A Communion Liturgy

Below is a most wonderful Communion Service on the Ben Myers blog faith and theology, written by Kim Fabricius.

Service of Holy Communion

THE INVITATION
Are you hungry? Are you thirsty? You’ve come to the right place!
There is plenty of room at this table.
It’s not full until all kinds of people are here:
tall people and short people, portly people and skinny people,
people with rosy cheeks and people with wrinkly skin,
black-skinned and white people, the blond and the bald.
Come, there is room for you. We’ve got the best food –
hearty bread to fill your belly, heady wine to make you sing.
Come, join us – and live.
Let’s eat and drink!

THE NARRATIVE
People have been breaking bread in the name of the Holy One for centuries.
Our Jewish mothers and fathers blessed bread and wine and shared it.
Christians have gathered around tables and sat on mats
to pass the loaf of love and the cup of kindness.
And generous people have given hospitality to travellers and strangers, fellow pilgrims on the way to the kingdom.
We remember how Jesus shared a meal with his disciples in an upstairs room,
one who would deny him, another who would betray him.
There he took bread, raised it to heaven, and giving thanks to his Father,
broke it with a sound that echoed in his heart, and said:
“This is my body, broken for you. Eat it and remember.”
Then he took the cup, sweet and bitter offering, held it in both hands –
it would not pass – and giving thanks to his Abba, said:
“This is the cup of mercy that will spill all over the world
and open the hearts of many. Drink and remember.”
And they did. And we do. Let us give thanks to God.

THE THANKSGIVING
World-maker, Barrier-breaker, Peace-bringer, Holy God:
In the beginning, You. In the now, You. 
And when time ends, You. Always You!
With a handful of dust you gracefully fashioned us,
shaping us to be signs of your presence on earth.
You gave us the breath of life and placed into our hands the power to create,
into our heads the freedom to think, 
and into our hearts the strength to love.

You gave us all we need to live:
food and drink for our bodies; natural wonders for our senses;
wake-time and dream-time for our minds; and for our souls –
the light of the law, the rod of the prophets, the songs of the psalmists,
and the vision of a just and joyful world.

In the fullness of time the Word became flesh – you pitched your tent among us:
learning and loving, teaching and healing, forgiving and rebuking.
You shook the pillars of power and paid the price –
the lash of the whip, the crown of thorns, the cruel cross.
Death held you briefly, but in three days you burst forth alive,
and the echo of the empty tomb rang around the world.
Risen and reigning, you call us into fellowships of faith seeking understanding,
communities of character, churches in mission.
Your Spirit continues to revive and empower us,
informing, unforming, reforming, transforming.

Now, God, we pray: infuse these gifts of the earth – bread and wine and us –
with your grace and energy.
May our eating and drinking in faith and expectation equip us to share
the good news of your peace with all people and nations,
until the coming kingdom is the kingdom come,
and all rejoice in a new heaven and a new earth.

THE LORD’S PRAYER

THE BREAKING OF BREAD
This bread, earth-grown, hand-made, and heaven-blessed,
is now for us the bread of life.
This cup, fruit of the vine, lifted in love and drunk with courage,
is now for us the wine of salvation.

THE POST-COMMUNION PRAYER
God, our creator, we thank you for the nourishment of bread and wine,
word and worship, family and friends.
Jesus, our brother, we thank you for the way you walk with us,
past comfort, through conflict, toward connection.
Spirit, our breath, we thank you that you call us in to send us out
with strength, commitment, and compassion.
Holy Three-in-One, now may our thanks go from our lips to our living,
human hymns of hope and laughter:
Amen.

(Carla A. Grosch-Miller, much adapted)

A Prayer

Merciful and loving God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we open our hearts before you now.
We repent of our sins.
Our praise and worship make no sense unless we are repentant.
We confess to you faithful God, our sins in thought, word, deed and nature.
We confess freely and boldly.
We are a redeemed and sanctified people.
Not by our own righteousness. As if.
But by your righteousness, and the righteousness you give to us.
We are so blessed to be called your people.

For you do not treat us as our sins deserve.
Neither do you leave us wallowing in them
You lift us up. You crown us with love and compassion.
You declare us sons and daughters; heirs and co-heirs.
We acknowledge we have been bought at great cost.
We are not our own; but belong to you, in relationship with each other.

