So, for those of you know me well, I am a plan girl. Last weekend, I knew I was going to be out of town at a conference in Orlando most of the week. So, I worked on the liturgy, and researched a lot about the meaning of the Readings, and pretty much nailed down my Homily Starter. Everything is in writing. I’m prepared.
Yesterday was the last day of the conference, a Child Protection Summit, of over 3000 people in Florida devoted to the child welfare of children in the foster care system. After the morning workshop, I decided to leave early and skip the keynote speaker. I was tired. I had a lot of agency work to do back home. As I was walking toward the elevator to go to my room to get my things and check out, a strong voice came in my head that said, “GO TO THE KEYNOTE!” Don’t you just hate when that happens? I was like, “Really?, really? I want to go home!” But, I have learned to not ignore that voice. So, I went to the keynote. And it changed my homily starter for today, and in some ways my life. Who knew? Well, apparently, God did.
The keynote speaker was Laura Schroff, author of a book called “An invisible Thread”. She started by telling us an Ancient Chinese proverb: “An invisible thread connects those who were destined to meet, regardless of time, place, and circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle. But, it will never break.” Her story is nothing less than amazing. So, I want to read you the beginning of her book.
"Excuse me, lady, do you have any spare change?" This was the first thing he said to me, on 56th Street in New York City, right around the corner from Broadway, on a sunny September day. And when I heard him, I didn't really hear him. His words were part of the clatter, like a car horn or someone yelling for a cab. They were, you could say, just noise-the kind of nuisance New Yorkers learn to tune out. So I
walked right by him, as if he wasn't there. But then, just a few yards past him, I
stopped. And then-and I'm still not sure why I did this-l came back. I came back and I looked at him, and I realized he was just a boy. Earlier, out of the corner of my eye, I had noticed he was young. But now, looking at him, I saw that he was a child-tiny body, sticks for arms, big round eyes. He wore a burgundy sweatshirt that was smudged and frayed and ratty burgundy sweatpants to match. He had scuffed white sneakers with untied laces, and his fingernails were dirty. But his eyes were bright and there was a general sweetness about him. He was, I would soon learn, eleven years old. He stretched his palm toward me, and he asked again, "Excuse me, lady, do you have
any spare change? I am hungry." What I said in response may have surprised him, but it really shocked me. "If you're hungry," I said, "I'll take you to McDonald's and buy you lunch." "Can I have a cheeseburger?" he asked. "Yes," I said. "How about a Big Mac?"
"That's okay, too." "How about a Diet Coke?" “Yes, that's okay." "Well, how about a thick chocolate shake and French fries?" I told him he could have anything he
wanted. And then I asked him if I could join him for lunch. He thought about it for a second.
"Sure," he finally said. We had lunch together that day, at McDonald's.
And after that, we got together every Monday. For the next 150 Mondays.
His name is Maurice, and he changed my life. Why did I stop and go back to Maurice? It is easier for me to tell you why I ignored him in the first place. I ignored him, very simply,
because he wasn't in my schedule.”
She had many friends who told her she should not keep seeing him. It was dangerous. She could be killed. He was not her cross to bear. But, she replied, “He’s everyone’s cross to bear.” She did not see him as a cross. She saw him as a gift in her life. So, what I have learned from this is, taking up your “cross” in life and following in the footsteps of Jesus is really not a burden. It’s a gift. Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”
Twenty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time – September 12, 2015
Co-Presiders: Kathryn Shea and Janet Blakeley
Music Minister: Mindy Lou Simmons
Today’s theme – “take up your cross, and follow in my footsteps”
Greeting and Gathering Hymn: “All Are Welcome” #414, vs 1,2,3,4
Presider: Let us pray as we come together to break bread and share in the banquet of love in the name of God, our Creator, of Christ, our liberator, and of the Holy Spirit, our Sanctifier. ALL: Amen.
All: God of life, wholeness and holiness, you who direct all creation to its complete fulfillment in Jesus, the Christ - open our hearts to the message of the Gospel so that your peace may rule in our hearts and your justice guide our lives. Loving God, bless all of us gathered here and all those of our community who are not with us today. We ask this of you, our brother Jesus, and our Wisdom Sophia. Amen.
Presider: Creator God to whom all hearts are open, no desires unknown, and from whom no secrets can be hidden, cleanse our hearts by the inspiration of Holy Wisdom.
ALL: We take your Word into our minds and hearts. Open them to new understanding.
Presider: We ask for the grace to continually acknowledge our need to grow in goodness and caring for ourselves, for others and for our earth.
