Lynn: Welcome and Theme— Welcome to our Upper Room celebration of Word and Eucharist. As the first line of our first reading says, blessed is “the longing that brought you here”. We are thankful for all our zoom companions both near and far who join and share to pierce through the mists of our pandemic era.
Our focus for today is on the moment when our heart’s desire seems to nudge us to forge ahead into what is not usual or easy; that turning point moment when we discover the courage to reach for what Seamus Heaney calls “a great sea-change and a further shore” because with the Holy One, all things are possible.
Rudy: Opening Prayer: In the times when we wonder if we do enough, if we are enough and whether we are headed in the right direction, may we be surrounded by the gentleness of those who believe in us and also be filled with the infinite love of the Divine. When trouble arises, may we discover the balance of being patient with ourselves but also impatient with a world in need of change and rediscovery. Amen.
Opening Song: “Somewhere to Begin” by Sara Thomsen
LITURGY OF THE WORD
Bridget: First Reading: “For Longing”
Blessed be the longing that brought you here
And quickens your soul with wonder.
May you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire
that disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.
May you have the wisdom to enter generously into
your own unease
To discover the new direction your longing wants
you to take.
May the forms of your belonging— in love, creativity,
Be equal to the grandeur and the call of your soul.
May the one you long for long for you.
May a secret Providence guide your thought and
Nurture your feeling.
May your mind inhabit your life with the sureness
With which your body inhabits the world.
May your heart never be haunted by ghost-structures
Of old damage.
May you come to accept your longing as divine urgency.
May you know the urgency with which God longs for you.
These are the inspired verses of John O’Donohue and we affirm them by saying, Amen.
Diane: Second Reading: “The Cure of Troy” by Seamus Heaney
Human beings suffer,
They torture one another,
They get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
Can fully right a wrong
Inflicted and endured.
History says, don't hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.
So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.
Call miracle self-healing:
The utter, self-revealing
Double-take of feeling.
If there's fire on the mountain
And lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky
That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth-cry
Of new life at its term.
It means once in a lifetime
That justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.
These are the inspiring words of Seamus Heaney and we affirm them by saying Amen.
Connie: Gospel Reading: Mathew ch. 25 14-30
The kindom of God is like a very wealthy landowner who was going on a journey and called in three workers, entrusting some funds to them. The first received five talents, the second two talents and the third one talent according to each one’s ability. Then, the landowner went away. The one who had received five talents invested it and made another five. In the same way, the worker who had received two, doubled the figure. But the worker who received one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried the money.
After a long absence, the traveler returned and settled the accounts. The first worker came forward saying, “You entrusted me with five talents; here are five more talents besides.”
The landowner said, “Well done! You are a good and faithful worker. Since you were dependable in a small matter, I will put you in charge of larger affairs. Come, share my joy!”
To the one who had received two and doubled it, he said, “You too are a good and faithful worker. Since you were dependable in a small matter, I will put you in charge of larger affairs. Come, share my joy!”
Finally, the worker who had received one talent said to the landowner, “Knowing your ruthlessness— you who reap what you did not sow and gather where you did not scatter— and fearing your wrath, I went off and buried the one talent in the ground. Here is your money back”.
The landowner exclaimed, “You worthless lazy lout! So, you know that I reap what I don’t sow and gather where I don’t scatter, do you? All the more reason to deposit my money with bankers so I could have it back with interest! You there! Take the talent away from this bum and give it to the one with the ten.
For to everyone who has,
more will be given and he will grow rich;
but from the one who has not,
even what he has will be taken away.
Throw this useless servant into the darkness outside,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
These are the words of the gospel writer known as Mathew and we affirm them by saying, Amen.
Pause before shared homily
Lynn: Homily Starter
Today’s gospel is known as the Parable of the Faithful Servant. It is traditionally invoked on stewardship Sunday to encourage us to be like the first two servants and use our gifts to the best of our ability. In this interpretation, the absentee landowner is either God or the ascended Jesus who entrusts us with talent and expects us to work for the furtherance of the Kindom on earth. Today, I suggest we call it the Parable of the Whistle-Blower by focusing on the third servant who stands up for his concept of justice (Herzog, Meyers, Duncan).
Let’s look at context: the wealthy landowner is part of the 1% of his time. Talent was the Greek word for money and one talent weighed between 57 and 74 pounds and held a value equal to 15 years of wages for a lowly servant. So, the landlord gives his servants (who are probably really slaves) a fortune beyond their imagining with no instructions and then goes away for an indeterminate time. There are no warnings about what may happen if they fail to employ the money wisely, but the servants know their master.
How did people double their money back then? Rich men engaged in currency exchanges at the temple, earning incredible margins at the expense of foreigners. Servants loaned out their master’s money to struggling small farmers at rates as high as 25% to 50% and when the farmers got in over their heads, the land was repossessed, and the farmer became a tenant farmer or servant or slave. The rich landowner wouldn’t sully his hands with this scam—he had his slaves do it for him. The terms of the mortgages were excessive, and the borrowers were desperate— a little like the payday loan companies that dot the landscape of inner cities today.
