#GirlDad is not just about my daughters

IMG_3458Dear girl friends of my daughters,

I feel like I need to explain something to you. Hopefully you know that I love my daughters very much. Since you are her friend, you should know that my love for her is so strong that it spills over onto the people she loves, too. You are not mine, but I love you anyway. It is one of those things that has most surprised me about being a father. I always knew that I would love my girls no matter what. From the moment they were born, I knew that I would do anything to keep them safe, warm, protected, happy, and loved.

What I did not expect is just how much I would love their friends as well. I love it when you come over. I love watching you girls sit on the couch together and watch movies. I love hearing you singing the newest pop hit. I love hearing you giggle about boys and crushes. I love watching your dance parties and choreography.

I’ve long said, “If I love you, I feed you.” That’s why I love taking you out to dinner or making you smoothies. I love it when you sleep over and all pile in the big bed in the spare room. I love making pancakes for you all in the morning. You’re not a nuisance. You’re not too loud. You’re never annoying. There is no more beautiful noise than my daughters laughing with their friends. You’re actually providing me a beautiful gift when you come over. Thank you.

I will always give you a hug if you want it. I won’t put my arms out to you, or tell you “Give me a hug,” because I don’t want you to feel uncomfortable. I don’t ever want you to feel compelled to give me a hug, but if you put out your arms, it makes me very happy. I am an affectionate person. I love to give hugs, but consent is always my top priority. I want you to know that I’m always here for a hug, but only if you want. And if you don’t want to, I get it.

I will always give you a roof if you need it. I know sometimes you are going to go through difficult times with your own parents. If you have an unhealthy relationship at home, reconciliation with your family is always preferred, but my home will always be a safe place for you. This is especially true if you are rejected by your family for your sexuality or if you are gender non-conforming. I don’t want you to ever feel unsafe in your own home. If there is ever abuse in your home, physical or emotional, consider me your safe haven. I will listen to you. I will believe you. I will do what I can to protect you and keep you safe. If you are ever forced out – even if it is because you screwed up – we have an extra room for you.

I think you are absolutely beautiful, right now, just as you are. But I am much more likely to ask you about school, or your favorite book, or you softball team than I am going to tell you look pretty, or complement your hair or your outfit. I think you are beautiful, but I also think our culture puts way too much onto girls about how they look. You are so much more than your looks. Please don’t believe anyone that tells you that you are not beautiful. If I hear you insult yourself, I will intervene. If I hear you belittle your own body, looks, or anything physical about you, I will remind you that you are beautiful. I doubt it will matter much to you what I think, but I will not let self-deprecation go unchallenged. And it may not seem like a big deal, but it hurts me when I see you scratch out your face on Snapchat. The world is better when you are smiling, don’t blot that out.

I believe in you. I believe in your heart, your mind, your abilities, and your compassion. You don’t need a boy to define you. You are valuable, worthy of love, and worthy of affection. That is true whether or not a boy likes you. It is true whether you are single or in a relationship. If you find a boy (or girl) you love, I’ll be happy for you, but you are so much more than what you can offer to a boyfriend. You have a strong mind and an imagination. You have skills, talents and passions. I want to know about them. I want to hear about what you care about. Any boy that says he “likes you” should want to also. Please don’t ever mistake jealousy for love. Jealousy comes from fear and insecurity. Love should strengthen and uplift you, not hold you back. As you get older, you will have more intimate and powerful relationships. Always remember that consent is everything. Don’t let anyone dim your light. And if you are ever in a situation where you feel abused or in danger, I will help.

I will always have my daughters’ back, but I won’t allow her to be mean to you. If you and she get in a fight, I will tell her if I think she is wrong. If you hurt her, I will always be on her side, but I won’t stop caring about you. I have a forgiving heart. My love for you started with her, but it doesn’t end with her. Even if you and she just slowly drift apart, know that I will always have the light on for you. If you come back into her life, I will be there happy to welcome you back, too.

These are all things I hope my daughters know, but I want you to know it too. If you have a great relationships with your Dad, that is awesome. If you don’t, I know that I will never be your Dad, but I am, and always will be, a #GirlDad, so I’ve got your back too.

