Jim Marsh, ARCWP, and Denise Hackert-Stoner led the Upper Room Liturgy for Sunday, February 24, 2019.
Welcome and Theme: Today we celebrate the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time using the Gospel reading for the Sixth Sunday. There is certainly a theme of blessedness in the readings today which I will speak about later. There is also an element of hunger… and so may you be satisfied with whatever it is that you are hungry for … that is until the hunger pangs again appear!
Opening Song: Peace Will Come by Thomas R. Paxton
Liturgy of Word
First Reading: Psalm 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6 [Psalms for Praying – Nan Merrill]
Blessed are those who walk hand in hand with goodness,
who stand beside virtue, who sit in the seat of truth;
for their delight is in the Spirit of Love,
and in Love’s heart they dwell day and night.
They are like trees planted by streams of water,
that yield fruit in due season, and their leaves flourish;
and in all that they do, they give life.
The unloving are not so; they are like dandelions which the wind blows away.
For Love knows the way of truth,
and Love’s penetrating Light breaks through hearts filled with illusions.
This is a sacred song that inspired our ancestors, and together we respond: Blessed are we who never lose hope!
Second Reading: Luke 6:17, 20-26 [translation from The Message Bible]
Coming down off the mountain with them, he stood on a plain surrounded by disciples and was soon joined by a huge congregation from all over Judea and Jerusalem. Then he spoke:
“You’re blessed when you’ve lost it all, God’s kin-dom is there for the finding.
You’re blessed when you’re ravenously hungry, then you’re ready for the Messianic meal.
You’re blessed when the tears flow freely; joy comes in the morning.
Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit me.
What it means is the truth is too close for comfort and that person is uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens; skip like a lamb if you like. For even though they do not like it, I do, and all heaven applauds and know that you are in good company. My preachers and witnesses have always been treated like this.
Give away your life.
But it’s trouble ahead if you think you have it made. What you have is all you’ll get.
And it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself; your self will not satisfy you for long.
And it’s trouble ahead if you think life’s all fun and games; there’s suffering to be met, and you’re going to meet it.
There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests. Look at how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors. Your task is to be true, not popular.”
Jim’s Homily Reflection:
Today’s readings both talk about a common theme, namely being BLESSED. What exactly does it mean to be blessed, and what does this Gospel story have to do with our now, our time?
We know this Gospel story so well and that is precisely why Denise and I chose to use the translation from the Message Bible—perhaps to get us to sit up and listen, really listen. It is also so very important to have an understanding of the context and culture of first century (Common Era) and what the Jewish disciples (that is, students of Yeshua) heard as Jesus taught them about the kin-dom of God.
This passage, known as the Beatitudes, is not about platitudes and niceties, but should really shock us, as it no doubt did for those first century hearers. They heard Yeshua say that those who are weeping, impoverished, poor and broken as well as hungry are blessed and that the reign of God is theirs. This would have been very bizarre and maybe even blasphemous given their Mosaic understanding of tradition.
Perhaps a little background will enlighten us. After Moses received the ten commandments, the Law, the Torah, the author of Deuteronomy (chapter 28) reminds the people of Israel of the covenant God made with them, and in great detail says if you faithfully obey Torah you will be blessed above every nation, whether you are in the city or country, even the fruit of your womb and all your livestock and herds, your kneading bowls and baskets will be full. As long as they keep the commandments, they will be blessed (consecrated) and will walk in YHWH’s footsteps. But if they did not follow Torah, all the commandments, then all manner of curses and woe will befall them: all sorts of catastrophes, confusion and fear, ruin and even their destruction. They will perish as plants in dry, arid land.
This is their mindset. Yet Jesus turns it upside down; he’s saying those who appear to be cursed (the broken, the poor, the hungry, the persecuted and marginalized) are blessed and woe to those who are rich, satisfied, full of laughter and have the approval of others. It’s interesting to note that Yeshua’s words to his disciples mirror those of his mother, Myriam, who sung of the proud being scattered, the lowly being lifted up, the hungry being filled while the rich would be sent away empty. Jesus is warning them of what lies ahead if they don’t amend their ways.
We used Psalm 1 today as our first reading. The lectionary had this response to today’s Psalm: “Blessed are they who hope in YHWH.”
Is there a message here for us in our time, in our country and in our world which is beset by so very many ills and troubles?
I believe we are called to people of radical hope in these discomforting times.
The Gospel invites us to make decisions about our lives that honor the vision of Jesus for our world. We are called to stand with the economically poor, the marginalized, those suffering sexual assault and domestic violence, the increasing number of people who are targeted because of orientation and gender identity, and those refugees and immigrants who are dehumanized daily simply because they are seeking a place to call home.
