Archive for April, 2012|Monthly archive page

More tragic or more beautiful. —A communion prayer (3).

In Communion, Prayer on 28 April 2012 at 10:27 AM

We surround your table: we perverts, we thieves, we prostitutes, we cheaters, we racists, we who are lazy, we who use food to console ourselves, we who drink too much, who manipulate, who lie, who control, who rage, who hate, who refuse others forgiveness, we full of self-pity, we who give up hope, we prideful, we selfish, we lonely, we broken, we afraid, we hurt, we your church, we your bride, we your greatest love—we surround your table; because you invite us to eat with you, of you; because you invite us to remember your life, death, resurrection whenever we gather; because nothing more tragic or more beautiful has ever happened: this momentary grief, this hope for all time. We broken, we hurt, we hurtful, we grateful—we thank you: your body broken for us, your blood shed on our behalf: by your death we have life of the ages. Amen.

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Malachai. Beethoven. Sigur Rós. —A communion prayer (2).

In Beethoven, Communion, Curse, Elijah, John the Baptist, Malachai, Sigur Rós, Uncategorized on 27 April 2012 at 8:54 AM

 

At first I cannot decide whether to read your oracle to Malachi in silence, or while listening to music.

I choose music.

Then I cannot decide whether Beethoven’s 9th Symphony or the Parantheses album by Sigur Rós will be more appropriate—whether the promise of joy, or of curse.

I choose Sigur Rós; I choose curse.

You see me. You hear me. I read aloud. I pace.

What are these sounds of curse, this music that teaches me the weight of curse: that darkness, that apartness, that despair, these slow sad movements, these notes so far apart from each other. Yes, you love your people. But when they—when we—do not abide in the Way, when we leave, rob, keep for ourselves what belongs to you: we become a curse.

So I read aloud. And the music is here. And the curse is all around me, is in my ears, is filling me up: voices singing longing, voices singing destruction. You show me the way of my darkness. You surround me with curse. Its weight is unbearable. It enters my body and it moves throughout my body. I am filled with it. I am crushed by the curse. I am under the curse.

So I join your people. I am with them, thousands of years ago. I am among them. And we are selfish. And we have robbed you. And we are afraid. And we are desperate. And we are apart from you.

And what then.

“Behold,” you say, “I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome DAY OF THE LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers.”

Even while we rob you and turn away from you, even now while we are a curse: still we are your children. Still you promise Elijah, the gift of John the Baptist. Still you promise the DAY OF THE LORD, the gift of your Son. Still you promise reconciliation, the gift of your heart turned towards me, of my heart turned towards you.

In remembrance of the curse, in remembrance of your Son, in the hope that you and I will turn towards one another: we break bread and we drink of the cup. We join the story: it comes—the DAY OF THE LORD comes.

Because of you, we remember together that in your Son, in this broken body, in this spilled blood, the promise of joy now contains and overcomes the promise of curse.

Father, forgive us our sins, we beg. Turn your heart to your children, we pray.

Chew slowly. Taste but do not savor. —A communion prayer (1).

In Acts of the Apostles, Communion, Homer, John the Baptist, Passover, Peter, Shel Silverstein, Story, Three Little Pigs on 26 April 2012 at 3:46 PM

In storytelling, if you want to make a thing matter to your audience, you have to repeat the same events over and over again. This is why in Homer’s Iliad, at the beginning and at the end, fathers beg for mercy and pity, for their children to be released to them: Have pity, they say. Please, I beg you for pity. And when in the beginning there is no pity, Apollo rages. In the end, though, when Achilles weeps with Priam and hands Hector over, Apollo is pleased. Pity, forgiveness—these are important to the gods, we learn.

And there are three houses and three pigs in the story of the “Three Little Pigs,” so that you really get the point about the two naughty, lazy little pigs, and how different they are from the responsible, good little pig.

And in that children’s book The Giving Tree, the Boy repeatedly comes back to the tree, to ask for more, for more, for more—and each time it breaks your heart more, and more, and more.

And in the gospels of the New Testament, the disciples make mistakes—so foolishly, so cowardly, again, again, again—because next comes the Acts of the Apostles. And remember: they receive the Holy Spirit—and they stop all that foolishness. What a great way to emphasize the life of the Spirit. Thank God, then, for Peter, for fools, for mistakes again and again—since his mistakes are my mistakes laid out before me, again, again, again.

In the same way, Yahweh builds repetition into the Way of the Hebrews. Every year for 1,500 years before Jesus was born, the people of Israel repeat Passover, this gift, this celebration, this movement, this story: they tell it again and again amongst themselves, reliving it, practicing it, giving thanks for it—becoming it every year, again, again, again.

Here are God’s people, in exile in Babylon, at Passover, practicing the hope of God’s faithfulness. Here again, in exile in Assyria, at Passover, they practice the hope of God’s faithfulness. And again, ruled by Persians, by Greeks, by Romans: each year they repeat the same hope—God is faithful, God is faithful—remembering the sacrifice of the lamb that spared them, so removing them from slavery to freedom. This is the horrifying, beautiful poem of their people.

Again and again—for 1,500 years—they tell the story. And then Jesus, the new Passover: Behold, John the Baptist declares, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

So Jesus reclines at the table, says for the first time in history—This is my bodyThis is my bloodThis do in remembrance. He is giving new, big, horrifying, lovely meaning to this repetition, to this very old story. He is saying again, saying brand new, God is faithful, yes. He is saying, I am the hope of God’s faithfulness. Here the body, here the blood. Here he changes how we repeat the story, how we repeat it forever. Take body, take blood: his. Our Lord dies vulnerably, as bread and wine are torn about in your mouth. Chew slowly. Taste but do not savor: this is body, this is blood, this is life within you: it is food and it is not food—it is graphic but not disgusting. Give thanks for this repetition, for this remembrance, for this horrifying, beautiful picture of love.

For many years before Jesus grew its meaning for us, Yahweh asked his people, Shed blood and eat, shed blood and eat, shed blood and eat, year after year, in remembrance of hope, faith, love. In the same way you, our Lord, are killed, broken open, your blood for all people, slaughtered as a lamb. So we, too, shed blood and eat, shed blood and eat, shed blood and eat: in hope, in faith, in love. But, even so, while we practice this story, while we repeat this broken body, this spilling blood, even so: we  hope most in what comes next: even in this horror as we repeat it—we abide, we endure, we give thanks, and we hope too in that Kingdom to come. Amen.