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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Friday, June 08, 2012

Friday Focus: Corpus Christi

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples said to him, "Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?" He sent two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, 'The Teacher says, "Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?"' Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there." The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover. While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, gave it to them, and said, "Take it; this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. Amen, I say to you, I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God." Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. - Mark 14:12-16, 22-26. 

To be human is to live with hunger. While it may not be gnawing at you right now, give it a little time. Miss a few meals. It will become the focus of every thought and action. But that is as it should be. Appetites are a gift from God. They are a signal of need that enables our survival, as individuals and as a species. They are also a reflection of “the great hunger” –our yearning for life’s meaning, our fear of mortality, our longing to fill the vast hole in our souls. More persistent than every other appetite, “the great hunger” cries out for nourishment.
The very good news of today’s gospel is that God’s bounty is on tap 24/7. He wants us to feast at his banquet – to fill the hole in our souls, to find meaning in life, to transcend mortality and find eternal happiness in him. In communion today he invites us to share the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation.
On the cross Christ gave up his body and blood so that we could have everlasting life. And on the night before he died, Jesus gave us the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist so we could capture that sacrificial moment, keep it fresh and draw strength and inspiration in its repeated celebration. He gave us this vehicle of grace so that untold generations could share in the very same “Forever Bread” that fortified the apostles.
But first, before we come to his table, there are some necessary preliminaries. We must scrub up, examining our lives, purging any and all impediments to complete communion with Christ. Throw away sin; then throw your heart into the mass. Prayer is the starter for his feast. It can be small talk or it can be profound. Bring your troubles to the altar. Give them to Jesus. Get comfortable talking with God. Become a good listener. It just takes practice.
Like any good meal, our Communion is not just an ingestion of calories. It is a total experience: receiving Christ, sharing him, celebrating the feast and giving thanks for God’s goodness. There is something uniquely unifying about our celebration. At our Savior’s bidding, we come to the altar as brothers and sisters in Christ. There is one bread and we are all one body. We share one cup. We are Corpus Christ – the Body of Christ – nourished by him, living in him. Bring him your fears and your hungers. Name them, lay them out before him. Come as a child to a loving parent who has just called you home for dinner. Find communion with Christ. You will not go away hungry.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

A Letter to the Church

Today I'd like to share an excerpt from a blogger, author and speaker: Rachel Held Evans.  As I have become involved once again in Ecclesia (a liturgical and pastoral ministry to the homeless), this particular letter "hit home" with me.  As a Church, within our parishes, we talk about making room around the table (the altar) for everyone -- now if we take one step further to a meal and, say, a long picnic table, wouldn't our church - and our denomination - be living more fully into the message and practice of Christ?  The issue of the decline of the Episcopal Church is one of the topics/threads on a forum/blog set up by the publication The Episcopal New Yorker focusing on 'Episcopal Identity'.  Barbara Crafton is one of the contributing moderators of that ongoing discussion.  See more here:

To the Church in North America,

I write to you as one of your own at a time when many in my generation have abandoned you. As the church in the Third World continues to grow, the church in North America is in Decline. Some are predicting our imminent demise, while others foresee a glorious rebirth. Most seem to think that we're in the midst of an identity crisis, one that will determine the shape and direction of the North American church for many years to come.

According to the statistics, we are a people of relative prosperity and relative generosity. We control most of the world's wealth and we give much of it away. Though we struggle with materialism, we value charity. While we want to make the world more just, we don't always know how to start.

But are we people of the kingdom?

That is the question at the heart of this crisis, and as we struggle together to answer it, I am convinced that we don't need bigger buildings or fancier sound equipment, better pastors or more parishioners, newer ministries or deeper pockets.

What we need are bigger banquet tables.

Jesus loved banquets. He performed his first miracle at a wedding reception in Canaan, turning jars of tepid water into the finest of red wines. He spent so much time feasting in the homes of sinners that the religious wrote him off as a glutton. When the five thousand were hungry, he served them fish and bread. When the time of his death drew near, he ate dinner with his closest friends. After Peter had denied him three times, he offered redemption over breakfast. It's as if Jesus knew his message would mean more to us if we could taste and smell it. How fitting that in his absence we remember him by eating together.

When Jesus returns, he plans to throw a great banquet in honor of his bride, the church. It's an event foreshadowed by the prophet Isaiah who describes it as a east of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine—the best of meats and the finest of wines. (Isaiah 25:6) The apostle John called it the "marriage supper of the Lamb." Baptists call it one eternal potluck.

We get to enjoy a foretaste of this meal through the communion of the kingdom. Jesus compared the kingdom to a lot of things, but one of his favorite metaphors was that of a feast."People will come from east and west and north and south," he said, "and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God" (Luke 13:29).

But while everyone is invited, not everyone will come.

Jesus compares the situation to a king hosting a dinner party.

Just as the meal is about to be served, all the rich neighbors cancel, saying they've got too much to do. So the king tells his servant to "Go out to the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full" (Luke 14:23).

Likewise, when we throw parties, Jesus tells us to invite the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame so that we too will be blessed.

I suspect that Jesus used all this delicious imagery because he knew that there is a difference between feeding people and dining with people.

Feeding people means keeping the hungry at arm's length. It means sending checks now and then, making thanksgiving baskets once a year, preaching about justice, and launching new ministries—all while sitting comfortably at the head of a tiny table, dropping scraps of our abundance to the floor.

Americans are good at feeding people.

But dining with people is an entirely different matter. Dining together means sitting next to one another and brushing arms, passing the bread basket and sharing the artichoke dip. It means double-dipping and spilling drinks, laughing together and crying together, exchanging stories, ideas, recipes and dreams. According to Jesus it means leaving the seat at the head of the table ceremoniously empty so that all are guests of honor and all are hosts. Dining together isn't charity; it's friendship.

For the church in North America to grow in a good way, we need to break down the distinction between those who serve and those who are served. The abundance must truly be shared. At the local level this may mean hosting literal banquets, complete with Jesus-style invitation lists. At the global level, it means sacrificing some of our own comforts so that when we care for our faraway neighbors we can still feel their presence beside us at the table.

In every case, it means slowing down long enough to savor both the food and the company. It means admitting that we need our neighbors as much as they need us.

So let's build bigger banquet tables.

Let's eat fruit that's in season and drink coffee that's fairly traded so that Latin farmers can join us at the table with their heads held high. Let's share the reputation of Jesus and dine with those who the religious love to hate—gays and lesbians, divorcees, single moms, junkies, dreamers and doubters. Let's squeeze in a little tighter to make enough room for people of all political persuasions, all religious backgrounds, all ethnicities and all denominations.

Let's eat a little less so that everyone has enough, and let's linger longer so that everyone gets a chance to share what's on their mind. Let's invite the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame so that our house will always be full.

Above is an excerpt from Letters to a Future Church: Words of Encouragement and Prophetic Appeals edited by Chris Lewis. Copyright(c) 2012 by Chris Lewis. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515.

Currently Rachel is running a series about Biblical women leaders at her website: which is part of the book she is currently at work on.

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