Love Feast

Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren
Long Green & Kanes Rds., near Glen Arm, Md.
World Communion Sunday
October 7, 2012            6:30 pm


Quiet time

Gathering Song                       "His body revealed"                 (back of bulletin)

Together in the Word                 Psalm 103:1-18                                       822

Instructions and Invitation


Moving Onward  (take a hymnal with you)

Service … Humility … Cleansing

Together in the Word                  John 13:2b-17                                        843

Reflecting before acting

Washing one another’s feet or hands (hymns sung as needed)
"Will you let me be your servant"                       307
                     "Breathe on me, breath of God"                         356
                     "Blessed assurance"                                          332
                     "Have thine own way"                                       504
                     "Lord, I want to be a Christian"                         444

Moving Onward

Let love be genuine

Together in the Word                 Romans 12:9-21                                     850

Pondering before eating

A prayer to bless

A simple meal

While they were eating

Song                            "I come with joy to meet my Lord"                         459

Listening to the Word                 Mark 14:22-25

Meditating before partaking

Unison Thanksgiving and Lord’s Prayer                                                     788

Singing a refrain                          "Eat this bread"                                        471

The Bread

Singing a refrain                          "Eat this bread"                                        471

The Cup

Hymn                              "Sent forth by God’s blessing"                             478


*Rise in body or in spirit

#'s are from Hymnal: A Worship Book

Worship leaders - see basic guidelines

Together in the Word
Psalm 103:1-18

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
         and all that is within me,
         bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
         and do not forget all his benefits - 

who forgives all your iniquity,
         who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit,
         who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

who satisfies you with good as long as you live
         so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
The Lord works vindication
         and justice for all who are oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses,
         his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
         slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

He will not always accuse,
         nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
         nor repay us according to our iniquities.

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
         so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
         so far he removes our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion for his children,
         so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
For he knows how we were made;
         he remembers that we are dust.

As for mortals, their days are like grass;
         they flourish like a flower of the field;
for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
         and its place knows it no more.

But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
         on those who fear him,
         and his righteousness to children's children,
to those who keep his covenant
         and remember to do his commandments.

Hymnal #822 - 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.

Instructions and Invitation

In our tradition, this feast is our “holy of holies.” We only gather to do this twice a year: on Maundy Thursday before Easter, and on World Communion Sunday. This evening, we not only remember the night on which Jesus was betrayed, we also are mindful of our connection to other believers all around this world. Perhaps you have traveled overseas and can recall a follower of Jesus from another country whom you have met along the way.

For me, I think of friends I have made in the Dominican Republic, Nigeria, and Ecuador, as well as global neighbors who have visited me from places like New Zealand and Brazil. In a way, these folks will sit beside me tonight, along with you. Surrounding us all is that “great cloud of witnesses” from all times and places, the saints triumphant who have gone before us in the faith. With them and us are the heavenly host. To be honest, our meetinghouse tonight may be quite crowded.

            In this congregation, we have been visualizing Love Feast as a journey. Scripture itself tells the story of the upper room being a stop along the road to the cross. Like Jewish believers all over that evening, Jesus and his disciples gathered to celebrate the Passover meal, remembering the exodus of the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt. After this meal, they traveled on to the garden of Gethsemane, a path which eventually ended at Golgotha, where Jesus died for all people.

            Our journey this evening will take us from these pews to the feetwashing circles, and then to the tables in the fellowship hall. We are following our Lord, seeking to do what he asks. Now, we are seeking this evening to make what we hope will be a simple change, something not done lightly to such a holy experience. Because some of us are not as steady on our feet, we are offering an alternative to getting down on our knees to wash feet. For these persons, we offer the possibility of handwashing instead of feetwashing. We’ll see how it goes. If this change disturbs you, we ask forgiveness, realizing that this very act reminds us of God’s mercy in cleansing us from our sin, even as it calls us to become servants to one another for Christ.

            Logistically speaking, if you are interested in washing hands instead of feet, please head toward one of two deacons when we journey to the feetwashing circles. They will guide you to a chair next to someone who would not mind having their hands washed instead of their feet. The women’s circle is on the other side of the partition in the fellowship hall. The woman deacon with whom to connect there, if you are interested, is _____________. The men’s circle is on this side of the partition in the back of the sanctuary. The man deacon with whom to connect there, if you are interested, is _____________.

            I invite you to enter into this “holy of holies,” and travel with us to the Lord’s table and beyond. A place is set for you! Come.

Let us pray.


Lord God, lead us onward as we journey down the way of Christ. Bless this time of remembrance and celebration. Bless, also, the everyday road we each take in seeking to follow Jesus. In the hands of others, may we see your hands. Sit with us around the table. Give to us a larger vision that goes beyond the rituals of this hour, that we might see your ongoing mission in this world, that we might know that we are connected not only to those who have gone before us and whose witness still surrounds us, but also that we are involved with believers around this globe who this day also break bread at your table. This we pray in the name of the One who died for all that we might together rise to new life in your kingdom. Amen. 

