Saturday, June 27, 2020

Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community -Liturgy for Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Presiders: Jim Marsh, ARCWP, and Lindy Sanford-Martinez, ARCWP

Stonewall Inn  - June, 2020
Welcome and Theme: Good morning and welcome to the Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community in Albany, NY.

Today is particularly poignant for me. In the early hours of this day some fifty-one years ago, an event was taking place at a bar in NYC that would challenge and transform our world for significant numbers of people. It was a bar frequented by “drags” and “queens” as well as by many young people who were homeless because of “unwelcoming” families. Many of us probably did not know of this event; certainly main stream media, if it covered it at all, was written from the perspective of the police. And remember that the Civil Rights movement and the Viet Nam war were in full swing with demonstrations as well.

Three months ago, a stealth virus was beginning to wreak its havoc. When we gathered in person on March 8th to celebrate the Second Sunday in Lent, there were 564 confirmed cases in the U.S. and 21 deaths. As we gather today, our country has seen more than 2.5 million cases and have experienced nearly 125,000 deaths in just 16 weeks. Let that sink in.

Just a little over a month ago, we witnessed through our technology the murder of George Floyd which has unleashed and empowered the “Black Lives Matter” movement across the world. George was not the first for sure. There was Breonna Taylor, an EMT gunned down in her own home for a drug raid gone bad. There was Ahmaud Arbrey who was murdered for simply “jogging while black.” There were Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and so many more black lives that ended senselessly. And let us not forget the Matthew Shepherds of the world and the 16 transgendered people who have been murdered just this year. Do you suppose Judy Shepherd, the black mothers, the Arab, Palestinian or Israeli mother cries any less than the other, when it’s her child?

And so my friends, let us pray for and seek a renewed abundance of wisdom, knowledge, understanding, right judgment, fortitude (courage), piety (reverence) and a joyful awe of God as we share word and fellowship this day.

Let us begin our prayer in song:  Lift Every Voice and Sing by James W Johnson                      
Lift every voice and sing ‘til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won."
Lift every voice and sing ‘til earth and heaven ring.
Ring with the harmonies of liberty.
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies.
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us.
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on 'til victory is won.

Now God of our weary years,
And God of our silent tears.
Thou who has brought us thus far on our way.
Thou who has by thy might
Led us into the light.
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us.
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on 'til victory is won.


Reading 1:   2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16A
One day Elisha went to Shunem. There was a wealthy woman who urged him to stay for a meal. In the course of time, whenever Elisha traveled that way he would stop for a meal. So she said to her husband, “I have come to believe that the person who stops for a meal is a prophet of God. Let us set up a small room on the roof with a bed, a table, a chair and a lamp. Then he can stay here whenever he comes to see us.”
One day when Elisha arrived, he went up to his room to rest. Rested, he asked Gehazi, his disciple, “Can something be done for her?” His disciple answered, “Well yes! She has no son, and her husband is getting on in years.”
Elisha said, “Call her.” She was called and stood in the doorway. “About this time next year you will be holding a son in your arms” promised Elisha.

These are inspired words from our Jewish ancestors; let us respond: AMEN!

Alleluia      Dennis on behalf of community

Gospel Reading:             Matthew 10:1, 7, 16-20, 37-42
Jesus called twelve of his followers, and gave them authority to expel unclean spirits and heal sickness and dis-ease of all kinds.
As you go, make this proclamation: “the Reign of heaven has drawn near.”
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. So be on your guard. People will haul you into court; they will flog you in the synagogues. Don’t worry about how to speak or what to say. You will be given what you should say when the time comes, because it will be the Spirit of your Abba/Amma God speaking through you.”
“Those who love mother or father, daughter or son more than me are not worthy of me. Those who will not carry the cross, following in my footsteps, are not worthy of me. You who have found your life will lose it, and you who lose your life for my sake will find it.
Those who welcome you also welcome me, and those who welcome me, welcome the One who sent me. Those who welcome prophets will receive the reward reserved for the prophets themselves. Those who welcome holy people just because they are holy will receive the reward of the holy ones. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones just for being a disciple will not lack a reward.”

These are inspired words from Matthew, the evangelist; let us respond: AMEN!

Homily Starter:   Jim  Marsh, ARCWP
I know my intro today ties many happenings together. There are two things I will emphasize, namely hospitality and being prophet.

In ancient times, hospitality was considered a sacred duty. We know this from the many Torah stories we hear throughout our liturgical year. Our Muslim and Hindu sisters and brothers also considered it very important. In the Qur’an, one serves God by “doing good to orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer you meet, and those who have nothing.” (4:36) Hindu scripture says “The guest is a representative of God.”

