Love Feast

      6:30 pm               World Communion Sunday       October 3, 2010
Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren


(The service begins in the sanctuary with people
encouraged to individually rest
in the presence of God and pray
while the organ provides meditative music.)

Organ Prelude                                                                              (a time for quiet reflection)

Scripture                                            Ephesians 2:17-22
            17So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

Meditation & Prayer
It was 1933, perhaps the darkest year of the Great Depression. “Storm clouds of Nazism and Fascism hovered all over Europe and threatened the entire world. As a faith response to these concerns, a group of leaders at Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburg, PA sought to do something both real and symbolic to proclaim that God is God indeed, in spite of politics, economics and future shock.”* Under the guidance of their pastor, Hugh Thomson Kerr (who wrote the words to #486 in our hymnal, “God of Our Life, Through All the Circling Years”), they held what was then called a “World Wide Communion Sunday.” In 1936 it spread to Presbyterian churches in the United States and overseas, and then in 1940 to the Federal Council of Churches (a predecessor body of the National Council of Churches), of which our denomination was a part.

            We are part of a larger faith community, a wider “household of God,” and on this Sunday we lift up this connection, even as we celebrate communion in the way of our Brethren fore-bearers, through our Love Feast… “You are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God,” wrote the apostle Paul to the church in Ephesus. In Greek, the word for “household” is “oikos.” Looking at the logo on the front of this evening’s bulletin, perhaps you see the root word “oikos” in the word “oikoumene.” This expanded Greek word means the “inhabited world.” From “oikoumene” we get “ecumenical,” a word which has become a movement, drawing Christians together instead of tearing them apart. The symbol is that of a boat. From a boat, Jesus taught beside the sea. From a boat, Jesus invited his disciples to a deeper faith. All his followers around the world are in the same boat.

            At one point we were all enemies of God, but Jesus came and proclaimed peace and brought us into the household of God. This household is built upon those who came before us, with Jesus being the beginning point and bearing the pivotal weight of it all, which is what a cornerstone does in a building. It’s all held together by him and made into a living structure, a dwelling place for God. That’s what Paul wrote.

            In the 17th chapter of the gospel of John we find a lengthy prayer of Jesus. Of concern to our Lord at that moment right before he left the upper room for the garden of Gethsemane and the dark events that followed, was that his disciples be united, not divided. Several times he prayed that “they may be one.” On this Sunday, in our own Brethren way, we continue his prayer for unity, not just of this particular household of faith here in Long Green Valley, but of the global church of Jesus Christ. Around the world, Christians of various persuasions may not celebrate communion in the same way we do, but we are nonetheless connected to them. And Jesus Christ is Lord of us all. Keep this in mind as we continue. Please pray with me.

Today, God, we confess fumblings and failures in accomplishing unity, as we set aside yet another day to remind ourselves of the task. On this World Communion Sunday, give us eyes to recognize your reflection in the eyes of Christians everywhere.
            Give us a mind to accept and celebrate our differences.
            Give us a heart big enough
                                   to love your children everywhere.
            We thank you for setting a table
                        with space enough for us all! Amen.

prayer by Safiyah Fosua
From the Africana Worship Book, Year B,
(Discipleship Resources, 2007)

*quoted from Wikipedia

Hymn                                                  "Here in this place"                                                        6

(The congregation then takes their hymnals
 and journeys to the feetwashing circles,
which are located in the back of the sanctuary- the men,
and on the other side of the partition in the fellowship hall- the women.)


Scripture                                             Philippians 2:1-13
            1If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. 9Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
            12Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

            A major lesson in humility for me recently has involved my recent knee injury and depending upon others to help me get around. I was not able to fulfill my fair share of driving to National Youth Conference and back. Once there, it was somewhat humiliating to admit I needed a wheelchair, and to allow someone to push me. I didn’t like it.

            One morning, I got up and tried to wheel myself the half mile from the dormitory to the cafeteria. The good news was that it was flat terrain with ramps on sidewalks. The bad news was that roads are still humped in the middle and gravity still turns you downhill, however slight. I got part of the way and looked with discouragement at the long distance I still had to cover.

            Coming toward me was a young woman jogging in the opposite direction. The machismo in me tried to look nonchalant, as if this was something I did every day. She stopped and asked if I needed a push. “Oh no,” I replied, “your headed the other way. I can do this.” My effort to look cool and unconcerned must not have been convincing, since she said, “no problem,” and proceeded to push me … as she jogged and we talked.

            Being a servant in Jesus’ name involves not only the ability to help someone else, but also the humility of receiving help from another. When Jesus instructed his disciples to practice the art of feetwashing, as recorded in the 13th chapter of the gospel of John, the reaction of Peter was similar to my own on that morning in Colorado. Though perhaps unaware of his own handicaps, Peter responded with a bit of machismo. “You will never wash my feet,” he told Jesus. But our Lord got behind him and started jogging and talking (if you will), pushing him toward the meal ahead and the night of Peter’s undoing and remaking, when his own machismo was crucified on the cry of a rooster.