 

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Inclusivity Devotional 8 (Matthew 5:13-21)

This devotion was published first in the IGRC for Unity weekly email. As the Communications Director for IGRC for Unity, I compose a weekly email with news, resources, and reflections. IGRC for Unity is a group of Illinois United Methodists who have rejected the Traditional Plan for the United Methodist Church and are working to create a United Methodist Church that is truly open to all. These devotionals will be taken from a text from the Revised Common Lectionary, and will often have a theme of inclusion and welcome.

salt

The lectionary text for February 9 is Matthew 5:13-21. This come immediately after the Beatitudes, and serves as the beginning of Jesus’ most famous teaching in the Gospel of Matthew, also known as “The Sermon on the Mount.” I’ve told many people, ‘If you are only going to read three chapters in the Bible, make it Matthew 5, 6, and 7 – the Sermon on the Mount.’

Verses 13-16 include two famous lines, “You are the salt of the earth,” and “You are the light of the world.” Salt and light, this seems like an odd pairing. One is essential to life, the source of heat, the first step in Creation, and an eternal symbol of God’s presence in the world. The other is on our table at the diner. Salt however, is also essential to life. Some have argued that salt is the primary ingredient to civilization itself. It allowed for the preservation of food and the survival of people in times of scarcity and famine. If it were not for salt, people would have remained nomadic, simply following the food where it could found instead of settling into a place where life could be preserved. Light and salt. One is essential for revelation. The other is essential for preservation. Both are invaluable. Perhaps we can learn something from these metaphors Jesus used.

So many of our culture wars are framed in terms of “us vs them,” “liberal vs conservative,” or “progressive vs traditional.” Instead of framing his sermon in similar terms, Jesus lifted up the salt and the light. Illumination and preservation; these are the building blocks of the Kingdom of God. The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ articulation of an alternative way of being, but he is not inventing something entirely new.

This passage reveals that the Kingdom of God is at the same time built upon the foundations of God. The Law is still to promise of God. It is still the way people should live in relation to God and to one another. It is to be preserved, but not in the rigid and harsh ways that some think it should be. The light reveals something new. It reveals the heart of the Law, the relationships essential to the Law, the love that is at the foundation of God’s Law. Jesus came to proclaim something new that is not new at all. He came to proclaim God’s love which is revealed not simply through the law, but in its loving interpretation and application.

And this brings us to perhaps the most important part of the Sermon on the Mount: the audience. Remember who Jesus is calling salt and light. Remember who Jesus is telling “You are essential to life! You are essential to the Kingdom!” The audience came from “Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from the areas beyond the Jordan River” (Matthew 4:25). Jesus did not reserve his teaching to a privileged few. He preached to Jew and Gentile, tax collector and zealot, Pharisee and sinner. He came so that all may have life. All of them – poor, oppressed, hungry, downtrodden, and rejected, they are the “Light of the world.” All of us are the “salt of the earth.”

As we are moving forward as a United Methodist Church, we can remember Jesus’ call to be the salt and the light. We can preserve what is good, what is of Jesus’ love, what is worth preserving for the sake of God’s Kingdom. We can illumine new ways of experiencing God’s love. We can lift up our light of justice, grace, and mercy. We can lift up the light of Christ to those who have been kept in shadows. As we move forward as a denomination and conference, let us be wise in preserving our mission, our Wesleyan roots, and our traditions which are life-giving, and let us carry to the light of Christ to those who have yet to see what true love looks like.

 

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Inclusivity Devotional 7 (Matthew 11:2-11)

This devotional is a part of my effort to create weekly devotional readings based on the Revised Common Lectionary that look at a Biblical passage through the lens of inclusivity. It is my firm belief that the Bible points me toward an inclusive and fully affirming attitude toward LGBTQ people. Some devotions will be more explicitly about LGBTQ inclusion than others.

The lectionary text this week is (Matthew 11:2-11)

John is in prison. He is going to die there. He devoted his life to preparing for the coming of the Mesiah. He was a prophet of God who spoke truth to power. He baptized people in the name of metanoia (traditionally translated to “repentance”). He shouted that the Kingdom of God had come near. Despite his protests, he baptized Jesus. His ministry didn’t end when he baptized the Messiah. He kept preaching about repentance. He kept calling out hypocrisy. He criticized the puppet King for breaking the Law of God, and was jailed for it.

Now when John heard in prison about the things the Christ was doing, he sent word by his disciples to Jesus, asking, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’

Are you the one, or is there another?

