Oct 2 – Worship Service – World Wide Communion

Sept 18 – Worship Service – Affirm Celebration
September 30, 2022
Oct 16 – Worship Service – Choices
October 25, 2022

Oct 2 – Worship Service – World Wide Communion

Rev Lohnes

Sunday October 2, 2022

World Wide Communion Sunday

The Life and Work of Our Church

Introit:                                                                          VU  #579
The church is wherever God’s people are praising,
singing God’s goodness for joy on this day.
The church is wherever disciples of Jesus
remember his story and walk in his way.
Carol Rose Ikeler 1959 © 1963 W.L. Jenkins. All Rights Reserved. Used and adapted by permission of Westminster John Knox Press. icenSingOnline#605486

Acknowledging the Territory    
As we begin our worship, we take a moment to acknowledge that the land upon which we live, work and worship is, by law, the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people.  We offer our deep gratitude for this land and we commit ourselves to use and share this land wisely.  

Lighting the Christ Candle
We light our Christ Candle to remind us of God’s light shining in our world and to remind us that we see this light reflected in the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Christ.

Call to Worship:
In a world of hunger and desperate need,
God calls us.

Through voices that are familiar and voices that are strange,
God calls us.

Through word, symbol and action,
God calls us.

Through the breaking of bread and the sharing of cup,
God calls us.

God calls us, so let us answer.
Let us worship God

 Prayer of Approach and Confession:         (in unison)
Our opening prayer this morning is one that was used at a Worldwide Communion Service in Ontario a number of years ago.  It reminds us of the importance of remembering that, despite our differences, the Christian Church is united under Christ.  Let us pray.

Before you, O God, we must confess how fragile is our spirit of cooperation with the many churches of Christ.  In our eagerness to be a vital, active congregation, we become jealous of signs of life in other churches.  Any uncertainty we have about our faith tempts us to ridicule the faith of others.  We compare ourselves to other congregations, forgetting the unique strengths and resources you have given us for the mission of Christ.  Help us to shed all comparisons and jealousies and to keep alive the vision of oneness in Christ, whom we all serve; through the unifying power of your Spirit.  Amen.

Opening Hymn:         Long Ago and Far Away                                  MV#195 

Scripture Readings
All of our scripture readings for this morning, in some way, deal with bread or with the sharing of a feast.  Our first reading is taken from the prophet Isaiah and it offers us a vision of what the true sharing of a ‘banquet’ with all the world would look like.  It offers a vision of an ideal time when all people will come to God and all people will have an equal share of God’s blessings.

Isaiah 25:6–10a                                                NRSV
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-matured wines strained clear.  And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death for ever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.  This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.  For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain.

The book of Revelation is filled with images that are often strange and bizarre.  Today’s passage offers a vision of the end of time when all those, “of every race, tribe, nation, and language” would be gathered before “the throne” of God.

Revelation 7:9–17
After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.  They cried out in a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’

And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, singing, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.’

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ‘Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?’  I said to him, ‘Sir, you are the one that knows.’ Then he said to me, ‘These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.  They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat;  for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’

Our gospel reading today is Mark’s retelling of the story of the feeding of the crowd with only seven loaves and a few small fish.

Mark 8:1–8
In those days when there was a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, “I have compassion for the crowd because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.  If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way—and some of them have come from a great distance.”  His disciples replied, “How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?”  He asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.”  Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground, and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute, and they distributed them to the crowd.  They had also a few small fish, and after blessing them he ordered that these, too, should be distributed.  They ate and were filled, and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full.

Broken Bread
The story of the feeding of the crowd that had gathered on a hillside to hear Jesus speak is one that had be interpreted and reinterpreted many times.  It has been used as a lesson in faith, as a lesson in abundance and as a lesson in sharing.  People have seen it as a call to believe in miracles regardless of what logic might tell us.  It has been seen as a lesson in what one of our past moderators calls “Sabbath Economics” the idea that if we share equally there truly is enough for all.  And it has been seen as a lesson in surrendering all that we have to God and holding nothing back for our own comfort or security.

But today I would like to offer one more idea.  Today, as part of Worldwide Communion Sunday, we will share communion as part of our service.  But today, we will also be sharing communion with Christians all across this country and all around the world.  And yet we never seem to stop to think about what that actually means. 

During my first year at Queen’s Theological College I took a course that was partially taught by a Roman Catholic Nun.  During one class she shared a story which has always stayed with me.  I don’t remember the exact location, but she was visiting in a very poor part of the Europe in a small rural community.  During Sunday morning mass, when it came time for communion, the priest distributed the elements to the nuns who were a part of the convent associated with the church, but the members of the congregation did not take part. 

Following the service, one of the nuns from that convent noticed how upset their visiting Sister was and asked her why she seemed so upset.  She explained that, as a nun, the idea of not taking communion on a Sunday morning was devastating to her.  The convent nuns explained that the reason was, that because of the poverty of the parish, there was not enough for everyone to take part, so the nuns symbolically took communion on behalf of the entire congregation.  However, given the circumstances and understanding how much communion meant to their visitor, an exception was made.  She was taken into the back of the church where the priest served her communion.

