29 October 2017

Our Reformation Family Tree (sermon)

Chetwynd Shared Ministry
(A congregation made up of 4 denominations:  Anglican Church of Canada, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Presbyterian Church in Canada, United Church of Canada)

October 29, 2017 - Reformation Sunday

Scripture:  Romans 3:19-28

In 1517, Martin Luther was living in Wittenberg, Germany.  He was an Augustinian Monk, a priest, and the head of the theology department at the University of Wittenberg.  He had started out his education to become a lawyer – his parents thought that law would be a good secure profession for him – but he had switched to theology after a near-death experience involving a lightning strike.

He loved the church.  And because he loved the church, he was disturbed when he saw occasions when he thought that the church wasn’t keeping to God’s ways.

In particular, Martin Luther had been studying Paul’s letter to the Romans.  We heard a bit of this letter this morning.  Paul wrote that, “since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift”; and then a bit later on, “for we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.”

These two concepts would prove to be most important to Martin Luther – the idea that we are saved only by our faith and not by anything that we do or that we don’t do; and the idea that this salvation, this faith, is a free gift from God, otherwise known as grace, and our salvation is not something that we could ever earn or deserve.

As I said, Martin Luther loved the church, and he was concerned that the church had lost the importance of grace and faith.  And so he wanted to do something to grab their attention.  He wrote a document – 95 statements or theses – outlining his concerns with the church practice as well as his understanding that humans are saved by faith alone and by grace alone.

Then on October 31, 1517 – 500 years ago this Tuesday – Martin Luther walked up to the door of the cathedral in Wittenberg, and nailed these 95 theses to the door.

The word Reformation doesn’t mean starting a new religion or denomination.  Martin Luther didn’t set out to start the Lutheran Church – instead he wanted to re-form or re-shape the church that he was a part of.  Unfortunately, the church wasn’t yet ready to be re-formed – that would come a century or so later with what we now call the counter-reformation within the Roman Catholic Church.  Prophets – those who point people back to God’s ways – usually aren’t appreciated by the powers that be, and so within a few years of nailing his theses to the door, Martin Luther had been excommunicated.  But he was passionate about his faith, and this passion was contagious, and others joined him, eventually forming the Lutheran Church.

Next door to Germany, in France, John Calvin was a few years younger than Martin Luther.  He was a precocious and devout child, but gradually drifted away from the church as he grew up, and he became a lawyer in the humanist tradition.  In 1533, he experienced a sudden revival of his faith, not triggered by an external event like Martin Luther, but by interior conflict and turmoil – a deep sense of his own unworthiness next to God.  He realized that we could only be saved by Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ was accessible only through the scriptures.  Jesus Christ was the one true head of the church, and not any person.

The Roman Catholic Church having become suspicious of people looking to reform the church in the wake of Martin Luther and the other early reformers, was not very tolerant of dissent at that point in time, and John Calvin’s awakening in faith was followed almost immediately by his break with the church and flight from France to Switzerland which was more open to reformers.

John Calvin’s theological work fit well in some ways with the theological work of Luther.  Both of them believed that it was only by faith and by the grace of God, and not by anything that we did or didn’t do, that we could be saved.  But for Luther, the salvation of each person was the primary emphasis, while for Calvin, the important thing was that God was glorified through this salvation.

Both Luther and Calvin emphasized the importance of making the scriptures accessible to every person – Luther was responsible for the first German translation of the scriptures; and Calvin believed that our salvation came through knowing Jesus Christ through the scriptures.

The two reformers disagreed though, on the relationship between the church and the government.  Luther saw no problem with the church being run by the government – in Germany at the time, each state was governed by a local prince, and having the prince involved in the church would ensure that the faith was spread within the borders of that state.  Calvin on the other hand argued that the church should be separate from the government – by having this separation, the church could be critical of how the government was run, and could be an independent voice for transforming civil society.

One of Calvin’s students was named John Knox.  John Knox was Scottish – a priest who had become involved in politics around the English reformation who had managed to get himself banned from both England and France, and who eventually found himself in Switzerland.  After studying with Calvin, Knox brought Calvin’s theology back with him to Scotland and founded the Presbyterian Church.  Remembering that Jesus Christ is the one true head of the Church, and not any person, the Presbyterian Church was to be governed by a system of councils, or presbyteries.