Some must wonder that sometimes. Sitting in the prison of oppression and exclusion, John’s question is an understandable one. What if he was wrong all along? What if the one he baptized in the wilderness was just another pretender. Surely if he was the one anointed one of God, he wouldn’t be wasting away in this pretender-King’s prison.

Are you the one, or is there another?

I am sure that many LGBTQ people have wondered the same thing. Surely dark nights of the soul have led to questions, doubt, and fear, but I don’t presume to understand the plight of those whom the Church has harmed with its exclusivity.

Have allies yearning for a more just Church wondered this too? I have devoted my adult life to a Church that I believed in. I knew it wasn’t perfect, but I believe in the goodness of my Church. It was where I was raised. It was where I first tasted grace. It was where I first experienced the love of God and the peace which surpasses all understanding. Yet sometimes I can’t help but wonder, is there another? Have I made a terrible mistake by remaining in a Church which denies the humanity of my LGBTQ siblings?

Jesus’ answer is an interesting one. Like he does so often, he doesn’t provide a straight answer. He simply says, “Go, report to John what you hear and see.”

He does not declare his messiah-ness. He does not reprimand John for losing faith when the going gets tough. He tells him to see for himself. The evidence is there. People see. People are healed. People are restored. This is what Jesus points to.

John’s ministry was about pointing to Jesus. Jesus pointed to the hurting people of the world who were now whole.

Are you the one, or is there another?

I don’t have the answer for the Church. All I can do is look to hurting people who are made whole. The Church does so much good. People are fed. Communities are healed. The Kingdom of God is surely all around. And yet there is still so much harm being done. There is still so much hurt.

I can’t answer the question. All I can do is keep pointing to Jesus. All I can do is to keep pointing to hurting people – some who are being made whole, some who continue to suffer. As of now, there is no other church for me. This is the one who has embraced me and formed me. There is no other, so I will continue to repent and believe in the good news of Christ.

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Inclusivity Devotional 6 (Romans 13:8-14)

This devotional is a part of my effort to create weekly devotional readings based on the Revised Common Lectionary that look at a Biblical passage through the lens of inclusivity. It is my firm belief that the Bible points me toward an inclusive and fully affirming attitude toward LGBTQ people. Some devotions will be more explicitly about LGBTQ inclusion than others.

This is the first Sunday of Advent. For those in many Christian traditions, the time of Advent is the four weeks before Christmas. Each week of Advent is marked with a different theme. There is no standard for these themes, but the most popular is probably Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. Each week Christians focus on one of these themes and light a candle in preparation of the coming of Christ.

When we think of getting ready for Christmas, we often think of decorations, shopping lists, and gatherings. Even if we move to the more spiritual realm, our images of Christmas are usually that of the baby in a manger, shepherds gathering, and wise ones traveling.

There is another element of Advent that we often ignore. Advent is not just about welcoming a baby. It is about welcoming the resurrected Christ into our lives and our world. Advent is as much about preparing for the second coming of Christ as it is about the first. I know that much talk about the second coming is wrapped in scary stories of people disappearing, famine, wars, and destruction. Most of this comes from Biblical apocalyptic literature that has a very specific cultural and historical context that is not meant to be taken literally.

Most applications of apocalypic literature that take the imagery literally, or apply it directly to current events are dangrous and irresponsible. They are nonsense stories of sci-fi fans who want to scare people into buying their books or coming to their churches. Often called “Left Behind” or “Tribulation” theology, it’s mostly nonsense. The Second Coming is about the coming of the Kingdom which will make all things right. It is what we are working toward as people of God, watching and waiting for the promises of peace, justice, and love to be fulfilled on earth as it is in heaven.

The text from Romans 13:8-14 is a reminder that to prepare for Christ, we must first wake up. “You know what time it is,” says Paul. It is time to wake up to what is going on all around. It is time to wake up from old systems of racism, sexism, and homophobia. It is time to wake up from closed-minded religion that does harm in the name of Christ. It is time to wake up to what Jesus actually taught us the first time around – love one another.

This passage tells us that our only obligation is to love each other. “Whoever loves another person has fulfilled the Law.” I have yet to hear a good response to this from those who want to exclude LGBTQ people from full inclusion in the church. How is loving another person a sin?

