Worship Order for Love Feast

Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Long Green & Kanes Rds., near Glen Arm, Md.
October 4, 2009

            “Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. (1 Corinthians 11:28)

Quiet Reflection

A Song to Call us                           "Isaiah 55"

Unison Confession                                                                                      699

Hymn                                "Thou true Vine, that heals"                                373
                              (move to the feetwashing circles, taking a hymnal with you)

            “So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. (John 13:14)

Scripture                                     Luke 7:36-50


Washing one another’s feet                                            (hymns sung as needed)

          “Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
                                (Colossians 3:13)


Scripture                                    Luke 15:11-32


Prayer in Song                      "Lord, bless the hands"                                      93

Eating Together

            “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ?”    (1 Corinthians 10:16)

Scripture                                    Luke 22:14-21


Hymn                              "Here, O my Lord, I see thee"                              465

Thanksgiving Prayer

Eating                       (in unison:)
            “This bread which we break
                        is the communion of the body of Christ.

Drinking                   (in unison:)
            “This cup of the New Testament
                        is the communion of the blood of Christ.

*Hymn/Benediction            "You shall go out with joy"                                 427


Thanks be to God!

            You are invited to stay and help clean up from the meal. Thanks to those who prepared the meal, accompanied our singing, led with word or song, took care of children, and otherwise made this special time possible.

*Rise in body or in spirit

#'s are from Hymnal: A Worship Book

Worship leaders - see basic guidelines



            Our current practice is to envision Love Feast as a journey. During this hour-long service, we move from location to location. As our facility is all on one floor, this does not present a barrier to those who are physically handicapped. We begin in the sanctuary. The organ plays quietly and many arrive early to pray and prepare themselves. When the time seems right (i.e. after the deacons finish their last minute preparations), we start with a corporate time of examination.

            Then we move to circles of chairs, one in the overflow area at the back of the sanctuary where the men sit, and the other just on the other side of the wall that divides the sanctuary from the fellowship hall. Two double-wide doors connect us, and the persons who read scripture and share a reflection stand there so all can hear. We sing a capella as we wash feet around the circle, one bending down to wash the next, who in turn does the same for the person beside him/her. Those unable to join in, or unsure of this practice (and those who have not yet decided to be baptized), are welcome to observe - making sure the person beside them knows to pass over to the next in the circle.

            When all have finished, we then move to the tables, where we sit intermingled, male and female, young and not-so-young. The next part of the service is a simple meal we eat together - a bowl of soup (beef & broth & rice) with bread and water. Long ago, this would have been lamb, but things change and this is now our tradition. Many Brethren congregations eat in silence. For better or worse, that is not our practice here. Were the disciples silent in the upper room on that fateful night long ago?

            The final part of the journey (though our movement is not with our feet at this point), is bread and cup communion. In this we are not that much different from other Christians. While some fellow believers around this globe see the bread and wine* as transformed into the body and blood of Christ, and others see Christ somehow with these elements but not actually in them, we are closest in theology to those who seen in this meal primarily a memorial, remembering the event and how it has transformed us. [If the truth be told, most congregations are a mixture of all 3, with members who grew up in other traditions and understandings that run deep]. The Brethren "take," if you will, on all this is that when Jesus said, "This is my body," he was addressing his disciples and including them in his description. It's not just about the elements that we eat and drink, it's about us who are called to be broken for Christ's sake and poured out for others, sharing the love we have received. Isn't this something all Christians, no matter their label, deep down believe?

*note - long ago Brethren moved away from wine for communion out of a concern for brothers or sisters who struggled with an addiction to alcohol. We did not wish this service to be the cause of someone falling back into something that would pull them away from God and us. We have also, again for better or worse, used individual cups for the grape juice, which has been a benefit in this day and age when many are concerned with germs and the use of a common cup. Our bread is specially prepared and unleavened from an old recipe. Those who make it use a 5-prong fork to mark each piece, a reminder of Christ upon the cross being pierced 5 times - hands, feet, side. Some break their piece into 5 parts as they eat. At Love feast, one longer piece is broken across the table between 2 persons, as they speak the words, “This bread which we break is the communion of the body of Christ.


Isaiah 55

        D                     A      Bm            D             Bm                    D                   A         D
Ho, everyone who thirsts come to the waters and he who has no money come, buy and eat
    D                          A     Bm                   D                    Bm             D                   A          D
Come, buy wine and milk without money, without price. Come to the waters come, buy and eat.

  G                                  D              A                        D
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread?
  G                              D                     C             A
Why do you give your labor for what doesn't satisfy?
   D               A        Bm               D           Bm                   D                A            D
Harken unto me and eat what is good. My feast brings you delight so, come unto me.

   C                                                       A        C                                     A
Give to me your ear that your soul may live.     Listen to me and you shall live
     G         A            Bm      C                       D
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant.