Now, if we jump from Germany and Switzerland, across the English channel, there was a reformation of the church going on in England around the same time.  The English reformation started as more of a political rather than religious reformation.  The primary question was:  where should the authority of the church lie?  In a city and country on the other side of Europe or here at home in England?

The church split happened fairly quickly but it didn’t stick.  Under the reign of Henry VIII and his son, Edward VI, the authority of the church was local, but then when Henry’s daughter Mary became queen, she turned the authority back to Rome.  When Mary died and Elizabeth became queen, authority shifted back to England and stayed there.

Now there were some theological implications of this political flip-flopping.  When the authority shifted from Rome to England, it was important that the scriptures be made available in English rather than Latin; and so like the European Protestant churches, the Anglican Church also made sure that the bible was available to everyone in the language that they understood.  The prayers also had to be accessible in the language of the people, and this led to the development of the Book of Common Prayer, the first English-language prayer book.  But while the form and order of worship services was kept the same, the prayers weren’t simply translated from Latin into English; and in writing these new English prayers, the theology of the European Reformation – of Luther and Calvin and others – crept in.

It is sometimes said that the Church of England, the Anglican Church, is a middle way between the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant churches.  In many ways it is similar to the Roman Catholic Church with priests and bishops and liturgy, but it is also a church of the Reformation which allows itself to be questioned and re-formed.

And then we come to the fourth denomination here at Chetwynd Shared Ministry – the United Church of Canada.  This is, by far, the youngest of the four denominations, being not quite a hundred years old and so, arising 400 years after the Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Anglican churches.

Really – one of the important factors in the history of the United Church of Canada is the geography of Canada.  Settlers from Europe brought their religions with them, but with small communities and long distances between communities, in the 1800s it was difficult for churches to grow and to do the work of the church in their communities.

And so in the late 1800s, a merger was proposed.  What if the Presbyterian, Methodist, and Congregationalist churches were to amalgamate?  Then the church could have more resources – people and finances – in order to do God’s work in these small and isolated communities.

Let me take a quick detour here before continuing the story.  Presbyterians are part of the family of churches descended from Calvin, but where do the Methodists and Congregationalists come from?

The Congregationalist churches were a loosely organized group of churches, mostly in the US but with some in Canada.  They were firmly grounded in the Reformation ideas that Christ is the only head of the church, and that the church should always be questioning and testing what it believes.  Because of this, Congregational churches placed all authority at the local level – the congregational level – to make decisions about what they believed and how they would be governed.

The Methodists, on the other hand, were a result of a later reformation within the Anglican Church.  In the 1700s, brothers John and Charles Wesley were Anglican clergy who experienced a conversion or renewal of faith.  They remained Anglican until their death, but preached of the need for faith to be lived out – to experience the love and grace of God, and to live a life of ever-increasing holiness in response to this.  Because of this “method” that they prescribed, their later followers called themselves Methodists.

So – back to Canada in the early 20th century.  The Presbyterians, Methodists, and Congregationalists looked at joining together into one United Church in order to be more effective in carrying out God’s mission in Canada.  While the Methodists and Congregationalists all joined, the Presbyterian Church allowed each congregation and each minister to decide for themselves whether they would join or remain Presbyterian.  While the majority voted to join the new United Church, one third or so of churches decided to remain Presbyterian which is why there is still a Presbyterian Church in Canada today.

And so all of these reformation traditions are part of our Protestant Family Tree here at Chetwynd Shared Ministry.  The Lutheran Church going back to Martin Luther nailing his theses to the door 500 years ago; the Presbyterian Church descended from John Calvin; the Anglican church with the need for a uniquely English church in England; and the United Church of Canada with roots in three different Reformation traditions.  We really are a church of the Reformation!  This isn’t a complete look at the Reformation – we haven’t been able to look at our Anabaptist siblings on the family tree which include not only the Baptist Church but also the Mennonite and Hutterite churches; and we haven’t looked at the Pentecostal branches either.