Shall we continue our journey with Jesus?
Remember to bring your hymnal with you.

Together in the Word
John 13:2b-17

And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.

Jesus came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”

Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord - and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.

Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

Hymnal #843, 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.

Reflecting before acting

Sitting around these circles of chairs, we are reminded of the disciples sitting around a table. Of course, if we were fully trying to re-enact that scene from long ago, we would each be sitting on the floor, perhaps on cushions, reclining against a low table, with our feet behind us. Picture such a scene in your mind, as you envision Jesus getting up, taking off his outer robe, and going around the table, washing each disciple’s feet.

It was customary in those days to take care of a guest when they arrived in your home from a long, dusty journey, by paying attention to their feet. There were, after all, no automobiles and few horses. To get anywhere required walking. Thus, feet were very important. However, I doubt Jesus did what he did solely as an act of good hospitality, even though at this meal he was the host.

These were probably very dirty feet. By the way, when your deacons recently discussed tonight’s meal, we noted that women generally wash their feet before coming to Love Feast. Men generally do not. Thus, the water in men’s basins afterward is usually not as clean as the ones the women use. I think the water when Jesus finished washing his disciple’s feet was probably much worse.

Cleansing. That’s an important part of what we are about to do. As we picture that scene around the table long ago, perhaps in our mind’s eye we should also visualize the day in which we were baptized. Of course, the one who baptized us didn’t use soap, but water was involved. For those baptized in the Brethren way, there was total immersion, not once but three times. Cleansing. Feetwashing is a reminder of our baptism. Now, baptism is not just about being cleaned, the water washing away our sin. It’s also about committing our lives to follow in the way of Jesus. If truth be told, we get dirty along that way. In fact, nearly every day we need to die to sin and rise with Christ. Admitting that requires humility.

“Humus” That’s the ground beneath our feet. To have humility, to be humble, requires getting down to ground, to "humus" or, better put, being down-to-earth. It’s important that we link this heavenly meal with getting down-to-earth, otherwise we can be lost in the clouds. Jesus got down on his knees to wash his disciple’s feet spread out behind them as they reclined at the table. And he invited them; no, he commanded them to do likewise. Not just to wash each other’s feet, but to humbly live with one another.

Of course, Jesus was a strapping 30-some-odd year old man at that point, as were most of his disciples. For us this evening to open up the possibility of washing hands instead of feet may seem to fly in the face of scripture, where Jesus says, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet,” in answer to Peter’s request that he also wash his hands and head. However, to humbly live together means that we place the needs of others above our own. If getting down on knees is something a brother or sister in the Lord physically cannot or maybe should not do, then we ought to place their needs above our need to be “biblical.” Washing one another’s feet, after all, is about being servants of Christ.

Service. This call to service, exemplified by this simple act, has led God’s people in so many exciting directions. Within our own denomination, some of the best things we have ever done in Jesus’ name have flowed from these feetwashing basins. Even if you choose this evening to wash hands instead of feet, do not lose sight of this. As Jesus chose the path of servanthood, revisit your baptismal vows and choose afresh the life of service.

            Service … humility … cleansing … now is the time for us to wash. As a reminder, the larger basins are for those washing feet. The smaller basins are for those washing hands. Hand sanitizer will be passed around the circle afterward in preparation for the meal that follows. Let us follow the example of Jesus.

Together in the Word
Romans 12:9-21

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.
  Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.
  Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.
  Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.
If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Hymnal #850
scripture text
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

Pondering before eating

There is a difference between eating food and sharing a meal. I know this full well as someone who now lives alone. I can eat my meals just about anywhere. A tray table allows me to eat and watch television, or read a book, or work on my computer. I think of it as stuffing my face, for the actual eating is almost mindless. And, to be honest, it doesn’t really feel like a meal.

Sitting together with other people, however, that is another story, especially when there is some common ground between us. I thoroughly enjoyed the meals surrounding the wedding I officiated last month. I sat beside the parents and grandmother of the bride, persons with whom I have walked through many years. Half of those around the table, however, I didn’t know, but that was okay. We reminisced, caught up, pondered the road ahead, and were simply happy to be together on that occasion. Now, that was sharing a meal!

We gather around these tables to share a meal, not just eat food. While we think back to that event a couple thousand years ago in Jerusalem, we sit here in the present moment with one another. Many of these folks beside us we know, persons with whom we have walked a number of years. Others are new to us. Like those original disciples, we can look back on the path behind us and reminisce. We can also ponder the road ahead and wonder. However, we are here in this moment, together.

Of course, this isn’t a full course dinner, where you have to think before you pick up your fork: is it the outer or the inner one? This really is just a simple meal. The food in the bowl is significant, but what matters more is genuine quality of the love which is shared among those around us. Mind you, we are not perfect in our loving. We struggle to be patient, persevering, hopeful people. We don’t always bless instead of curse. We don’t always live in harmony. We do sometimes think more highly of ourselves than we should. We do burn on occasion with unjustified anger and embarrass ourselves by lashing out when we shouldn’t. We aren’t perfect. We are just in the process of being perfected by a love that is greater than us. 

