|Photo by Dulcey Lima on Unsplash|
Welcome- Mary Theresa: Welcome to the Upper Room’s Liturgy in observance of Indigenous People’s Weekend. Our theme is “See No Stranger.”
Since the beginning of the European conquest of the Americas, White supremacy and Christian supremacy have caused great hardship and unspeakable atrocities against Indigenous People and People of Color.
When the conquerors no longer “saw the faces in front of them as equal, they could call people strangers on their own land, savage to the touch, ripe for conversion: They could enslave them, pillage their resources, and build an empire on their soil in the name of God and country.” (Valerie Kaur)
Valerie Kaur, a Sikh American civil rights activist, award-winning filmmaker, lawyer, faith leader, and founder of the Revolutionary Love Project invites us to imagine a different story. She says,
“What if first contact in the Americas had been marked not by violence but by wonder? If the first Europeans who arrived here had looked into the faces of the indigenous people they met and thought not savage, but sister and brother, it would have been difficult, perhaps impossible, to mount operations of enslavement, theft, rape, and domination. Such operations depend on the lie that some people are subhuman. If they saw them as equals instead, might they have sat down and negotiated a shared future? Imagine institutions on this soil built on the premise of equality rather than white supremacy. Imagine the forms of community that might have emerged, and how that would have evolved through generations.”
In our first reading, Valerie Kaur invites us to create a new way forward and to labor for justice through revolutionary love.
Please join in our opening song: “Would you Harbor Me?” Sung by the Three Altos
Opening Prayer - Phillis:
You have formed us in communities
Let your Love open our hearts, guide our steps, and
Light our path
so that Your Love in us
repairs all manner of injustice,
offers solace to those who grieve
and stands with those who suffer. Amen.
LITURGY OF THE WORD
Valarie Kaur Invites Us to Labor for Justice in Revolutionary Love (play segment beginning at: 4:05)
These are the inspired words of Valerie Kaur, spiritual teacher and activist, and we affirm them by saying, Amen.
Gospel – Joan Pesce:
A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew (adapted from MT 34-40)
The Holy One says, “Come my beloved and take your place in the kin-dom.
It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why: I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.
Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored or marginalized, that was me—you did it to me.”
These words are adapted from the Gospel of Matthew, and we affirm them by saying, Amen.
Brief Pause for reflection
Shared Homily - Phillis Isabella Sheppard
Where is the Love?
In a time of Suffering, Grief, and Injustice
The womanist theologian, M. Shawn Copeland describes suffering as “Suffering, always means pain, disruption, separation and incompleteness. It can . . . push us to the borders of hopelessness and despair . . . can maim, wither and cripple the heart.... I understand suffering as the disturbance of our inner tranquility caused by physical, mental, emotional and spiritual forces . . .” When this kind of suffering is inflicted, love is inhibited.
How are we to be love, in love, for love? It seems we have to cultivate a disposition toward love. Love is a spiritual path embodied not in solitary reverie and contemplation, but in the messiness of community and struggle; the kind of messiness that makes us remember that Roberta Flack song “Where is the love that you promised that would be mine until the end of time?” Yes, opening ourselves to Love can expose us to heart break, and disappointment in ourselves and others. Love is risky business. We do not seek to be Love alone. Love cannot be fostered in a vacuum for internal self-gratification. Love has a purpose, aim, and context.
Love forms our imagination, sharpens our sight, and directs our feet: We need to see that at the borders of this country, children and families live a terror induced nightmare; we need to see that Black and Brown bodies are used for target practice, and those unhoused and in unsafe homes flit about seeking crevices of sanctuary. There are some of us who call this place sacred ground? Where is the Love? How is the Love lived?
Leviticus 19:33-34 gives us two directives: do no wrong toward the stranger and love the stranger.
In her essay on love and violence, womanist ethicist Emilie M. Townes writes “love is one more piece to the fabric of the universe, … one more sign that the Emmaus Road is not the end of the journey but it is the beginning. …” Love is only the beginning. Love is/is to be the impulse running through us. Love is not limited by the immediate, the past, or the imagined future; this Love is the thread that connects us, across time, space, oceans, and cosmologies. Love links our lives to people across the globe—if we allow Love to shake us up and surge like a tsunami—turning wrongs right side up. Love dismantles, repairs and builds.
To take love seriously requires us to acquire, through practice, a disposition of Love and to position ourselves so that we are prepared, but not rigid; nimble, but surefooted—about why we exist in the world in this time and place. Love requires us to imagine a new way of being and to reach into the dirt and clay to create without knowing all that Love will yield. We Love in community, in relationship with God, and one another.
