Category Archives: Liturgy

Pastoral Prayer at the End of Advent

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Most gracious God,

desire of every living thing,

you have lighted our way in Advent

candle by candle,

dispelling our gloom.

and now four candles shine.

The night is almost over.

The Day is almost here.

But not yet.

Promise by promise

you have cleared our sight

with words from afar,

dreams, signs and wonders,

and now the Word made flesh

Is almost appearing.

But not yet.

Grace by grace

you have kept us awake,

brightening our eyes of faith,

and now we watch only a little more.

Now on tiptoe we see

the one we waited for

is almost here.

But not yet.

At the end of Advent,

in these days of not quite yet,

look with compassion

on the pain of the joyless,

the grief of the childless,

the sorrow of the bereaved:

for not all people enjoy the season,

not every family embraces,

not every womb conceives and carries,

not every day dawns with the presence of those we love,

not every story is full of angels,

not every song is ‘Glory!’

As we tell again the story

of your coming among us,

bind our hearts to the anguish of the poor,

the suffering of the sick,

the misery of the imprisoned,

and keep us alive to the terrors of war,

too easily forgotten, too easily accepted.

Increase the joy of earth,

and help us relish with thankful hearts

every good thing that will be ours at Christmas:

every pleasure and taste,

every sound and sight,

every touch and memory,

so that in the delight of our bodies

and the thoughts of our minds

we will know and love you,

who visits us through every sense and pore.

More than anything, O God,

we ask for Christ –

to meet his love, to know his goodness,

to experience his power, to be attracted to his way.

We ask for Christ—

to make the difference, to anchor our hearts,

to lead the way, to bring us home.

We ask for Christ – for cradle and cross,

for lullaby and lament, for life and death

and life made new in him.

In hope we pray,

the spirit of Christmas leaping within us,

heartened by his almost visitation,

the words he taught us on our lips:

Our Father….

A Service of Holy Communion for Earth Day/Creation Sunday

Under-Fig-Tree

Each Man Shall Live Under His Own Vine And Fig Tree (1967), by Ronen Koresh

 

Invitation

[Words in bold indicate the congregation’s part.]

Once upon a time, God made a garden,

and every creature lived in it happily with God.

We took long walks with God in the cool of the evening,

humans and snails, kangaroos and spiders, kitties and larks.

And when we all sat down with God to eat,

the curling vines gave up their fruit,

the tall gold wheat gave up its grain,

and we ate delicious bread

and drank from a cup of blessing,

singing songs under stars ‘till morning.

And the grateful creation was at peace.

 

Ever since, whenever we honor the earth

by eating and drinking with heartfelt thanks,

God walks with us again.

God sits with us and eats.

Our tables become the garden,

the whole creation sighs with peace,

and we see again how life was meant to be.

 

Come, now, everyone, to this table,

to the garden God planted in the East, in Eden.

Come, taste and remember,

taste and see how good God is.

 

Communion Prayer

Let us pray.

Thank you, Creator God,

for sharing your life with us

in every good thing of this world.

Thank you most of all for Jesus,

who sat us down to eat and drink

good bread and good wine,

so that in tasting how good they are

we could remember how good you are.

He is our East, our Eden,

our Garden of peace.

In him we find the fullness of life

you desired for us from the start—

walking together, sharing food, living in peace.

Send the Spirit to his table now

where he still sits us down,

where we still remember you.

Bless the bread and the cup,

fruit of the earth and work of our hands.

May they become by your grace

the taste of Eden in our hearts.

As we eat and drink together,

let us see more clearly

a vision of life as you meant it to be.

Consecrate us to the ministry of making it so,

by sharing earth’s goodness with all,

in reverence and hope, with justice, and joy.

 

Sharing Bread and Cup

Dear friends in Christ,

this is the bread Jesus blessed and broke

and gave us to share in remembrance of him.

 

This is the cup Jesus blessed and poured

and gave us to drink in remembrance if him.

