Sunday, July 12, 2020

Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community - Liturgy of Transformation - July 12, 2020 - Presiders: David DeBonis and Kathleen Ryan, ARCWP

Liturgy of Transformation

Dave: Welcome and Theme 
Kathie and I welcome everyone here today as we consider our roles as sowers of the Word and how our very uniqueness makes us the most powerful messengers. 
Kathie: Opening Prayer:  The Holy One is calling. What do we hear? We hear, we are loved, and in all ways we are enough. We hear love one another, as I love you. Let us answer the call with a heart full of gratitude and a resounding yes! Amen.

Opening Song: Turn, Turn, Turn


First Reading: A reading from Reverend Nadia Bolz-Weber.

In this first reading, Reverend Nadia Bolz-Weber discusses her experience speaking at the 2012 Lutheran youth Gathering in the Superdome.
“Some of your parents and pastors were really upset that I was your speaker tonight. They thought someone with my past shouldn’t be allowed to talk to thousands of teenagers. And you know what I have to say about that ‘They are absolutely right.’ Somebody with my past of alcoholism and drug use and promiscuity and lying and stealing should not be allowed to talk to you. But you know what? Somebody with my present, who I am now, should not be allowed to either. I am a sarcastic, heavily tattooed, angry person who swears like a truck driver. I am a flawed person who really should not be allowed to talk with you.   But you know what? That’s the God we are dealing with people!”
The kids went nuts. Clapping, screaming, on their feet.  I was floored. I had no idea they were even listening.
“Let me tell you about this God.” I told them that this is a God who has always used imperfect people, that this is a God who walked among us and ate with all the wrong people and kissed leapers. I told them that this is a God who is especially present to us in the most offensively ordinary things: wheat, wind, water words. I told them that this God has never made sense.
“And you don’t need to either, because this God will use you, this God will use all of you, and not just your strengths, but your failures, and your failings. Your weakness is fertile ground for a forgiving God to make something new and make something beautiful so don’t ever think that all you have to offer are your gifts.”
After the talk a young girl hugged me and said “I think you saved my life tonight.”
Sometimes the fact that there is nothing about you that makes you the right person to do something is exactly what God is looking for.

These are the inspired words adapted from the book Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber and the community responds by saying AMEN.

Alleluia:   Spirit of the Living God

Gospel: A reading from the Gospel of Matthew.

Later that day, Jesus left the house and sat down by the lake shore. Such great crowd gathered that he went and took a seat in a boat, while the crowd stood along the shore. He addressed them at length in parables:
“One day a farmer went out sowing seed. Some of the seed landed on a footpath where birds came and ate it up. Some of the seed fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil. This seed sprouted at once since the soil had no depth but when the sun rose and scorched it, it withered away for lack of roots. Again, some of the seeds fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up and chocked it. And some of it landed on good soil, and yielded a crop thirty, sixty, even a hundred times what was sown. Let those who have ears to hear, hear this!”
These are the inspired words of a disciple name Matthew and the community responds by saying AMEN.


Dave: Homily
I think the various types of soil described in today’s Gospel reading usually receive the most attention and I have to admit it is difficult to resist assigning certain people or groups to the various soil types. (I tried to resist it but could not).  Theologian Elizabeth Johnson, in her analysis of this Gospel reading, cautions us against doing this and believes that each of us most likely represents several different kinds of soil, depending on the day and the specific circumstance that we face.  

But thanks to a very insightful and encouraging analysis of this Gospel passage by Elizabeth Johnson, I believe that the more useful message in this gospel is don’t let our “imperfect soil” interfere with our role as sowers.

Johnson suggest that just as it appears that the sower carelessly scatters his seed without any strategy, wasting much of it on bad ground where there is little chance of a growth, so too Jesus spends his time with tax collectors, sinners, lepers, the marginalized. One might question whether this is the best way to spread his message. And Jesus leaves his mission in the hands of the apostles, who had shown themselves to be less than a reliable group. Once again, the question could be asked, where is the strategy in that?  

