Thursday, May 21, 2020

Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community - Seventh Sunday of Easter - Presiders: Mary Theresa Streck, ARCWP, and Joan Chesterfield, ARCWP

Upper Room Liturgy – May 24, 2020
Ascension: Transition to Spiritual Awakening

"Ascension, according to the Gospel of Mary is more accurately a descent into the heart; so further up is actually further in."
Mary Magdalene Revealed by Meggan Watterson

Presiders: Mary Theresa Streck, ARCWP, and Joan Chesterfield, ARCWP

Welcome and Theme
Welcome! The theme for today’s liturgy is Ascension: Transition to Spiritual Awakening. In his teachings, Jesus told his followers in so many different ways that the kin-dom of the Holy One is not "out there" but within.  The second coming is not going to be on a cloud descending from the sky, but in our hearts when the "eyes of our hearts have been enlightened" and we live into a different kind of engagement with the Holy One and all of creation. Ascension, according to the Gospel of Mary is more accurately a descent into the heart; so further up is actually further in. Let us begin with our opening prayer. 

Opening Prayer
Holy One, we gather today mindful of Your creative, energizing magnificence at work in all places: in the vastness of the universe, in the evolutionary development of life on earth, and in every breath we take. In You we are one with everything and everyone. We open our hearts and minds to Your creative Presence, an energizing Power in the depths of our own being, knowing that we need not ask You to “Come”, but rather knowing You are always here with us in life, in being, in spirit, in love. Amen.
(adapted from Prayers for Progressive Christians by Michael Morwood)

Opening Song: Root of the Root by Sara Thomsen

This centering song invites us to awaken to the guiding light within.
Words and music by Sara Thomsen
Return returning
Return returning
To the root of the root
Home of your home
Return, return
Come home, come home
Come home, come home
Come home, come home
To the home of your home

Shining light, guide me
Golden light, inside me


Our first reading is Kinship by Greg Bolye

Mother Teresa diagnosed the world’s ills in this way: we’ve just “forgotten that we belong to each other.” Kinship is what happens to us when we refuse to let that happen. With kinship as the goal, other essential things fall into place; without it, no justice, no peace. I suspect that, were kinship our goal, we would no longer be promoting justice—we would be celebrating it.

Often we strike the high moral distance that separates “us” from “them,” and yet it is God’s dream come true when we recognize that there exists no daylight between us. Serving others is good. It’s a start. But it’s just the hallway that leads to the Grand Ballroom.

Kinship—not serving the other, but being one with the other. Jesus was not “a man for others”; he was one with them. There is a world of difference in that.

No daylight to separate us. Only kinship. 

Inching ourselves closer to creating a community of kinship such that God might recognize it. Soon we imagine, with God, this circle of compassion. Then we imagine no one standing outside of that circle, moving ourselves closer to the margins so that the margins themselves will be erased. We stand there with those whose dignity has been denied. We locate ourselves with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless. At the edges, we join the easily despised and the readily left out. We stand with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop. We situate ourselves right next to the disposable so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away. The prophet Habakkuk writes, “The vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment and it will not disappoint . . . and if it delays, wait for it.” Kinship is what God presses us on to, always hopeful that its time has come.

These are the inspired words of Greg Bolye and we affirm them by saying, Amen.

Alleluia (Sung)
Gospel: A Reading from the Gospel of John
Adapted from John 17: 1-11

Jesus prayed, “Abba, the hour has come.
Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you.
I revealed your name to those whom you gave me.

Now they know that everything you gave me is from you,
because the words you gave to me, I have given to them,
and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you.

And they have believed that you sent me.
I pray for them.
Now I will no longer be in the world,
but they are in the world, while I am coming to you.”

These words are adapted from the Gospel of John, and we affirm them by saying, Amen.

Homily Starter by Mary Theresa

As a child, I was enamored by superheroes. I could not wait to get home from school to watch another episode of Superman. He could do what no humans on earth could do and he was the hero for those who embraced “truth, justice and the American way.” And if you remember, the opening of each show began with the words, “Look, up in the sky…” Humans in perilous situations depended on this superman from another world to save them.

And for so many centuries, Christians fixed their gaze on Jesus as a superhero savior and worshiped him. Salvation was through him and to be a good Christian, they simply had to believe in Church creeds and doctrines, and pray to a remote God through the priestly class.
But, Jesus never asked his followers to worship him. He invited them to embrace his message of compassionate love and follow him. He identified with being fully human and claimed familial unity with the Beloved, the Holy One. He taught his followers to take care of one another especially the poor and most vulnerable, and trust in the Divine Spirit working through them. He invited them to embrace the difficult work of discipleship.