Hospitality is big business today—it generates billions of dollars and employs many. For the most part, who are the many that work in this industry?

Bars were certainly hospitable places for gay people to congregate. It provided a “safe space/place” to be ourselves for many, many years. But oftentimes, liquor licenses were denied to establishments that catered to a homosexual clientele, and such establishments were often run by the mob, who would “pay off” (bribe) the police. “Raids” were not uncommon; sometimes advance notice was even given. Such was the situation 51 years ago at the Stonewall Inn. The clientele consisted of drags, queens, and homeless young people. Yes, there was a caste system within the “closeted” world, and these folks were considered a minority. It all began to change on June 28th when they said “Enough!” and fought off the police and “rioted” for the next six days. The following year on Sunday, June 28, 1970, the first Pride demonstration was held; not sure it was even called a parade until several years later. And soon boundaries were being shaken and broken all across the world. Were these folks prophets?

In our first reading today, proclaimed so well by Suzanne, we hear a snippet of a story about a prophet and a woman who offers hospitality. What we didn’t hear was that Elisha sought to repay her generous act, but this unnamed woman says she has all she needs, a home among family. Elisha says your reward then will be a son born next year.

As I indicated when I first sent out this Gospel reading, I included a few lines ahead of the lectionary selection. Without this, I thought the words “Those who love mother, father, son or daughter more than me are not worthy of me” seem very harsh and what was Jesus thinking, if he said such. As I read all of chapter 10, I realized he was trying to prepare them for their work after he was gone. He was being forthright in telling them it would be difficult, even dangerous (taking up the cross), but don’t worry or be overwhelmed. The Spirit of Abba God will give you all you need, so go “expel unclean spirits, heal sickness and dis-ease of all kinds.” The very last paragraph may be the most important. It reminds me of his “parable of great surprise” in chapter 25. You know it so well: “I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me.”  This gospel speaks of hospitality and openness; even offering only a cup of cold water will be rewarded.

In her book, The Time is Now, A Call to Uncommon Courage, Sister Joan Chittister says we all are called to be courageous prophets. Just as the prophets of old were never silent, we too must find our voice. In another of her writings, she says Hospitality is the way we come out of ourselves. It is the first step toward dismantling the barriers of the world. Hospitality is the way we turn a prejudiced world around, one heart at a time.”

Marsha P Johnson, a drag queen who was at the Stonewall Inn on that now famous evening, said this in an interview in 1992, “How many years does it take for people to see that we’re all brothers and sisters, and human beings in the human race?”

“If you want peace, work for justice.” (Paul VI)

And so my friends, what did you hear?

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.


Lindy:        As we prepare for the sacred meal, we bring our personal cares, concerns and blessings as well as the needs of our world. Dennis will give voice to those shared by the community this week …… Dennis will give a silent opportunity for us to acknowledge other concerns before ending with “We pray for these and all unspoken intentions. AMEN!

Jim:            Mindful of our Jewish ancestors’ blessing prayers at Shabbat meals, we pray ……
                  Blessed are You, Eternal God, Creator of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth. It is our spiritual food!

Lindy:        Blessed are You, Eternal God of the universe, creator of the fruit of the vine. It is our spiritual drink!

Men:          O great Lover of the Universe, we thank you for creating us in your image and giving us a share in co-creation. May we be responsible stewards of all your good gifts.

Women:      O nurturing Mother of the Universe, we are grateful for your presence with us. Mindful of our limitations, you know our essential goodness and love us as we are. You inspire us to see the good in others and forgive their limitations with compassionate hearts. Acknowledging your incarnation is us and all creation, together we sing:

Holy, Holy, Holy  (Words and music by Karen Drucker)
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…

Men:          Guiding Spirit, when opposing forces tug and pull at us, grace us with gifts of wisdom, knowledge, understanding and right judgment to make wise decisions and gift us with courage and fortitude to act always for the common good.

Women:      We thank you for our brother, Jesus, and for all sisters and brothers who have modeled for us a way to live and love in challenging times. Inspired by their example, may we be peacemakers and reconcilers, choosing life over death, becoming beacons of light and hope in dark times.

Please extend your hands (epiclesis)
All:             We are ever aware of your Spirit in us and among us. We invoke your Spirit anew upon these simple gifts of bread and wine, that they and us might truly be Christ present to the world.

                  On the night before he faced his own death, Jesus sat at supper with his companions and friends. He reminded them of all that he taught, and to fix that memory clearly, he bent down and washed their feet.

                                             Lindy lifts bread
                  When he returned to his place at table, he lifted the bread, spoke the blessing, broke the bread, and offered it to them saying:
                           Take and eat, this is my very self.