Johnson explain it: “Jesus' investment in his disciples shows that he simply will not give up on them, in spite of their many failings. We trust that he will not give up on us either, but will keep working on whatever is hardened, rocky, or thorny within and among us.”
Johnson suggests that we “avoid playing it safe, sowing the word only where we are confident it will be well received.”  She calls us to be creative and “take risks for the sake of the gospel” by generously “sowing the word, even in perilous places.”  The priests and deacons of the Upper Room community have created the soil to allow those of us who are willing to live out this creative and risk-taking approach.   

And in our first reading, we have another excellent example of this. We hear from Nadia Bolz Weber -an admittedly imperfect messenger -taking the Word to a potentially perilous place—a Superdome full of teenagers! And what is the message she delivers. She essentially tells the young people that God needs them and will use them---all of them. That they are chosen not despite their weaknesses but because of them.  Weber echoes the words of Elizabeth Kulber-Ross who notes “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, suffering, struggle, loss”  
So, let’s really try to take the words of the first reading to heart. “Don’t ever think that all you have to offer are your gifts.” The Divine will use it all—the joys and the tears, the successes and the failures, the light and the darkness because all of these make you the person you are.  

We are called to continue, with all of our own imperfections, to generously and relentlessly work the soil in the expected, as well as the unexpected places and, like Jesus, to believe that we can produce something truly beautiful.
Shared Reflections

Kathie: 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.

 Dave:  As we prepare for the sacred meal, we   bring to the table our prayers and intentions.

            “We bring to the table all those suffering from COVID including their families and caregivers.
            We bring to the table all those who have experienced racism in the past and present and we pray that all will open their hearts to truly understand this suffering.
            We bring to the table our government officials that they hear and listen to the guiding wisdom of the spirit.
            We bring to the table our sister Nancy who is dancing in heaven with all our family and friends who have crossed over ahead of her. .
            We especially bring to the table Suzanne, Jeanne and Dennis as they experience this great loss.
            We bring to the table Patsy Gunn, the mother of Rev. Shanon Sterringer, who crossed over recently. May Shannon and her family be filled with peace.
            Finally, we bring to the table all who are present on zoom today and all who could not join us that they will experience and know the love of the Divine.
Presider 1: We pray for these and all unspoken intentions. Amen. 

Kathie: With open hearts and hands let us pray our Eucharistic prayer in one voice:

O Great Love, thank you for living and loving in us and through us as we set our hearts on belonging to you. May all that we do flow from our deep connection with you and all creation.

You know our limitations and our essential goodness and you love us as we are. You beckon us to your compassionate heart and inspire us to see the good in others and forgive their limitations. Acknowledging your presence in each other and in all of creation, we sing:

Blessed be our God! 
Blessed be our God!  
Joy of our hearts, source of all life and love!  
God of Heaven and Earth! 
God of Heaven and Earth! 
Dwelling within, calling us all by name!  
Alleluia, sing! Alleluia, sing! 

Kathie: Guiding Spirit, when opposing forces in us tug and pull and we are caught in the tension of choices, inspire us to make wise decisions toward what is good.

We thank you for our brother, Jesus, and for all our sisters and brothers who have modeled for us a way to live and love in challenging times. Inspired by them, we choose life over death, we choose to be light in dark times.

Dave: Please extend your hands in blessing.

All: We are ever aware of your Spirit in us and among us at this Eucharistic table and we are grateful for this bread and wine which reminds us of our call to be the body of Christ in the world.

All: 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 them, and to fix that memory clearly with them, he bent down and washed their feet. 

Everyone please lift plate as we pray:

When he returned to his place at the 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.
 (pause)   (Community consumes the bread)  

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.
(pause)   (Community drinks from the cup)

We share this bread and cup to proclaim and live the gospel of justice and peace.

All: Holy One, your transforming energy is within us and we join our hearts with all who are working for a just world.  We pray for wise leaders in our religious communities. We pray for courageous and compassionate leaders in our world communities. 

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.

Kathie Presider 2: Let us pray as Jesus taught us: 

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 

Dave: Loving source of our being, you call us to live the gospel of peace and justice. We choose to live justly, love tenderly, and walk with integrity in your presence.


Dave:  Please extend your hands in our final blessing.

ALL:  May the Fire of Love ignite our hearts and radiate through us.
May the Spirit 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.

Closing Song: Go Light Your World
Words and music by Chris Rice

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