Communion Liturgy lifting up Extravagant Generosity

The following is a Communion liturgy that I wrote for use at the opening worship service of the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference.  The service took place in Peoria, Illinois on June 5, 2013.  It was a great honor to be asked by my friend and colleague, Eric Swanson, to write this liturgy.  It was a great experience to be in worship with 1000 of my clergy and lay brothers and sisters to hear Rev. Jan Griffith and Bishop Jonathan Keaton read these words, even if there was a slight technical glitch.

 

The Lord of be with you

And also with you

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them up to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God, creator of heaven and earth, giver of all good gifts, and source of all blessings.

It is right to give our thanks and praise.

It is right and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Almighty God, creator of heaven and earth.  You formed us in your image and breathed into us the breath of life.

You created us man and woman in your image, and provided all that we would ever need.  You placed us in a garden to care for your creation so that we may know peace.

You delivered us from captivity.  Through days wandering in the desert you sent to us manna from heaven so that we could eat.  You let water pour from the rocks so that we could drink.  You commanded us to trust in what you provided, and warned us against hording.

You made covenant to be our sovereign God.  You gave to us the Law, the great gift that could guide our ways.  The Law commands us to honor the Sabbath, and to be satisfied with what we have.  Above all, the Law reminds us that there is but one God, and we are to love you with all of our hearts, our mind, our soul, and our strength.

You spoke to us through your prophets, who reminded us to care for the widow and the orphan.  They spoke the truth of your Word to the powers of the world, and stood up to injustice.  They raged against those that would gain wealth on the backs of the oppressed.  They commanded kings to follow God first.

And yet we fell away.  Our love failed.  We choose disobedience.    We try to horde the bread.  We pursue our own goals on the Sabbath.  We mock the Law.  We deny the prophets.  We forget your promises of plenty.  We ignore the needs of others so that we might protect our own interests.  We hold onto blessings with white knuckles, not trusting enough to let go.  Forgive us, O God, for the times that we have failed you.

 Hear the good news.  God’s love remains steadfast.   God’s Law is righteous.  God’s prophets still speak   the truth to power.  God’s promises endure.  God’s grace knows no bounds. Despite our sin and brokenness, God calls us to this table.  Even while we wander, God invites us to return.  Even while we cling to the things of this perishable world, God calls us to extravagant generosity.  In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.

In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven. Thanks be to God, Amen.

And so, with your people on earth and all the company of heaven we praise your name and join their unending hymn:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.  Hosanna in the highest.  Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the highest.

Holy are you, and blessed is your Son Jesus Christ.  Your Spirit anointed him to preach good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty with those who are oppressed, and to announce that the time had come when you would save your people.

When no one thought there was enough, he fed the multitudes.  When no one thought the lepers could be healed, he cleansed them.  When there was no way to cross social boundaries, he talked to a Samaritan woman.  He told stories of a wasteful forgiveness, and unfair generosity.   When hope was lost, he raised the widow’s son and called Lazarus out of the tomb.   Here today, while we wonder if there is enough, Jesus reminds us that there is plenty.  There is enough food for all to be full.  There is enough water for us all to drink.  There is enough joy for us all to dance.  There is enough forgiveness for us all to embrace.  Here in this place, Jesus reminds us that there is enough love for us all to live abundantly.

By the baptism of his suffering, death, and resurrection you gave birth to your church, delivered us from slavery to sin and death, and made with us a new covenant by water and the Spirit. When the Lord Jesus ascended, he promised to be with us always, in the power of your Word and the Holy Spirit.

On the night in which he gave himself up for us, he took bread, gave thanks to you, broke the bread, gave it to his disciples and said: “Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

When the supper was over, he took the cup, gave thanks to you, gave it to his disciples and said, “Drink from this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for forgiveness of sins.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

And so, in remembrance of these mighty and generous acts in Jesus Christ, we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving as a holy and living sacrifice.  Let the generosity of Jesus, which enabled him to pour himself out for us, be embodied in all that we do.  May our every word and deed reflect a spirit of thankfulness for all with which we have been blessed, so that we may be in union with Christ’s offering for us, as we proclaim the mystery of faith.

Christ has died.  Christ is risen.  Christ will come again.

Pour out your Holy Spirit upon 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 may 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 God, now and forever.  Amen.

 

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