Some will point to the end of the passage, “Let’s behave appropriately as people who live in the day, not partying and getting drunk, not sleeping around and obscene behavior, not in fighting and obsession. Instead, dress yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ and don’t plan to indulge your selfish desires” (Romans 13:13-14).

It is an old-fashioned tactic to paint LGBTQ people as fitting directly into this category. There are still many who falsely believe that to be gay is to be immoral, that the “gay lifestyle” is one of promiscuity, sex on demand, and debauchery. They believe that anyone who has a physical sexual relationship with one of the same gender is “giving into selfish desires.”

I agree with Paul that to follow Christ means that some behaviors are no longer acceptable. I agree that it is wrong to give into selfish desires, but there is nothing inherently sinful about falling in love with another person. There is nothing inherently sinful about expressing love through sexual contact. Sex is a natural expression of romantic love. To prohibit a person from sex with someone with whom they have an intimate, romantic, loving connection would be the true abomination. Whether or not sex is an expression of love has nothing to do with the biological parts involved. Sex that is destructive, abusive, manipulative, or coercive is wrong – regardless of the sexual orientations of those involved.

It is time to wake up. For those who wish to exclude LGBTQ people from the full participation in the life of the church, wake up to the first verse of this passage. Wake up to Paul’s reminder that all of the commandments can be summed up with “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Please stop telling LGBTQ people that you love them while you reject the love they feel for another person.

If someone were to tell me that they love me, but that they think the most important, loving, life-giving relationship in my life was an abomination to God, I would not feel very loved. If you think that LGBTQ people are only interested in debauchery and licentiousness, wake up. Instead, dress yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ, and don’t indulge in your own selfish desires to keep some people from the grace of Christ.

In this season of Advent I have hope that the coming of Christ can break the hard hearts of those who cling to their fears, misconceptions, and ill-conceived interpretation of Scripture. I have hope that the light of Christ can overcome any darkness. I rejoice in Paul’s declaration that “salvation is nearer than when we first had faith.” I believe that people of faith can grow and move closer to the beloved community that includes all people. This is my Advent hope, that we may all may wake up to the darkness and put on the weapons of light.

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Inclusivity Devotional 5 (Luke 23:33-43)

This devotional is a part of my effort to create weekly devotional readings based on the Revised Common Lectionary that look at a Biblical passage through the lens of inclusivity. It is my firm belief that the Bible points me toward an inclusive and fully affirming attitude toward LGBTQ people. Some devotions will be more explicitly about LGBTQ inclusion than others.

November 24, 2019 is known in the Christian year as Christ the King Sunday, or Reign of Christ Sunday. This is a relatively new observance in the Christian year. It was instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI. and has only been observed on the last Sunday before Advent since the 1970s. The purpose of the day is to recognize that Christ is the sovereign over all creation. Some call it a response to the rising secularism and nationalism of the day.

World War I was only a few years in the past. Europe was still cleaning up after the destruction of the war, which was the result of rising nationalism and alliance. At the same time, new nations were starting to rebuild and claim their place in the world stage. 1925 was the year that Mussolini rose to power in Italy. It was also the year the Adolf Hitler restarted the Nazi party. In Europe, there were the first inklings of fascism rising. In the United States, there was an increased sense of isolationism and anti-immigrant legislation.

While Mussolini marched in Rome, the Pope declared that Christ is King. This historical moment seems very important in today’s world political climate. Nationalism is on the rise in Europe. President Donald Trump’s “America First” populism is well documented. The world in 2019 is very different than it was in 1925, but many see similar trends and disturbing parallels.

Enter Christ the King. It is in this climate that we must declare that Christ is the King. The national powers, military might, and economic forces are not what reign on Earth. God created all things, and the universal and eternal Christ reigns. And just what kind of King is Jesus? What does it mean to say “Christ is King”?

The Gospel reading for this Sunday is Luke 23:33-43, which details the story of Jesus on the Cross. This is the image of Kingship for Christians. It is not the triumphant victor, riding in on a conquering war-horse. It is the lamb slain. It is the self-sacrificial love that would forgive even those who held the hammers. It is the peace that comes even to two men also being crucified.

