Denise: Welcome and theme
Welcome to the Sabbath gathering of the Upper Room Community on the birthday of the Trappist monk who became surprisingly vocal in both his spiritual writings and social activism, Thomas Merton. Today’s readings direct our attention to command and authority; our own command over our own actions, and our responsibility to speak with authority in the face of evil and wrongdoing in our society. These are challenging readings. They demand our courage. They demand our clear-sightedness. They demand our integrity. Let us listen and respond.
Bridget: Opening Prayer: Dear Holy One, we come to you with courage and fear, determination and reluctance. We strive to fight the monster without becoming the monster. We place ourselves in your hands and in the hands of this gathering as we struggle to find the balance. We thank you for your wisdom and the wisdom you send to each of us through your people.
Opening song: Where Did Jesus Go https://youtu.be/biPM_MTQVgI
Dave: First Reading, from the Gospel of Mark 1:21-28 (The New New Testament)
They walked into Capernaum. On the next Sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught them like one who had authority, and not like the scholars. Now there was in their synagogue at the time a man under the power of an unclean spirit, who called out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the holy one of God!” But Jesus rebuked the spirit, “Be quiet! Come out from him.” The unclean spirit threw the man into a fit and with a loud cry came out from him. They were all so amazed that they kept asking, “What is this new teaching? He gives his commands with authority even to the unclean spirits, and they obey him!” And the fame of Jesus spread at once in all directions, through the whole of Galilee.
These are holy words from the Gospel writer we call Mark. Let us affirm them by saying AMEN.
Mary Theresa: Second Reading, from Disputed Questions, by Thomas Merton
There are crimes which no one would commit as an individual which they willingly and bravely commit when acting in the name of society, because they have been too easily convinced that evil is entirely different when it is done 'for the common good.'...one might point to the way in which racial hatreds and even persecution are admitted by people who consider themselves, kind, tolerant, civilized and even humane.
These are holy words from Thomas Merton, Monk, Mystic, and Activist. Let us affirm them by saying AMEN.
Third Reading: John Lewis: Stand Up, Speak Up, Speak Out!
Denise: Homily Starter
“Be quiet. Come out from him.” With these few simple words, spoken in the shadow of the synagogue where he had just taught, Jesus performs his first act of public ministry. The exorcism described in this gospel reading is one of at least seven recorded in the New Testament. The writer of Mark’s gospel seems especially drawn to these events. As Marcus Borg points out in his book “Days of Awe and Wonder,” the placement of this exorcism immediately after Jesus returns from his desert experience and just as he is beginning to gather followers, highlights how central it is to his ministry at its very outset: he is a charismatic healer and mystic, a man who can command unclean spirits, and they obey him, exiting their victim to allow truth, light, and love back in.
Regardless of what we today may think about the existence of unclean spirits or their role in our world, or the ability of anyone to expel them, it’s important to remember that these ideas were fully accepted and taken as fact by everyone in first century Palestine, including Jesus, his followers, and his foes. Unclean spirits were seen as a very unpleasant fact of life, separate from what was recognized as ordinary illness. A person with the gift of releasing a victim from the throes of possession would be revered by many, feared by some, and often drew big crowds. Anyone who drew large groups of people together would have been viewed by the Roman occupiers as a potential threat to the status quo, and they were known to have executed other Jewish miracle workers during the time of Jesus. The threat of Roman retaliation led many of the people themselves to turn against these healers. So, by teaching with authority, and by calling out evil and literally commanding it to leave, Jesus is placing himself and his ministry in the Roman crosshairs right at its outset. He is also risking the fear and ire of his own people.
How little things have really changed! It may be that most of us no longer accept demonic possession as the root of evil in our society. But there can be no argument that evil does exist. We only have to look at modern human history, and some very recent history, to see it in action. Often, as Thomas Merton points out in the second reading, evil is well-disguised and quite accepted by many once it becomes a societal norm. But what of the people who stand up to evil today? What becomes of them? The second half of the twentieth century saw the assassinations of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Bishop Oscar Romero, Sister Maura Clarke, Sister Ita Ford, Sister Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan, to name some familiar to us. There are un-named hundreds who have given their lives in the cause of justice, and thousands more who daily put livelihoods, friendships, security, and reputations on the line as they recognize evil and call it out. These are modern-day exorcists, and we have seen them at work in our families, in our communities, in our courts, in the halls of Congress, and in the case of John Lewis, facing down the status quo on bridges. They are the face of Christ acting in the world today, casting out evil so that love, mercy and justice can flow back in. What are your thoughts about today’s readings? Your insights are sacred, and we hope you will share them.
Statement of Faith:
Bridget: All: 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.
Bridget: As we prepare for the sacred meal, we remember that just as Jesus is anointed, so is each of us. And we bring to this table our blessings, cares and concerns. (Dennis reads petitions)
We pray for these and all unspoken concerns. Amen.
Liturgy of the Eucharist
adapted from Diarmuid O’Murchu
Denise: With open hands let us pray our Eucharistic Prayer together:
Gracious God, source and sustenance of life, redeeming presence to the pain and brokenness of our world, Holy Spirit, who enlivens and inebriates all that exists, we beseech your healing power upon us and all we pray for today.
Down through the ages, you rescue us from darkness.
you light up our ways with wise and holy people. You restore our spirits and you revive our dwindling hope.
May the Spirit of life and wholeness transform us that we may be refreshed in our inner being and be empowered to bring mercy, love, and healing to those whose lives we touch.
For all you bring to our lives, and for all we seek amid
pain and suffering, we acclaim your love and greatness,
and we join with all creation to sing our hymn of praise:
Holy, Holy, Holy
(Words and music by Karen Drucker)
Bridget: Please extend your hands in blessing.
Source of our health and wholeness, healer of body, mind, and spirit, we bring before you the darkness of our world, and the pain and suffering of your people.
We seek to be healed and made whole; we seek to be reconciled and united; we seek peace in our hearts and in our world.
We ask you to awaken anew in our hearts the empowering grace of your abundant Spirit, who infuses these gifts of bread and wine with the transforming energy of life, to nourish and sustain us in our time of need.
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 love one another.
All lift bread
Back at the table, he took the Passover Bread, spoke the grace, broke the bread and offered it to them saying, Take and eat, this is my very self.
All lift cup
Then he took the cup of blessing, spoke the grace, and offered it to them 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.
As we share this holy food let us remember that we are called to be the justice of Christ.
Communion Song: I Think It’s Going to Rain Today: https://youtu.be/1Gz7mGISJ5M?t=26
Denise: In faith and hope we are sustained,
In grace our dignity reclaimed,
In praise we thank our God.
Grant that we may strive to create a world where suffering and pain are diminished, where justice and peace are restored, and where all people can live in health and wholeness, united in acclaiming the God of life, whose abundance is offered to each and to all, until the Kin-dom
arrives in the fullness of time.
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)
Bridget: Let us raise our hands and bless each other.
Dearest Holy One, you have spoken to us through ancient scripture, through the holy meditation of Thomas Merton and through the inspiring words of Freedom Fighter John Lewis. And, yes, Holy One, you have spoken to us through the wise words we have shared this day with each other. Let us take the love and wisdom you have blessed us with as we enter into our daily work and play this week. AMEN
Closing Song: Speechless: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csmku3VHFS0