This imagining is not just about producing a new idea, though this is good; but we seek the new that evolves in action, over time, and in the spontaneous and disruptive.
Love requires us to listen beneath the surface. Beyond the obvious. Beyond what we already know. Beyond the boundaries of here and what we think is the other side. This path requires us to move into liminal spaces where we become Love.
What are your thoughts?
Statement of Faith
Mary Theresa: Please join in praying our statement of faith
We believe in the Holy One, 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 the Divine Word,
bringer of healing, heart of Divine compassion,
bright star in the firmament of the Holy One's
prophets, mystics, and saints.
We believe that We are called to follow Jesus
as a vehicle of divine love,
a source of wisdom and truth,
and an instrument of peace in the world.
We believe in the Spirit of the Holy One,
the life that is our innermost life,
the breath moving in our being,
the depth living in each of us.
We believe that the Divine 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 THE EUCHARIST
Mary Theresa: As we prepare for the sacred meal, we bring to this gathering our blessings, cares and concerns.
Denise reads intentions
(at conclusion) We pray for these and all unspoken intentions. Amen.
Phillis: O Holy One, you have been called by many names by many people in the centuries of our planet’s life. Yet, no name truly defines you or describes you. We celebrate you as the marvelous, loving energy of life who caused us and our world to be. We celebrate you as the Source of light and life and love, and we celebrate your presence and all-ways care.
Mary Theresa: With open hands and open hearts, let us pray together our Eucharistic prayer:
Joan: Source of Love and Light, we join in unity of Spirit, love and purpose with Your people everywhere and with those who have gone before us. With all of creation across billions of galaxies, we open our hearts and souls to become One.
Mary Theresa: In your loving embrace we are liberated from division, fear, conflict, pride and injustice. We are transformed into wholeness which we resolve to bring to all whose lives we touch. With gratitude, we meld ourselves into Your Divine Presence which knows all, shelters all, and transforms all into love, abundant and eternal and in one voice, we sing:
Here In This Place by Christopher Grundy https://youtu.be/sgkWXOSGmOQ
Phillis: We thank you, Holy One, for Jesus, a man of courage whose exquisite balance of human and divine points our way and who strives with us in our time of need. We yearn with passion to live as Jesus, one with you and your Spirit, in peace and justice.
Joan: We seek to heal the differences that isolate us so that we may live in unity with all people, of every ethnicity, skin color, gender orientation or class. May we have the imaginative sympathy and love of Your Spirit to move with courage beyond the confines of bias, miscommunication, ignorance and hurt and into the healing place where Divine light and love abide.
Mary Theresa: Please extend your hands in blessing the bread and wine.
Holy One, we celebrate and recognize you in this bread and wine and we recognize you in each other.
Phillis: Knowing that Jesus spent his time with the lowly and hurting, the needy and shunned, we seek to remain open to how we can bring love, healing and unity to those in need. We ask for the grace to see with the eyes of Jesus, touch with the hands of Jesus and heal with the heart of Jesus.
Joan: Anticipating the likelihood of betrayal, arrest and pain, Jesus wanted more than anything to be with his friends, to share a meal, exchange stories and create fond memories. To strengthen the bonds of friendship that evening, Jesus washed the feet of his friends in an act of love and humility.
All lift the bread.
Mary Theresa: Back at the table, he took the bread, spoke the grace, broke the bread and offered it to them saying, Take and eat, this is my very self.
All lift their cups.
Phillis: 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. (pause)
All consume their bread and cup
Mary Theresa: Our Communion Meditation is Where Did Jesus Go by Sara Thomsen. Video by Denise Hackert-Stoner using photos by artists on Unsplash
Joan: Let us join with disciples of all ages and pray as Jesus taught us:
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 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 (Miriam Therese Winter)
Blessing and Commissioning - Phillis: Please raise your hands in blessing and pray together.
May we create the space for Love
because in us, Love shows up,
embodied, determined, intelligent,
questioning, and disrupting.
May our Love show up
in activism, organizing, dismantling, teaching;
in the streets, in our words, rituals, and prayers.
May Love show up in our preaching, praying;
in our working and our playing.
May Love show up
When we show up.
May we reveal Love in our lives,
our theologies, our convictions, and our values.
May love show up in our collective loving
beyond our own satisfaction.
Where is the Love? In Us. May we live it.
Mary Theresa: Please join in singing our Closing Song: “We are singing for our lives” Sung by Holly Near and Ronnie Gilbert