Sunday, March 31, 2019

Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community - Liturgy for Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 31, 2019 - Presiders: Jim Marsh, ARCWP, and Terri Kirsch

Welcome and Theme:  Welcome and good morning everyone! So, how’s your Lent going? Well, we  have arrived at the mid-point of our journey from ashes to resurrection and the church urges us to Rejoice, hence the term Laetare… and it’s finally Spring! In our role as leaders of prayer today, Terri and I suggest a theme of belonging and being connected. Each of us initially experienced this in our families with all its dynamics and drama no doubt. Our first reading is from the Lectionary for Year A, our second is from Ephesians but not the one suggested from the Lectionary to which we added a few verses from Corinthians, and our Gospel is indeed the suggested one for today. Let us be attentive to the very familiar parable, that is to say, the family story about a man who had two sons.

Receiving the Stole

Opening Song:  Table of Plenty  Words and music by John Michael Talbot

Opening Prayer: Edwina Gateley poem
the snow is melting
breaking open
and collapsing
into spreading pools
that moisturize the earth
So too
must I melt
my hardened heart
and collapse my closed mind
into open spaces
for tenderness
to take root.

Liturgy of Word
Reading 1       1 Samuel 16: 1-13 (redacted)
Yahweh said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve for Saul since I rejected him as ruler of Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and be on your way. For I am sending you to Jesse in Bethlehem, for I have chosen my ruler from among his children. Take a heifer with you and tell Jesse that you came to offer a sacrifice to YHWH. Invite Jesse to the sacrifice. Then I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me my selection.”

Samuel did what YHWH said. When Jesse and his children arrived, Samuel saw Eliab, and thought, “Surely, God’s anointed stands before YHWH.” But YHWH said to Samuel, “Pay no attention to appearance and height; I have rejected him. YHWH does not see as mortals see; mortals see only appearances but YHWH sees into the heart.”

After Jesse presented seven sons, Samuel said, “YHWH has not chosen any of these. Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” Jesse replied, “but he is tending the sheep.”Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not begin the sacrificial banquet until the lad arrives.” So they sent for the boy, a ruddy youth with bright eyes, and handsome to behold.

YHWH said, “Rise and anoint this one.” Then Samuel took the horn or oil and anointed the boy in the presence of his brothers, and from that day forward the Spirit of YHWH came upon David and was with him.

These are the inspired words of the prophet Samuel, and the community responds, AMEN!

Reading 2      Ephesians 4: 5, 7, 10 and 2 Corinthians 5: 17-18, 20
God brought us to life in Christ. How immense are the resources of God’s grace and kindness. We are God’s work of art, created in Christ to do the good things God created us to do from the beginning. 
Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation:
the old order has passed away; now everything is new!
All of this is from God, who has given us the ministry of reconciliation.
Be reconciled.

These are some of the inspired words of Paul to the believers in Ephesus and Corinth, and the community responds, AMEN!

Sung Response before Gospel:  Spirit of the Living God   -Michael Crawford

Gospel      Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
The tax collectors and the “sinners” were all gathering around Jesus to listen to his teaching, at which the Pharisees and the religious scholars murmured, “This person welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Then Jesus addressed this parable to them.

A man had two sons. The younger of them said to their father, “Give me the share of the estate that is coming to me.” So the father divided up the property between them.

Some days later, the younger son gathered up all his belongings and went off to a distant land. Here he squandered all his money on loose living. After everything was spent, a great famine broke out in the land, and the son was in great need. So he went to a landowner, who sent him to a farm to take care of the pigs. The son was so hungry that he could have eaten the husks that were fodder for the pigs, but no one made a move to give him anything.

Coming to his senses at last, he said, “How many hired hands at my father’s house have more than enough food to eat, while here I am starving! I’ll quit and go back home and say, ‘I’ve sinned against God and against you; I no longer deserve to be called one of your children. Treat me like one of your hired hands.’” With that, the younger son set off for home.

While he was still a long way off, the father caught sight of the returning child and was deeply moved. The father ran out to meet him, threw his hands around him and kissed him. The son said to him, “I’ve sinned against God and against you; I no longer deserve to be called one of your children.”

But his father said to one of the workers, “Quick! Bring out the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and shoes on his feet. Take the calf we’ve been fattening and butcher it. Let’s eat and celebrate! This son of mine was dead, and has come back to life. He was lost and now he’s found!” And the celebration began.