Lest we forget, Jesus was executed by a King for treason. He was killed in the name of the Emperor for claiming to be “King of the Jews.” In his mightiest act on earth, he submitted to the worst punishment that the kings of the earth could hand out. The Kingship we need now is not that of the Emperor. The King that saves is not the one who punishes, executes criminals, and carries out wars. The King that saves is the one who loves, even to the end. The King that saves is the one who rises over violence. The King we need is Christ the King, Christ the Crucified, Christ the giver of grace. Lord in your mercy, hear us.

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Inclusivity Devotional 4 (Luke 21:5-19)

This devotion was published first in the IGRC for Unity weekly email. As the Communications Director for IGRC for Unity, I compose a weekly email with news, resources, and reflections. IGRC for Unity is a group of Illinois United Methodists who have rejected the Traditional Plan for the United Methodist Church and are working to create a United Methodist Church that is truly open to all. These devotionals will be taken from a text from the Revised Common Lectionary, and will often have a theme of inclusion and welcome.
   The Gospel reading for November 17 in the Revised Common Lectionary is Luke 21:5-19. This is one of those weeks where the lectionary, and most of the subtitles of modern printed Bibles, do a disservice to the text. Many Bibles separate verses 1-4 from the story we have for today, which is a huge mistake. In fact, to truly see this passage and its power, the reader should go back to at least 20:45.
   But first, let’s look at the passage the lectionary gives us. In verses 5-19 Jesus predicts not only the Temple’s fate, which is disastrous, but also predicts the coming troubles for those who follow him. Verse 5 opens with people talking about the beauty of the Temple. Jesus responds that this beautiful structure will all come crashing down. What’s more, in the coming days things are going to get worse. He reminds his followers that remaining faithful to him will come at great cost. Many of the things Jesus mentions, earthquakes, famine, and epidemics were not altogether uncommon. These things however, were often interpreted as signs of God’s punishing judgment. Instead, Jesus is reminding them that even in the midst of trial, God’s plan is still unfolding. The disasters are not a sign of God’s wrath, but instead should serve as reminder’s of Jesus’ predictions. The disciples could take comfort in the midst of disaster knowing that their God is still with them.
   Of course, the destruction of the Temple did occur some 40 years later. It is difficult to overstate the trauma of this event, even to the early Christian church. Instead of seeing it as a disaster though, followers of Christ were called to see even this devastation as a sign that God was working in the world – not causing the destruction, but working even through such destruction to bring God’s Kingdom.
   Now, let’s get back to verses 1-4. This is known as “the widow’s offering.” Jesus saw a widow give the last of what she had to the Temple. In the very next scene, the people are marveling at its beauty. Jesus did not see its beauty – although it was quite magnificent. Instead, he only saw an institution that was taking a widow’s last coins. The beauty of the outside of the institution did not match the fruit that it was bearing. Instead of being a place where people were inspired to care for the widow, the orphan, and the alien, it was a place where marginalized were pushed farther away. In the verses immediately before the widow’s offering, Jesus warned against those who “cheat widows out of their homes, and to show off they say long prayers.”
   The widow’s offering and the beauty of the Temple served as a perfect object lesson for Jesus, and it should serve as a timely warning for us in the grand temples of Methodism today. We live in an institution that has appeared to have a beautiful facade. It is the second largest Protestant denomination in the United States. There are great cathedrals in our cities, first churches in our towns, General Boards and Agencies that wield power and influence. The Cross and the Flame is indeed a beautiful ornament dedicated to God. Perhaps on the inside though, something has been ill. Does the fruit of exclusion match the fruit that Christ calls us to bear?
   Jesus’ prediction against the Temple came on the heels of witnessing first hand the “devouring of widow’s homes.” What would he say about the Church who continues to marginalize and do harm to our LGBTQ siblings?

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Inclusivity Devotional 3 (Haggai 1:15; 2:1-9)

This is my weekly devotional, based on the Revised Common Lectionary, with a theme of inclusion. I started this exercise as a part of the IGRC For Unity newsletter. IGRC for United is a group of centrist and progressive United Methodists who have rejected the Traditional Plan (and its punitive exclusion of LGBTQ people and those who support them), and are working for a United Methodist Church that is truly for all.

One of the readings in the Revised Common Lectionary is from Haggai. This is one of the “Table of Contents” books of the Bible. If I had an actual printed Bible, I would be turning to the table of contents to find it. I know its somewhere near the back of the Hebrew Bible, but its short and easy to flip past. It’s safe to say that the pages of this prophet are not well-worn. This does not mean it’s not worth reading.

