Sunday, February 21, 2021

Upper Room Inclusive Catholic Community - First Sunday in Lent 2021 - Presiders: Kim Panaro, ARCWP, and Phillis Sheppard

Welcome and Theme 

Phillis: We welcome all to our inclusive community. Today we reflect on three overlapping themes:  covenant, salvation history, and our ancestors, many of whom “made a way out of no way” because of their faith and their covenant with God and community.   

Opening Prayer 

Phillis: Faithful and loving God, we give thanks for your never ending presence revealed in all of creation. Draw us into deeper community and into the transformation made possible by ever expanding circle of care. May our covenant with you be embodied in the world.

Opening Song: Standing on the Shoulders | Joyce Johnson Rouse
performed by Earth Mama 




First Reading read by Dave

A reading from the Book of Genesis

God then said to Noah and his family, “I hereby establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you-birds, cattle, and the earth’s wildlife-everything that came out of the ark, everything that lives on the earth. I hereby establish my covenant with you: All flesh will never again be swept away by the waters of the flood; never again will a flood destroy all the earth.”

God said, “Here is the sign of the covenant between me and you and every living creature for ageless generations: I set my bow in the clouds, and it will be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth, my bow will appear in the clouds. Then I will remember the covenant that is between me and you and every kind of living creature, and never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all flesh.

These are inspired words from the Book of Genesis, and the community affirms them by saying, Amen.

Second Reading read by Lynn

A reading from Ancestors Never Sleep by Alice Walker

Ancestors never sleep
And always seem to know
What they’re doing.
How is this possible?
I ask myself.
Sometimes I am weary
Enough to expire –
What a relief
I will think.  No more obsessing
About this madness;
Whatever it might be
This year, or even this century.
But ancestors merely
And send me off
For a nap.
Not only is life not over,
They sniff,
It has barely begun for you.
There are eternities
Waiting just beyond
The next bad movie
You fear you’ll be
Starring in.
Go to sleep.  Rest your brain.
Rest your heart.  Rest your eyes
And all your thoughts.
We have been with you
From the beginning
Which didn’t exist
And we will be with you
Until that moment of
Swings round again.
You are attempting to carry
The suffering
All around you
But your back is bending.
Let us bear it for you.
Knowing as we do
That it is only
A difficult turn
On a never ending
Of dissolving
And becoming
And dissolving
And becoming
Once more;
Forever & ever
Save despair,
Our beloved
For a couple of eons

These are inspired words from Alice Walker, and the community affirms them by saying, Amen.

Alleluia – Spirit of the Living God

Spirit of the Living God

Help us hear your voice

Spirit of the Living God

Help us hear you voice

Silent, mindful, prayerful  listening 

Spirit of the Living God

Help us hear your voice

Third Reading read by Phillis

A reading from the Gospel of Mark

Immediately the Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness, and he remained there for forty days, and was tempted by Satan. He was with the wild beasts, and the angels looked after him. 

After John’s arrest, Jesus appeared in Galilee proclaiming the Good News of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The reign of God is at hand! Change your hearts and minds, and believe this Good News!"

These are inspired words from the Gospel of Mark, and the community affirms them by saying, Amen. 

Kim: Homily Starter 

Today is the first Sunday of Lent.  As we move into this 6 ½ weeks of deeper spiritual preparation, contemplation, and inquiry, it makes sense to place ourselves in the larger story of the Holy One’s covenant with the people, in fact all living things, of the earth. We can find great comfort in knowing that we are but part of the salvation story of our faith.  We look to Lent as a time of personal transformation, yet this transformation is not meant to be for ourselves alone. It is a  personal transformation for the transformation of the world.  

In our first reading from Genesis, God establishes a covenant with the inhabitants of the earth, God’s promise, as memorialized by rainbows, is to never again destroy the whole earth with flood waters.  But what about all the other ills that destroy life and desecrate the earth? The rainbow never promised we wouldn’t still have pain individually and communally. Slavery, racism, homophobia, poverty, violence, sexism, patriarchy, clericalism, islamophobia, antisemistism, the ravages of diseases like Aids and Covid 19, cancer and war to name but a few. How do we understand God’s covenant with God’s people in light of this? 

Our first song provides one answer. The women pictured are our ancestors . Each woman is recognizable by her contributions bringing about the kindom.  We are living a more just existence because of their personal “yes” to life, love and brave action. We are better for their presence. Yet, there is still so much more to do. 

The second reading, the poem by Alice Walker reminds us that we can find perspective and comfort in this long view, this big picture understanding of the arc of justice.  Our ancestors on the other side remind us that we can rest and renew because we don’t need to break our backs thinking it is all up to us to fix all of humanity's ills. We stand on their shoulders but must do so with the humility that we put forth our efforts to do what is right, sometimes knowing that we may not see the results. We must continue to plant the trees under whose shade we shall not get to sit.  That is for those who come after us. 

The gospel today shows a Jesus who continues to preach the good news even though John had been arrested. He went into the desert to overcome the temptations symbolized by Satan. He cooperated with grace to be transformed and then he came back to his community with bravery and clarity. How do we follow Jesus’ example? By showing up, making an effort where and when we can, by accepting the baton and carrying it for as long as we are running the race ourselves . We can’t do everything but everyone can do something.  Jesus did not surrender to fear or pessimism. In our communion meditation , we will be challenged to ask ourselves how we will be the ancestors that our descendants can look to for inspiration. Through our actions we become actors in the ongoing story of salvation. 

Please share any thoughts about the  theme, readings or songs.  

Statement of Faith -  read by Thaeda

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.


Dennis:  As we prepare for the sacred meal, we bring to the table our blessings, cares and concerns.

We bring these and all our unspoken blessings, cares and concerns to 

Phillis: 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:

Holy, Holy: Here in This Place by Christopher Grundy 

Kim: 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. 

Please extend your hands in blessing.

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. 

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. 


All lift the plate and 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.



All lift the cup and pray:

Phillis: 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.


We share this bread and cup to proclaim and live the gospel of justice and peace. We choose to live justly, love tenderly, and walk with integrity. 

Please receive communion saying: I am / We are the Face of the Holy One.

Communion Song: Would You Harbor Me | Sweet Honey in the Rock 

Prayer after Communion:

Kim: 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.


Phillis: 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 


Kim: Please extend your hands and pray our 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: Sing a New Church | Delores Dufner, OSB 

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