My prayer this day is that we follow our brother Jesus as we embody and incarnate the divine in our world, to stand and raise our voices challenging the status quo, bringing hope and blessing even if it causes some to denounce and revile us. It is not easy, but growth and transformation always leads to new life! If we do this, my friends, then surely the Psalmist was singing about us “They are like trees planted by streams of water … and in all they do, they give life.”
So what did you hear and how will you respond?
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.
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.
Denise: As we prepare for the sacred meal, we lay our stoles upon the table as a sign that just as Jesus is anointed, so is each of us. And we bring to this table our blessings, cares and concerns. Please feel free to voice your concerns beginning with the words “I bring to the table….” We pray for these and all unspoken concerns. Amen.
Liturgy of the Eucharist
Jim: With open hands let us pray our Eucharistic Prayer together:
All: O Holy One, the first passion of Jesus was his passion for you and his passion for justice, namely, to incarnate your justice by demanding for all, a fair share of a world belonging to and ruled by your covenant with Israel. In solidarity with Jesus, and with all the faithful men and women who have gone before us, we lift up our hearts and sing:
All: Holy One, we celebrate the life of your son and our brother, Jesus. He lived his life and walked forward to his death knowing that you were leading him. We walk forward in his pathway and follow his teaching.
We are standing in the right place when we let go of money, possessions, pride and privilege, to become vulnerable and open to you, to accept poverty of spirit and reliance on you.
We are standing in the right place when we are compassionate for all human beings, to feeling empathy and loving everyone, especially the poor, oppressed, and mournful. We remember all those who suffer and die each year from war, poverty and unjust disease. We mourn for them, and for all creatures we destroy, and for the earth itself.
We are standing in the right place when we are gentle, nonviolent, courageous and humble, like your saints. We pray to grow in awareness of our unity with all of creation and co-create with You our earth as a sanctuary of peace.
We are standing in the right place when our hearts hunger and thirsts for justice for all people who live in poverty, imprisonment and war. We pray for the courage to carry on your struggle for justice for the world’s oppressed as we challenge the world’s domination systems.
We are standing in the right place when we are merciful, especially toward those whom the culture deems unworthy of your mercy and care. We embrace everyone with compassion and respect.
We are standing in the right place when our hearts are pure heart so that everything that comes from within us might be loving and holy. Opening ourselves up to your Spirit, may we see You everywhere, especially in every human being.
We are standing in the right place when we are peacemakers, renouncing violence and oppression. We pray to make peace everywhere.
We are standing in the right place when rejected and persecuted while working for justice and peace. With you we will not retaliate but respond with love and compassion.
We rejoice, O Holy One, and we are glad as we join the lineage of Your prophets of justice and peace. We, Your daughters and sons, continue to work with Your grace as we arise and walk forward in the footsteps of our brother, the nonviolent Jesus.
Presiders stand at table
All: On the night before he died, Jesus did more than ask us to remember him. He showed us how to live when he washed the feet of his friends.
Denise lifts bread
All: At the table, he took the Passover Bread, spoke the grace, broke the bread and offered it to them saying:
Take and eat of the Bread of Life
Given to strengthen you
Whenever you remember me like this
I am among you. (pause)
Jim lifts the cup
All: Jesus then raised a cup of blessing, spoke the grace 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.
All: Let us share this bread and cup as we proclaim and live the gospel of peace through love and non-violence.
Holy One, we trust you to continue to share with us Your own Spirit, the Spirit that filled Jesus, for it is through his life and teaching, his loving and healing that all honor and glory is yours. Amen.
Denise: Let us pray as Jesus taught us:
All: 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)
Prayer for the Breaking of Bread
Jim: Please join in the prayer for the breaking of the bread.
Presiders break the bread
All: O Holy One, You call us to live the Gospel of peace and justice. We will live justly. You call us to be Your presence in the world. We will love tenderly. You call us to speak truth to power. We will walk with integrity in your presence.
(Presiders hold up bread and wine)
Denise: This is the bread of life and the cup of blessing. Through it we are nourished and we nourish each other.
All: 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.
Communion Song: Beatitudes Song by Noirin Ni Riain
Antiphon: Amen! Truly, I say to you, gather in my name, I am with you.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, the kin-dom of Heaven is theirs.
Blessed are the gentle, they shall inherit the land. Antiphon
Blessed are those who mourn, they shall be consoled.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice,
the justice of God shall be theirs. Antiphon
Blessed are the merciful, mercy shall be show unto them.
Blessed are the pure of heart, they shall behold their God. Antiphon
Blessed are those who bring peace, they shall be children of God.
Blessed are those who suffer in the cause of right,
the Kin-dom of Heaven is theirs. Antiphon
Jim: Let us raise our hands and bless each other.
May you be blessed with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships. May you seek truth boldly and love deeply within your heart. May you continue to be the face of the Holy One to all you meet. May your name be a blessing in our time.
Closing Song: Blest Are They by David Haas