You have sent your Spirit. The Spirit of Jesus to live in us.
Not to be religious but righteous.
Not to live in piety but in power.
Not to be aloof but to be a saint.
Not to be sanctimonious but to be a servant.

Father God,

May your heart for us ever shape and heal our own hearts.
May we see you not as an insurance policy but as you are: Holy, Holy, Holy.
May we share your love in real, genuine ways.
May our evangelism be empowered and Spirit led, courageous and fearless, yet wise.
May our witness be authentic, natural, loving, sacrificial.
May our service to others be beautified.
May our giving cost us more than the cost of giving!

Meet with us Father God. Meet with us in a vast and complex world of fear and pain.
Meet us in our own pain and sickness. We pray for healing in the name of Jesus.
We also pray not just for healing, but encounter. An encounter with the resurrected Jesus.
And Father, if we fear that our prayers have not been answered, as is the repeated testimony of the Psalms and of your people through the ages;
Assure us that if in our praying, our prayers have not been answered, we have.
So we do not lose hope; we do not despair. You are the Rock on which we stand. You alone.
You – Jesus, are faithful and true. All sufficient in life and eternity. Bread for body and soul.
May we ever feed on you, Lamb of God. May we ever seek you, Pearl of great price.
Lord Jesus Christ, you do have mercy on us. Build your church through us we pray.

Amen

IMG_6748Steps in Torquay on my daily dog-walk.

How to Listen to Sermons

ear handBooks abound on preaching.  Its art and craft, science and form.  But there is a dearth on how to listen.  Even if sermons have fallen for the old cliche, ‘a monologue by a moron to mutes’, it still begs the question: What of hearing?

Yet Jesus said, “Consider carefully how you listen….” (Luke 8:18).

The preacher has a responsibility to preach faithfully; and the congregation has a collective and personal responsibility to listen faithfully.  Sometimes what we think are ‘bad sermons’ are actually the result of bad listening.  For sure, there are bad sermons out there, no one’s perfect, but how often have we considered our own listening?

 

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If We…

If We…
If we were on the Air France plane that crashed into the Alps, we would be dead.
If we were born just one caste above the pathetic Untouchables of India, we would despise them.
If we were carried on Empires wings to far flung places, we would have had black ‘servants’.
If we were a migrant from a poor nation, we would be on those Mediterranean boats.
If we were Germans in the 1930’s, chances are we’d be Nazi’s.
If we were a child in Gaza today, we would be traumatised for life.
If we were caught in the IS net, we would be Jihadis.
If we were born in Saudi Arabia, we would be Muslim.
If we were Syrian and couldn’t escape, we’d be reduced to factional fighting along tribal lines.
If we lived during post-war East Germany, we would be Communist.
If we lived near the Japanese nuclear reactor, we would likely die younger than planned.
If we were an uneducated female from rural Thailand, we would be lured to the sex-trafficking industry.
If we were born to the Christian poor in Egypt, we would live on the city’s rubbish dump.
If we were not British, we would not have access to the NHS.
If we were not Western, access to credit for loans and mortgages would not be possible
If we were not filled with food, we would become a different person.
If we had a twin in the Third World, we would give them our old phones and computers.
If we didn’t live in a democracy, we would live in a dictatorship.
If we weren’t British, the elderly wouldn’t get a fuel allowance.
Most people on the planet do not know what a pension is;
Or a weekly bin service; or a liveable wage; or dignity; or compassion; or ….mere humanity.
In other words, if we were not us, here, now, humanised, we’d mostly likely be someone else, somewhere else, living an existence – dehumanised.
For God so loved the world? He desires all to be saved, not wishing that any should perish?
Yes! For God so loved the world. He desires all to be saved, not wishing that any should perish.
We are here, by God’s grace, yes! By divine design, for sure! But why us and not someone else?

Does this qwerk of “chance” or providence change who God is? No.
Does it change how we as God’s people respond to those not like us? Yes. Of course.
It’s easy now to imagine ourselves as Christian – here and now, in this context, this powerful context of white Western power, economically strong, and militarily mighty.