Like any of the prophets, Haggai’s historical context is important; and unlike some prophets, it Haggai’s context is remarkably clear. “The second year of King Darius” can be translated to August of 520 BCE. Darius was “noted for his administrative genius and for his great building projects” (Encyclopedia Britannica). Cyrus the Great officially ended the Jewish exile in 538 BCE, 18 years before Haggai. The people were trying to rebuild the Temple, but it was not going well. There were some who considered it of secondary concern. Some were conflicted over how it should get done.

Haggai came to try to set the people on the course of rebuilding. He saw the construction of the Temple as an essential part of their relationship with God, and the people were too busy on their own pet projects to get to work on what mattered. There were some that thought that building something new wasn’t worth the trouble because there was no way that they could recreate what had come before.

Rebuilding is not about re-creating what came before. Pining for the “good old days,” while neglecting what needs to be done now is the most toxic impulse connected to nostalgia. If the Church is to be in the business of renewal and revival, it should not be trying to recreate the 1950’s. We are to seek a relationship with the living God. We are not called to build a museum to what things used to be.

In this passage, God promises restoration and salvation. The promises are rooted in how God has saved in the past, but this does not mean God is doing the same thing as before. God saved and will save again. We are to do our part, rebuilding our hearts, rebuilding our communities, and yes, rebuilding our churches – not in the image of what was before, but in the image of God who creates all, redeems all, and sustains all.

 

 

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Inclusivity Devotional 2 (Luke 6:20-31)

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Inclusivity Devotional 1 (Luke 18:9-14)

This devotion was published first in the IGRC for Unity weekly email. As the Communications Director for IGRC for Unity, I compose a weekly email with news, resources, and reflections. IGRC for Unity is a group of Illinois United Methodists who have rejected the Traditional Plan for the United Methodist Church and are working to create a United Methodist Church that is truly open to all. These devotionals will be taken from a text from the Revised Common Lectionary, and will often have a theme of inclusion and welcome.
The lectionary texts for October 27 include Luke 18:9-14. This is Jesus’ parable about two people praying: the Pharisee and the tax collector. Jesus told this story about two people praying to a group who “convinced themselves that they were righteous and who looked on everyone else with disgust” (Luke 18:9 Common English Bible).
The prayers of these two are vastly different, but in one important way they are alike. They are both praying the Psalms. The Pharisee is praying Psalm 17:3-5 “If you try my heart, if you visit me by night, if you test me, you will find no wickedness in me; my mouth does not transgress…” The tax collector is praying Psalm 51:1 “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy…”
The mistake the Pharisee makes is when he compares himself to the other. He creates a hierarchy, placing himself above the tax collector. Jesus’ Kingdom is not about hierarchy. It is not about social strata, or placing one above the other. Like Mary had sung in the beginning of the Gospel “He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty-handed.” (Luke 1:52-53)
Like most parables, we are invited to see ourselves in these characters. It is easy to see yourself as the tax collector and others as the Pharisee. The surprising thing is though, that while the tax collector is “justified,” the Pharisee is not condemned by Jesus. The high is brought low, but not cast out. We must be careful in these divisive times, realizing that both progressives and conservatives can fall into the trap of the Pharisee:
  • Thank God I am not that godless, politically correct, unrealistic liberal…
  • Thank God I am not that close-minded, judgmental conservative…
Instead, focus our prayers on our own shortcomings, our own sin, our own celebrations, triumphs, and victories. This does not mean we ignore others, but we never place ourselves above others. God does not pick and choose. God welcomes and loves all.
PRAYER: O God, show mercy to us, sinners all. Forgive us for missing the mark of your love. Forgive us for the times we have looked upon others with scorn, disgust, or apathy. Help us to see others as fellow pilgrims to be encouraged, not as sinners to be condemned. Empower us to be righteous without being self-righteous. Strengthen us in our weakness, and help us to see all humanity as beloved and created in your image. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

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Maundy Thursday Pot-Luck Liturgy

On Maundy Thursday, my church has done something a litte different the last two years. Instead of a traditional worship service in the sanctuary, we have done a Pot-Luck and Liturgy. The idea of this service is to come together in fellowship for a meal and together tell the story of Jesus on holy Thursday. The liturgy below mostly follows the story as told in Matthew 26:17-56. There are two reading parts and congregational reading as well. Reader 1 mostly functions as the narrator. Reader 2 is usually the words of Jesus. Most of the congregational reading are the words and responses of the disciples, especially Judas and Peter.  In my context, both Reader 1 and Reader 2 are ordained clergy. If yours are not, you may want to adjust the Communion section accordingly.