The first followers of the Way of Jesus found themselves in a transition time when Jesus was no longer physically present to them. This was a time not of their choosing, and their world, as they knew it, was forever altered. They had to ask themselves fundamental questions about how to be a follower of Jesus. There was no manual, no creed, no catechism, no dogmas and doctrines, but they had each other and an awakening awareness of the power of the Spirit at work through them.

Like the first disciples, we are in a time of transition, certainly not of our choosing, and the Spirit is working in and through us for ourselves and for the global community. Theologian Diana Butler Bass, in her book Christianity After Religion, believes that the Great Global Awakening of the 21st Century is evident in the questions people are asking of religious institutions. These questions are big questions about believing, behaving and belonging and are leading to a different kind of engagement with faith.

The questions, “What do I believe? What creed do I follow?” are shifting to “How do I believe?  How do I engage this belief in the world? How does the living encounter with the Holy One make a difference in my life and in the life of others?”.

The questions, “How do I do it?  What manual do I follow?” is shifting to “What am I going to do?  What is my vocation and purpose?”

The question of “Who am I?” is changing to “Whose am I?” Whose life am I linked with? How do those connections, those communities make me a richer and different person?”

The first reading from Tattoos on the Heart by Greg Boyle is a loving and compassionate response to the questions of “How do I believe,”? “What am I going to do?” and “Whose am I?”

I believe the first followers of Jesus were responding to similar questions.  And, like them, we are coming to a greater awareness of the Spirit guiding us in our transition to our great awakening and evolving spiritual transformation.

What are your thoughts?

Presider 2: Let us pray together our Statement of Faith:

Statement of Faith

All: 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 in the Holy Spirit,
The life of God that is our innermost life,
the breath of God moving in our being.
The depth of God living in each of us.

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.

Prayers for the Community

Presider 1: As we prepare for the sacred meal, we acknowledge that just as Jesus is anointed, so is each of us. And we bring to this table our blessings, cares and concerns. 

Presider 1:  We pray for these and all unspoken intentions. Amen.


Presider 2:  We are a priestly people. We are anointed. With open hands and hearts, 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 Druker)

We are holy, holy, holy,
We are holy, holy, holy,
We are whole.

Spirit Divine, Come to Me,
healing Love, healing Me.
Open my heart, allow me to see,
Beauty and love, lives in me.

You are holy, holy, holy…

All: 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.

Presider 2: Please extend your hands in blessing

All: This bread and wine is 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 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.

All lift their plate as the community prays the following: 

All: 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.
 (consume bread and pause)  

All lift their cup as community prays the following: 

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.

(drink and pause)  

All: Bread and wine is 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 cup:

Through him, we have learned how to live.
Through him, we have learned how to love.
Through him, we have learned how to serve.


Presider 1: Let us pray together the prayer of Jesus:

O Holy One, who is within, around, and among us, 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.


Presider 2:  Please extend your hands and pray our blessing together:

May the Spirit within us be a source of healing and consolation. May the Spirit within us strengthen us when we feel weak, warm us when we are cold-hearted, bend us when we are stubborn, move us when we are uncaring, guide us in the way of love. May we allow the Spirit within to empower us in all we do. Amen. (Michael Morwood)
All: Amen.

Presider 1: Our Closing song is a moving tribute to all of the generous souls who walk with us. Here is Good Job, by Alicia Keys.

Good Job

You're the engine that makes all things go
And you're always in disguise, my hero
I see your light in the dark
Smile in my face when we all know it's hard
There's no way to ever pay you back
Bless your heart, know I love you for that
Honest and selfless
I don't know if this helps it but
Good Job
You're doing a good job, a good job
You're doing a good job
Don't get too down
The world needs you now
Know that you matter
Matter, matter yeah
You're doing a good job, a good job
You're doing a good job
Don't get too down
The world needs you now
Know that you matter
Matter, matter yeah
Six in the morning
As soon as you walk through that door
Everyone needs you again
The world's out of order
It's not as sound
When you're not around
All day on your feet, hard to
Keep that energy, I know
When it feels like the end of the road
You don't let go
You just press forward
You're the engine that makes all things go
Always in disguise, my hero
I see a light in the dark
Smile in my face
When we all know it's hard
There is no way to ever pay you back
Bless your heart
Know I love you for that
Honest and selfless
I don't know if this helps it but
Good Job
You're doing a good job, a good job
Good job
You're doing a good job
Don't get too down
The world needs you now
Know that you matter
Matter, matter yeah
It's a good job
You're doing a good job, a good job
Good job
You're doing a good job
Don't get too down
The world needs you now
Know that you matter
Matter, matter yeah
The mothers, the fathers
The teachers that reach us
Strangers to friends
That show up in the end
From the bottom to the top
The listeners that hear us
This is for you
You make me fearless
You're doing a good job, a good job
You're doing a good job
Don't get too down
The world needs you now
Know that you matter
Matter, matter yeah

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