Meanwhile the elder son had been out in the field. As he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the workers and asked what was happening. The worker answered, “Your brother is home, and the fatted calf has been killed because your father has him back safe and sound.”

The son got angry at this and refused to go in to the party, but his father came out and pleaded with him. The older son replied, “Look! For years now I’ve done every single thing you asked me to do. I never disobeyed even one of your orders, yet you never gave me so much as a kid goat to celebrate with my friends. But then this son of yours comes home after going through your money with prostitutes, and you kill the fatted calf for him!”

“‘But my child!’ the father said. ‘You’re with me always, and everything I have is yours. We have to celebrate and rejoice! This brother of yours was dead and has come back to life. He was lost and now he’s found.’”
These are the inspired words of Luke, the evangelist, and the community responds, AMEN!

Homily Starter: Jim Marsh

Let me call your attention to the fact that the story we just heard proclaimed is only recorded in Luke’s Gospel and that the audience is the Pharisees and religious authorities who are less than happy with Jesus’ choice of table-mates. In the Lukan narrative, this story follows on the heels of the “lost sheep” and the “lost coin.” It’s also interesting that this story is known in the Egyptian Coptic Church as the parable of the “Lost Son.” Hmmmm … but which son is lost? And each of these stories of loss end with a joyful feast to celebrate something found or returned.

On the surface, it would appear that the thrust of these stories is about sinners repenting and God’s generous grace of forgiveness and reconciliation. However, Amy Jill-Levine, a very good (and I might add quite humorous) NT scholar and Jewish historian would urge us to put aside our 21st century mindset to better understand just what a first century audience would have heard when these stories were told. Here’s a bit of context.

These folks steeped in an oral tradition would have heard the opening line “There was a man who had two sons” and immediately remembered Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob. They would have been primed to identify with the younger son based on Abel’s acceptable sacrifice, Isaac’s faithfulness and Jacob’s cleverness. Even our first reading reminds us that the youngest son David, the eighth child of Jesse, is YHWH’s favored to be anointed king. But we know that even David had his come-uppance, if you will, when the prophet Nathan told him the parable of the little female sheep. Probably not so with this unnamed younger son who is portrayed as manipulative, self-indulgent, irresponsible and conniving in Yeshua’s story.

Exactly what are we to make of this story? Perhaps it’s just a story about family and all the dynamics, difficulty and drama that is part of every “family” whether of blood, neighborhood, working associates or even church community. Could it be as simple as “who’s in and who is not, who counts and who is forgotten?”

It seems to me that all three characters in today’s story are lost. Without a doubt the conniving, self-indulgent younger son is lost to his ego-driven impulses. The father is certainly lost after his younger son takes off to some distant land; for all his pining and waiting on the chance that the younger may return some day, perhaps he neglected his relationship with his elder son. After all, the father is so taken with the return of his young son that he neglects to invite the elder one in from his fieldwork to say his brother is home and the party’s on. As AJ Levine would say, “are you kidding me, they had time to call the caterer and the band but forgot the only other son?”
This story ends with the father leaving the celebration to go outside and talk to his older son. It’s a very telling conversation. The father doesn’t begin with a pat speech like the younger son’s rehearsed lines after ‘coming to his senses.’ No, the father allows the son to express his hurt, dissatisfaction, anger, even sibling rivalry in the use of “this son of yours” rather than my brother. Folks, there’s a whole lot of dynamics here!

In summary, I leave you with a few simple thoughts as we continue our Lenten journey of transformation.

First, who counts and who matters? Second, who or what have we neglected to see? Let’s not be blinded and completely overwhelmed like Peter, James and John on the mountaintop and fail to see what is clearly apparent. And finally, take to heart our call to be ministers of reconciliation within our families and wider circles, as St. Paul reminds us in that second reading today. When appropriate, be reconciled by saying “I’m sorry, please forgive me, I love you” or be a reconciler by saying “I forgive you, I love you, welcome home!”

So, what did you hear, what will you do and what will it cost you?

Statement of Faith
We believe in one God, a divine mystery
beyond all definition and rational understanding,
the heart of all that has ever existed,
that exists now, or that ever will exist.

