6:30 pm World Communion Sunday
October 3, 2010
begins in the sanctuary with people
Organ Prelude (a time for quiet reflection)
Meditation & Prayer
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.
*quoted from Wikipedia
Hymn "Here in this place" 6
congregation then takes their hymnals
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
Feetwashing (hymns sung as needed)
congregation then takes their hymnals
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
together a simple of beef -
Hymn "Now, on land and sea descending" 655
Meditation & Invitation
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
"Let us break bread together
on our knees
Eating the Bread
drink wine together on our knees
Drinking from His CupHymn "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)