August 28, 2022
In Jeremiah 2. 4-13 God scolds us for having abandoned God, who freed us from slavery in Egypt, and instead turning to things that oppress and limit us. We have turned from the fountain of life (God), and instead dug leaky pits that hold no water.
Psalm 81 repeats this theme: though God has set us free, we turn to other things to rule our lives, though, even still, God is ready to bless us with deep and abundant life.
Hebrews 13. 1-8, 15-16 reminds us to show radical hospitality, to care for those in prison, to exercise fidelity in relationships and to and be free of the love of money.
In Luke 14. 7-14 at a dinner Jesus teaches us to seek the humblest seat, and also to offer banquets to those who cannot repay the favor.
The prophet offers us a lovey image. His criticism is not just that we’re disobedient to God’s command to love our neighbor. When we go our own way and turn from God we abandon the fountain of life Then we become desperate for life, clinging and competing, fighting against each other and withholding life from others. You can see the consequences today: racism, poverty, hate, violence, suspicion of immigrants, mass incarceration…. These are not just political problems. They’re symptoms of our life-denying ways. Using Jeremiah’s image, imagine if we drank deeply of the waters of life. That life would flow through s naturally. We would be moved to share, to love our neighbor, to do justice.
Hebrews provides the antidote to the sickness Jeremiah has diagnosed: share! Do good, show hospitality, avoid love of money. Hebrews offers us bracing medicine for our legal system. “Remember those in prison as though you were in prison with them, and those who are being tortured as though you yourselves were being tortured.” (This is a good time to stop pretending torture—including solitary confinement, beatings and other methods—doesn’t happen, even in our American prisons.) This good advice for all our acts of mercy: avoid playing the role of the gifted savior; be in solidarity; take on the suffering of others as your own. That is the most radical kind of sharing and hospitality. If we are afraid to get close to that suffering.. maybe we’ve not drunk deeply enough of the fountain of life.
Jesus is not a fan of social status. He says of social capital the same as he does of financial capital: sell everything and give to the poor. Stop seeking status. Practice humility. It doesn’t mean you think poorly of yourself; it means you stop striving to appear better than others.
Back in the 1970’s I worked with adolescent girls involved in prostitution. In their world everything, not just sex, was an exchange. You didn’t give something without getting something. Honor, shame, debt and obligation were finely calibrated. Everybody knew who owed exactly what to whom. Jesus’ culture was more like that than ours, but we all fall into that. If someone has done you a favor you owe them, right? If they’ve wronged you they owe you. But Jesus believes in a world in which everything is a gift. Nobody owes anybody anything. (“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”) So, Jesus says, practice giving stuff away. Have a dinner for folks who can’t repay you. Not because you want them to feel indebted, or so you can appear oh-so-generous (oops! there goes your humility!), but because God’s grace is free and your gifts are like that. Because generosity is a way to drink of the fountain of life.
Call to Worship
Leader: Creator God, Holy of Holies, Great Mystery, Generous Love,
All: we worship you.
Jesus Christ, Humble Savior, Embodied Love, Faithful One,
we thank you.
Holy Spirit, Divine Presence, Flowing Love,
we praise you. We open our hearts to you. We sing of your glory. Alleluia!
2. [May also be a response, prayer of confession, or invitation to communion.]
from Psalm 81
Leader: I hear a voice I had not known: “I relieved your shoulder of the burden; your hands were freed from the basket. In distress you called, and I rescued you; I answered you in the secret place of thunder.”
All: O God, you have saved us; you have blessed us. We praise you!
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide and I will fill it. I would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”
O Christ, you invite us to your table. We come with joy, and we thank you!
“But you have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for yourselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.”
O Spirit, we confess that we have turned from you. Forgive us, renew us and give us life. We open ourselves to your grace. Alleluia!
Leader: Creator God, you are the fountain of life.
We turn to you. We drink from you. We rejoice in you.
Risen Christ, our loving brother, you set us free.
You feed us at the banquet of you grace. We give thanks to you.
Holy Spirit, you fill us with humility, generosity and compassion.
Alleluia! We open our hearts to you. Come and fill us.
Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!
Leader: Generous God, we praise you!
All: Humble Christ, we greet you!
We are poor, and you have invited us to your feast.
We are unable to repay you, and you have brought us to your table.
We are beneath you, and yet you humbly serve us,
and lavish upon us great gifts.