So how does all of this history play out today?  I think that Chetwynd Shared Ministry is a fabulous example for the churches around the world of focusing on what we have in common rather than on what separates us.  Because there really is a lot that our different denominational branches have in common.  Jesus Christ is the head of the church and is known through scripture, therefore it is important for scripture to be available in the languages that people understand.  We are saved only by God’s grace and not by anything that we do or don’t do.  Our actions flow out of our faith, and as the Wesley brothers who founded the Methodist church pointed out, if our faith is growing, then how we live our lives should reflect that.  Or in Calvin’s theology, our faith should cause us to question how the world is run, and that should lead us to work for justice so that the world is lined up with God’s vision for the world.  But the most important thing for all of the reformers is grace, and that can only come from God.

And what happened on a small scale here in Chetwynd is happening on a larger scale around the world.  Churches and denominations are figuring out what beliefs and practices we hold in common, and looking at how we can work together.  In 1999, the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.  In it, they began the work of reconciliation following the split that began 500 years ago, by discussing what beliefs they hold in common, specifically that “justification comes by God’s grace through faith in Christ.”  In 2006, the World Methodist Council signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, and this past July, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, which includes all of the churches descended from Calvin, also signed.  And this week coming up, the worldwide Anglican Communion is going to begin the process of joining into this declaration.

And the other important thing to note is that the Reformation was not a once-and-over event.  When we celebrate Reformation Sunday today, we aren’t just celebrating an event that happened 500 years ago this Tuesday.  The Reformed Churches are not just reformed, but they are always reforming.  Society changes, culture changes, and the church needs to always be questioning itself and figuring out how it can speak into the context in which it is located.  We can never sit back and say to ourselves, “We’ve always done it that way, so that is the way we should continue to do it.”  If we were ever to do that, the reformation is over.

And so what is God calling Chetwynd Shared Ministry to be and to do in Chetwynd in 2017?  How can we relate to and interact with the context in which we find ourselves?  How are we being called by the reformation – reformed and always reforming – to be the church here and now?

Let us pray:
Holy God,
            who calls us to re-formation;
we thank you that we are saved by grace –
            that we don’t have to depend on ourselves,
                        but can look always to you;
we thank you for the gift of faith in Jesus Christ –
            for the scriptures through which we can know Christ,
            and for the church through which we can live Christ.
Help us to always continue to question our faith,
            and by this questioning, strengthen our faith.
We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ,
            the head of your church.

 (Playmobil Martin Luther moved from my office out to the pulpit to help me preach this morning)

22 October 2017

Give Back to God the Things that Are God's (sermon)

Chetwynd Shared Ministry
October 22, 2017
Scripture:  Matthew 22:15-22

Have you ever been at a party where the conversation takes an uncomfortable turn?  Maybe someone brings up politics and the room becomes suddenly divided.  Or maybe someone is passing on gossip about another person – something embarrassing, something that was meant to be a secret – and everyone in the room starts squirming.

The rules of society say that there are certain topics that are not suitable for discussion in polite company – politics, religion, money.  Well, I don’t think that Jesus got that memo.  In todays reading from Matthew’s gospel, Jesus proves, once again, that he can be the champion of awkward conversations as he steers a question about money to include religion and politics as well.

For context, this story comes immediately after the parable that we read together last week.  This is all taking place in the last week of Jesus’ life.  He has left the region of Galilee where he lived and taught, and he has traveled south with his disciples to the city of Jerusalem.  They entered Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna!  Save us!” in the parade that we usually celebrate on Palm Sunday.  Then the very next day, Jesus goes to the temple in Jerusalem, the center-point of his religion, and he begins debating with the religious leaders who were there.

When we come to today’s reading, Jesus has told a couple of parables that have made his listeners very uncomfortable.  Parables that suggested that maybe the religious leaders weren’t quite on track with God’s vision for the world.  And after Jesus has told these parables, his listeners come forward with questions – questions to try and trap Jesus; questions to try and trick him into saying something that would be cause for arrest.

And so we have this first question:  is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?

OK – here come the politics!  Judea was, at that time, under the rule of the Roman Empire.  Twenty-five some-odd years before this incident, Rome had imposed direct rule on Judea resulting in fierce resentment from the Jewish people.  One of the consequences of this Roman rule was the imposition of a bunch of new taxes to be paid to Rome and the emperor.

