I had prepared myself for it. I was thoroughly gobsmacked by what I experienced.
I think I saw and felt what 'church' can be when it concerns itself more with the Gospel of Jesus Christ than it does with the Institution of the Church.
I'll try to give you a sense of what I experienced.
Here are the Opening Prayers:
With nature in its power and beauty,
With rain and wind and sunshine,
with the ancient rocks and the budding flower
All: we gather in praise of God
With believers and seekers the whole world wide,
with people in every land,
and speaker of every tongue
we gather in praise of God.Leader
With the angels and saints in heaven,we gather in praise of God.
with Columba who built community here
and with all who have worshipped in this place,
With Jesus who promised his presencewe gather in praise of God.
and the Spirit who showers her blessings,
we gather in praise of God.
Here let heaven and earth embrace.
here may God's people find home."For Everyone Born A Place at the Table".
If you've been around LGBTQ worship services, you may have heard it or even sung it. In case you haven't, here are the words:
For everyone born, a place at the table, for everyone born, clean water and bread, a shelter, a space, a safe place for growing, for everyone born, a star overhead, and God will delight when we are creators of justice and joy, compassion and peace: yes, God will delight when we are creators of justice, justice and joy! For woman and man, a place at the table, revising the roles, deciding the share, with wisdom and grace, dividing the power, for woman and man, a system that's fair, and God will delight when we are creators of justice and joy, compassion and peace: yes, God will delight when we are creators of justice, justice and joy! For young and for old, a place at the table, a voice to be heard, a part in the song, the hands of a child in hands that are wrinkled, for young and for old, the right to belong, and God will delight when we are creators of justice and joy, compassion and peace: yes, God will delight when we are creators of justice, justice and joy! For just and unjust, a place at the table, abuser, abused, with need to forgive, in anger, in hurt, a mindset of mercy, for just and unjust, a new way to live, and God will delight when we are creators of justice and joy, compassion and peace: yes, God will delight when we are creators of justice, justice and joy! For everyone born, a place at the table, to live without fear, and simply to be, to work, to speak out, to witness and worship, for everyone born, the right to be free, and God will delight when we are creators of justice and joy, compassion and peace: yes, God will delight when we are creators of justice, justice and joy! Words © 1998 Hope Publishing Company, 380 S Main Pl, Carol Stream, IL 60188
Yeah, so if you can believe it, it actually went UP from there. Especially since, sitting right next to me was a young man with Trisomy 21 (AKA "Down's Syndrome"). He was singing this hymn at the very top of his voice and from the very middle of the middle of his heart and soul.
I was absolutely reduced to a puddle.
And then, came the sermon. Oh, my. Oh, my, my, my, my, my.
The preacher - the only male worship leader - preached on "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us."
He pointed out that "Mr. Trump" used words that were violent, words that were brutal, words that were vulgar, words that were disrespectful of the human condition . . .
And, he said, since Mr. Trump has been "POTUS," (that's the word he used) our world has become more violent, more brutal, more vulgar, more disrespectful of the human condition.
He urged us to consider what he called "the resanctification of language". Because, he said, The Word was made flesh and we have a choice to embody The Word or enflesh the words.
You could have knocked me over with a feather.
His sermon has stayed with me this whole day as I've walked around this island in the rain and the wind and the cold, troubling the baptismal waters of my life in Christ in the best possible way that sermons are supposed to do.
I've been thinking about the words I use and how I embody them.
I've been wondering about the words I use and how they reveal my relationship with God and how they may shape and form my relationship with others
I've been meditating on some of the words I've used and how they have shaped and formed my understanding - my perspective - of the world.
And, because I am a leader in communities of faith, I've been wondering how others might see the world through the words I speak.
Words matter. They do. We know this. I've been saying this, mostly in terms of "inclusive" or "expansive" language used in our liturgies. I've even spoken about it as a matter of justice.
Today, however, I heard the words I've spoken in a new way. I felt convicted by the Gospel not only because it was preached so powerfully, but because I heard it prayed and sung in the words of the liturgy.
Even more importantly, I saw it lived out in the way the liturgy was performed.
No one wore a liturgical garment, except the priest who wore a stole over her coat (it was cold today).
The huge, ancient, thousands-year-old altar, was presided over by five women - one priest and four Eucharistic ministers, each of whom took a portion of the bread and a chalice of wine. Then, they passed the bread and the wine to the rows of the congregation, and we fed each other.
The priest didn't feed us.
The ministers didn't feed us.
The priest and the ministers distributed the bread and wine which were, as we say, "the gifts of God for the people of God," so we could share it among ourselves and feed each other.
It was the Gospel story of the feeding of the 5,000 lived out in miniature in the midst of the church.
I left that wonderful ancient Abbey Church feeling refreshed and renewed and with this insight:
When the Word becomes flesh and dwells among us, we become creators of justice and joy, compassion and peace. And, God is, indeed, delighted.
I'm going to leave you with that and the prayer which ended the service and began the work of the mission of the community:
Generous and faithful GodAmen.
you have fed us at your table.
May the nourishment we have received
enable us to enrich the lives of others
wherever we may go from here.
Whether the future be dark or bright,
the road be smooth or rough,
whether our cares be light or heavy
our song be strong or weak,
keep our hearts warm
and our hands open,
our lives ever embracing
and ever embraced by your love.