     Bm                                   A                   Bm                             A
Behold, like David you're my witness.      Behold, you shall call the nations.
     Bm                                A             Bm              A                            C         G           A
Behold, they shall come to you.     Because of the Lord, your God,  for He has glorified you.

           D           A           Bm               D        Bm           D           A        D
(So) Seek the Lord while He may be found.  Call upon Him while He is near.
         D                    A          Bm                           D                    Bm             D                   A              D
The Lord in mercy waits for those with wicked thoughts and ways  to return unto him Come, He will forgive.
           G                         D              A           D
My thoughts & ways are not yours, says the Lord.
             G                                    D                     C                     A
They're higher than the heavens above you ... but call, while I am near.

       D                      A     Bm                      D             Bm          D           A             D
For as the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return, but water the earth
  D                     A          Bm                 D     Bm                    D               A                D
Making it bring forth & sprout where it lands  giving seed the sower and bread the hungry.

       C                                                 A           C                                   A
So shall the word gone forth from my mouth, it shall not return to me empty
       C                                      A            C                             A
but everything that is within my will    shall be accomplished in you.

      Bm                       A        Bm                    A
For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace
       Bm                       A               Bm                          A
the mountains and the hills   before you shall break into singing
       D         A              G            A             D       (D..A..G..A..)
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
      D               A               G              A                 D..A.. G..        A             D..A..G..A..
Instead of the thorn in the wilderness there will be pine trees      to give you shade.
      D              A                     G                    A                 D..A..G         A             D..A..G..A..
Instead of the briars there shall be the sweet smell of the myrtle bush with its sweet fruit.
        D               A             G   A   D..A..G..A..       D     A       G                     A              D..A..G..
And all this shall be to the Lord a sign,                 an everlasting sign which shall not be cut off;
            A             D..A..G..           A             D..A..G..
it shall not be cut off.           it shall not be cut off.               ß
            A             D..A..G..               A             D..A..G....A
it shall not be cut off.           you shall not be cut off.

         D          A            Bm               D       Bm           D            A        D
So, seek the Lord while He may be found.  Call upon Him while He is near.
       D                      A      Bm             D          Bm             D              A                  D A Bm G..A..D
Ho, everyone who thirsts come to the waters; Come to the waters and go out with JOY. . . . .

taken from Isaiah chapter 55
put to music by Pete Haynes

Unison Confession

Lord, our God, 
         great, eternal, wonderful
         utterly to be trusted:
                  you give life to us all,
                  you help those who come to you,
                  you give hope to those who cry to you.
Forgive our sins, secret and open,
         and rid us of every habit of thought
         that stands against the gospel.
Set our hearts at peace,
         so we may live our lives before you
                  confidently and without fear,
                  through Jesus Christ, our Lord. AMEN

Hymnal #699. Based on a prayer from
The Liturgy of St. Basil of Caesarea, 4th c.,
adapted from Contemporary Prayers for Public Worship,
ed. Caryl Micklem, copyright © 1956 1967 SCM Press, Ltd.

Reflection before Feetwashing

The verse immediately before this story in the Gospel of Luke says this: “Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children (Luke 7:35). It’s almost on cue that a “woman of the city” arrives on the scene, a child of God who vindicates, who proves God’s wisdom to be right. We can allow our imaginations to run wild as to exactly what it means for her to be a “woman of the city, who was a sinner,” as did the Pharisee. However, that’s not really the point. Forgiveness is what lies at the heart of this story. Her sins, which were many (that’s all it says - no more, no less), have been forgiven. Because she has been shown great love, she shows great love. She washes the feet Jesus with her tears.

Our practice of washing each other’s feet is based upon the 13th chapter of the Gospel of John, where it says that Jesus tied a towel around his waist and washed and dried the feet of all his disciples, instructing them (and us, we believe) to do the same. That chapter makes no mention of any of them washing his feet in return. Even Peter, who wasn’t too thrilled over having his feet washed, it says, made no effort to reciprocate.

In the gospels, the only ones who wash Jesus’ feet are women. Here in Luke it was a nameless “woman of the city.” In John, Mary (sister of Martha and Lazarus - not to be confused with this other woman, or Mary of Magdala, or Mary the mother of Jesus) also washed Jesus’ feet, much to the chagrin of Judas Iscariot who thought the money she spent on the costly anointing oil she used could have been better spent (12:1-8, 11:2). What Mary did was probably in response to the great love which Jesus showed in raising her brother from the grave (11:32-45).

We are here, sisters and brothers, because of this great love. Sinners that we have been, we are also God’s children who prove that the love of Christ upon the cross is true wisdom. Forgiven, we forgive. Loved, we love. We put into our hands this forgiveness and love. Our desire to serve, to reach out and help others, comes out of this. It’s not that we’re perfect people, superior examples of faithfulness. No, it’s only because we ourselves have been forgiven and loved. Our hearts yearn to pass it on. 