Now Matthew tells us that the people asking this question of Jesus were the Pharisees and the Herodians.  Here you have two groups of people who were not normally friendly with each other, collaborating to have Jesus arrested.  A case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  Pharisees were devout Jewish people.  They would have been against any tax required by Rome, as they recognized God as their ruler, not the emperor.  But the Herodians were the supporters of Herod, the king who was a puppet of the Roman Empire.  They would have been in favour of taxes being paid to uphold the empire.

And so we have they trying to trap Jesus in a Catch-22.  If Jesus says, “yes, it is lawful to pay taxes,” then the Pharisees would have condemned him as a traitor to God.  If Jesus says, “no, it is not lawful to pay taxes,” then the Herodians could have had him arrested for treason against Rome.

So we have political intrigue and entrapment going on.  But Jesus recognizes the situation for what it is, and he wiggles his way out with a non-answer.  He shifts the conversation from politics to religion.  He asks his questioners to take out a coin, which they do.  He asks them, whose picture is on this coin; and they reply “The emperor’s.”  And Jesus’ solution to their question sounds simple – “Give back, therefore, to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”

Sounds like the perfect answer, right?  They can’t arrest Jesus for treason because he hasn’t said “don’t pay your taxes”; yet at the same time, the religious leaders can’t condemn him for blasphemy because he hasn’t stated his support for the Roman Empire.

Clever Jesus.  He seems to come out on top easily in this battle of wits.  In contemporary terms, I picture this answer followed by a mic drop.  “Give to the emperor what is the emperor’s; give to God what is God’s.  Boom!”  Walk away.

But is the answer really as simple as it seems?  I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t more to Jesus’ answer – more that is unsaid.  How do we know what belongs to the emperor and what belongs to God?  Is it possible to compartmentalize our lives like this?

If the coin in the story seems to belong to the emperor because it had a picture of the emperor on it, how can we tell what belongs to God?  Where can we see the picture or image of God?

Finally – there’s a question that we might be able to start to answer.  If we turn back to the beginning of the bible, to the very first chapter of Genesis, the opening chapter of the Hebrew scriptures, the only scriptures that Jesus would have known, we read a story about God creating.  I want to read Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s telling of this story because it is so beautiful, and because the pictures are beautiful too, I’m going to move forward so that everyone can see them.

(read:  Let There Be Light[i])

In the words of the author of Genesis, “God created humankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”  This means that every single one of us here is created in the image of God.  Every single person on this planet – it doesn’t matter your gender or your age or your religion or your sexual orientation or your race or your language – every single person on this planet bears the image of God.

And I wonder if maybe we can take it one step further.  As the Genesis story tells us, God created the rest of creation – earth and sea and sky, plants and animals.  And I wonder then if all of creation maybe bears the signature of its creator.  A bit like you can hear the composer’s voice in a composition, or you can see an artist’s style come through in a painting.  Can we see the image, the signature, the reflection of God – maybe not directly, but indirectly – on everything that God has created?

Jesus said, “Give back to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and give back to God the things that are God’s.”  I then ask – is there anything that is not God’s?  If we are to give back to God the things that are God’s, does this mean that we should be giving everything to God?

Even that coin that Jesus asked his questioners to produce – it had a picture of the Roman Emperor on it.  But that emperor is a person in the image of God.  Therefore, the coin actually has an image of an image of God.  Follow my logic?  Therefore, even the Roman coin belongs to God by Jesus’ reasoning.

I think that there are some pretty profound implications on our lives if we follow this reasoning.  Everything – all of creation – belongs to God.  As Desmond Tutu phrased it in the book, people are supposed to, “enjoy the earth and take care of it.”  All of creation comes from God, belongs to God, and bears God’s signature as the artist, so we ought to respect all of creation accordingly.

And everything that we might think that we own actually belongs to God.  Look at your money (pull out Loonie) – look at this dollar coin – a picture of Queen Elizabeth on one side – a picture of a person who bears the image of God – a picture of a loon on the other side – another part of God’s creation.  How I choose to spend this dollar coin matters.  Am I going to spend it in a way that shows that I know it belongs to God, or in a way that ignores God?

