us of both Eden and Gethsemane. In the first garden, there was a wonder-filled sense of "togetherness," of communion, between God and his creation, including Adam and Eve. But the reality of sin broke it all apart. Life after Eden was marked by separation, isolation, and alienation.
The second garden, the garden of Gethsemane, speaks to us of both the misery and the mystery of Jesusí last moments of freedom before his arrest and eventual crucifixion. From this garden, however, a shift of direction took place. Yes, Jesus went through his own time of separation, isolation, and alienation, but there was a purpose to it all. His actions were leading toward God, not away. He paved the road toward communion, toward "togetherness" once again between God and humanity.
The meal Jesus ate with his disciples in the upper room, before they went out to Gethsemane, was a foretaste of this "togetherness," this communion with God that the following days would make possible. The bread and the cup themselves speak to us today of both the misery and the mystery of his death. We remember what he did for us. But our remembering is not in the past tense. We are remembering ahead, strange as that may sound. The day is coming when when all the barriers that keep us apart from God and each other will be completely broken down, especially the barrier of death. His death and resurrection has already accomplished this. The rest is just a matter of time, Godís time.
For now, we do not really come to the garden alone. Even when no one else is around, we are in the very presence of the Lord. "Alone" for us takes on new meaning. In solitude, even, we discover ourselves "at one" with God. And when we sit around the table in his presence, the sense of togetherness we have is far greater than the number of us gathered here. When we are gathered in Jesusí name, one plus one equals far more than two. He is with us in Spirit. Furthermore, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, a heavenly host. On the other hand, when we are gathered in his name, though we are many, we are "one" - different, yet together in Christ. We are brought together to sit at table with the living God in a new garden - one in which is found an empty tomb. But that part of the story we'll save for Easter Sunday.....
I love the next song, though I have not used it much. Maybe itís the grammar of the last two phrases, or the fact that I prefer to use non-sexist terms where possible. Even so, it is a marvelous song of togetherness around the Lordís table. May we move past the incomplete nature of the words and just come into the presence of the Lord as we sing. Itís a quick learn. As soon as you catch the tune, please join in with me.
Song "God and Man at Table are Sat Down" (see insert)
Living God, how awesome it is to sit "at table" with you. Thank you
for making such togetherness possible through the work of your Son Jesus, our
Christ. Bless this bread, as a reminder of his body which was broken for our
sake. Bless the fruit of the vine in this cup, as a reminder of his blood which
was shed for our sake. As we eat and drink, help us to glimpse your heavenly
banquet table at which, one day, your children will share your great feast of
For now, Lord, help us to know that this is the feast of victory for our God, for the Lamb who was slain has begun his reign. Alleluia. Amen.
"The bread which we break is the communion of the body of Christ" ....
"This cup of the New Testament is the communion of the blood of Christ" ....
Hymn "Great is thy faithfulness" 327
Brothers and sisters in Christ,
and continue the work of Jesus -
Peacefully, Simply, Together.
Continuing the Work of Jesus
[You are invited to stay and help clean up from our meal. Thanks to all who prepared the meal, read scripture, led or accompanied singing, babysat, or otherwise made this special meal possible.]
*(note - our current practice is to begin in the sanctuary with a time of personal preparation, with meditative music in the background. Then we move to the feetwashing circles of chairs - the men sitting together on one side of the partition between sanctuary and fellowship hall, with the women sitting on the other. A capella singing is rich as we go around the circle one washing the feet of the person next to them, standing after each to share a hug and (for those who feel able) a holy kiss upon the cheek When all are finished, we proceed into the fellowship hall, where the tables are laid out in a square pattern, with a circular worship center decorated with a cross in the center. There is no particular seating order here. Men and women sit together for the rest of the service).
Meditations ©2000Peter L. Haynes
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