Under these conditions the Gospel is so good. God is so merciful.
But God is still God to the 9 year old frontline IS warrior. Kid soldiers with men’s guns.
And God is still God when we do not get the parking space we prayed for, or the phone we wanted, or the illness which we just don’t have time for.
Our environment determines far more than we realise.
God does not change. But we do. Our lives, cultures, circumstances change almost constantly.
The Gospel makes us realise not only our own time and space, but then we are told by Jesus:
To cast the Gospel net further afield.
To scatter the Gospel seed onto every path.
To preach the Gospel Word in and out of season.
To proclaim Gospel peace and the year of the Lord’s favour.
To give away all but one of our coats.
To feed the hungry: “You give them something to eat.”
To bind up the broken hearted.
To go. Where?
Into all the world. Preach this Gospel to every creature under heaven.
And if we go into all the world, we would find God already there, in extraordinary ways, preparing the way.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition make your requests known to God.”

 

Sleep as Trust

I offer the poem below that I have stumbled across recently, not as one who finds sleep easy but one who doesn’t.  That means, given the poem’s content, I struggled to wrestle with the starkness of some of the comments. 

I think the point is true to all poetry, that we do not get lost in specific detail but we catch the wave, the ebb and flow, feeling the rhythm and beat of the poetry.  That way we insomniacs will not lose any more unneccessary sleep.

 

“I don’t like the man who doesn’t sleep, says God.

Sleep is the friend of man.

Sleep is the friend of God.

Sleep is perhaps the most beautiful thing I have created, and I myself rested on the seventh day.

He whose heart is pure, sleeps, and he who sleeps has a pure heart.

That is the great secret of being as indefatigable as a child, of having that strength in legs that a child has.

 

Those new legs, those new souls,

And to begin afresh every morning, ever new,

Like young hope, fresh hope.

But they tell me that there are men

Who work well and sleep badly.

Who don’t sleep.  What a lack of confidence in me.

I pity them.  I have it against them.  A little, they don’t trust me.

 

Like the child who innocently lies in her mothers arms, thus they do not lie

Innocently in the arms of my Providence.

They have the courage to work.  They haven’t enough virtue to be idle.

To stretch out.  To rest.  To sleep.

Poor people, they don’t know what is good.

They look after their business very well during the day.

But they haven’t enough confidence in me to let me look after it during the night.

As if I wasn’t capable of looking after it during one night.

He who doesn’t sleep is unfaithful to hope.

And it is the greatest infidelity.”

 

Charles Peguy in Basic Verities, p.209-11

boatA painting by Hannah Dunnet entitled ‘Trust in God’

The Right Time

Occasionally I conduct a live BBC Radio Devon service on Sunday mornings and recently did one where I spoke about ‘time’ in the context of Pentecost, looking at the significant difference between ‘chronos’ time and ‘kairos’ time.  A few people have asked for my notes, so here they are.

“We’re not at Pentecost yet as far as the calendar goes, but this morning I want to give us a foretaste, that reminds us of God’s right time.

Acts 3:1-10

“Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”

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I took this picture at a YWAM training base in the UK whilst teaching on the School of Biblical Studies

I have been struck at the incidental comment in the first verse of our reading, that Peter and John were going to the Temple “at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.” Blink and that seeming insignificant detail would be lost.  This is a very deliberate inclusion by the author. The hour of prayer was the ninth hour, that is 3pm in our currency.

The first century Jerusalem Temple had different prayer times:

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Sacred or Diabolical Theology

“Theology can be a coat of mail which crushes us and in which we freeze to death.

It can also be – this is in fact its purpose! – the conscience of the congregation of Christ, its compass and with it all a praise-song of ideas.

Which of the two it is depends upon the degree in which the listening and praying Christians stand behind this theological business.

As a Christian, as a listening and praying Christian, each must fight not to be crushed by theology and thus, instead of being a Christian soldier, becoming a corpse on the battlefield.

Sacred theology therefore is not a word to be taken lightly upon our lips.  Theology is a very human business, a craft, and sometimes an art.  In the last analysis it is always ambivalent.

It can be sacred theology or diabolical theology.  That depends upon the hands and hearts which further it.

But which of the two it is cannot necessarily be seen by the fact that in one case it is orthodox and in the other heretical.

I don’t believe that God is a fussy faultfinder in dealing with theological ideas.

He who provides forgiveness for a sinful life will also surely be a generous judge of theological reflections.

Even an orthodox theologian can be spiritually dead, while perhaps a heretic crawls on forbidden bypaths to the source of life.”

Helmut Thielicke, A Little Exercise for Young Theologians, p.36-37

 

Thielicke Quote