To set up this service, you need to have a regular pot-luck (or some meal provided). Each table should have a loaf of bread, a pitcher of grape juice, and cups for everyone. There are four main parts:

I. Before the meal: Prayer of thanksgiving, reading the ‘commandments of Jesus,’ and a prayer of confession

II. The meal: People are invited to gather their food and begin to eat.

III. The Bread and the Cup: Before everyone is done eathing their supper, there are readings for the Words of Institution, a prayer of invocation, and people are invited to share the bread and cup with one another at each table.

IV. After the Meal: Readings from when the story goes out to Gethsemane. The prediction of Peter’s denial and the arrest of Jesus.

Below is my script. There are places for three different songs, which help get people’s attention in the midst of the meal. We have a piano in our fellowship hall, so this should work. If you don’t, you might use selected recorded music to help set the liturgy apart in its sections.

Maundy Thursday service and pot-luck. April 18, 2019, 6:00 p.m.

Words of Welcome

Reader 1    We gather on this night to remember Jesus’ last night with his disciples. Friday is a day of mourning, reflecting on the death of the Messiah at the hands of jealous men. Saturday is a day of waiting, pondering the mystery of a tomb that is soon to be empty. Sunday is a day of joyful excitement, proclaiming the Resurrection.

Reader 2    Today is Thursday; a day to remember what Jesus lived for. It is a day to remember how he loved, what he taught, and how God’s steadfast love was revealed through him.

Reader 1    Today is Maundy Thursday. Maundy comes from the Latin “command.” So today we remember what Jesus commanded us to do. As we enjoy this great feast set out before us, we will recall Jesus’ words and deeds. We will recall the response of the disciples, who all fell away, and we will leave with a prayer for us all to remain awake through the very end.

Song 561   Jesus United by Thy Grace vs 1, 2, 6

The Meal Begins

Reader 1    On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and said,

All                “Where do you want us to prepare for you the Passover meal?”

Reader 2    He replied, “Go into the city, to a certain man, and say, ‘The teacher says, “My time is near. I’m going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.”’” The disciples did just as Jesus instructed them. They prepared the Passover.

Reader 1    Let us pray together and give thanks for

All:      Gracious God, we give you thanks for all which is set out before us. Send you Holy Spirit to fill each of us with thanks and praise. Guide us as we remember that your Anointed One, on the night before he suffered, instituted the sacrament of his body and blood. Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life. Amen.

Reader 1    Here are the commandments of Jesus

Group 1     Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)

Group 2     You must love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39)

Group 1     Do not pay back violence with violence. (Mt. 5:39)

Group 2     Do not withhold forgiveness. (Mt. 6:15)

Group 1     Do not hate or curse your enemies. (Mt. 5:44)

Group 2     Do not pray like the hypocrites or make a show of your faith. (Mt. 6:1)

Group 1     Do not ignore the needs of the poor. (Mt. 19:21)

Group 2     Do not put the letter of the Law over the heart of the Law. (Mt. 15:10)

Group 1     Do not be afraid. (Mt. 28:10)

Reader 2    Jesus said, “As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love. This is my commandment: Love each other.”

All:               This is our commandment. To love each other.

Reader 2    Jesus said, “No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I don’t call you servants any longer, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends… I give you these commandments so that you can love each other.”

Reader 1    Before Jesus and his disciples gathered for the meal, there was one who had taken matters into his own hands. For thirty pieces of silver, Judas had agreed to hand Jesus over to the chief priests. From that moment on, Judas was looking for the right time to betray Jesus.

Reader 2    “I assure you, one of you will betray me.”

All:               I’m not the one, am I, Lord?

Reader 2    “The one who will betray me is the one who dips his hand with me into this bowl.”

All:               Judas said, “It’s not me, is it, Rabbi?”

Reader 2    “You said it.”

Reader 1    Let us confess together:

All:               Merciful God, we confess that we have betrayed you. We have denied you. We have not loved you with our whole heart. We have failed to be an obedient church. We have not done your will, we have broken your law, we have rebelled against your love, we have not heard the cry of the needy. Forgive us, we pray. Free us for joyful obedience, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Moment of quiet reflection for personal prayer and confession.