Alleluia! We thank you for your mercies. Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!
Collect / Prayer of the Day
God of grace, you give yourself to us, humbly, with delight, mostly invisibly. We receive you with gratitude. We enter into your heart. We welcome you into ours. We open the doors of our minds, that you may enter. We open the windows of our hearts, that your light may shine in. Welcome. Amen.2.
God of love, you speak softly in our hearts. You call us into this world with your love. Speak to us now; awaken us with your grace, shape us by your Word, and lead us into lives of compassion, courage and beauty. Amen.
God of abundance, you make this life a wedding party, and invite us to your banquet of grace. We come now to celebrate your faithful love, to feast on your Word, and to be made new by your grace. We open our hearts wide: fill us with your Spirit, in the name and the presence of Christ. Amen.
Gracious God, our pride means nothing before you. You bless the humble and feed the poor. Like beggars we come to you. Like children we open our hands to your grace. Give us the humility of Christ, that we may embody his generosity and hospitality, in the power of your Spirit. Come to us, God; speak to us, and feed our souls. Amen.
God of truth, you spread the banquet of life before us. We feast upon your Word. We come in hunger to hear and understand, to know your love and to shine with your Spirit. Open our hearts, so that as the scriptures are read and your good news proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you are saying to us today. Amen.
Prayer of Confession
Pastor: The grace of God be with you.
All: And also with you.
Trusting in God’s tender mercy, let us confess our sin to God with one another.
Loving and faithful God,
you are the fountain of our life,
yet we have turned away,
seeking life elsewhere.
We have cut ourselves off from life’s deep abundance,
shriveled our own glory,
and strangled our compassion.
bring us back,
and change our hearts,
so that we might drink deeply from your grace. Amen.
[Silent prayer… The Word of Grace]
Response / Creed / Affirmation
Leader: God of love, you create us in your image and call us in your grace.
All: We are your Beloved, special in your eyes and chosen for great tasks.
Christ, you come to us in lowly form. You heal us and lift us up and give us our lives.
We are your companions: nothing special, but blessed by your love.
Holy Spirit, you live in us and move us by your will.
We are your earthen vessels, holy in our ordinary lives, powerful in your hands.
Speak to us, lead us, and use us according to your delight. Amen.
We believe in God, creator of all things, the fountain of life, who provides for us with grace and abundance.
We trust in Jesus Christ, who made God manifest among us. He healed the sick, raised up the downtrodden, ate with sinners, and spoke the Word of God. He died in love for all people, and none are undeserving. Crucified by the powers of oppression, he was raised by the power of love, and lives among us now, inviting all to the feast of God’s love and generosity.
We live by the power of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of trust and hospitality. As the Body of Christ, in unity with the whole universal church, we devote ourselves to live in love in the name and the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Alleluia!
(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)
God you are the fountain of life.
We turn to you,
and drink deeply
of the flowing waters
of your grace.
[The body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone.]
God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.
God, we thank you, for you invite us to your table.
You put us in the place of honor.
You set the finest table, and serve us.
You offer us love we can’t return.
You give us Creation; you give us your delight.
You are the fountain of life,
and we drink deeply of your flowing grace.
In thanksgiving, in the company of all who are grateful,
we sing your praise.
Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ.
He fed the hungry and healed the sick.
He took the lowest place, and served us.
He served in humility, suffering death,
yet you raised him in glory.
(The Blessing and Covenant)
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:
Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Spirit on us, that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,
humble in spirit, generous of heart,
aware that in our hospitality
we may welcome angels unawares.
All glory be to you, loving God.
* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]
On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Prayer after Communion
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In your Spirit may we give ourselves to others. By the grace you give us may we honor the angels we entertain. Send us out now to serve, to give without expecting return from any but your grace, in the name and Spirit of Christ. Amen.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. Send us, strengthened by gifts beyond our comprehending, into the world, to share your love in humility and generosity, and to invite others to your table, that the day may come when we feast with all Creation in harmony at your table of grace. Amen.
Gracious God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. In our hunger you have fed us the finest food; in our poverty you have served us as royalty. Send us into the world with the humility of Christ, to serve those whom the world rejects, to give to those who cannot repay, to honor those whom the world thinks unworthy. Send us to share your feast of life with all, in the name of Christ and the power of your Holy Spirit. Amen.