Monday, March 2, 2020

Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community - Liturgy for First Sunday in Lent 2020 - Presiders: Lynn Kinlan, ARCWP, and Mary Lynch


Lynn: Welcome to our Upper Room celebration beginning Lent. Our theme for today is the opportunity to make Lent into a big and wondrous blessing by seeing it as a time to fine tune spiritual balance rather than a time of being put to the test by a devil figure or a God who punishes.

Mary: Our Opening Prayer is called Lenten Psalm of Awakening by Edward Hays  
Come Life-giving Creator and rattle the door latch of my slumbering heart. Awaken me, as you breathe upon a winter-wrapped earth, gently calling to life an emergent Spring.
Show to me these Lenten days how to take the daily things of life, and by submerging them in the sacred, to infuse them with a great love for you O God and for others.
Guide me to perform simple acts of love and prayer, the real works of reform and renewal of this overture to the spring of the Spirit. O holy one, help me not to waste these precious Lenten days of my soul’s spiritual springtime.

Opening Song: Psalm 139 sung by Kathryn Christian
https://youtu.be/gziFMFEFdQA

First Reading: from the Book of Genesis
Humankind was created as God’s reflection:  in the Divine image God created them; female and male.  God blessed them and looked at all creation and proclaimed that this was good — very good. Yahweh then planted a garden to the east in Eden and caused every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat, to spring from the soil. In the center of the garden were the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Yahweh settled the two humans in the garden of Eden so that they might cultivate and care for the land. Yahweh directed the two humans,
“You may eat as much as you like
From any of the trees of the garden—
Except the tree of
The Knowledge of Good and Evil.
You must not eat from that tree,
For on the day that you eat from that tree,
That is the day you will die.”
This are the inspired words from the Book of Genesis and we affirm them by saying, Amen.

Gospel Reading: Mathew 4:1-11
Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit, to be tempted by the Devil. After fasting for forty days and forty nights, Jesus was hungry. Then the tempter approached and said, “If you are the Only Begotten, command these stones to turn to bread.”
Jesus replied, “Scripture has it, “We live not on bread alone but on every utterance that come from the mouth of God.’”
Next, the Devil took Jesus to the Holy City, set him on the parapet of the temple, and said, “If you are the Only Begotten, throw yourself down. Scripture has it, ‘God will tell the angels to take care of you; with their hands they will support you, that you may never stumble on a stone.’”
Jesus answered, “Scripture also says, ‘Do not put God to the test.’”
The Devil then took Jesus up a very high mountain and displayed al the dominions of the world in their magnificence, promising, “All these I will give you if you fall down and worship me.”
At this, Jesus said to the Devil, “Away with you, Satan! Scripture says, ‘You will worship the Most High God; God alone will you adore.”
At that, the Devil left and angels came and attended Jesus.
These are the inspired words of the gospel writer known as Mathew and we affirm them by saying, Amen.

Lynn: Homily Starter

Some of the best news in our Hebrew and Christian Bible happens in three parts right at the start: Eve and Adam are created in the divine image of God.  God immediately blesses them. And thirdly, God proclaims that the whole of Creation is good— very good. 
How different would our Christian DNA be if, for our First Communion, we had memorized this passage instead of prayers on the loss of heaven and the pain of hell and pleas to Mary to pray for us sinners? 

Which is not to say that we should disregard the shortcomings that began with Adam and Eve and continue with us as we neglect the glory given us, choosing instead to nibble on an apple that is partly good and partly rotten. Sometimes, we can let our fears get the best of us and be distracted into work that is not the life of the Spirit. Perhaps, that’s what happened to Jesus in the desert. But more on that later….

When Mary and I got together to plan this liturgy, we tried to imagine Lent as a time to fine tune spiritual balance rather than a time of being put to the test by a devil or a God who punishes.  We have four suggestions for a start on Lent which are not original with us; they come from ideas raised organically within this community. We hope one or two may resonate:
First, Lent can be a big and wondrous blessing when we focus on nature and the blessing of all Creation. Our Wilderness devotional provides journaling and artistic openings to become prayerfully observant about our world and spiritual leanings in ourselves. Our deacons and priests are each available to anyone wanting help in the search for a balance of personal spirituality during Lent or anytime. We can pray with you, listen and spend holy time with you in the Spirit.     

Second, God gives us the freedom to do well and the freedom to get caught up in our own wayward agendas. Seeking Divine inspiration helps us to become the blessed person we are created to be. We can practice forgiving ourselves. We can refuse to be hounded by regret over the past or second-guessing about the future. Living in the present makes God’s Presence real.
 Third, we can resolve to do one or two new things. Where is my kind voice the next time I witness racial, gender or ethnic prejudice? Do I stay silent and not ‘make it a big deal’ or do I call out speak up even if the culprit was “only joking’? We can watch community announcements for more ideas. A couple of our members are following an online Ignation Solidarity and Action program of “Fasting from Food Waste”. Others are going to a Capital Border Watch fundraiser.

Finally, we can embrace a multi-faceted humanity rather than the dualism of good and evil. Each of us knows the promise of delight and the pain of grief and suffering and we bring to our days every shade in between.  Can we be compassionate with others no matter the shade they throw? Shall this effort be rooted not merely in human willpower but prayerfully in the Spirit?
Jesus was seeking Spirit balance when he went alone into desert. He had just heard from God at baptism: “This is my Own, my Beloved, on whom my favor rests.”  - maybe an echo of the Genesis blessing of Eve and Adam.

Jesus secreted himself in a plain and empty place, monotonous and austere. The desert gives him silent pause for the challenge ahead. Maybe, he wrestled with what it means to be God’s Own which is at once reassuring but also a high bar. Rather than tussle with a devil figure, it is likely Jesus faced down demons of his own to vanquish pride, ego and the lure of a power trip to realize the His God-given blessing.

In the silence he becomes better at listening.  In the baking sun maybe he grows in understanding of the shades between good and evil. The desert solitude may have helped him to know himself better so that he could serve others and lead us all to Easter. May we seek and be blessed to find the balance that Jesus found on our wilderness journey to Easter this year.
Is the Genesis blessing on Eve and Adam given you? What will it cost you to take to heart that like Jesus, You are God’s Own? How will you make this Lent a big and wondrous blessing in your life?

Communion Meditation Song is We Are All Angels by Karen Drucker
https://youtu.be/TV3gCB2Er7g

Closing Song Be Light for Our Eyes by David Haas
https://youtu.be/DD8OvgXxixc 

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