            “Your sins are forgiven,” Jesus told that woman. That’s his message to each of you gathered here just now. “Your faith has saved you, shalom, go in peace.” ... Now, put that into your hands.


Reflection before the Fellowship Meal

We know this story. It can be heard in many ways. We can focus upon the “prodigal son,” or look up to the “waiting father.” We can even view it through the eyes of the “older brother.” At its heart is a love which forgives and welcomes home those who have been lost, whether they have wandered to some far country of wasteful living, or stayed behind and have forgotten why - lost now in bitterness.

I can still see the scene as portrayed in a morning devotional time at camp. We were gathered on a hill, with a path leading off in the distance through a field. Retelling this story, one young person played the younger son, while another narrated. “I have sinned ... I will go home, even though I do not deserve a place there. Perhaps as a slave, though.” And he turned and started the slow walk down the hill. However, off in the distance was another figure - running, arms outstretched. The son had only completed a dozen steps by the time this other person, the father, reached him and hugged him tightly.

Such is God’s love for us. Do we deserve a place around this table? That’s not really the question, is it? God has been waiting, watching, running, embracing. “Quickly, bring out a robe, a ring, sandals. Put them on. Prepare a feast - a fatted calf - and let us eat and celebrate! For this son, this daughter of mine was dead and is alive again; he/she was lost and is found!” (Luke 15:22 24). Can we share together this meal with this kind of love in mind? Around your table are God’s children, in certain ways prodigals all. But we are turning toward home, and our waiting father is clothing us and feeding us and binding us together in love.

Even if you have never left for some distant horizon, some itch that can’t really be scratched, some wasted endeavor; even if you have remained faithful, let bitterness go. The feast is also for you. Embrace those whom your heavenly father embraces, and thus experience what love is really all about.

The meal awaits. Let’s bless it with a song.

Reflection before Communion

All the gospel accounts of this upper room scene have that jarring reminder of betrayal. This is holy time, but not all is holy. If only we could take a pair of scissors and cut out Judas Iscariot, we are tempted to think. But without him we become a holy huddle, ignoring our own betrayals. God does not allow us to live in a dream world, for visions of grandeur blind us to the reality of what we have been called to be and do in this broken world. Only those who know their own brokenness and sin can share the good news of God’s healing forgiveness.

We come down off our righteous pedestals - Judas forces us to do this - and sit at Christ’s table just as we are. No better are we than the other characters throughout time who have come to this place. Here sits a bunch of former fishermen, a tax collector, a few zealots. “Disciples,” he calls us. Throughout history, believers have come. “Saints,” we have called them. Their true name is “Forgiven.”

In the order Matthew, Mark, and Paul (though not Luke) remember, our Lord takes bread and breaks it, and in that tearing we hear our own fraying of the fabric of what God has sewn together as his world. But this breaking is intentional on God’s part, for through it he is healing his children. And we envision Jesus broken upon a cross. “This is my body,” he says. Eat.

Then he takes the fruit of the vine and pours it into a cup, and in the dripping of that liquid we hear the prophet’s cry,  “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). God is making things right. Upon the cross we see his wounds, and the blood pouring freely - in reality a healing river flowing by the throne of God. “This is my blood,” he says, a new beginning, a “new covenant.” Drink.

“Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face.
Here would I touch and handle things unseen,
here grasp with firmer hand eternal grace,
and all my weariness upon thee lean.”

            Let’s sing this communion song, #465 in your hymnal.

Thanksgiving Prayer

(The Invitation)

            All who are in love and fellowship with your brothers and sisters, who do truly and earnestly repent of your sins, who humbly put your trust in Christ and desire his help that you may walk in newness of life, draw near to God and receive this holy communion, through Jesus Christ our Lord... Please pray with me.

(the above is the traditional invitation)

Lord God, ever near yet never under our control, faithful and true beyond our own often meager efforts to live as you would have us live, Creator of all that is - including those who are gathered around these tables just now, we thank you for sending your Son Jesus to show the way and to be the way. Through him, you have washed us with your forgiveness such that our tears of joy flow freely. You have opened your arms like a waiting father and run to us while we were yet sinners, and welcomed us home - clothing and feeding us with your goodness and mercy. Upon the cross Jesus was broken, and his blood shed for us - a glory we cannot begin to fully fathom.
            Bless this bread of remembrance to our eating. Bless this cup of new beginnings to our drinking, as we anticipate the day when we will sit as friends with our Lord and Savior at his heavenly banquet table, free at last. This we pray in Jesus’ name. AMEN


(para traducir a español, presione la bandera de España)



©2009 Peter L. Haynes
(unless otherwise stated, worship resources were written by him)


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