We call this portion of Love Feast the “agape meal,” to remind us of this greater love, God’s love – “agape.” Without this love, strangers remain strangers, enemies keep on hating one another, even relatives can become estranged, brothers and sisters disconnected and distant. However, with God’s love, interesting things happen. Be genuine, my friends. Don’t pretend at love around these tables. Instead, allow God’s love to be what is shared in this meal. Would you pray with me?

A prayer to bless

Bless this meal, Lord God. Not just the food, but the fellowship shared around these tables. May your love transform your people gathered in this place. Sit with us as our guest, even though we know full well that you are our host. May we sense your presence in Spirit. This we pray in the name of the One who invited us to this meal - Jesus Christ. May he be our common ground. Amen.

Meditating before partaking

This all happened long ago in the context of a meal. We’ve remembered that original table time and sought to live it out in our own time - humbly washing one another’s feet and sharing loving fellowship. And now, amid this evening’s meal, we remember and, as the apostle Paul said in his letter to the folks in Corinth, “thus proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes(1 Cor. 11:26).

At that first meal long ago, the disciples of Jesus had little idea what all this meant. There are times when we are in the same boat. If the truth be told, that’s more often than not. The finality of death is a distant probability for most of us. We’d rather proclaim an empty tomb than Jesus’ death. What do we know of suffering? Of course, some of us know a great deal, but even then it remains a bit of a mystery. When hard times arrive, we are overwhelmed. We feel more and think less, struggling to find our way.

And Jesus said, “I am the way.” At that meal table long ago, Jesus knew the path which lay ahead. Unlike those disciples, we have received the story of what then happened and, if we’ve paid attention to what came before in this book of books, the rest sounds strangely familiar. Even longer ago the children of Israel were enslaved in Egypt, and God sent a deliverer to set them free. On a night remembered for thousands of years, a lamb was slain whose blood was painted on the doorposts of every Israelite household. Inside they shared a frightening meal while the angel of death passed over, visiting instead the homes of their oppressors. This became the straw which broke the camel’s back, and Pharaoh let God’s people go free.

As we break bread and drink from the Lord’s cup, we remember that Jesus was called the Lamb of God for a reason. Like in the days of the exodus, this Lamb of God was slain, and his shed blood makes possible our deliverance – the salvation not just of the descendents of Israel, but of all people. As we eat and drink, we remember and we proclaim this death. Upon a cross the Lamb of God was lifted up. He died for all, and his death sets us free from sin. Not just us, but all believers everywhere, an important message to proclaim on this World Communion Sunday.

And it all happens in the context of a meal, then and now. What I find interesting is that after sharing the bread and cup, Jesus said (as the evangelist Mark recalls), “Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” My mind is drawn by these words to another meal – a wedding feast, if you will, when those words from the prayer Jesus taught us to pray will become reality: “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Tonight’s Love Feast, as every Lord’s Supper shared in a variety of ways around the world, connects us with the past and pulls us toward God’s future, when we will share a meal at the wedding feast of the Lamb of God.

My sisters and brothers, let us remember and proclaim…

Unison Thanksgiving and Lord’s Prayer

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)

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


This is the feast of victory for our God,
      for the Lamb who was slain
            has begun his reign.  Alleluia!

Worthy is Christ, the Lamb who was slain,
      whose blood set us free to be people of God.
            Power, riches, wisdom, and strength,
                  and honor, blessing, and glory are his.
Sing with all the people of God,
      and join in the hymn of all creation.
            Blessing, honor, glory, and might
                  be to God and the Lamb forever. Amen.

This is the feast of victory for our God,
      for the Lamb who was slain
            has begun his reign.  Alleluia!

adapted from Hymnal #476
words are based on Revelation 5:12-13
by John W. Arthur, 1970, Lutheran Book of Worship, 1978


Interested in Sunday School?
Below is a growing list of possible sites to visit. As you discover others, please let us know.

International Lesson:
Faith and Life Resources

Mennonite Publishing House

International Lesson:
Mennonite Weekly Review

(scroll down on left to "Sunday School lessons)

International Lesson:
Christian Standard
(one week ahead)

International Lesson:
Adult Bible Studies
from The United Methodist Publishing House
(click "supplemental resources" and "current events supplement" under both the "Student" and "Teacher" sections in the left hand column)

International Lesson:
International Bible Lesson
a weekly column by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.
in "The Oklahoman" newspaper
also found

International Lesson:
Living Web Sunday School Project

While one of our adult classes follows the International lesson above (see also), using
A Guide for Biblical Studies,
published quarterly by our denomination,
another class often uses one of the
Good Ground series.

For children and youth, we use the new
Gather Round curriculum
(developed jointly by the Church of the Brethren and the Mennonite Church)


©2012 Peter L. Haynes
(unless otherwise stated, worship resources were written by him)


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