ALL: We accept your love and understanding of the frailty of our human nature.
Presider: And we join with you, Jesus the Christ, believing the strength and insight of the Holy Spirit will lead us to deeper dedication to justice, equality and peace in our world. ALL: Amen.
All: (with an outstretched arm): God, the Father and Mother of mercy, through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, he bonded the world to you. He sent the Holy Spirit among us to give us the wisdom to love you - and the strength and compassion to love one another. Loving God, teach us the virtues of pardon and peace so that we may – in turn – learn to forgive each other for our failures to care for one another and for our planet Earth. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our brother and of the Holy Spirit, our healer and comforter. Amen.
Glory to God
ALL: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to God’s people on earth. Creator God, heart of the universe, we thank you for the breath of the Spirit at work in everything that exists, everywhere in the cosmos. Jesus, Child of God, Healer God, Teacher God, you free us to live in your love. You make us strong; you show us your mercy and love. You are one with the Creator, you hear our prayer. You are the Holy One. You are united with us. You are our faithful friend. We are one with you, Jesus the Christ, with the Holy Spirit. We are created in God’s image giving Glory to God our Creator. Amen.
Liturgy of The Word
First Reading: Isaiah 50:4-9
Psalm: 116 - Responsorial: I will walk with our God in the land, the land of the living. #825 (Modified)
Second Reading: James 2:14-18
Gospel Acclamation: CELTIC ALLELUIA! (sung)
Gospel Reading: A reading from the Gospel according to Mark 8:27-35
What is Jesus asking of us? What does it really mean to “take up you cross and follow me?”
Profession of Faith
ALL: All: We believe in God, the Creator of the universe whose divinity infuses all that exists, making everything, everywhere, sacred. We believe in Jesus, the Christ, who leads us to the fullness of humanity. Through him, we become new people, called beyond the consequences of our brokenness. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Wisdom who keeps the Christ-vision present to all those who are searching for meaning and wholeness in their lives - and the Sustainer who heals and energizes us when our spirits may grow weary in our journeys. We say: Amen to courage, to hope, to truth. Amen to the partnership and equality of all people of different genders, races, and faiths. We believe in a world of justice and peace for everyone, everywhere, with no exceptions. In all of this, we surely believe.
Prayers of the Community
Presider: We are people of faith. We believe in the power of prayer. We believe that we send blessings to those who are struggling and who need to experience hope; to those who are grieving and need to be comforted in their loss, to those who are facing medical challenges that they be granted hope and healing. We bring the needs of people throughout our world to our gracious and comforting God.
After each intercession, the response is: Compassionate God, hear our prayer.
For what else shall we pray?
Presider: Healing God, you faithfully listen to our prayers. We ask you to strengthen us in our caring for one another and in our works for justice, equality, and peace, and in our service to those living on the margins. We make this prayer in the name of Jesus, the Christ, Amen.
Offertory Procession and Hymn: “We Are Called” # 628, all verses
Preparation of the Gifts
Presider: Blessed are you, gracious God of all creation, through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life.
Presider: Blessed are you, gracious God of all creation, through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink.
ALL: Blessed be God forever.
Presiders: Pray my friends that as we celebrate this breaking of bread and blessing of wine we accept more fully the mission as People of God by actively following in the footsteps of Jesus, and living our response to God’s call.
ALL: Blessed be God forever.
Gathering of the Gifts: All are welcome around our family table
ALL: Gracious God, we are united in this sacrament by our love of Jesus Christ and we are in communion with all who proclaim your power and mercy to those who are marginalized and oppressed. May we love tenderly, do justice, and walk humbly with you. May we live as prophetic witnesses to the Gospel. We ask this through Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
Presider: God dwells in each one of us. All: Namaste!
Presider: Let us give thanks to the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists.
All: With hearts full of love, we give God thanks and praise.
Presider: Sacred Spirit, we recognize your presence among us as we gather at our family table.
All: Fill us with reverence for you, for one another, and for all your creation.
Presider: Let us lift up our hearts.
All: We lift them up to the Holy One, living in us and loving through us.
Voice 1: Gracious God, source and sustenance of life, redeeming presence to the pain and brokenness of our world, Holy Spirit who enlivens all that exists, we beseech your healing power upon us and all for whom we pray today. We join together with our community, with all creation everywhere, with all those who have gone before us and live in the eternal now as we sing:
ALL: We are holy, holy, holy X3, we are whole. You are holy… I am holy…We are holy (Karen Drucker)
Voice 2: We ask you to enliven anew in our hearts the empowering grace of your abundant Spirit, who infuses us with these gifts of bread and wine with the transforming energy of life, to nourish and sustain us in all times and especially in times of need.