And what about our gifts and talents that we have been given by God – whether your gift is teaching or music or baking or hospitality or leadership – all of these gifts belong to God.  Am I going to use my gifts and talents in a ways that serve God and God’s plan for the world, or in ways that ignore God?

And finally, ourselves.  You are created in the image of God.  You bear God’s image.  And so does every other person on the planet.  And so does the way I treat myself – my whole self, body mind and spirit, reflect the image of God within me?  Does the way I treat other people reflect the image of God within each of us; or does it ignore God?

And so it comes down to the fact that every single thing that we do; every single decision that we make, matters.  If we believe that everything and everyone – all of creation – bears the image of God, then how we interact with everything and everyone is a reflection of how we interact with God.

Give to the emperor what is the emperor’s; and give to God what is God’s.  Everything bears the image of God; and everything belongs to God.  How will we live this out in our lives?

Let us pray:
Holy God –
            we see your image wherever we turn –
                        on every person and on every thing.
Your signature is on all of creation,
            like the signature of an artist.
Enable us, by the Holy Spirit, to live our lives
            in a way that honours you;
            in a way that shows
                        that all creation belongs to you,
                                    and we are called to be caretakers.
We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ,
            our teacher, and our Lord.

[i] Desmond Tutu, Let There Be Light, illustrated by Nancy Tillman (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013).

(The church hall, set up for a potluck after worship today)

15 October 2017

A Disturbing Parable (sermon)

Chetwynd Shared Ministry
Sunday October 15, 2017
Reading:  Matthew 22:1-14 (with brief reference to the readings from Exodus and Philippians)

Confession time.  I don’t like the parable that we just read.  I mean, I really don’t like it.  It’s a very violent story.  It’s a story with escalating violence.  And it’s a very judgemental story.  We have the innocent slaves who are delivering the king’s invitation abused and killed by those to whom they are delivering the invitation – a case of ignoring the old adage, don’t shoot the messenger.  And in retaliation for killing his slaves, the king then sends an army to kill the murderers and burn their city.

And then this same king has a member of the second group of invitees bound hand and foot and thrown into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  And what was his crime?  Not wearing the right robe to the wedding.

So I really don’t like this parable.  When I looked at the readings for today, I was tempted to speak about one of the other readings.  There is the great story in Exodus about Aaron building the golden calf and God threatening to destroy the people for idolatry.  But then Moses intercedes for the people and God repents.  God’s mind was changed by Moses’ pleading, and God didn’t destroy the people.  What a great sermon that would have been – if even God is able to repent and change, then surely we can repent too.

And then there’s the reading from Philippians where Paul, writing from prison to the church in Philippi, encourages the people to rejoice and to know the peace that God gives.  If Paul in prison can know joy and peace and thanksgiving, then surely we can too.  There’s another easy sermon that I could have written.

But in the end, I realized that it wouldn’t be fair to read a violent and disturbing parable and then to leave it there without trying to unpack it a bit.  So I still don’t like this parable, but I am going to look at it with you.

First of all, what is there that is good in this parable?  Right off the top, Jesus compares God’s kingdom to a wedding banquet.  This makes me think of the weddings that I have attended.  Whether the wedding is celebrated in a church or outdoors in someone’s back yard, weddings are times of joy and love.  There is often an abundance of yummy food to eat.  Anyone who has ever worked with a bride will also know the care and attention to the details of decorations and setting.  Nothing is left to chance, and everything is carefully planned out to reflect the celebration.  There is usually music and dancing.  So I am good with this image – the kingdom of God can be compared to a wedding celebration.

Another good thing that I see in this parable is that the king keeps on extending an invitation.  Even when the people refuse his first invitation in verse 3, the king invites them again in verse 4.  When the second invitation is refused in verses 5 and 6, the king still doesn’t give up – he sends an invitation to a new group of people.  This is a persistent king – he wants people at this wedding banquet he is throwing.  From this, I can take comfort that the invitation to the kingdom of God isn’t a one-off invitation.  If you miss the first invitation, they will keep on coming.