            The apostle Paul laid out the servant path of Jesus before the church in Philippi, as we just heard. Many believe Paul here quoted a baptismal hymn about Jesus laying aside his power and position and taking up the role of a servant, interpreting the humiliation of his crucifixion as a common criminal as an act of servitude for all. Eventually every knee will bow and confess and follow. That is the way of Christ. It is the path of discipleship, to which all of us are called.

            Be careful not to misunderstand the words that are written after this song of the servant, and wrongly believe that we are each set adrift to figure out our own way through the present wilderness. When Paul says, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” he is referring to “the encouragement in Christ,” the “consolation from love,” the “sharing in the Spirit,” the “compassion and sympathy” that God has worked into all of us through Jesus Christ. His salvation, accomplished via the servant path from the cross to the empty tomb he trod, has been embedded in our spiritual DNA.

As servants in Christ, we are now called to live it out, to bring it to the surface as we go through our daily routines, to “work out our salvation.” The “fear and trembling” refers to the humility of being part of something much bigger than we are. God is at work in us. Recognize the awesome presence of the Lord in the person who will bow before you and wash your feet. Be aware that that same mind is in you as you bow and wash the feet of someone else. It is as if God is behind us, jogging and pushing us toward the Kingdom.

Please turn to #782 in the back of your hymnal and join me in the responsive prayer found there.

Responsive Prayer                                                                                                              782

Leader:  O Eternal Wisdom, a Vulnerable God,
                  we praise you and give you thanks,
                       because you laid aside your power as a garment
                       and took upon you the form of a slave.

People: You became obedient unto death,
                       even death on a cross,
                       receiving authority and comfort
                       from the hands of a woman;
                  for God chose what is weak in the world
                       to shame the strong,
                  and God chose what is low and despised in the world,
                       to bring to nothing things that are.

   ALL:  Therefore, with the woman who gave you birth,
                       the women who befriended you and fed you,
                       the woman who anointed you for death,
                       the women who met you, risen from the dead,
                  we praise you.

Leader:  Blessed is our brother Jesus,
                  who on this night, before Passover,
                  rose from supper, laid aside his garments,
                  took a towel and poured water,
                  and washed his disciples' feet, saying to them:
                       "If I, your Lord and Teacher,
                           have washed your feet,
                           you also ought to wash one another's feet.
                       If you know these things,
                           blessed are you if you do them.
                       If I do not wash you,
                           you have no part in me."

People: Lord, not my feet only
                  but also my hands and my head.

   ALL:  Come now, tender Spirit of our God,
                  wash us and make us one body in Christ;
                  that, as we are bound together
                       in this gesture of love,
                  we may no longer be in bondage
                       to the principalities and powers
                           that enslave creation,
                  but may know your liberating peace
                       such as the world cannot give. AMEN

Hymnal #788
by Janet Morley,
from All Desires Known,
©1988 Morehouse Publishing

Feetwashing    (hymns sung as needed)

(The congregation then takes their hymnals
 and moves to tables set in the fellowship hall.)


Scripture                                              Philippians 4:4-9
            4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

            I love this passage of scripture. It guides my thinking. That is, when I remember to allow it to do so. This is the key, isn’t it – to remember?  It is so easy to forget. Later on we will move into another meal that revolves around remembering. “Do this in remembrance of me,” Jesus said in relation to the bread and the cup. But that meal is not this one.

            For now, we are to simply enjoy being together with those who are sitting around us. We may know them well, or they may be persons we’ve barely met. It could be that we’ve worked together, or maybe even fought against each other in the give and take of life in the community of Christ. Being “of the same mind,” as we heard read in scripture earlier, does not mean we have to agree on everything. That would be pretty boring, and more like a cult than the way of the Kingdom of God. No, disagreement is part of our common walk, but along the way we learn how to fight fair.

            How do we do this? Well, not by imitating what is happening in the political arena as we approach the upcoming election. The way of the world is personal attack and anger as a tool to be manipulated, innuendo and false or misleading statements, power as more important that relationships. The way of Christ is different, and we learn it around his table, as we simply share a meal.

            The meal before you is pretty simple. Meat and broth, bread and water. The point is this – focus not on the food, but upon those who eat with you. Actually, I find the meal tasty, but more delicious is the fellowship. “Rejoice in the Lord,” together as you eat. Let me repeat that, as Paul did for emphasis, “Rejoice in the Lord,” together as you eat. And focus on the gift that being together really is. See the people around you as Jesus might. Think about, talk about what’s good and right and honorable about them. Let your words reflect the blessed community that we have been called to be.