Voice 3: Christ of the Cosmos, we rejoice that You, who are More than we can imagine or dream of, dwell in Mystery beyond all comprehension. We remember that it was you, who said: “Anything I have done in the name of the Creator, you can do, too…and even more.”
All: O God, let your Spirit of life, healing and wholeness come upon these simple gifts that we have brought from the fields and laid on our table -- this wheat, gathered and grown and this wine, fruit of the land. May she make them holy, so that they may become for us the Body and Blood of Jesus, our brother.
(Please all extend hands as we recite the consecration together.)
All: We remember the gift that Jesus gave us on the night before he died. He gathered with his friends to share a final Passover meal. And it was at that supper that he took bread, said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to them saying: take this, all of you, and eat it. This bread is you; this bread is me. We are one body, the presence of God in the world. Do this in memory of me and all I have taught you. [Pause]
In the same way, he took a cup of wine, again said the blessing, and gave it to his friends saying: take this, all of you, and drink it. This wine is you; this wine is me. We are one blood, the presence of God in the world. Do this in memory of me and all I have taught you.
Presider: Jesus, who was with God “in the beginning of the creation of the heavens and the earth,” is with us now in this bread. The Spirit, of whom the prophets spoke in history, is with us now in this cup. Let us proclaim this mystery of faith.
All: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ lives in us and through us in the world today.
(Please place your hand on the shoulder of the person to your right)
Voice 4: In memory of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we offer you, God, this life-giving bread, this saving cup. We thank you that we are in your presence and serve you. May all who share this sacred meal be brought together in unity by the Holy Spirit. And may that Spirit, that Wisdom, move freely in our lives as well as she did in the life of Jesus.
Voice 5: God, remember your church throughout the world, help us grow in love, together with Francis, our Pope, Bridget Mary, our Bishop, and all your family everywhere - especially those who live on the margins of church and society. Remember also all those, living and dead, who touched our lives and left their footprints on our hearts. We remember especially….(mention names, if you like).
ALL: Through Christ, with Christ, and in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is Yours, gracious God, forever and ever. Amen (sung).
The Prayer of Jesus
Presider: Let us join hands and raise our voices as we say the Prayer Jesus taught us:
ALL: (sung) Our Father and Mother…….
The Sign of Peace
Presider: Jesus, you said to your disciples, “My peace I leave you; my peace I give you.” Look on the faith of those gathered here today and ….
All: Grant us your peace. By the example of Jesus and with the strength of your Spirit, help us to spread that peace throughout the world, to everyone, everywhere, no exceptions. Amen.
Presider: May the peace of God be always with us, and let us extend that peace to one another by holding hands and singing “Peace Is Flowing like a River.”
Litany For The Breaking Of Bread
Presider: Loving God,
ALL: You call us to live the Gospel of peace and justice. We will live justly.
Presider: Loving God,
ALL: You call us to be your presence in the world. We will love tenderly.
Presider: Loving God,
ALL: You call us to speak truth to power. We will walk with integrity in your presence.
Presiders: This is Jesus, who liberates, heals and transforms our world. All are invited to partake of this sacred banquet of love. ALL: We are the Body of Christ.
During-Communion Hymn: “One Bread, One Body” #348, all verses, using God for Lord
Meditation Hymn after Communion: “Be Not Afraid” #430
Prayer of Thanksgiving after Communion
Presider: May wonder and thanksgiving fill us, may compassion fully fill our beings, that you may heal the numbness that continues because of our society’s injustices. May you know that you are loved and may we continue to be the face of God to one another. Amen.
Community Prayers of Gratitude
All: May our hearts be glad on our journey as we dream new dreams and see new visions.
May we all live and work for peace, justice, and non-violence in our hearts for ourselves and our brothers and sisters - whoever they are and wherever they are.
May we learn to bless and honor and hold in reverence the Earth and one other. Amen.
Closing Community Blessing
(Everyone please extend your hands in mutual blessing.)
ALL: May our gracious God, bless us all gathered here, in the name of God our Creator, in the name of Jesus our Liberator, in the name of the Holy Spirit, our Sanctifier as we care and minister to one another, and all those we meet, in love. Be with us as we continue on our path and follow in the footsteps of Jesus, for we are the face of God to the world. Amen.
Closing Hymn and Commissioning: “Go Make a Difference” # 504 verses 1,2,3
Presiders: As we leave here in the peace of Christ, let our service continue in all that we do.
All: Thanks be to God. Let it be so!