Is anyone familiar with the Harry Potter books or movies?  In the first one, the school of Hogwarts is trying to get in touch with Harry to invite him to school, but his Aunt and Uncle don’t want Harry to receive the correspondence.  An owl is sent carrying the message, but when that owl is turned away, another owl comes, and then another, until there are thousands of owls perched on top of the house, all trying to deliver the invitation.  This is what I picture the invitation to the kingdom of heaven to be like.  No matter how persistent we are at refusing it; God is even more persistent in trying to deliver the invitation.

But then what can we do with the escalating violence of this parable?  I think that here, we have to look at the context – both the context of Jesus as he told this parable, and the context of the community to whom Matthew was writing his gospel.

In the storyline of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is telling this parable very close to the end of his life.  He has entered Jerusalem on a donkey in the parade that we normally celebrate on Palm Sunday.  The morning after he gets to Jerusalem, Jesus goes into the temple and starts debating with the leaders who were there.  Things escalate quickly.

Remember that Jesus of Nazareth lived and died as a Jewish man in first-century Palestine.  He didn’t set out to start a new religion.  Rather, he seems to have been trying to reform the Jewish religion, calling people back to live in the way that God wanted the people to live.  And here he is, debating with the leaders of the temple – he is right at the very heart of his religion.  Three days later, Jesus would be arrested, and four days later he would be nailed to a cross.

I like how David Lose describes this situation.  He writes that “we are catching a glimpse of the low point in an intense family feud.”[1]  And so it isn’t surprising that Jesus’ stories are now becoming more and more violent and disturbing.

And then if we step outside of the story for a minute and look at the context in which Matthew was writing, you will find another violent context.  Matthew’s gospel was likely written around 40 years after Jesus had died.  There had been a revolt by the Jewish people against the Roman empire in Jerusalem that had lasted for four years, and which had ended with the almost total destruction of the temple in which Jesus is teaching in today’s story.  Much of the city of Jerusalem had also been destroyed.  The community that Matthew was a part of was intimately familiar with the sort of violence described in the parable – murdering those on the other side, and burning the city.

So we have violence in the world of Jesus, and the violence in the world in which Matthew was writing.  I’m glad that I live in a world without so much overt violence, but in ways this parable makes me think of certain events going on in the world today that are usually described in the news as “escalating tensions.”  One side does something, and the other side retaliates with something worse.  It doesn’t usually happen as quickly as in the parable where refusing an invitation is met with murder is met with full-scale war; but the truth is that we too are living in a violent world.

But then we get to the last couple of verses of the parable where a guest at the wedding isn’t wearing the right clothes, and is cast into the outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

OK – so if the kingdom of heaven is like a wedding banquet, what are the right clothes to wear to the kingdom of heaven?  Here, I have to turn to the writings of Paul.  Paul writes both to the church in Rome and the church in Galatia that they are to clothe themselves in Christ; and he also writes to the church in Colossae that they are to clothe themselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

So maybe with this parable, Jesus is saying that it isn’t enough just to accept the invitation to the kingdom of heaven, but we also have to allow ourselves to be transformed in Christ-like-ness.  We have to put on Christ as Paul says.  We can’t transform ourselves into the image of Christ, but we can allow the Holy Spirit to transform us.  The invitation is only the first step in our journey of discipleship.

I still don’t really like this parable, but I guess that I can accept this interpretation of it.

So the kingdom of God is like a wedding, and we are all invited.  And if we refuse the invitation, another invitation will come our way, and another.  But once we accept the invitation, the story doesn’t stop – we are called to allow God to work, through the Holy Spirit, to transform us into the image of Christ.  This parable includes judgement, but the good news is that we aren’t called on to be the judges.  The judgement adds some urgency to our calling or invitation, but we can allow God to do the judging.

Let’s all of us join the wedding feast!