We believe in Jesus, messenger of God's Word,
bringer of God's healing, heart of God's compassion,
bright star in the firmament of God's
prophets, mystics, and saints.

We believe that We are called to follow Jesus
as a vehicle of God's love,
a source of God's wisdom and truth,
and an instrument of God's peace in the world.

We believe that God's kin-dom is here and now,
stretched out all around us for those
with eyes to see it, hearts to receive it,
and hands to make it happen.

Liturgy of Eucharist

Terri:         As we prepare for the sacred meal, Jim and I lay our stoles upon the table as a sign that just as Jesus is anointed, so is each of us.
We bring to this table all our blessings, cares and concerns.  Please feel free to voice your concerns beginning with the words “I bring to the table….”  When appropriate, leader will close with the words “We pray for these and all unspoken concerns. Amen!”

Jim:           As a priestly people, we are anointed… and so let us pray our Eucharistic prayer as one voice.

All:    O Nurturing, Mothering one, You are always with us. We are grateful for Your constant loving and unconditional presence. At times we forget that You are holding us, attending to us. We fall and You pick us up. You send strangers, friends and family to our aid. We are never without Your Light and Spirit.

We experience great joy and we experience great pain and suffering. You are with us in the joy and the pain and suffering. When we experience Your presence, we long to sing our hymn of praise:
Holy, Holy, Holy   Words and music by Karen Drucker

Creator and Lover of all beings, we cannot grow in the darkness of this world without Your Light. Our desire to be in Your light is a gift from You. Help us keep our hearts and minds open to You through our love and care for each other and all creation.

Terri: Please extend your hands in blessing
This bread and wine are a sign of Your nourishment and a sign of Your great love. Your Spirit is upon us and we belong to You and one another.

We thank you for Jesus, simple servant, lifting up the lowly, revealing you as God-With-Us, revealing us as one with you, and all creation.

On the night before he died, Jesus gathered for the Seder supper with the people closest to him.
Like the least of household servants, he washed their feet. Once again, he showed us how to love one another.

Presiders stand at table, Jim lifts bread.
Back at the table, he took the Passover Bread,
spoke the grace, broke the bread and offered it to them saying,
Take and eat, this is my very self.

Terri lifts the cup as community prays
Then he took the cup of blessing,
spoke the grace, and offered it to them saying:
Take and drink of the covenant
Made new again through my life in you.
Whenever you remember me like this,
I am among you.

Bread and wine are transformed by Your Spirit and we are transformed when we open ourselves to Your Spirit. Every time we share this bread and wine we choose to be transformed. We choose to love as You love us.

As we celebrate and recognize You in this bread and wine,
we love and recognize you in each other.
We are filled with gratitude and joy.
Glory and Praise to you both now and forever. Amen

Presiders hold bread and wine
Through him, we have learned how to live.
Through him, we have learned how to love.
Through him, we have learned how to serve.  AMEN.

Terri: Let us pray together the prayer of Jesus:
O Holy One,
who is within, we celebrate your many names.
Your wisdom come.
Your will be done, unfolding from the depths within us.
Each day you give us all that we need.
You remind us of our limits, and we let go.
You support us in our power, and we act with courage.
For you are the dwelling place within us,
the empowerment around us,
and the celebration among us, now and forever. Amen.
(interpreted by Miriam Therese Winter)

Jim: Please join in the prayer for the breaking of the bread.
Presiders break the bread as the community prays
Loving Source of our being, You call us to live the Gospel of peace and justice. We live justly, we love tenderly, we walk with integrity in Your Presence.

Terri:  Let us pray our communion prayer together. 
What we have heard with our ears, we will live with our lives. As we share communion, we will become communion, both Love’s nourishment and Love’s challenge.

Jim:  Our Eucharistic celebration is all-inclusive. We belong to the Loving One and to each other. Everyone is invited to receive at this friendship table.

Please pass the bread with the words: Welcome home, eat and be nourished!
Please pass the cup with the words: Welcome home, drink and savor life!

Communion Meditation Song: God Beyond All Names by Bernadette Farrell

Terri: Let us together bless each other with these words:
May we continue to be the Face of God to each other.
May the certainty of our connectedness to one another and all creation ignite us to love more fully. May we, like Jesus, be a shining light and a blessing for all. Amen!

Closing Song:  Room At The Table by Carrie Newcomer

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