This story troubles me for a number of reasons.  My first reaction on hearing it was that, although I understand the reasoning, I feel that same exclusion every single time I attend a Roman Catholic mass and am told I am not allowed to take communion.  My second reaction was that it just doesn’t seem right that those who have taken vows to devote their entire lives to the service of others should be the only ones served when it came to communion.  My third reaction was, that if there was not enough for members of the congregation, why was there enough for a stranger and visitor to the parish?

All of this brings me to our gospel reading this morning.  When Jesus called his disciples together and told them he was worried about sending people away without feeding them, his disciples were very clear that there was not enough for everyone.  Seven loaves.  That’s all they had.  There was no way, that seven loaves of bread were going to feed all those people.  Even if each person took only a tiny bit, seven loaves among four thousand people would never be enough.

Yet we all know the end of the story.  Jesus took the bread, gave thanks to God, broke it, and passed it out among all of those gathered on the hillside.  And “everyone ate and had enough” and there were seven baskets full of the leftover pieces.

Now it doesn’t really matter whether the bread was mysteriously multiplied, if the generosity showed by Jesus inspired other to be generous with the small bits they had or if we manage to come up with any other possible explanation.  The point is that it was enough.

But before it could become enough, it had to be broken.  If Jesus had simple handed the seven loaves of bread to seven different people and told them to share it with those around them, many other would have gone hungry.  It was only in the breaking of the bread, in the tearing apart of what seems to be; that the possibility of what could be, was set free. 

I can’t help but wonder what would have happened in that Roman Catholic Church if the priest had broken apart each one of those little communion wafers.  I can’t help but wonder if the person who received the tiniest crumb from one of those wafers would feel any less satisfied than the person who received an entire wafer.  And breaking down and tearing apart does not only refer to bread.  Sometimes what needs to be broken down and torn apart is why we do certain things the way we do or why we hold on to certain practices without every considering if we fully understand the meaning behind the things that we do.

And sometimes what needs to be broken down is our preconceived ideas of what is possible.  Sometime what needs to torn apart are the barriers that allow some people to be “in the know” while others constantly feel like outsiders.  Sometimes what needs to be torn apart are the structures that allow some to have more than they need while other people have nothing.

In the breaking of the bread, in the tearing apart of the loaf, we are asked to remember the life and death of Jesus.  But we are also asked to remember the resurrection.  We are asked to remember that in Jesus we have been shown the possibility that God’s love is enough to overcome anything, even death.   We are asked to embrace the possibility that, with God, no matter what the situation, there is always enough.

And so today, as we share communion with one another and with Christians around the world, as we break bread together, I want us to think about what things we may need to break down, what things we might need to tear apart, in order to truly feel that not only do we have had enough but that there is truly, “enough for all”.  Amen.

We Offer Our Gifts
As we respond to God’s promise of abundance, of enough for all, let us respond with our gifts.  In this church we do not pass the offering plates but ask you, if you chose to support the work of this church to place your offering in the offering plates at the back of the church or to make arrangement to give through PAR or through online donations.  So as we sing our offertory response, let us bring forward our gifts.

Offertory Response       © no Copyright                                           Tune # 549
For all your goodness God, we give you thanks.
And so we offer you, all that we have and do,
To serve and honour you and give you thanks.

Offertory Prayer
Life and love.  Food and shelter.  Friends and family.  Bread and wine.  We have so much to be thankful for.  And so, as we bring our offerings to you now.  May the gifts we bring be a reflection of our deep gratitude and however they are used, may they share the richness of your blessings with others.  Amen

We Offer Our Prayers
God is always as near as our next breath.  God always listen when we pray, whether those prayers are written down and placed in our prayer jar or whether they as said in the silence of our hearts.  So let us bring our silent, personal prayers to God with confidence, knowing that they are always heard … Amen.

Communion Hymn:           As We Gather at Your Table                 VU #457 

Celebration of Communion
Our great and gentle God is with you
And with all people of the earth.

Let us open our hearts in gratitude and thanksgiving.
Let us open our hearts to our brothers and sisters around the world.

We come to this table on Worldwide Communion Sunday remembering our brothers and sister in Christ who gather at tables around the world to break bread and share the cup, to tell the story of Jesus, and to celebrate our connection to God and to one another.

But just as there are differences in understandings there are also differences in traditions.  Some will celebrate with wine, some with grape juice, and although all share bread it is not always the same bread.  Some will use communion wafers, some will use little cubes of white bread or other breads.  Some will pass the elements around, while others willtear a piece from a common loaf, but today on worldwide communion Sunday we remember them all.

Through the symbol of corn bread we remember our brothers and sisters of Africa.

May God’s Spirit be with them.
May God Bless our connection to all people through Christ.

Through the symbol of rice cakes we remember our brothers and sisters of Asia, India, and Nepal.
May God’s Spirit be with them.         

May God Bless our connection to all people through Christ.

Through the symbol of a bagel we remember our brothers and sisters of Europe.            

May God’s Spirit be with them.
May God Bless our connection to all people through Christ.

Through the symbol of rye bread we remember our brothers and sisters of Eastern Europe and Russia.     

May God’s Spirit be with them.
May God Bless our connection to all people through Christ.

Through the symbol of the flat bread we remember our brothers and sisters of the Middle East.      

May God’s Spirit be with them.
May God Bless our connection to all people through Christ.

Through the symbol of the tortilla we remember our brothers and sisters of Central America.

May God’s Spirit be with them.
May God Bless our connection to all people through Christ.

Through the symbol of whole wheat bread we remember our brothers and sisters of North America.   

May God’s Spirit be with them.
May God Bless our connection to all people through Christ.

Through the symbol of the crusty roll we remember our brothers and sisters of South America.  

May God’s Spirit be with them.
May God Bless our connection to all people through Christ.

Through the symbol of white bread we remember our brothers and sisters of the South Pacific, Australia, and New Zealand.                               

May God’s Spirit be with them.
May God Bless our connection to all people through Christ.

Through the symbol of bannok we remember our First Nations brothers and sisters.                                    

May God’s Spirit be with them.
May God Bless our connection to all people through Christ.

Remembering all the people of this world who are created in God’s image and love, we join together with the faithful from every generation to sing this unending hymn…

Holy, holy, holy, God of all creation!
Heaven and earth are full of your glory!
Heaven and earth praise you, O God most high!

Together with our Christian brothers and sisters around the world, we repeat the story that has been handed down to us from generation to generation:

Jesus often shared food and fellowship with followers and friends, with saints and sinners, with crowds of thousands on the hillside, and with a few close friends in an upper room.  On the night before he died, Jesus shared supper with his closest companions.  He took an age-old tradition of his people and transformed it into something new. 

He took bread, a common and simple food of his people, blessed it and broke it, and gave it to them saying, “Like this bread, my body will be broken for you.  Whenever you eat this bread, remember me.”  After supper he took a cup of wine, common drink of his people, and blessed it and gave it to them saying, “Like this wine, my blood will be poured out for you.  Whenever you drink this wine, remember me.”  By remembering Jesus in this way now, we unite ourselves with Christians around the world.

And so, we ask God to bless this table, which we share with Christians around the world, and to unite us and strengthen us through the sharing of this meal.

At this time we pray for those with whom you would have us share your feast. 

We pray for people all around the world, that all may be united in your service.  We pray for the church, for our local congregation, for our wider denomination for all denominations who share our faith and for all faiths who share our world…

We pray for the leaders of our nation and of all nations, that they may together in pursuit of your justice and peace  . . . .

We pray for all those who suffer because of  prejudice, greed or violence.  Help us to see our own complacency in these realities.  We pray for all prisoners of politics or religion, and for all refugees, and for all who live in the midst of war and violence.  We pray for all who are oppressed . . . .

We pray for all those whose lives have been devastated by famine, flood, fire, hurricanes or earthquake.  May they find hope and reassurance of your love through the loving actions of those who do what they can to help . . . .

We pray for your creation, for the land, the sea, and the sky, and the beauty that  surrounds us.  May we learn to live with respect and reverence for all you have made . . . .

We pray for all who suffer the pain of illness, loneliness, fear or loss, those who are in our hearts, in the hearts of others, or those known to you alone.  May they receive strength and courage to face difficult times . . . .

God of compassion, into your hands we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in your love and mercy, now and forever.  Amen

Sharing of Bread and Cup
Bread broken, unites us as one for we are the body of Christ.
Wine poured out fills our souls for we are the lifeblood of Christ.

As we come to this table, we are reminded that this is not the table of Beacon United Church nor of any particular church or denomination.  This is Christ’s table, and the meal laid out here is for all people.  All who seek to be nourished and sustained in the journey of faith and who long to live justly and in peace with their neighbour and with all of creation, are welcome here. 

In order to insure that no one who would like to take part will be prevented from doing so because of food allergies, all the communion bread is gluten free and the juice is preservative free.

So let us eat and drink together for in our sharing, our faith is nourished and our connection with one another and with Christ is renewed and strengthened. 

You are asked to come forward and receive the bread and cup and then to take them back to your seat.  You are then asked to hold them until everyone has received so that we may share together.

Broken bread for a broken world. 

Wine poured out that we might be filled.

Prayer After Communion  (in unison)
Eternal God, we thank you that you have called your people from east and west, from north and south, from all over your world, to share this feast at the table of Jesus Christ.  Keep us faithful to your call. Go with us to the streets, to our homes, and to our places of work and leisure—that where ever we go we may truly be for this world, the servant church of the servant Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Closing Hymn:   Let Us Talents and Tongues Employ                    VU #468

Commissioning and Benediction
We have sung, we have prayed, we have worshiped and we have share sustenance together.  Now we go back out into the world.  We go out as people who are strengthened, ready to love and to serve.  As you journey through all the ups and the downs of the coming week, let us never forget that wherever we go, in whatever we do, we are not alone.  God is with us.  Go with God. Amen.

Choral Blessing                                                                                      VU #298
When you walk from here, when you walk from here,
Walk with justice, walk with mercy, and with God’s humble care.

© Words and music; 1991 Borealis Music. Used with Permission. OneLicense.net#A-723756 

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