                                             after a pause, Jim lifts cup      
                  Then he took the cup of the covenant, spoke the grace, and offered it to them saying:        Take and drink.
Whenever you remember me like this, I am among you.

Lindy:        Together, let us proclaim the mystery of faith:

All:             Christ has died in all those who have passed away from COVID, from police
brutality, and all those who have suffered violent crimes arising from hatred.

Christ rises in all those working for the well-being of humanity—whether it be researching a vaccine, providing medical care and treatment, or dismantling institutional racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia and transphobia.

Christ comes again and is made present each day in our lives by our actions, if only by offering a cup of water to the least and the last among us.

Men:          Holy One, we join our hearts with all who are working for a just world.  We pray for wise leaders in all religious communities. We pray for courageous and compassionate leaders in our country and across the globe.

Women:      We pray for all of us gathered here and like Jesus, we open ourselves up to your Spirit, for it is through living as he lived that we awaken to your Spirit within,
moving us to glorify you, at this time and all ways. Amen.

Lindy:        Let us pray as Jesus taught:

Holy One, you are 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.  (Adapted by Miriam Therese Winter)

Jim:            My friends, gifts of God for God’s people. May we become what we eat and drink!
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.

                  As we Eat and Drink, let us listen to the words of our meditation song

Peace Prayer of St. Francis

Jim:            Let us offer a Prayer of Thanksgiving  (DidacheInstruction, 100CE)

Men:          For the thanksgiving, give thanks this way: First, for the cup: We thank you, Abba God, for the sacred vine of David your son, whose meaning you made clear to us through our brother Jesus, yours ever be the splendor.

Women:      And for the bread fragment: We thank you, Amma God, for the life and wisdom whose meaning you made clear to us through Jesus, Myriam and Mary of Magdala, yours ever be the splendor.

All:             As this fragment was scattered high on hills, but by gathering was united into one, so let your people from earth’s ends be united into your single reign, for yours are splendor and glory through Jesus, the Christ, down the ages.

Lindy:        Let us extend our hands in blessing each other with these words:

All:             May the Fire of Love ignite our hearts and radiate through us.
May the Spirit of truth and justice burn within us.
May we continue to be the face of the Holy One, and
May we be a blessing in our time.  AMEN!

Closing Song:       Believe Out Loud   (Words and Music by David Lohman © 2010)

It's time to proclaim aloud the faith that we hold dear.
It's time to reach out to the rejected.
It's time to stand up and say, "No more!"
It's time to declare a Word of Welcome,
bring everyone through the opened doors.
It's time to believe out loud,
It's time to be strong and proud,
It's time to believe, believe out loud!

1.       Our God remains unchanging,
yet in so many ways the Holy One's still speaking,
for this we offer praise.
Yet God's all-loving guidance too often goes unheard.
But there is yet more wisdom to break forth from God's Word!  Refrain

2.       If thoughts like love and justice are more than hollow words,
we'll listen for the Spirit and let our hearts be stirred.
We'll learn to think in new ways, the doors we'll open wide.
The table's set and ready, bring everyone inside!  Refrain

3.       The love of God is boundless, we're never turned away.
And out of this abundance, this gift we must repay.
We've got to stand with millions who've heard the Spirit's call,
and shout it from the mountains: “God’s love is meant for ALL!”  Refrain
In my prior work for the National LGBTQ Task Force’s Institute for Welcoming Resources (IWR), we were part of the advisory board that formed what was to ultimately become Believe Out Loud. The inspiration came from polling done by the Public Religion Research Institute. (Don’t freak out. This is going to get a bit wonky for a few moments!) In short, the polling revealed that in matters concerning LGBTQ issues, a majority of people in the pews felt they were more progressive than their clergy, and therefore remained silent, waiting for the clergy to begin the conversation. Remarkable, the same polling showed that a majority of clergy felt that they, in fact, were more progressive than their congregants, and therefore remained similarly silent. So that means that a majority of people of faith – clergy and laity – are supportive of LGBTQ inclusion, yet so few were talking about it. Too many of us were keeping the light of God’s Inclusion very well-hidden (Matthew 5:15). Therein lies the need to believe out loud. The common misperception is that people of faith are, by and large, anti-LGBTQ, and LGBTQ people are anti-faith. This polling, and so much like it, shatters that false dichotomy.

I found this all tremendously exciting, and Believe Out Loud has gone on to do great things to lift up the voices of pro-LGBTQ people of faith. When Believe Out Loud and its website had its big launch in early 2010, in addition to working for IWR, I was also serving as Minister of Music at Living Table United Church of Christ. We were among a handful of ecumenical congregations across the country who took part in that launch. And I thought that the occasion screamed for a theme song!

No comments: