Thursday, August 11, 2016

Adapting Communion Liturgy

This past Sunday I was invited to provide Communion to a church that still does not have a pastor appointed to them, and as such, has not had Communion in two months.  I have a high sacramentology (what is yours, and are you ready to defend it to your BOM?) and can not believe that the Cabinet would just leave a church a hanging for so long without concern for their ability to receive the sacraments which we hold sacred. A very gifted lay speaker has been leading worship, so all that was needed was my 'authority' to provide communion. He was doing a sermon series on heroes of the Bible titled "Ordinary to Extraordinary" so I worked the theme into the Communion liturgy which maintaining the historical integrity of the ritual.

How to adapt Communion to fit a worship theme is a question I get often, so I thought I'd share this one. The congregation is very traditional, so I didn't want to mess too much with what they find comforting, but wanted the ritual to fit the theme. It's just a few added lines here and there, but the introduction also gets to the heart of why Communion is so important.

Adapted Communion Ritual:

Thank you for welcoming me here today to join you in this most sacred of rituals. Communion binds us as Christians. As we proclaim the mystery of faith, these ordinary elements of bread and juice become an extraordinary connection to the past, to all those who have said these words for the past 2,000 years, and all those who gather today around the world, speaking these words in hundreds of languages. We are one, in God. 

Back in the late 1800’s, ordinary people with extraordinary courage settled this region and founded this church, riding up on horseback to share in the bread and the juice. By 1925, the congregation had grown enough and was committed enough to build this beautiful sanctuary in which we worship today. How many people have sat in the light of these stained glass windows and shared in this ritual? Though the Great Depression and World Wars, the moon landing and the technological revolution, the faithful of this church trusted in God with their prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. We owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude, as it is because of their faithfulness and vision that we are able to be here today. And it is because of your faithfulness and vision that one day people of faith will park their flying cars out front, and come into this place, and share in sacred ritual of communion. We are part of something extraordinary; we are part of God’s plan for our world.    

And knowing the humble honor that comes with being God’s people, I say: 

THE GREAT THANKSGIVING

The Lord 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.
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,
God Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
You formed us in your image
       and breathed into us the breath of life.
     When we turned away, and our love failed,
           your love remained steadfast.
     You delivered us from captivity,
               made covenant to be our sovereign God,
                  and spoke to us through the prophets and the heroes. 
     You have give us a tradition in which your people, with your gifts, go from ordinary to extraordinary. 
     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 he 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,
      to proclaim release to the captives
          and recovering of sight to the blind,
       to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
       and to announce that the time had come
          when you would save your people.
He healed the sick, fed the hungry, and ate with sinners.
He encouraged his followers to use their gifts and graces 
to fulfill their calling on this earth. 

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 Holy Spirit.

   

On the night in which he gave himself up for us,
he gathered with the most ordinary of people for the Passover meal. 
      At the end of the meal, 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 the forgiveness of sins.
  Do this, as often as you drink it,
         in remembrance of me."

     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.

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

Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here,
       and on these gifts of bread and juice.
Make them be for us the heart and soul of Christ,
      that we may be for the world the body of Christ,
redeemed by his love.

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.

And now, with the confidence of forgiven children of God, let us pray:

Our Father in heaven,
       hallowed be your name,
       your kingdom come,
       your will be done,
       on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins 
      as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial,
       and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
       now and for ever. Amen.

BREAKING THE BREAD 

Because there is one loaf,
we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
The bread which we break is a sharing in the body of Christ.
The cup over which we give thanks is a sharing in the blood of Christ.

GIVING THE BREAD AND CUP 

Eternal God, we give you thanks for this holy mystery
       in which you have given yourself to us.
Grant that we may go into the world
       in the strength of your Spirit,
       to give ourselves for others,
       embracing our extraordinary potential,

in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.