 

Eating and drinking together,

we remember his death,

we rejoice in his rising,

and we wait for him to come again,

to judge in mercy,

to welcome in love,

and restore all creation,

to the praise and glory of God.

Amen!

 

Thanking God, Blessing the Earth

[As we sing the closing Song, inflatable globes (or small earth beach balls) will passed through the pews. When one comes to you, please hold it for a moment, thank God for the world, and give the earth your blessing. Then pass the globe along to others.]

Song “Blue Boat Home” (Peter Mayer) Tune: HYFRYDOL

 

 

 

The Assumption of Mary, August 15

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–Russian Icon, The Dormition of the Theotokos

On August 15, Roman Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary.* This is the belief that the mother of Jesus was ‘assumed’, or taken into heaven, ‘body and soul,’ immediately upon her death, without having to undergo the grave’s decay. By this feast, the Catholic Church teaches that the final restoration of all creation to which scripture attests, including the resurrection of the body, is anticipated in Mary.

Catholics are taught that because of her unique role in the drama of salvation, God chose to bestow on her, in an anticipated way, the glory we will all enjoy one day. The glory Mary enjoys it isn’t for her alone: she is given first what all the redeemed receive later. In the Assumption, we get to see in her what will become of us all because of the saving grace of Christ. The Assumption is the Church’s way of affirming the ancient conviction that ‘humanity’s future has a body’ (Luke Powery).

This festival has deep roots in Christian liturgy and devotion. The first extant mention of it is in the 4th century in the East. It was universally celebrated by the 6th . Clearly there was ‘something about Mary’ that the ancient church appreciated more than we do today—especially we who are Protestants and tend to view Marian doctrines as unnecessary at best and idolatrous at worst.

Here’s what I’m appreciating about the Assumption today—

The Assumption of Mary asks us to imagine that a human being in her body, not just her soul or spirit, now lives in the eternity of God we have traditionally called ‘heaven.’ Forget for a moment the triumphalist trappings, physical, and metaphysical problems of this doctrine. Go to the nub of it and allow yourself to see Mary in her body welcomed into heaven, enjoying God forever in a fully bodily way, breathing, sensing, moving… in all her body’s uniqueness. If you grant this vision, even for a moment, and if you grant that her present is our future, what does this feast day say?

It says the human body belongs in the presence of God. It says that the body is holy. It says that God and bodies are not opposites. It says that bodies are not ‘mere’ bodies, not inferior housing for a superior soul; not to be escaped from, dispensed with, or despised. It says there’s no such thing as ‘spirituality’ without ‘bodiality.’ It says you have to love the body because God does. Even when it’s hard to love the body, your particular body, and especially when it’s hard to love somebody else’s, it says you have to honor them all. It says you can’t kill Michael Brown or (insert another name here while you weep) because their bodies are male and black. It says you have to love those black bodies. It says you can’t make any body no body. It says God cares, infinitely cares, what we do with our bodies. It says when any body’s hands go up, the guns go down.

If you observe this feast day, that’s what you commit to. If you don’t, maybe you should.

——-

*The Orthodox also observe this mid-August commemoration, but they call it the Dormition (falling asleep)of the Theotokos. They prefer to think she was taken to God without experiencing even the slightest twinge of death’s customary pangs. Anglicans call this observance the Feast of Mary the Virgin, or more familiarly, the Feast of Mary in Summer. It’s a more generic celebration of Mary, but the collect of the day mentions God taking Mary to Godself, a clear nod to the ancient doctrine of the Assumption.

 

 

5 Doxologies

 

Praise God whose love will never cease,

whose justice raises up the least

and sits all creatures at the feast—

God’s mercy is our hope and peace!

 

Praise God, the source of breath and birth,

who formed us from the dust of earth,

and made us kin in unity

to love and set each other free.

