(Revised Common Lectionary includes Matthew 14: 13-21 — the meal on the hillside with five small loaves and two fish. It is the Matthew text upon which I reflect, hoping that story is in the general consciousness enough even for services focusing on Genesis or another text.)
This service is written for churches that offer virtual worship, but also hopes to be inclusive of some churches with a hybrid sanctuary that want both those at home tables and those practicing distancing and caution in a church building to acknowledge equal partnership in the community of faith and communion of the table. This is my fifth month of offering Communion liturgy to celebrate how Sacrament transcends circumstance. Feel free to use any pieces of this service helpful to you and add freely language, music, gestures and practices.
Thanks to Pastor Scott Marrese-Wheeler who sent this photograph of one table set for July 5 Communion, from the Oakland Cambridge Presbyterian Church in Wisconsin. August Stub and Kay E. Lund had communion at home with juice and fresh-out-of-the-oven brownies. I say — always listen to Bible stories with your heart and expect sardines to become chocolate.)
Announcement … for July 26
Next Sunday, August 2, we will share Holy Communion in morning worship. Those who are blessing and receiving the sacrament at home, please prepare a slice or small loaf of bread, corn tortilla, or rice cake or what is sacramental and joyful — even warm brownies — to share and a cup or small cups of juice — perhaps grape or cranberry — or wine, with or without alcohol.
(Add for those with hybrid sanctuaries. Notice the choice — some congregations prefer people bringing their own elements to the church building rather than passing commonly prepared ones): For those who will be receiving the sacrament in the church building the elements will be prepared for you / please bring the elements you have prepared for yourselves.
We look forward to being with you at the table.
Celebration of Holy Communion
Christ’s invitation is simple —
sit down where you are.
You don’t need to run off somewhere else —
not a nearby village market or a familiar sanctuary,
communion is where you are — sit down.
The disciples complained —
it is a deserted place and the hour is late.
Jesus said, “They need not go away.”
No one needs to go away.
No one is deserted and no one is late —
not you who are alone,
because you are vulnerable to virus
or you who would feel alone
even in a not-distancing crowd
has made your life a wilderness.
Jesus has compassion on every crowd,
healing them, even the hungers,
one by one by one.
Here is green grass,
someone to help you sit down,
someone to help you stand up again,
someone to bless Communion,
so it will be enough,
and break it into pieces you can handle.
Sit down where you are.
Prayer of Consecration
Leader: In the story about feeding a multitude, Jesus asked that people bring to him what they had. You have done that today. In your many kitchens and living rooms, rest your hands lightly upon these elements which we set aside today to be a sacrament. We ask God’s blessing on them to make them enough and also to make them abundant for us and for all those who are in our prayers this morning.
Unison: God of compassion, you bless and break everything we are and everything we bring to you. Our deep scarcity becomes enough to sustain us, and then our “enough” becomes an abundance we could never imagine. We pray that your Spirit of life and love, of tenderness and power, rest upon every bread and every cup, that they may feed the inmost need of each child of God and pour forth a grace that can change the world. Risen Christ, live in us, that we may live in you. Amen.
Words of Remembering
Leader: We remember the Creator
fed the aurora borealis and ocean depths,
pterodactyls and diatoms,
all we see now that grows and breathes,
all that swims, swarms, slithers,
all that runs, flies, leaps and loves.
We remember Jesus Christ
played vintner at a wedding feast,
rubbed elbows with Zacchaeus’ friends,
taught the disciples they should not substitute
anything like stone or snake
for really important menus
like reduced lunch, 68 hours, soup kitchen
food pantry or meals on wheels,
and, in the midst of profound grief
for cousin John’s death,
expanded the disciples’ understanding
of the hope recipe in
bread crust and fish scraps,
and then, when they forgot … did it again.
We always remember a Passover in Jerusalem
when Jesus borrowed an upper room,
soaked and scrubbed the tired feet of others,
and explained that there is
a God-shaped hole in everyone’s belly
and Jesus would fill it with love.
Remembering is beautiful,
but there is not much taste in it.
Let us stop running to nearby villages
with our hunger and thirst,
and sit down here and now,
to eat and drink, be blessed and broken.
Sharing of the Elements
Leader: The bread on your table is blessed and broken
like the picnic of grace.
Unison: Sharing love, we will never be hungry.
Leader: The cup on your table is blessed and shared
like the overflowing of tears and joy
Unison: Drinking deeply, we will never thirst.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Leader: In thanksgiving for the meal that heals yesterday and the unexpected grace that empowers tomorrow, we pray for the wisdom to give away as fast as possible some twelve baskets of leftovers …
O Holy One, as we received this sacrament in the holy dispersion of virtual worship, (and the holy distancing in church pews), we thought we “ordered” from a select gourmet menu, and never expected to become the curbside pickup of your love and justice, of your compassion and courage, of your hope and healing for all of your children who need a meal in a deserted place. Help us gather the leftovers from the miracles in our lives and give them away. amen.