Let us pray:
Merciful God,
We thank you for our invitation to the wedding feast.
We thank you that you keep reaching out to us,
            even when we refuse.
We thank you for the Holy Spirit,
            who works in us,
                        transforming us into the image of Christ.
We know that we live in a world of violence,
            but we ask that you empower us
                        to be agents of your love and your peace.
We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ,

[1] http://www.davidlose.net/2014/10/pentecost-18-a-preaching-an-ugly-parable/

8 October 2017

Thanksgiving Communion Liturgy

Chetwynd Shared Ministry
October 8, 2017 

One:    God be with you.
All:    And also with you.
One:    Lift up our hearts.
All:    We lift them to God.
One:    Let us give thanks to God.
All:    It is right to give our thanks and praise.

We sing thanksgiving to God,
            Creator and Source of all that we see,
                        and all that we cannot see.

We sing thanksgiving to God
            who created darkness and light,
                        day and night;
            who created the earth and seas and sky;
            who created plants and trees and seeds;
            who created sun and moon and stars;
            who created birds and fish and animals;
            who created human beings, women and men, in the image of God;
                        and who looked at all creation
                                    and declared that it was good.
We sing thanksgiving to God,
            who led the people to freedom through the wilderness,
                        feeding them with manna and quail,
                        and bringing water from the rock to drink,
                                    in a dry and dusty land;
            and who brought the people to a fruitful and prosperous land.

We sing thanksgiving to God
            who remembered promises to the people through all generations
                        always reminding us of these promises,
                                    and drawing us back to God.

We sing thanksgiving to God,
who, in the fullness of time,
                        took on flesh and came to dwell among us
                                    as the person of Jesus –
                        teaching, healing, and reconciling –
                                    always drawing us back to God.

We sing thanksgiving to God,
            who continues to come to us
                        as the Holy Spirit,
                                    leading us,
                                                comforting us,
                                                            guiding us,
                                                                        and transforming us
                                                                                    into what we are called to be –
                                                                                                children of God.

And so we join our song of thanksgiving
            to the song of all creation
                        as we proclaim God’s glory, saying:

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.

As we gather here at this table,
we remember that Jesus,
            on the night before he died,
Gathered with his friends around a table.
We remember that Jesus took a loaf of bread
            and he gave thanks,
            and he broke it,
            and he shared it with everyone who was gathered, saying:
                        “Take and eat.  This is my body, given for you.
                        Each time you do this, remember me.”

We remember that after the meal,
Jesus took a cup of wine,
            and he gave thanks,
            and he shared it with everyone who was gathered, saying:
“Take and drink.  This is the cup of promise in my blood.
                        Each time you do this, remember me.”

We remember Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection,
            and we wait for his coming again
                        and the fulfillment of all creation.
We rejoice in the grace
            that brings us to the table,
                        and allows us to offer ourselves
                                    as the body of Christ for the world.
We celebrate your universal church
            of all times and all places,
                        and the communion of saints, living and dead,
                                    who surround us as a great cloud of witnesses.
And so with the universal church, we proclaim the mystery of our faith,
         Christ has died.
         Christ is risen.
         Christ will come again.

Send, O God, your Holy Spirit
            upon these gifts,
            and upon all of us gathered here,
transforming them and us
            into the image and likeness of Christ.
As we eat and drink together,
            make us one in Christ,
                        and make us one with Christ,
so that we might be the light of Christ’s love
                        in the world.

Through Christ, and with Christ, and in Christ,
            in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
            all glory is yours, God most holy,
            now and forever,

And now we join our voices together in the prayer that Jesus taught, saying:
Our father, who art in heaven,
hallowed by thy name…

(while breaking the bread)
The body of Christ, broken for us.
Thanks be to God for the bread of life.

(while pouring the wine)
The blood of Christ, poured out for us.
Thanks be to God for the cup of blessing.


Prayer after Communion:
Holy God,
            as we leave this table,
                        we continue our song of thanksgiving.
We thank you for this meal that we have shared,
            we thank you for your never-failing love,
            we thank you for Jesus Christ, our eternal source of hope,
            we thank you for the Holy Spirit who always draws us to you.
As we leave this table,
            we continue to offer ourselves to you
                        and to your work in the world.
Keep the taste of the bread and the wine
            on our lips and in our hearts
                        so that we will ever sing thanksgiving.

(May be reprinted with the following attribution: © 2017 Kate Jones http://katesnextgreatadventure.blogspot.ca/)