            Let’s sing a blessing that reminds of whose table it is around which we sit. “The Lord is near,” Paul wrote. He sits with us, and that makes all the difference in the world.

Prayer in Song                          "Be present at our table, Lord"                                            457

Agape Meal

(We eat together a simple of beef -
once upon a time it was lamb -
in broth with rice and bread.
While some Brethren congregations
eat this meal in silence,
ours does not, preferring to connect,
as we would around our own tables at home.)



Hymn                                      "Now, on land and sea descending"                                       655

Scripture                                                Luke 22:14-27
            14When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. 15He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; 18for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
            21But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. 22For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!” 23Then they began to ask one another, which one of them it could be who would do this. 24A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. 25But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. 26But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. 27For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

Meditation & Invitation
“Do this in remembrance of me,” Jesus said. Engraved on the table at the center of our sanctuary are those words, “In Remembrance of Me.” At the heart of who we are is the call to remember, and in our “remembering” Jesus stands among us, a member of our community yet once again. He is “re” – “membered.” However, this is not an intellectual exercise, a stroll down memory lane. Two important words preface “in remembrance of me” – “do this.”

Faith is a verb, not a noun. Our ancestors in the Brethren movement understood this well, emphasizing that communion is an ordinance more than a sacrament. Yes, this breaking bread and sharing a common cup is a moment pregnant with meaning, so full – in fact – that words cannot begin to express everything that needs to be said. Which is to say that there is a sacredness to this time. This is our “holy of holies.” We are no different than Christians around the world in this regard.

Even so, we call this an ordinance, not a sacrament because herein we find our “marching orders” from our leader. The awe in this time is heard in the call of Christ to action. “Do this…” Faith is a verb. It’s not just about believing in God, that is – believing that God exists, believing that the Bible is the inspired word of God, that Jesus lived and died and rose again and will return, that the Spirit is God’s ongoing presence and power among us. I can believe all those things, and rightly so, but if I do not act upon it, what good is it?

Faith is about trust. Every day most of us get in our automobiles and trust that a) they will start, b) they will run, c) they will move in the direction we steer them, and d) they will stop when we need them to stop. Furthermore, we trust in the other cars on the road and their drivers. We don’t believe in them. I don’t simply believe my car is a car. If that was all that was needed, it could just stay in the garage.

I venture to say that many of us place more trust in our automobiles than we do in God. Our religion might as well be kept in the garage, which is – unfortunately – where many of us put it. However, it belongs around the table, which is to say it is to be lived. All of life is sacred. When Jesus says “do this,” he is calling us to trust God enough to live the faith. The Brethren, for instance, once heard the Love Feast as a mandate to serve, creatively reaching out with an influence far beyond our small numbers. We didn’t hide Love Feast in our fellowship halls but became engaged with Christians around the world. Lately I’ve wondered if Brethren still trust God that much. Or, more to the point, do I trust God that much? How about you?

Jesus invites us to his table still. Here he says, looking not just at the bread in his hands but at those who are gathered around him, “this is my body,” broken and “given for you. Do this … in remembrance of me.” Trust God enough to live out your faith. In the same way he held that cup of wine and spoke of being poured out and of a new covenant that flows out of this pouring out. Trust God enough to be poured out, to be broken in Jesus’ name. God remakes what is broken. The cup of Christ never goes dry. God raises to new life those who have died. Do you believe? Do you trust … enough to “do this”?

Unison Prayer                                                                                                                     788

Blessed are you, God of heaven and earth.
In mercy for our fallen world you gave your only Son,
          that all those who believe in him should not perish
          but have eternal life.
We give thanks to you for the salvation
          you have prepared for us through Jesus Christ.
Send now your Holy Spirit into our hearts,
          that we may receive our Lord with a living faith
          as he comes to us in his holy supper.

(concluded with the Lord's Prayer)

#788 in Hymnal, ©1978 Lutheran Book of Worship
(pp. 70, 90, 111), c/o Augsburg Fortress.

Hymn                           "Let us break bread together on our knees (repeat)                            453
                                      When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun,
                                      O Lord have mercy on me.”

Eating the Bread

Hymn                           "Let us drink wine together on our knees (repeat)                               453
                                      When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun,
                                      O Lord have mercy on me.”

Drinking from His Cup

Hymn                                                   "Go, my children"                                                     433

All scripture quotations taken from the New Revised Standard Version, copyright ©1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

announcements in bulletin:

         You are invited to stay and clean up from our meal. Thanks to the deacons who prepared this meal, our worship leaders above, and our child caregivers in the nursery.

         Thank you to all who helped prepare this meal, those who shared in leadership during it, and those who cared for children so parents could participate.

#'s are from Hymnal: A Worship Book

(para traducir a espańol, presione la bandera de Espańa)



©2010 Peter L. Haynes
(unless otherwise stated, worship resources were written by him)


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