Reader 1    Hear the good news: when Christ gathered with his disciples to remind them of his love, he knew that he gathered with the one who betrayed him, the one who would deny him, and all who would abandon him. This proves that Jesus loved them, even when they failed him, and he loves us still today. In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.

INSTRUCTIONS: All are dismissed to the buffet line one table at a time. Begin the meal, but please be aware that we will have more readings before the meal is finished. We will come together by singing:

Song 616   Come, Sinners, to the Gospel Feast (v. 1, 2, 5)

Sharing the bread and cup

Reader 1    On the night in which he was betrayed, and while they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said,

All:               “Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you”  

Reader 2    And when the supper was over, he took the cup, gave thanks to God, shared it with his disciples and said,

All:               Drink from this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink of it, in remembrance of me.

Reader 1    And so,
in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving
as a holy and living sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of faith.

 All:  Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.

Reader 2    Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here,
and on these gifts of bread and wine.
Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ,
that we may be for the world the body of Christ,
redeemed by his blood.

By your Spirit make us one with Christ,
one with each other,
and one in ministry to all the world,
until Christ comes in final victory
and we feast at his heavenly banquet.

Through your Son Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit in your holy Church,
all honor and glory is yours, almighty Father,
now and forever. Amen.

Each table will have one loaf to share. Please break off a piece, hand it to the person next to you and tell them, “this is the body of Christ.”  When all have eaten their piece of bread, the remaining bread may be placed back at the center of the table. Then take the pitcher of grape juice, pour out a cup for your neighbor, give it to them and tell them, “This is the cup of forgiveness.” You are free to eat more bread and drink more juice if you wish. You may finish your meal. When all the places are cleared, we will finish the service after the choirs sing.

CHOIR ANTHEM

After the meal

Reader 1    Then after singing songs of praise, they went to the Mount of Olives.

Reader 2    Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Tonight you will all fall away because of me. This is because it is written, ‘I will hit the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will go off in all directions.’ But after I’m raised up, I’ll go before you in Galilee.”

Reader 1    Peter replied

All:               If everyone else stumbles because of you, I’ll never stumble.”

Reader 2    Jesus said to him, “I assure you that, before the rooster crows tonight, you will deny me three times.”

All:               “Even if I must die alongside you, I won’t deny you.”

Reader 1    All the disciples said the same thing.

Group 1     I won’t deny you

Group 2     I won’t deny you

Reader 2    Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane. He said to his disciples “Stay here while I go pray over there.” When he took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, he began to feel sad and anxious. Then he said to them, “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here alert with me.”

Reader 1    As Jesus prayed in anguish, none of the disciples could stay awake. A moment before they all pledged their undying loyalty. Now they couldn’t stay awake to pray in Jesus’ time of need. Finally, it was time.

Reader 2    After finding them asleep again, Jesus said, “Get up. Let’s go. Look, here comes my betrayer.”

Reader 1    While Jesus was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, came. With him was a large crowd carrying swords and clubs. They had been sent by the chief priests and elders of the people. His betrayer had given them a sign.

All                “Arrest the man I kiss.” Just then he came to Jesus and said, “Hello Rabbi.” Then he kissed him.

Reader 2    Jesus said “Friend, come do what you came to do.”

Reader 1    Then they came and grabbed Jesus and arrested him. One of those with Jesus reached for his sword. Striking the high priest’s slave, he cut off his ear.

Reader 2    Then Jesus said to him, “Put the sword back into its place. All those who use the sword will die by the sword. Or do you think that I am not able to ask my Father and he will send to me more than twelve Legions of angels right away? But if I did that, how would the scriptures be fulfilled that say this must happen?”

Reader 1    Then Jesus said to the crowds

Reader 2    Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as if I were a thief? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me.”

All:               Then all of the disciples deserted Jesus, and fled.

Reader 1    Get up. Let’s go. Look, the hour is at hand. It is time to depart from this place. Tomorrow is another day to remember and reflect on all that Jesus did and gave for us. Go now and remember Jesus’ last commandment: to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Go in peace, transformed by Christ’s commands.

All:               This is our commandment: To love each other. We will go in peace and wait. We will try to stay awake.

 

 

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