The world doesn’t feel like it did last year when I offered pandemic prayers for what I had thought would be the one and only pandemic World Communion Sunday in my lifetime. It feels different now.
This is the song that has been at the center of my prayers with each and every headline. The refrain soars from the deep when I read what we have done to each other. So much has happened that it seems impossible to believe that we were planning for World Communion Sunday only one year ago. It feels longer but here we are again to wonder what it means to be a global community sharing in one bread and one cup.
Last year, I imagined liturgical elements focused on the central images in our faith: water, bread and cup. I feel the need for something else this year — and not just because this year I’ll actually be preaching with the good people at Old First Reformed Church in Philadelphia. Like so many of your congregations, their worship will be on Zoom again after being in-person for a short while. I crave being together as I imagine so many others do but I’m grateful for the mysterious blessing of the internet that allows us to worship together while I am all the way from Germany.
I’m thinking about this year differently when it feels like so much has been torn apart. Part of me is even wondering about if divorce is how to speak of such things. Any other year I would gladly skip over that passage but this year I might turn my heart into it. I might need to hear that good news for this whole wide world. There are indeed hints of where I am leaning in the following prayers.
Call to Worship Inspired by Hebrews 1:1-4 and Psalm 8 Long, long ago God spoke. God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways. God spoke in and through the created world whispering the glory that could be and would be as surely as the moon and the stars were established in the heavens above. We come to listen and to listen for God whispering and inviting us into glory.
Prayer of Confession With open ears, we come as a global people to admit that the world is not as it should be. It is not what our ancestors imagined or even what we once dreamed could be. O God, there have been too many times recently that we have given up. We have believed in the worst in people and allowed ourselves to be convinced that nothing in this whole wide world will ever change for the better. We have not seen glory but only screaming babies. We have not seen the work of your fingers but only environmental destruction. We have found no evidence that people are coming together to heal this world but only the pain of separation. O God, forgive us for not seeing what you can see. Give us a hint of your glory today.
Words of Assurance Today, dear child of God, remember that glory is as simple as this: God has crowned you with glory and honor. God cares for us all. God redeems us all and with God all thing are possible. Thanks be to God.
It has been a long time since I’ve preached and so my creative energy is going into my sermon creation. I really wanted to provide something fun and different for this week but it seems I had more creativity last year and so it might be worth checking out last year’s Pandemic Prayers for World Communion Sunday even if it was for a different set of readings. (I am toying with doing something with this version of Psalm 8 though. I still haven’t quite figured out what though.) Mysteriously, I didn’t include anything for the table last year so here is one for this year. I still feel like I might edit it but here is a first draft.
Invitation to the Table Inspired by Mark 10:2-16 and Psalm 8 We have been so divided in ideas and solutions. We have separated ourselves and felt so alone. We have been alone so much and could only watch as terror erupted. We have been so divorced from each other that it seems impossible that any human being could ever be a little lower than God but here God invites us through all that separates and divides us to find wholeness in our brokenness. We gather around this table as global community to remember and believe that in this bread we are one. In this cup, we are united to share in what could be for ourselves and this world. We come to this table again to remember we have a place here. Everyone born has a place at this table. Nothing can separate us and in this feast, we will become whole again.
I won’t be choosing music this Sunday because there are talents for this in the church that far exceed my own. (This is nearly always true. I am so grateful for the gifts and inspiration that musicians bring to our worship each week.) Still, I like this one and may or may not be playing it on repeat as I try to form a sermon around that Gospel Lesson.
Though the joke has been made that I’m now an international preacher, the prayers I offer obviously don’t reflect the diversity and brilliance that exists in God’s people. Most denominations have a wonderful gift of resources and prayers which you already knew but maybe forgot. For those of you on Zoom, you might want to search your denomination’s YouTube channel for something that would add to your worship experience on Sunday. The World Council of Churches also offers some prayers from the global church that are quite lovely though it requires a bit of searching. The prayers for the Week of Christian Unity in 2017 were focused on reconciliation and might pair well with this week’s readings. You can find those prayers here. I also really loved some of the prayers in this recent publication of pandemic prayers in a global perspective. There are a ton of other resources but I’ll add more for link to this Affirmation of Unity for times like these.
That’s all I’ve got for this particular Sunday but I am faithfully working on a round-up of Advent and Christmas ideas to be shared in News from My Kitchen. If you haven’t yet subscribed to my very occasional liturgy-filled email, you can do so here.
I am praying for you, dear pastors, liturgists and musicians. I’m praying for you so much.