August 23 — 88 days since Pentecost — Agape Meal

From England comes a liturgy for an Agape Meal … a meal for the community of love and justice. Graham Sparkes and Anthea Sully have shaped this feast in which the participants eat fruit and drink water. Clearly there could be more food, but the meal is the agape, the love that is shared.

An Agape Liturgy

Agape meals were part of the worshiping life of the early church.  They took up the banquet imagery present in a number of Jesus’ parables, and expressed powerfully some of the distinctive characteristics of the coming of God’s kingdom.  They were occasions of joy and festivity, as the community celebrated the meaning of resurrection.  They were boundary markers, enabling the community to affirm its identity as those who belonged to Christ.  And they were places of economic justice, enabling a sharing and redistribution amongst the community. These themes are taken up in this liturgy.

Opening Sentences

Come!  If you are hungry there is food to eat.
Come!  If you are thirsty there is water to drink.
It is food for those who hunger for justice,
and water for those who long for life in all its fullness.
Come!  Eat and drink to proclaim the feast of God’s kingdom
where all are welcome
and no one is left out.

Prayer offering Praise

God, our Mother and Father,
You have given us this earth rich and vibrant.
Its renewing life sustains us.
Its unfailing goodness nourishes us.
Blessed be your name.

Jesus, our Saviour and Healer,
You ate with friends and enemies.
At a meal you brought the gift of hope.
At a meal you gave the word of life.
Blessed be your name.

Spirit, our Comforter and Disturber,
You do not leave us on our own.
Here are companions to know our joy.
Here are companions to share our sorrow.
Blessed be your name.

Prayer seeking Renewal

One: As we gather together, around this table where all are welcome, we seek God’s peace and renewal –
From regret and fear:
All: Give us peace, loving God.
One: From anger and mistrust:
All: Give us peace, vulnerable God.
One: From pain and brokenness:
All: Give us peace, healing God.
One: From division and conflict:
All: Give us peace, reconciling God.
One: From violence and injustice:
All: Give us peace, gentle God.
One: Welcoming God, come and renew us
Name us as your people.
Name our world as yours.
And give us peace. Amen.

Sharing Scripture  — A passage of scripture is read, followed by a simple comment or a period of silence for quiet reflection.

Sharing the Day –An opportunity for those present to offer the day to God, whether it is naming what has already happened or what still lies ahead.

Sharing Concerns

One: Around a table of feasting and festivity, where we are all invited to find life-giving gifts, we hold in love the struggle and the pain of the world.
Where a child experiences abuse and neglect:
All: Come, Holy Spirit, make us impatient for change.
One: Where the hungry cry out for food:
All: Come, Holy Spirit, make us impatient for change.
One: Where people live with advancing sickness and disease:
All: Come, Holy Spirit, make us impatient for change.
One: Where communities fail to care for the weak and ignore the stranger in their midst:
All: Come, Holy Spirit, make us impatient for change.
One: Where those in power listen to the demands of the rich and ignore the needs of the poor:
All: Come, Holy Spirit, make us impatient for change.
One: Where the church is preoccupied with its own
rightness and ceases to be the hope of good news:
All: Come, Holy Spirit, make us impatient for change.
One: Create in us and all people a holy discontent with the way things are, and a holy desire for the ways of peace and justice.

Words of Hope  — The Prophet Isaiah writes:

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wines – the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth.  The Lord has spoken. In that day they will say,
‘Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.’

Sharing

Eat this fruit.
It is the wonder of creation held in our hands;
the gift of sun and soil, wind and rain.
It speaks to us of the work of human labour,
of the longing of the poor,
of the promise that in the kingdom
we will all share in the feast of life.
Eat this fruit.
For it is the sweet taste of liberation.
(Fruit is distributed and eaten)

Drink this water.
It is the wonder of creation held in our hands;
the gift of cloud and rain, river and spring.
It speaks to us of cleansing,
of the longing of all creation for its renewing,
of the promise that in baptism
we are all invited to a new and living hope.
Drink this water.
For it is the refreshing taste of life.
(Water is distributed and drunk)

Offering (Hands are joined for the offering of one another to God)

We are God’s people.
Shaped and formed by water and Word.
Sustained and nourished by the fruit of love.
Together we will live as God’s people.

Closing Sentences

We must not stay here.
Our purpose is among those who cry out for peace.
Our place is alongside those who search for justice.
Let us go with trembling hearts and joyful spirits,
to sow the seeds of God’s kingdom.

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