The servants know what to do. The first two double the fortune entrusted to them by taking advantage of struggling peasants in the declining Palestinian economy of the time. Note that these two “faithful” ones don’t get a share of the profit, only a “promotion” with more responsibility. This is how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer; it is a time tested arrangement that kept medieval serfs in their place and led to famine in 19th century Ireland, to sharecropper poverty for liberated slaves after the Civil War and despair in countless peasants across the globe even today.
Only the third servant has the nerve to not participate in the exploitation of peasants and himself. He doesn’t get a charge out of sharing the joy of his ruthless master who has never worked for his wealth and who admits to it with no shame at all. The third servant gives the money back, hasn’t lost or cost the plutocrat anything and yet he is called “worthless” and a “lazy bum” and thrown out into the darkness.
Like Jesus, the third servant speaks truth to power and refuses to fit into a role prescribed for him by custom. He chooses to do what is right by his conscience at great risk to himself. He will not be complicit in the ugliness of a system that weaponizes money as a tool of controlling others.
All of us are challenged by the status quo in our work lives, in our extended families, in our neighborhoods and yes, in our worship communities to belong as the O’Donohue reading says, in a way that is “equal to the grandeur and the call” of our souls. Can we, day by day, in ways small and grand, be agents of the “sea-change” of miracles that Heaney enjoins us to hope for?
Bernie: Homily Closure
Mary L.: Let us pray our Statement of Faith together
We believe in one God, 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 God's Word,
bringer of God's healing, heart of God's compassion,
bright star in the firmament of God's
prophets, mystics, and saints.
We believe that We are called to follow Jesus
as a vehicle of God's love,
a source of God's wisdom and truth,
and an instrument of God's peace in the world.
We believe in the Holy Spirit,
The life of God that is our innermost life,
the breath of God moving in our being.
The depth of God living in each of us.
We believe that God's 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.
Lynn: As we prepare for the sacred eucharistic meal, we bring to our virtual table the prayerful intentions of the community which will be read by Dennis.
Lynn: we pray for these and all the unspoken concerns with thankfulness in our hearts.
LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST
Joan: We are a priestly people. With open hands and the “grandeur of our souls” let us pray our Eucharistic prayer as one:
O Nurturing, Compassionate One, You are always with us. We are grateful for Your constant loving and unconditional presence. At times we forget that You are holding us, attending to us. We fall and You pick us up. You send strangers, friends and family to support and comfort us. We see that we are never without Your Light and Spirit.
We experience great joy and we experience great suffering. You are with us in the joy and the suffering. When we experience Your presence we long to sing our hymn of praise:
Here in This Place by Christopher Grundy
Joan: Creator and Lover of all beings, we cannot grow in the darkness of this world without Your Light. Our desire to be in Your light is a gift from You. Help us keep our hearts and minds open to You through our love and care for each other and all creation.
Lynn: Please extend your hands in blessing as we pray together:
This bread and wine are a sign of Your nourishment and a sign of Your great love. Your Spirit is upon us and we belong to You and one another. We thank you for Jesus, simple servant, lifting up the lowly, revealing you as God-With-Us, revealing us as one with you, and all creation.
On the night before he died, Jesus gathered for the Seder supper with the people closest to him. Like the least of household servants, he washed their feet. Once again, he showed us how to be kind and how to love one another.
All lift their plates and pray:
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)
All lift their cups and pray:
Margaret: Jesus then raised the cup of blessing and 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. (Pause)
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.
Each of us is the face of God and a blessing for us all.
Everyone consumes the bread and wine at this time
Bread and wine are transformed by Your Spirit and we are transformed as we open ourselves to Your Spirit. As we celebrate and recognize You in this bread and wine we love and recognize you in each other. We are filled with gratitude and joy. AMEN.
Communion Song: “I am the One Within You” lyrics by Janet Carol Ryan and music by Karen Drucker
Lynn: Prayer after Communion:
Just as bread and wine are transformed by Your Spirit, so too we are transformed as we open ourselves to Your Spirit. As we celebrate and recognize you in this communion meal we are transformed and we recognize You in each other. We are filled with gratitude and joy. AMEN.
Bernie: Let us pray the prayer of Jesus:
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 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.
The Prayer of Jesus as interpreted by Miriam Therese Winter
Mary L.: Closing Prayer - Let us raise our hands and bless each other as we prepare to make our way into the world, bringing with us the blessings of today’s celebration:
May we continue to be the Face of God to each other.
May we have the faith to be a hopeful people and the daring to insist that hope be birthed into reality.
May we speak up, stand up and rise up to the challenge of following Jesus so that “hope and history shall rhyme”.
May we, like Jesus be a shining light and a blessing for all. Amen.
Closing Song: “Who Will Speak if We Don’t ” by Marty Haugen