 

Praise God, whose image we all bear;

Praise Christ, whose mercy we all share;

Praise Spirit, making justice grow—

One God from whom all blessings flow!

 

Praise God, who made all people one,

whose healing work is never done,

who calls us steadfast to abide

in mercy at each other’s side.

 

Praise God, whose life and grace belong

to good and bad, to weak and strong;

whose ways are not our human ways,

whose mercy gladdens all our days!

 

Blessing of Ashes (2)

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Most merciful God,

bless by your Holy Spirit these ashes,

dusky creature of earth and fire.

May all who receive them

and all who look upon them this day

be moved to conversion and newness of life.

May they be no empty sign, no prideful display;

but by your grace, may all who wear them

witness in bold speech and loving act

to what they signify—

your steadfast love for mortal flesh,

your will to heal,

the rich green life you bring from death.

Praise to you, Holy One!

In life and death we belong to you.

Amen.

Blessing of Ashes

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Most merciful God,

bless these ashes,

all that’s left of glory

after fire consumes

the lust of waving palms.

Bless these ashes,

residue of hosannas,

the swelling songs we lift

in praise of might.

Bless these ashes,

ambition’s leftovers,

dusty remains of the days

we believed in ourselves.

Bless these ashes,

fine and flyaway,

insubstantial as the heart

without its truth,

without its truth.

Medicine of Eternal Life: Reflections on the Healing Properties of Holy Communion

183496_159820980825930_243873873_nEarly Christian writers sometimes spoke of holy communion as “the medicine of eternal life.”  Calling communion “medicine” implied a human condition that required powerful treatment — nothing less than the application of the presence of the risen Christ to the brokenness of the community, to the fragments of its soul. Communion was Christ’s kiss upon our wounds — an outward sign of the permanent offer of reconciliation with God and all creation: medicine of mercy, medicine of abundant life. To approach communion was to be diagnosed, admitted, treated and released to a new regimen of wholeness and health.

This way of speaking also implied a kind of preventative therapy: communion with Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit at the center of the church’s common life inoculated believers against the disintegration and estrangement that always threaten to destroy human hearts. Being in communion with the Healer and with all the convalescing companions built up one’s resistance to evil and warded off the infections of a divided heart, moral error and a superficial or evasive life. To be excommunicated, or  “excommunioned,” then, was to be in mortal danger, fully exposed.

“Medicine of eternal life” was also a way to describe a future: by participating in the eating and drinking, Christians were promised not only a measure of healing and wholeness in their present lives, but also perfect and permanent health in the life with God to come. To be in good health, to have been saved, meant to have been drawn into a great mystery, to be living on tip-toe, as Paul put it, towards health as yet completely unknown, not even imaginable. Yet in communion, the church understood itself to be privy to a fleeting glimpse of this future: whatever that wondrous wholesomeness will be, it will be at least something like this — the beloved as one in the Beloved, feasting.

To think of communion as medicine of eternal life could strike us as magical, superstitious, or fraudulent—Christian snake oil for needy psyches, trembling bodies, and suggestible hearts. And it would be so, were it not for its intractable attachment to the reality of flesh. Early Christian teachers understood, wisely I think, that one arrives at wholeness and right belief not via secret knowledge nor philosophical constructs, not via a private moment of illumination nor by some doctrinal bee you get in your bonnet. One is in possession of truth and salvation most truly when one encounters the body. That meant “in the church,” and most especially, in the daily hum-drum rub of service and love, tending to bodies, the neighbor’s and the world’s: in imitatio Christi, a body on the line.

Thus, examining the life Christians lead in their own bodies and their conduct toward other bodies has always preceded the reception of communion. Such a prelude brought home to the conscience the inherent contradiction of drawing near to the table of embodiment in Christ while indifferent or hostile or disembodied with regard to the neighbor. Healing, like all authentic Christian religious experience, has its final proof in a dispensation of love enfleshed in the tangible service of the least — When I was hungry, you fed me.